Recently, I came across a blog posted by Joshua Becker from America. It was called: 21 Surprising Statistics That Reveal How Much Stuff We Actually Own. I was slightly put off by the word “statistics,” but it proved to be a very interesting piece, with quite provocative figures, for example:
- There are 300,000 items in the average American home.
- The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years.
- 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.
- The United States has upward of 50,000 storage facilities, more than five times the number of Starbucks.
This triggered something in me, because I know of more and more people who are renting self storage units. And no, they’re not using it to store a classic car. And no, these are also not people who live in a small, two-room apartment; these are people who live in a three-story house with a loft. I always fantasize about what kind of stuff they store there. Strange magazines? Old photos of themselves naked? A chair from Grandma, too ugly to have in a room, but too hard to throw away? Or a pile of discarded belongings just waiting for a flea market or yard sale? I bet that it could actually all go to the garbage to be honest. Isn’t there even some kind of “rule” or “understanding” when it comes to moving boxes? That if you haven’t unpacked them after two years, then they can simply be thrown away? But maybe I’m completely wrong, and a self storage unit is the kind of place that you go to on a Sunday afternoon to potter through and tinker with your old stuff. A sort of shed, but for collectors.
We actually have storage ourselves too. It’s called a barn, but it’s basically a dumping ground for everything that we just can’t be bothered, or don’t know how, to deal with during the hectic week. A kid’s bike that really should just be sold via the online marketplace, an old mattress, paint cans that we decided we really “must” keep but which (even at the time) I knew would never be used again (and I was right), and more of those “You-Never-Know-When-You-Might-Need-It” items. You can read more about my partner N’s “You-Never-Know-When-You-Might-Need-It” items in an earlier blog…
But back to that strange phenomenon known as the storage of stuff. In dark self storage units and abandoned industrial sites around the world, there are piles and piles of belongings just languishing there. In my opinion, it has a great deal to do with our hoarding characteristics. Somewhere in our minds, we still believe that we’re only safe if we surround ourselves with possessions. In order to show to the outside world that we are doing well, that we can survive through difficult times. Or simply because we cannot say goodbye. And I also believe that sheer laziness has a part to play in the matter too. And that’s the topic of my next blog: About how tired you don’t actually get from all that decluttering. I think…
The name of the blog post mentioned above is: becomingminimalist.com/clutter-stats/
Astrid, together with Irene, is the founder of Flow Magazine. She lives with her partner and two children. Each Tuesday, she writes about the sense—and nonsense—of decluttering.
“Week 26 – The statistics”