Provocative: Hoarding or Just Too Much Stuff

It is Black Friday of 2011, tomorrow will be Small Business Saturday, and soon it will be Cyber Monday. People will be purchasing stuff for others and perhaps themselves over the next week. When I moved from Seattle to Nashville, I was able to hold most of my worldly possessions in my car as I traveled cross country. I still have worldly possessions that I have not touched in over a year from that trip. These worldly possessions realistically have little use to me since I have not touched them in over a year’s time.

Hopefully this will not get me into trouble with internet gambling laws, but I am willing to wager most of this excess stuff that you have a fair amount of stuff that you have not used in over a year as well.

Items wear out, and occasionally need to be replaced.  I understand this. Technology, even if it functions, can become so out of date that it is actually more trouble to maintain it than buy a replacement. I understand this as well.

What makes little to no sense to me is this, according to the National Association of Home Builders, the average home built was 983 square feet in 1950. The average home built today is a little over 2300 square feet (this represents a decline from 2700 square feet in 2009). Meanwhile, according to the US Census Bureau, the average household size has decreased from 3.38 in 1950 to 2.58 in 2010. This represents a change in 291 square feet per person in 1950 to 1046 square feet per person in 2010.

Judged alone, one perhaps could give the defense that a new fashion has arrived in that we live in a time where we prefer to have larger spaces with our rooms with less and less items cluttering our lives. I would suggest that though this may explain part of the issue, that it probably does not explain the majority. As Americans, we like our stuff and we like to have more stuff. Some people even have storage lockers for their stuff. Could it be that if our past selves were to somehow able to take a look at our present selves, they would say that we are guilty of hoarding? Would they suggest to us that one of the main reasons we have larger and larger places is not that we actually need the space, but that we need a socially acceptable way to store our ever-growing pile of stuff?

But what happens when we have these larger spaces for this stuff? We tend to spend more on property taxes or on rentals. We probably pay more for utilities. And if it turns out that we live in a society that prefers more stuff rather than uncluttered space, we may even seek out more stuff to fill our larger houses.

If you live in a larger house and have a storage locker with stuff you have not used for over a year that you are not holding for investment purposes, please allow me to suggest to you that you have too much stuff. Before you go out and purchase another thing for yourself this holiday season, let me suggest a beneficial holiday present to yourself. Sell the excess stuff you have, get out of your storage locker and pocket the savings.

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