Thursday, June 14, 2018

Stuff, out the wazoo

When Miss D. and I moved to Texas, two and a half years ago, we shed an immense amount of excess belongings before the trip.  I reduced my library by two-thirds, carting six (six!) pickup-truck-loads of books to the second-hand store, and we got rid of a lot of other stuff as well.  Even so, we're finding it difficult to remain within our bounds now that we're here.  The garage is filling up again, and Miss D. has made it clear I need to winnow it down to a manageable amount of stuff once more.  (That's only fair - I'm the cause of a lot of the accumulation!)

It's some comfort - but also alarming - to know we're not alone.

Most of us know we own too much stuff. We feel the weight and burden of our clutter. We tire of cleaning and managing and organizing. Our toy rooms are messy, our drawers don’t close, and our closets are filled from top to bottom. The evidence of clutter is all around us.

Today, increasing data is being collected about our homes, our shopping habits, and our spending. The research is confirming our observation: we own too much stuff. And it is robbing us of life.

Here are 21 surprising statistics about our clutter that help us understand how big of a problem our accumulation has actually become.

1. There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).

2. The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years (NPR).

3. And still, 1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage—the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades. (New York Times Magazine).

4. While 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle. (U.S. Department of Energy).

5. The United States has upward of 50,000 storage facilities, more than five times the number of Starbucks. Currently, there is 7.3 square feet of self storage space for every man, woman and child in the nation. Thus, it is physically possible that every American could stand—all at the same time—under the total canopy of self storage roofing (SSA).

. . .

8. The average American woman owns 30 outfits—one for every day of the month. In 1930, that figure was nine (Forbes).

9. The average American family spends $1,700 on clothes annually (Forbes).

10. While the average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year (Huffington Post).

. . .

16. Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education (Psychology Today).

17. Shopping malls outnumber high schools. And 93% of teenage girls rank shopping as their favorite pastime (Affluenza).

There's more at the link.

Some of those statistics sound so exaggerated as to be unreal (300,000 items in the average American home?  Really?  Are they counting every nail, nut, bolt and screw in the tool chest, every button on every shirt, and every individual piece of cat kibble or dog food?).  However, others are more realistic, I suspect.  Either way, it's a clarion call to all of us to prioritize our lives, keep what's essential, and get rid of as much as possible of what we don't need.



SiGraybeard said...

4. While 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle. (U.S. Department of Energy).

In Florida, the garage is often the equivalent of the northern basements - which don't exist here (you can't dig down 10 feet without hitting water in most of the state). The garage becomes full of the stuff northerners would dump in the basement.

The garage is also sometimes a place where folks sit and watch the world go by, like a big front porch might be.

D.J. Schreffler said...

I moved so often when I was growing up, I developed a useful heuristic for choosing whether or not to buy something: Am I personally willing to box this up when it comes time to move, personally carry the box, personally unpack it, and personally put it away?

The answer is often, "No, I am not," so I don't get nearly as much.

My wife is responsible for most of our clutter, but we're slowly cutting down.

Fredrick said...

When I moved from Michigan to Florida last year I downsized to the point that all I owned fit in the pickup. It was cheaper to buy new furniture than move what I had. Still not equal to when all I owned fit in a seabag.

Jerry said...

I've often joked that one could move into a house, place a single shoe box in a closet and nail the door shut. When the nails are pulled years later, the closet will somehow be full. I treat this as evidence that it is possible to teleport objects.

kamas716 said...

My wife complains that I'm a packrat. But I can get all my clothes into my half of the closet plus the 5 drawers I'm allowed. My wife has her 7 drawers, half our closet, half the guest room closet and a clothes rack in the laundry room. And she still needs a dozen of those plastic storage boxes in the storage space for all her clothes, plus she's using one of the laundry baskets to store seasonal clothes she wears but can't fit anywhere else.

Glenn B said...

Didn't they say anything about the average American gun owner and how many rounds of ammo they own? No - what do you mean no - are the prejudiced against us!!!!

Jim said...

A lot of what's squirreled away at my house belongs to the kids and they better come get it soon. I'm tired of being their storage unit.

Hightecrebel said...

Eh, if I remember right the 300k figure includes every bit of silverware, cup, glass, china, book, movie (case/format are counted separately), set of instructions,cushion, pillow, individual articles of clothing and linens, individual toys, toy accessories (doll shoes/clothes/etc.) and pieces of building toys (legos, anyone?) for the standard 2.3 children...

I started trying to add up what my wife and I had in our house with our two kids and quickly realized it was at least close to that, and that's with us trying to keep the clutter down as I was military at the time.

The Overgrown Hobbit said...

It's the tendency to squirrel things away for later possible use that gets me, plus the unwillingness to toss things that could go to good will (which requires an hour trip).

One begins to say, "Of course, I shall do better"

And then we redo the library, and that bunk bed ladder I saved in the garage turns out to be a perfect fit, and match, and will save us hundreds in buying a library ladder, and I'm back to.... "I'll bet this could be useful for something later..."

urbane legend said...

16. Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education.

With a watch you can tell the time. With a higher education these days, you can't tell anything.

17. Shopping malls outnumber high schools.

Many business analysts say the day of the shopping mall is rapidly coming to a close. No loss that I can tell.

c-90 said...

George Carlin had a whole bit, on 'Room for my Stuff'