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.