Too Much Stuff: An All-American Problem


Americans have a lot of stuff.  Let’s take a look at some of these statistics excerpted from Joshua Becker’s article in his blog, Becoming Minimalist, shall we?

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

I have no intention of counting, but I wouldn’t be surprised.  We used to have a really cool book that showed people from various countries standing outside their homes with all their earthly goods.  The contrast between Americans and just about everyone else was staggering.

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

Remember The Brady Bunch? Three boys in one room, three girls in the other?  That wouldn’t cut it nowadays.  The house we are currently renting has an astonishing eight bedrooms (one is used as an office).  They are not big rooms, but everyone has his or her own.

  • 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).

That would be us, despite the aforementioned large home, but ours is just for the old office files.  Isn’t it bizarre, though, that we as a country own so much stuff that we pay extra rent to house things we don’t use?  Does this make financial sense?

  • 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).

Us again.  Besides the usual garage stuff, ours has more office files, and a lot of furniture we are hoping to offload to our big kids as they move out.  And did you know that with houses of a certain size, it’s hard to sell them unless they have a THREE-car garage?

  • 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally (UCLA).

As my regular readers will recall, in 2011 our house burned down, leaving our kids with very few toys.  I am astonished at how quickly that changed.

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

I’m pretty sure I am below average here, but only because after all my clothes burned up I consciously decided to only buy what I absolutely needed and to ruthlessly purge things as soon as they did not fit or were not being worn.

That’s actually better than I would have predicted.

  • But our homes have more television sets than people. And those television sets are turned on for more than a third of the day—eight hours, 14 minutes (USA Today).

We currently have three working televisions for five people in residence.  And they are not turned as long as that, but we won’t discuss the computers.

  • Currently, the 12 percent of the world’s population that lives in North America and Western Europe account for 60 percent of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent (Worldwatch Institute).

That’s just sick, y’all.

  • Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on nonessential goods—in other words, items they do not need (The Wall Street Journal).

In the years since I lost everything, I have resisted cluttering my life and my home up with more stuff.  The rest of my family has not resisted.  Despite regular trips to Goodwill, our house is still overflowing with unnecessary and redundant items.  You would think the stuff breeds secretly after we are all asleep.

Today I saw this book, which I have been hearing a lot about:

I’m wondering if this would help me get a handle on the situation around here.  As I type, Lorelei is making (while whining about it) multiple trips upstairs carrying junk of all description which she has left where it does not belong.  The irony? She is cleaning up to prepare for her birthday party, at which she will be receiving MORE STUFF.


0 thoughts on “Too Much Stuff: An All-American Problem

  1. I was just thinking about this last night! My family has accumulated so much over the years; our basement is chuck full of boxes with who knows what inside. Thank you for the reminder and motivation. Those stats are crazy… Time to clear out!

  2. Great post, Holly! You know, the developing countries have a growing middle class and they aspire to have the things and lifestyles they see on television. They want to have it all as well and feel that it is an entitlement.

  3. It’s true; we’re a nation of being wasteful and having too much STUFF. THankfully I live in a studio apartment so I have to be a little more of a minimalist, but I definitely am guilty of the ‘too many clothes/shoes/bags’ thing… i can’t help it! 🙂

  4. I have been feeling very convicted lately by the masses of stuff we have. The clutter is taking over my life and has really stolen my peace. We don’t need this stuff! Great stuff here!

  5. I’m so glad you wrote this. We ALL need to be talking about this problem and it is a problem. We have too much stuff and it’s making us anxious, stressed and unhappy. Isn’t that funny? We think stuff makes us happy but it really just makes us unhappy. I’m a huge fan of and he has a book called Declutter With Kids that, I think, does a better job than Marie Kondo (who I also like) at helping families with kids figure out how to manage a life of less.

  6. A friend told me that we spend the first 30 years of our lives accumulating stuff and the next 30 years getting rid of stuff. I would say that we spend the rest of our lives getting rid of stuff.

  7. hannahwjinks

    You’ve got some great statistics here. It’s so obvious to see how much we are blessed with, and yet we take those blessings and try to hold onto them instead of being a blessing to others. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. We are on a mission to simplify as well and it is a BIG project! But as the clutter from the house goes it seems like such an emotional burden is being lifted as well! Great post. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  9. Sherrie

    I have been working all weekend on getting rid of stuff. I have so many books, I can’t possible read them all in my lifetime. And other stuff too. Thank you for this article, great timing

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  12. I worked at the Salvation Army Domestic Violence Program a few years back. A husband came in and started bringing us truck load after truckload of QVC items. His wife bought incessantly and it all went into storage. Nothing had been used, opened, or anything. He had several storage units to hold it all and he was completely fed up. I was just so overwhelmed.

  13. Great post! After moving twice in a 4 month period, we have done some major downsizing, and I” still not finished yet! My husband commented once about how even the poorest of the families in the States are wealthier than the poor in some of the countries he’s been sent.

    My frustration comes into play when we have holidays where people want to gift things to the kids, instead of experiences. I get *why,* but I am already trying to figure out what’s getting donated in preparation for Christmas!

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