The cluttered lives of middle-class Americans

The cluttered lives of middle-class Americans

Long-time readers are familiar with my decade-long war on Stuff. I was raised in a cluttered home. From a young age, I was a collector. (Some might even say a hoarder!) After Kris and I got married, I began to acquire adult-level quantities of Stuff. When we moved to a larger house, I found ways to acquire even more Stuff. I owned thousands of books, thousands of comic books, hundreds of compact discs, and scads of other crap.

Eventually, I'd had enough. A decade ago, I began the s-l-o-w process of de-cluttering.

While I still bring new Stuff into the house — Kim would tell you I bring too much Stuff home — I'm not nearly so acquisitive as I used to be. In fact, for the past decade I've purged far more than I've acquired. And that process continues, week by week, month by month, year by year.

The Cluttered Lives of the American Middle Class

Turns out, I'm not the only one fighting this battle. Many Americans struggle with clutter. This is one reason for the popularity of the simplicity movement. When I visit my friends who live in tiny houses, they rejoice at the lack of Stuff in their lives. And it's why books like Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up become popular bestsellers. (That book is great, by the way. Here's my review from my personal site.)

A while ago, I stumbled on a video that documents the work of a group of anthropologists from UCLA. These researchers visited the homes of 32 typical American families. They wanted to look at how people interacted with their environments, at how they used space. They also wanted to look at how dual-income, middle-class families related to their material possessions. They systematically documented the Stuff people own, where they keep it, and how they use it.

This team produced a book called Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century, which records their findings. They also produced this twenty-minute video that provides an overview of the results:

“Contemporary U.S. households have more possessions per household than any society in global history,” says Jeanne E. Arnold. That's both shocking and unsurprising all at once.

Her colleague Anthony Graesch notes that our homes reflect this material abundance. “Hyper-consumerism is evident in many spaces,” he says, “like garages, corners of home offices, and even sometimes in the corners of living rooms and bedrooms.”

Graesch continues: “We have lots of Stuff. We have many mechanisms by which we accumulate possessions in our home, but we have few rituals or mechanisms or processes for unloading these objects, for getting rid of them.” All of this stuff causes stress. It carries very real physical and emotional tolls.

One interesting finding? Clutter bothers women more than men. This might be because the responsibility for cleaning the clutter generally falls to women.

The United States has 3.1% of the world's children but consumes 40% of the world's toys,” notes Arnold. In households with children — or, in my case, puppies — the toys can take over the home. Children's toys and objects spill out of their bedrooms into living areas, kitchens, and bathrooms. The push to become consumers, to value Stuff, starts at an early age.

Why do modern kids have so many toys? It may be because there are so many playthings available so cheaply. There's more Stuff available for kids than there was fifty years ago, and that Stuff costs less. Plus, priorities seem to have shifted. Modern parents see spending on kids as a priority; parents fifty years ago did not.

Food as Clutter

It's not just kids, of course. Adults have their own brand of clutter.

For example, many families are guilty of stockpiling. They buy food in bulk, then stack their cupboards and fridges and pantries and garages to the gills. Naturally, most of these are “convenience foods”. (Fresh food wouldn't keep if bought in bulk like this.)

Researcher Elinor Ochs observes, “If you brought someone from Rome or from a town in Sweden, and you showed them the size of the refrigerator in the kitchen, and then walked them to the garage and they saw the size of the refrigerator in the garage, they would be pretty astonished. The refrigerator, then, becomes something to think about culturally. Why do we have these big refrigerators? And what does that say about food in our society?”

Note: This was something that Kim and I thought about a lot on our RV trip across the U.S. During our fifteen months on the road, we had limited space for food storage. There was a small-ish frige in the motorhome and a few cabinets for non-perishables. At home, we tend to buy food for a week (or more) at a time. And we're guilty of stockpiling some stuff too. (Don't ask me how much ketchup I have in the cupboard!) On the road, this was fundamentally impossible. We bought only what we needed for the immediate future. This forced us to be better at meal planning, and it made us much more aware of the kinds of foods we were buying.

The easy availability of convenience foods has some interesting effects on how families relate to each other. Longer ago, the household sat down to eat the same thing at the same time. That's not true anymore. Nowadays, each person tends to eat what they want, when they want.

“Families have bought into the idea that use of these foods will somehow save time,” Graesch says. But researchers have found that families only save about twelve minutes per meal when they use convenience foods. And at what cost?

Cluttered Space

During their research, the UCLA anthropologists looked at how families used the space in their homes. Unsurprisingly (to me), the kitchen tends to be the hub, the command center of the household.

“Everything transpires in kitchens,” Graesch says. “Activities are organized, schedules are co-ordinated, plans are made for the next day, meals are cooked, kids are doing homework in kitchen spaces. It's very, very intensively used. A lot of the material culture in kitchens speaks to this logistical center in everyday family lives.”

The refrigerator door is often a center for family artifacts. It's a place for family history and culture and nostalgia. But, says Arnold, “There seems to be a kind of a correlation between how much Stuff is on the refrigerator panel door and how much stuff is in the broader home.”

Bathrooms, too, can become important places to plan and prepare for the day. They're staging areas where we get ready to go out into the world.

With all of the chaos in other parts of the home, many parents work hard to make the master bedroom a sort of quiet retreat, a space isolated from the rest of the house. People value their master bedrooms so much, in fact, that they'll spend to remodel them into the oasis they desire instead of funneling their funds to remove actual bottlenecks (like bathrooms) or to optimize the spaces where the family spends most of its time.

In some ways, the master bedroom has become a symbolic space. It's a place of refuge.

The Bottom Line

Is clutter a uniquely American problem? I don't know. I doubt it. But I also suspect that because of our sheer material abundance, more of us struggle with clutter than folks in other countries. (I'd love to hear anecdotes or see stats on this subject, actually. Anyone have those?)

However, I do know that it this is another area where we can take charge of our lives. As I purge Stuff from my life, I gain a greater sense of satisfaction. I feel like I'm in more control of my environment — and myself.

Do you struggle with clutter? Is your home packed to the gills with Stuff? What steps have you taken to get rid of some of this crap? Or have you? (Maybe it doesn't bother you?)

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lmoot
lmoot
2 years ago

One of my grandmothers, her daughter, my mom, is a hoarder (she keeps everything that comes across her path, no matter how useless or unattractive. The other is a collector. She’s very selective about what she displays in her home, but she seeks out things to bring in, and has no qualms about getting rid of things she no longer wants. The thing that keeps me from being a collector of most things, is environmental stewardship. I was in a recycling club in grade school, and the images of plastic trash in and around the oceans completely turned me off… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
2 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

The more I think about it, I wonder if American consumption of toys has to do with the increasing trend of keeping kids close to, or inside of the home. Or inside a controlled setting like daycare. I might be reaching but with both parents working more and more, and care centers needing to care for more kids at once and keep them occupied, means less time for exploration and hands on enrichment activities. My niece and nephew used to love exploring the yard (my nephew’s favorite game at 2 years old was endlessly sawing 2x4s with a dull saw,… Read more »

Sharon P
Sharon P
1 year ago
Reply to  lmoot

My 12 year old granddaughter has no interest in outside any more. She used to takes walks with me and ride her bike when she came to our house. Now it’s technology, 24/7, although she is a reader, too, which seems increasingly rare.

FullTimeFinance
FullTimeFinance
2 years ago

Both sets of parents in our case are hoarders. I don’t ever want to live like that. We still struggle a bit but we try regular trips to good will for clean out.

S.G.
S.G.
2 years ago

I definitely struggle with stuff, but for me it is often an issue of how things should be organized and finding the time. I don’t have a stack of papers in my dining room because I have some emotional attachment to them, but because I don’t have a good system for when to go through them. I really identify with the concept of not having a way of purging stuff. My problem isn’t so much that I’ve accumulated stuff I don’t need as I haven’t gotten rid of it when I don’t need it anymore. Just this morning I was… Read more »

Steve
Steve
2 years ago
Reply to  S.G.

It is a lot easier to acquire new stuff than it is to get rid of old stuff. As noted in the article, stuff is so cheap nowadays. Some stuff is even acquired with little to no effort one your part: papers come in the mail, gifts are given to you and your family, etc.

But getting rid of stuff takes an effort. If you have a family, they may also wants a vote. Even if they don’t veto your attempt, the mere friction of having to find the time ask them raises the effort exponentially.

Joe
Joe
2 years ago

We don’t buy a lot of stuff, but it adds up over the years. I still have my old laptop from 2 iteration ago. It’s hard to throw out stuff. The best purge we ever did was when we moved from our 2,000 sq ft house into a smaller condo. We sold and gave away a ton of stuff. That was 10 years ago and our condo is full of stuff again. It’s time to purge, but I’ll wait until we move. It’s just easier because the more stuff we throw out, the less we’ll have to move. Hopefully in… Read more »

Jack
Jack
2 years ago

Loved moving to our new place after wife retired. Moved from big Virginia house to much smaller retirement house in South Carolina. Got rid of sooo much Stuff! Interesting, our 4 kids did NOT want our stuff. Even Stuff from their grade school days we had been saving. Not our beautiful, expensive furniture. Nada!
Goodwill, Salvation Army made out like bandits.
The only thing we are allowed to bring into our new, smaller home is food.
We did keep some of the kids grade school stuff and yes they re-thought about it and they wanted it.
But what a great purge!

RC
RC
2 years ago
Reply to  Jack

That’s a common experience. My parents retired and moved out of their big 4BR house into a small 2 BR condo. I didn’t want their stuff. They had heavy, outdated furniture that I wouldn’t want had they offered. One of my parents mails me things that they believe I ascribed sentimental value to at one point in time. When I receive them normally I’m totally dumbfounded as to why they would think I’d want it, and end up giving the items to Goodwill because they’re useless tchotchkes that I don’t have space for. I try to be conscious about the… Read more »

Sharon P
Sharon P
1 year ago
Reply to  Jack

We’re selling the house next year and moving into an RV to travel and find a new state in which to settle down. Getting rid of almost everything is necessary, but paralyzing!

Tin Cormorant
Tin Cormorant
2 years ago

My mom was a hoarder largely because she was an elementary school teacher and EVERYTHING was kept for use as possible art supplies later. I have photos of my bedroom in high school being filled with boxes labeled things like “fabric scraps” just because we didn’t have space for all of it elsewhere. And this was on top of the storage locker my mom had for all of the sentimental stuff. I was the lucky one. All of my possessions left at home during my stay in my tiny college dorm room were destroyed in a house fire the year… Read more »

dmc
dmc
2 years ago
Reply to  Tin Cormorant

I can’t believe it but I am envious of someone who lost everything in a fire. Perspective; thanks for sharing!

Accidental FIRE
Accidental FIRE
2 years ago

Finally moving my Mom out of the house that I grew up in last year has renewed a desire in me to have less. Her house didn’t seem too bad on the surface, but once we dug through all the closets and the attic, it got bad. It just adds up. And 90% of it was unnecessary junk.

Lisa
Lisa
1 year ago

bet it wasn’t “junk” to your mom though. I have a sister-in-law that constantly gives her mom crap for the stuff she has. I’m not going to mind renting a dumpster if needed when I have to clean out the house – it makes her happy. My s-i-l on the other hand isn’t happy unless she’s throwing out something out, even if it doesn’t belong to her

Will
Will
2 years ago

It can be overwhelming to clear out stuff, which for me can cause me to just throw my hands up. And I realized excess stuff prevents me from actually using the stuff that matters, or pursuing hobbies still relevant to me. That said, a lot of my struggle to purge “stuff” relates to items with sentimental value, including big stuff like furniture and art work. One thing I did discover was scanning most of my kids’ art and many of my sentimental papers, freed me to recycle/shred/trash. I think paper clutter is my one – hopefully first – triumph. Scanning… Read more »

Miss V
Miss V
2 years ago
Reply to  Will

Ditto, Will. It’s as if we share the same mindset. I have been avoiding tackling my bedroom clutter for quite a while; even breaking it down into smaller steps hasn’t worked yet. But I feel like a “first triumph” will give the much needed momentum. Thank you for your tips!

WantNotToWantNot
WantNotToWantNot
2 years ago

Stuff. It has its own category on my todo list! Those items are mostly large-scale projects I’m saving for upcoming retirement (Digitize/archive photos; cull library; re-design garage, etc.). We cut down on clutter by rethinking our house entryway where stuff enters and often accumulates (stacks of mail, outerwear, boots….). First we installed hooks and a shoe tray, re-designed the coat closet, and gave each household member a drawer for gloves/hats/scarves. Seasonally, we rotate things, and once a year we purge these spots. In terms of mail, almost all our bills are paperless and on auto-pay, but catalogues and other mail… Read more »

H.C.
H.C.
2 years ago

The more I moved, the more I wanted to make sure I only had stuff that had an immediate need. I got tired of schlepping boxes full of junk from one place to the next. My general thought is that if I have to move stuff to get to stuff, there’s a problem. As a Scout leader I do have a habit of hoarding craft supplies and recyclables but when it exceeds my couple of bins I allow myself, I try to purge. It is a constant process and requires vigilance. It is interesting to see how family members struggle… Read more »

Brain
Brain
2 years ago

Almost invariably soon after I’ve disposed of something (other than food) I need it. Whether it’s a random notice mailed to me for which I could see no future use (issue finalized, account closed, or other resolved scenario), or the box something came in, a week after it has been irretrievably disposed of a critical issue comes up requiring said item. I could site dozens, perhaps hundreds of examples, and that’s the problem. This has caused me to doubt what is possibly discardable, because everything seems so discardable. I have a saying I picked up somewhere “when in doubt, throw… Read more »

Cindi
Cindi
2 years ago

Hubby and I have been on a two year quest to de-clutter. It takes time because after all, it took 17 years to clutter so it would be impossible to de-clutter in a day. Anyway, we’re almost done. I wanted to let you know that while I was watching this video, I stopped it five times. Once to declutter this shelf in my office that was bothering me. Next to declutter a draw in my office that was over-run with junk, pencils and crap. Another time to declutter the top draw of my bedroom side table. Another time to declutter… Read more »

Rebecca @ Backroads Motorsports
Rebecca @ Backroads Motorsports
2 years ago

We’ve moved 3 times in 5 years. Its a great (but kinda expensive) way to get rid of stuff you don’t want or will not use. The result is our new home is much less cluttered and is easier to keep clean.

Ris
Ris
2 years ago

I live in a 750 square foot one-bedroom apartment with my husband and as a result, we have become pretty militant about clutter and stuff. Nothing comes in unless something else goes out. I’m also a master at selling stuff on Craigslist and Ebay. It can, however, feel like its own job sometimes, this unending war on stuff. I’ve seen friends have to clear out their parents’ 3,000 square foot houses and the emotional toll that it takes on all involved.

Kate
Kate
2 years ago

I love to purge, and try to buy less, but just when I think I cleaned it all out more comes in. That happens with two kids birthday parties and holidays, as well as my husband’s hobbies and my desire to cook all sorts of foods and utilize gadgets galore. Add in two dogs, and no matter how minimal I try to keep our home the ‘stuff’ just keeps coming back. This post was timely for me, as this summer I am building a capsule wardrobe and going to finally give away all of the smaller clothes that no longer… Read more »

Sharon
Sharon
2 years ago

We’re going to sell the house and live in our RV once I retire, which will be no later than 1/31/19. I am consumed with getting rid of “stuff” but worried about how I’ll be able to keep the things I actually want, which in my case is books. I love books and no e-reader is ever going to fill the gap. I have thousands of books. I can probably (and have been) give away 80% of them, but what do I do with the rest? I can digitize my pictures (for a price) and upload my CD’s to the… Read more »

J
J
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon

Hi. If you have not spent at least a month living in a RV before, I strongly advise waiting 6 months to a year before selling your house…unless you know you would definitely move if you decided RV life no longer appealed. I have known two couples to sell houses to live in their RVs only to regret the decision shortly thereafter. One couple stayed in the RV for 18 months to make sure that “getting used to living that lifestyle” would make life better only to conclude that they just disliked it that much more. The other couple nearly… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff
2 years ago

I feel for some of the posters here. I am the child of a clutterer and a packrat. I had my ticket to Hoardsville myself, until I had an epiphany and realized this runs contrary to my values.

To those dealing with a cluttering parent(s): just remember to always be sensitive, and a pillow is an excellent object in which to scream (in private).

Jane
Jane
2 years ago

At age 70 I decided to retire and closed my business. My house is an accumulation of my life as well as all the hobbies I’ve had over the years and now have time to do. Do I do them? no. Decided it is time to thin things out, simplify my life so I can really retire. My house was broken into by relatives and while I am angry and sad for the loss, the stuff they took I can live without. And that has lead me to realize I can live without all my accumulations, but want it to… Read more »

Ms.Chase
Ms.Chase
2 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Im sorry to hear that family did that to you 🙁 As for getting rid of the stuff, separate into what can be sold (to make some extra cash for a trip or something nice for yourself) and what you want to give away. Depending on what it is, you can try schools, daycares, cub/boy scouts, and there are ‘for free’ sections on craigslist and facebook groups for your area. I normally go thru them looking for any free paint or art items. Good luck with everything.

cj
cj
2 years ago

I am a 48-year-old mother of two (17 and 22). if I had to, I could pack up and leave our four-bedroom split level ranch in a day or so. It took a few years of decluttering (I read the Kondo book three times in the process), but now truly everything I own sparks joy.

It’s a game-changer. Try it and you will see! – cj

Doug Brown
Doug Brown
2 years ago

My wife and I both grew up in desperate poverty. Indeed, the first few years of our life together we lived in poverty. growing up in poverty was a life of doing without or, at best, getting used things. Second hand clothes, second hand toys, second hand bike, second hand skates, second hand comic books, etc. Today, we’re retired. We aren’t wealthy, but we live in modest comfort. Now that I can afford some nice things I buy them, in quantities that are really more than I need. I like tools and tech gadgets like cameras, binoculars, flashlights, calculators and… Read more »

ArynChris
ArynChris
2 years ago

I have a strange history with Stuff (at least it seems strange to me). Growing up, I had collections throughout my bedroom– keychains, hats, books, coins, stamps, art supplies, poetry on random sheets of paper, pictures from magazines, clothes, dolls, glass bottles, etc… most of which I never used, or didn’t fit me anymore, or were breaking down, or weren’t a collection I was actively trying to complete. I hesitate to use the word “hoarder,” because I never kept any actual trash (arguably; but everything I kept was very sanitary and had a “purpose” even if I rarely/never used it),… Read more »

Ms.Chase
Ms.Chase
2 years ago
Reply to  ArynChris

“Like Dad did when you were four” was probably the very start of all of it. I’m sorry that happened to you. 🙁 also, im sorry for your losses.I hope that you can work on it more and start to feel more comfortable and less stressed <3

Gary-O
Gary-O
2 years ago

I’m a recovering collector who is busy unclutterfying the house. Nowadays, before I buy a non-food item I ask myself these questions:
1.) Does it have a function?
2.) Is it an essential function?
3.) Will I still be using it for that function in 6 – 12 months?
4.) And this is the most important question – How long until it ends up in a landfill? After all, that is the ultimate destination of every single item you buy – the landfill. It may be 6 months, 6 years or 6 decades…but its all going into the landfill. Why waste money on landfill filler?

John B
John B
2 years ago

I’m a hoarder of crp and it sucks. Especially paper and books! I’m worried I’ll need my Schwab statement from 11 years ago and it will have aged out from the website (note the word “need” – should be in quotes!).

The worst thing is I will occasionally need something from my pile of crp!

My wife is much better but not perfect (she has boxes from 05 or so!) and our little one won’t throw away a single toy!

Is there a Hoarders Anonymous??!

Nance
Nance
2 years ago

You’d be interested in the picture book entitled Material World. In it, all the possessions of a family is displayed outside their dwelling – of families all over the world. The Texas family had most except for some sheik’s family in the Mid East. I have a problem with clutter because I think I’ll use things in craft projects / sell things on eBay / give things to charity. Some of the stuff is related to self-image: If you think you’re a great cook, you may have a huge collection of cookbooks, for example. It’s much easier to bring things… Read more »

Linda Marshall
Linda Marshall
2 years ago

My great revelation came when I realized that the only person who got to decide what had sentimental meaning for me was me. I had kept a lot of stuff because other people thought it should have meaning for me – “Of course you’ve always loved grandpa’s old chair, so you must take it” and “I saved this for you because I knew you’d want it”… Of course this is more complicated when you live with other people who also have their own feelings, but just knowing that I’m not obligated to love and keep things that I don’t actually… Read more »

Harlan
Harlan
2 years ago

I sold my 4 bedroom house, after 27 years of use, and moved into a 2 bedroom condo. The De-cluttering started two years before, and we still had ten boxes of stuff to send to Goodwill after the move! The big move happens next year when I retire and we move overseas to be near my daughter. There is a huge incentive to downsize when you consider the cost of shipping overseas.

Butch
Butch
2 years ago

I don’t think “stockpiling” food necessarily means you’re a hoarder. It depends very much on how it’s done. Canned goods have a long shelf life – in most cases well beyond the “best by” date on the can. Having a year’s (or more) supply of canned and non-perishable food, like well-packaged pasta and other dried food, can make sense if you live far from grocery stores, believe that natural or man-made disasters are, if not probable, at least possible. Food should be clearly dated and rotated, using the oldest first. I use a bold black magic marker on each can… Read more »

Kristen
Kristen
2 years ago

I always have a ‘give away box’ in the laundry room and I am constantly putting things in it that I find around the house. I encourage my 3 kids to tidy up an area of their rooms or go through their clothes drawer after every season and give me the clothing that is too small or that they don’t wear. I have purged many, many things over the past few years. It amazes me that it *still* seems like we have too much ‘stuff’. We live in a smaller house but I just want to keep getting rid of… Read more »

Kelly Craig
Kelly Craig
2 years ago

This article is not the end all to truth, with regard to having things. For example, I like having a food supply. It’s saved my butt a couple times in my life. It may again. That same concept applies to other emergency situations caused by flood, fire and so on, whether it’s because I was cut off from civilization or because I was broke. Then there is the “I’m running a business” thing. A pint of stain doesn’t cut it, because it’s gone too quick and I have to drive for an hour, one way, to get another. In short,… Read more »

Robert Peters
Robert Peters
2 years ago

I read with interest your review of Marie Kondo’s book. This article and your review are thought-provoking. I’d like to add a thought I haven’t seen clearly in the comments so far, although the comment by H.C. touches on it. It seems to me that the “throw it out if it doesn’t bring you joy” attitude is rooted in wealth. As H.C.’s example shows, it was common for people growing up in the depression to save everything with potential use. Why? Because replacements cost money. To live a lifestyle in which you jettison everything you don’t use now, and then… Read more »

V
V
2 years ago
Reply to  Robert Peters

I could not agree more. So often you see this in people of all ages in America – immediate satisfaction/assessment, . Sometimes people save staff because they see something it could become or it can serve a purpose. I am not a collector or a hoarder but I grew up in one room or a two bedroom apartment when other room belong to a different family. My parents still found way to save things from the time I was born and they did not need boxes or shelves. I think sometime people save things because you feel like you need… Read more »

Matthew Kleinmann
Matthew Kleinmann
2 years ago

If not having stuff works for you that is great. I like my stuff. Most of it came out of free piles or was left out on trash day. With the exception of my tools. I make things out of stuff. For years I had a pile of stuff amassing. Then one day that became the small house out in the woods overlooking the creek. Another big pile became the new wood shop. A smaller pile became the greenhouse. The old axle bearings became the thing our mailbox swings on. Another axle bearing and the motor from an old treadmill… Read more »

Jeanne
Jeanne
2 years ago

I have the smallest house on the street, and am one of the few whose car fits in the garage (and i’m one of the only with just a one-car garage…). My colleagues think that I’m very organized, and a minimalist, because i have not had paper on my desk for over 10 years. Firm believer in “one in, one or two out.” Have taught my daughter to get rid of stuff, too. Very proud of how little I’ve accumulated. Not so. At least, not as good as i thought. our foreign exchange students, when asked, all say, “yeah, you… Read more »

Bob Weiniger
Bob Weiniger
2 years ago

Either you have no more need for material possessions than a hamster, or you have failed to achieve even the modest financial success necessary to acquire them. I neither horde nor ‘collect’ but a respectable cache of food, clothing, furnishings, technology, and CASH in the BANK are simply evidence that we are no longer cavemen, but have gained some measure of creature comfort, and control over our environment. Why would any sane person attempt to demonize the one thing that sets present day man apart from savages?

M
M
2 years ago

We have a lot of clutter. We also have a lot of books, which I don’t consider clutter but they do take up a lot of space. It is very hard to throw almost any book away.. we were raised to respect libraries and information so much before there was Internet to look up anything you wanted. I see the value in even a 1920s science book because it is a snapshot of thought at that time that isn’t going to be the same read in an article on the Internet. We are also both ‘mechanic’ types and there are… Read more »

RadioFan
RadioFan
2 years ago
Reply to  M

Dear M: For me, you have hit the nail in the head with “I see the value in even a 1920s science book because it is a snapshot of thought at that time that isn’t going to be the same read in an article on the Internet…” I hold on to many of my law school books because I think that even if some law changes, and is not good any longer, those books give a snapshot of the social/legal thought of that time!

THC
THC
2 years ago

I’ve been making money (and acquiring more Stuff)…. By decluttering other people’s cluttered spaces… For the last fifteen years. The relief my clients experience with a clean, sparsely decorated space is obvious. Besides, it’s not a bad way to feed my antiquing habit. 🙂 I upcycle, re-home, and trade items for things or services I need. In my case, taking advantage of people’s desire to rid themselves of clutter is my economic hustle. Being that I’m in Alaska, I travel to some pretty remote places – you’d be amazed at how much Stuff people will take into the Bush.

RadioFan
RadioFan
2 years ago

Wall St., Madison Ave., and DC together create a mirage that one can afford so much. In reality, the threshold of affordability is much lower. (That is why debt is such a serious issue. In my view, the real income is HALF of after-tax dollars.) In other words, more stuff sold is more economic activity. Short of the sickness of being a hoarder, the way the system is set up, clutter can only be eliminated if one throws out an unneeded item immediately but is ready to buy the same item from the store if needed just a couple of… Read more »

Beatriz F.
Beatriz F.
2 years ago

My husband and I have lived in the same 1400 sq ft house for 25 years and our secret to not accumulating too much junk is not having a garage. Although sometimes I really wish we had one, I also know that it would be jammed full of junk if we did. As it is, we have the guest room which sort of doubles as a “junk room” but which we have to clean out when actual guests come to visit (don’t look in the closet!) so it stays somewhat within control. The lack of a garage means if we… Read more »

Happybcuziam
Happybcuziam
2 years ago

I just really don’t know about so much ado, regarding so much flap about this clutter/hoarding scenario. Primarily, I believe people are entitled to live however they choose; clutter/hoarding included. If a home is almost empty of “things”, that should be fine too, shouldn’t it? If not, then why not? As long as ones yard isnt overgrown and a hazard for the congregation of buggies and creepy crawlies, along with the diseases they can harbor and spread to humans, who cares? If you do not like that someone has “too many” things in their home, just don’t go in there.… Read more »

Cate Clough
Cate Clough
2 years ago

Everything in moderation folks……it seems that “hoarding” is the new buzz word to guilt us into marginalization. Do what is comfortable for you, your budget and your sacred space. It’s your life….make your own statement.

cedarman
cedarman
2 years ago

I’ve lived on three continents/place (Africa, Middle East, and U.S) for about 10 years each. So, I can compare how my life has changed over the years relative to the culture I’ve lived in. To provide a more precise comparison, I’ve had to consider the times when our financial and family units were similar. After deep with some data backed evaluation, I really didn’t find any major differences. The human condition tends to favor hoarding and accumulation as a survival mechanism. We are constrained by nomadic (moving constantly) or rental lifestyle (less space and more likely to move). The main… Read more »

Jennifer
Jennifer
1 year ago

I’ve always felt that if we need more space for our stuff or more containers for our stuff, we probably need less stuff. Living in an urban area, more space is expensive, and hanging on to, for example, 50 wires for obsolete electronics we no longer own makes no sense when we can repurchase the one we might eventually need on the internet. I find myself treasuring our vacations and camping trips, which require us to take what we need for that time, and no more. Such a small set of things to maintain and keep track of! My mom… Read more »

JC Webber III
JC Webber III
3 years ago

We live in a 400sqft (when the slide outs are out) motorhome. There’s no room for ‘stuff’. We have a rule, anytime we bring something new in, something old has to go out. 8^)

— jc

dh
dh
3 years ago

I think cultivating a minimalist aesthetic for our homes can be a key to decluttering, as then one has a fun design goal of making a home look a certain way. Here’s a great slideshow re: creating a minimalist home:

https://www.slideshare.net/DanErickson10/12-step-minimalist-home

Airwrecka
Airwrecka
3 years ago

I’ve had this issue for a while and it brought a lot of stress in my life. Seeing little piles of things I need to go through around our home were super stressful. Most of the time I would just ignore it. Denial was a huge part of it. Just avoiding the fact that I needed to go through these things by adding more activities in my life. I am proud to say that I’ve FINALLY started confronting it. I’m on day 11 of organizings/purging/de-cluttering. Even after the first day I felt so much better about my environment. Slowly making… Read more »

Kath
Kath
3 years ago

I keep a bag in my condo and each day I add at least one item that needs to ‘go’. It can be a piece of clothing, a pen, a piece of costume jewelry. Then I leave the bag by my garage can for the weekly pickup and it always seems to ‘disappear’ before the trash pickup. Getting rid of one thing a day keeps decluttering top of mind.

Beth
Beth
3 years ago
Reply to  Kath

I have one of those bags too 🙂 When I was growing up, we always had a bag or box in the basement for donations. I often don’t have big blocks of time to dedicate to de-cluttering, but if I see something in a closet I don’t use or no longer need, I can rid of it right then and there.

Tina in NJ
Tina in NJ
3 years ago

I tend to buy magazines and books about things like cooking, crafting, even decluttering (!) instead of actually doing the above. (I do cook, though.) They sit around forever, because I paid good money for that Stuff, I’m not going to just throw it out! I don’t shop for recreation nearly as much as I used to, it seems I’m always pulling out the credit card. Yet when I actually clean a room, I anxious because it doesn’t look normal.

dh
dh
3 years ago

I’m American but live in France … whatever trend starts in the US eventually makes it over here. So here too, people are now living much more cluttered lives than before. I HATE clutter with a vengeance. My home isn’t perfect, but it’s quite good. My DH has TONS of clutter, um, collections. He still can’t get rid of the Stuff he brought over here from abroad after his parents died and he emptied out their house. (His mom was a hoarder.) Hell, he can’t even get rid of his favorite clothes from HS and he’s 61 LOL. My solution… Read more »

dh
dh
3 years ago

As far as food goes, I go through the pantry / fridge regularly. We are quite broke these days (youngest child at college) so we have been living out of the freezer/pantry since our youngest left for college in Sept. We have had to restock certain items, but far fewer than you’d think. We still buy fresh foods of course, but making the decision to “clean out the pantry / freezer” kept us going for much longer than we would have originally thought. Personally I have no problem with convenience foods … we cook from scratch 4 or 5 times… Read more »

Beth
Beth
3 years ago

It’s definitely an issue here in Canada too! I think part of the issue is that we don’t like to admit our mistakes – or perhaps we don’t give our frugal selves room to make mistakes. For instance, I’m often hesitant to try new things because I’m afraid I’ll waste money. But, how do you know until you try? Not all of my clothing purchases are perfect – sometimes I’ll try a new colour or new style and end up not loving it after all. Sometimes I’ll wear it for years. I’ve been known to buy the odd gadget or… Read more »

Master Duke
Master Duke
3 years ago

Throughout college, my first move into freshman dorms was much faster/easier than moving into my last apartment 4 years later. The amount of stuff accumulated for living on my own was crazy. Thankfully, as I changed into an adult and moved to another city, I was able to get rid of the stuff not needed or upgrade the cheap wal mart items that were all I could afford. My favorite being a new iron!! Kids these days have video games, tablets, and more. It was so much more fun to go outside and make our own games instead :D. Great… Read more »

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