Statistics about “stuff” make me want to really deep dive into minimalism. Minimalism is a deeply privileged concept. To consider “minimalism” as a lifestyle, you must have more than you need. There is value in stuff and not just financial value. We know from moving around, we know that our possessions can connect us to our sense of the past, help us feel settled, and allow us to maintain a sense of self when all else is changing around us. Minimalism as a “style” began to emerge in the 1950s in the US and UK, perhaps in response to post World War II reconstruction. Now, there are whole websites dedicated to the idea, and (unironically) thousands of books published about decluttering and minimalism every single year.
So do we pursue this idea of limiting ourselves to 100 items? I admit to being suspicious of any kind of “purity” test when it comes to “movements.” Why do we keep physical possessions? For oh so many reasons!
We use this stuff as a way of presenting ourselves to the world, and that is worth interrogating.
Full bookshelves say, ‘I’m well-read. I have lots of books.’ But really, you just buy books. Is your home an accurate external reflection of you?”– Unstuff your life
None of that to say that all objects, all stuff, are equally valuable. Our impact on the environment is real and there is a real tension between the kind of minimalism that priorities shedding, getting rid of, and the make do, and mend philosophy that ekes out usefulness. Both have their merits.
“I don’t think stuff is inherently wrong or bad, but if things have become obstacles to your happiness, that’s a problem.”– Unstuff your life
- There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times and NBCNews).
- The size of the average American house had almost doubled in the previous 50 years, to 2,300 square feet. (New York Times Magazine)
- The average house size in the UK in 2018 was 729 square feet (LABC)
- The average house size in Australia is 2200 square feet. (ABS via Demographia)
- U.S. children account for 3.7% of children on the planet but have 47% of all toys and children’s books. (LA Times)
- The average British 10-year-old owns 238 toys but plays with just 12 daily (The UK Telegraph).
- 84% of Americans worry that their homes aren’t organized (or clean) enough — and 55% of those folks say it’s a big cause of stress. (NBCNews)
- 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle. (LA Times).
- A Second Hand Economy Report estimates that the average Australian household has about 23 unwanted or unused items, estimated to be worth $5,300. (Inside Waste)
- 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).
- The United States has over 50,000 storage facilities amounting to 2.3 billion square feet (New York Times Magazine).
- Women who are bothered by their household clutter showed increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Men were unaffected. (UCTV’s “A Cluttered Life: Middle-Class Abundance”)
- The average American family spends $1,700 on clothes annually (Forbes).
- In 1930, the average American woman owned nine outfits. In 2015, the average American woman owned 30 outfits. (Forbes).
- Women in the UK buy half of their body weight in clothes each year, and the average woman in England has 22 unworn items in her closet. (Forbes)
- Currently, the 12% of the world’s population that lives in North America and Western Europe account for 60% of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2% (Worldwatch Institute).
- Americans spend more on shoes, jewellery, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education (Affluenza).
Since World War II, Americans have been engaged in a spending binge unprecedented in history. We now spend nearly two-thirds of our $11 trillion economy on consumer goods. For example, we spend more on shoes, jewellery, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education ($99 billion). We spend as much on auto maintenance as on religious and welfare activities. Nearly 30 percent of Americans buy Christmas presents for their pets. (13)– Affluenza
18. We lose up to nine items every day—or 198,743 in a lifetime. The top ten list includes phones, keys, sunglasses, wallet and paperwork top (The Daily Mail).