As Americans, we sure love our stuff. We have the largest houses in the world, averaging 2,300 square feet, but even this amount of space often isn’t enough to hold all of our stuff. Three-fourths of American families can’t use their garages to park their cars because they are filled with other items. Fifty years ago, there was no such thing as storage units. Now there is over a billion square feet of storage space in America.
Every year, Americans spend over $1 trillion on unnecessary items. In America, there are now more TVs per household on average than there are people. Even Americans below the poverty line live in houses bigger than the average European and have amenities such as televisions, gaming systems and extra refrigerators.
Why are we engaged in this culture of excessive spending, which results in the collection of massive amounts of things in our houses that may rarely or never be used? Do we really need all of this stuff in order to be happy?
Studies show that shopping produces a “shopping high” because of dopamine produced by the brain, which helps us to feel pleasure. But this pleasure is only temporary. Meanwhile, the long term effects include financial debt, the accumulation of garbage and personal stress. Despite the fact that we own more things than we did fifty years ago, measures of happiness and well-being have not increased. In other words, all of this stuff isn’t making us any happier.
The Mayo Clinic defines a hoarding disorder as “a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them.” But it can be argued that many of us suffer from this problem. Why is it so hard to let go of our things, even if we intellectually understand that they do not bring us pleasure and actually create stress?
Try passing “The Purge Test” we’ve created to help you decide if it’s time to rid your life of excessive items.
- Are the tags still on the item?
- Have you used it in the last two years?
- Are you holding onto it “just in case?”
- Do you have duplicates of the same items?
- Is this a backup item?
- Is this a specialty item, a uni-tasker?
- Is it broken and you never will actually fix it?
- Is it out of date?
- Are you holding onto it simply because it cost a lot?
- Are you holding onto something of bad sentimental value?
- Do you claim you never have time to purge items?
- Is it cumbersome, heavy, large and therefore difficult to get rid of?
- Did you buy this just to fill space?
We all have irrational excuses for hanging onto things. Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out, look around our lives, and think about what it is we really need to live and to be happy. Once we are aware, we can begin the lifelong process of ridding life of burdensome “things” and focusing more on the “things” that truly matter, like our relationships, health and overall well-being.
Got Stuff? Typical American Home Is Cluttered with Possessions — and Stressing Us Out
More TV Sets (2.93) Than People Per US Household (2.54); Average TV Sets Per Home Sets New Record
Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today?
The Psychology Of Materialism, And Why It's Making You Unhappy
Consumerism and its discontents
Materialism is bad for you, studies say
Getting High on Shopping
Study: Experiences make us happier than possessions
Number of the Week: Americans Buy More Stuff They Don’t Need
Average Home Sizes Around the World
The LifeTwist Study