In the United States, people love to make sure they have everything that friends, family, and neighbors do. Whenever we see something in a commercial, magazine, or Instagram, it compels us to buy more so we can have all of the newest things.
This consumerism leads to people buying more than they actually need. But how much stuff do people actually own? Here are some surprising statistics about what’s going on in America’s households.
20. How Much Is In Your House?
Between 1970 and 2008, American’s disposable income doubled, and people spend nearly everything they made going shopping for the things they wanted. Around the same time, there were also plenty of smaller knick-knacks that came on the market. Now, we have reached a point in our society where the average American household has 300,000 items. That’s a lot of stuff.
According to Business Wire, nearly every American household has 50 unused items that total $3,100. These items could be sold on eBay if you need extra cash. If you’re curious, take some time to look through your home to see if there is anything you could potentially sell online. You may be surprised how quickly it adds up.
19. It Keeps Getting Bigger
In the 1940s, American soldiers returned home from World War II and began the Baby Boomer generation. Families began to move into the suburbs, and they built cute little homes with a white picket fence. This became the ideal living situation for most families, and it is now known as “The American Dream.” At some point, those tiny cookie-cutter homes were no longer big enough. Over the past 50 years, the average American household as tripled in size.
Years ago, people didn’t spend as much time inside of their houses. They were spending their time out in the community sharing public spaces. Coming home was usually just to eat dinner and go to sleep. Kids shared bedrooms, and entire families got by with just one bathroom. Now, everyone seems to want more. Recently, the Tiny House movement has begun to combat this trend, so there is a chance that maybe people have finally realized that bigger is not always necessarily better.
18. Shoes Galore
It’s no secret that women own a lot of shoes, and men who consider themselves “sneakerheads” can amass huge collections. The exact number changes depending on the survey, but one by Reuters found that the average woman owned 19 pairs of shoes. Other studies claim that it’s more like 30 pairs. Among that shoe collection, 68% of women say that they are holding onto shoes that are painful to walk in, and yet choose to keep them anyway.
Six out of every 10 women say that they have a pair of shoes in their closet they regret buying, and yet they are still keeping it. If you are trying to become a minimalist, it’s easy to combat this issue. Just stop buying new shoes unless you absolutely need them.
Garages are notorious for becoming junk collectors in American households. According to the US Department of Energy, 25% of families with two-car garages don’t even have enough space left in them to park their cars, but other studies, like the one conducted by UCLA, found the number was as high as 75%.
The Wallstreet Journal took a survey asking people what they wanted to change about their garages, and 50% of the people said that they wished they could get rid of their junk, and planned to do so within the next year or two. There is a reason why people sell their unwanted items at “garage sales.” However, most people continue to keep their garage as a glorified storage unit.
16. Storage Facilities
For years, it always seems to be new storage facilities opening up. Do people really need storage that badly? It turns out that according to the Self Storage Association, 1 out of every 10 Americans has a storage unit. There are 2.3 billion square feet of storage units spread across 50,000 facilities in the United States. Most people take out a storage unit when they are either moving, have a death in the family, or are going through some kind of transition in life.
For years, the business model was considered recession-proof because if people lost their homes during a financial crisis, they would need to store their stuff when they lost their house. And if they made more money, they might want the space to keep their things. However, they didn’t count on what’s happening right now – financial education. People are finally starting to realize that it’s not worth spending $100 per month to keep old McDonald’s toys, Ikea furniture, and mattresses. In the past, people thought that paying to keep their old junk was thrifty when it’s actually a waste. The demand for storage units has gone down in recent years.
15. More Televisions Than People
The average American household has more televisions than people. According to Nielsen Media Research, there are 2.73 TVs in every home for 2.55 people per household. This is not actually very surprising, considering that brands like TCL are selling Smart TVs that are lighter and cheaper than ever before.
Many people have televisions in their bedrooms in addition to their living room. And with the growing popularity of kids playing video games, many children are beginning to have their own TVs. Most minimalists would argue that this takes away from the experience of families spending more time together.
14. American Kids Have More Toys
Between gifts from Santa and massive birthday parties, American kids are always reviving toys throughout the year. Every time they turn on the TV, children will see commercials of the newest thing. Once they are aware that these toys exist, they beg their parents to buy them the same things their friends have. Some parents use toys as rewards for good grades or completing chores in order to instill work ethic. However, these small purchases truly do add up to a monumental amount of money.
Even though parents have the best intentions at heart, we have gotten ourselves to a point where kids are spoiled with toys. The average 10-year-old has 238 toys but only plays with 12 on a daily basis. This equates to $9,243.21 worth of toys by the time a child is 10. American kids only make up 3% of the world’s children, but they own 40% of the world’s toys. Remember that plenty of kids around the world learn to play with the great outdoors, and use their imaginations. Marketing might try to convince you that they “need” something when in reality it’s just a waste of money.
The average American woman owns 30 outfits or one for every day of the month. Back in the 1930s, the average woman only had nice outfits, and typically learned how to sew their clothes. When clothes were damaged, they were usually repaired, instead of throwing them away. Whenever someone bought new clothes, it was usually reserved for holidays or special occasions.
Today, the average American spends $1,700 annually on clothes and throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year. Fashion is a $12 billion-a-year business. These companies benefit from people wanting new clothes. Many companies create “fast fashion” clothing that gets ruined after wearing it a few times. The only way to combat this is to avoid trends and buy clothing that lasts. Also, start shopping from thrift stores instead.
While it’s not strictly an American phenomenon, there has been a growing recognition of hoarding behavior in the United States due to TV shows like Hoarders. There are 19 million Americans who could be considered “compulsive hoarders,” and it has now been classified as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. There is a big difference between someone who has a lot of clutter and someone who is an actual hoarder. The major difference is that the hoarder keeps things even if it negatively affects their everyday life as well as the lives of their family.
According to psychologists, true hoarders will feel emotional pain when they see something thrown away. Even when most people would logically know that the object is useless, a hoarder will want to hang onto it “just in case.”
11. The Ikea Effect
Americans have more furniture in their homes than ever before due to the abundance of cheap furniture. Some believe it’s due to “The Ikea Effect,” which is when people love the items they worked hard to make with their own labor far more than the ones they simply bought in a store. Since all Ikea furniture requires assembly, people absolutely love Ikea.
Even though the amount of furniture coming into the United States and being purchased by consumers has gone up, the amount being thrown away in dumps only increased by a tiny margin. Furniture is also the #1 thing people choose to keep in storage units. The logic behind this is that most people hope to move into a bigger house someday. So they like to hold onto furniture just in case that day ever comes, even if it means cluttering their smaller home in the meantime.
10. Private Consumption Spending
As you have probably guessed from the rest of this list, Americans spend a ton of money on private consumption. In case you aren’t aware, consumption spending is the amount of money people are spending during their day-to-day lives with buying things for their household, entertainment, etc. Most goods and services, including cars, go towards someone’s private consumption. North America and Western Europe only contain 12% of the world’s total population, and yet they make up 60% of the world’s private consumption.
The rest of the world is mainly worried about the cost of housing, food, and other basic needs for survival. Basically, this just goes to show how vastly different it is to be living in America or Western Europe compared to the rest of the world, and why so many foreign nations consider anyone living in the United States to be rich.
9. Bling Over Degrees
If you were to ask a Millennial what their biggest monthly expenses are, they might mention student loans. While it’s true that many people pay a huge amount of money to their debt every month, they hardly bat an eyelash at spending on the things they wear.
It turns out that Americans spend $100 billion per year on shoes, jewelry, and watches, which is more than higher education. Obviously, this spending is going to vary from person to person. There are some people out there who spend well over $1,000 a month on their student loans, and spend only a fraction of that on clothing. Then, there are people who never went to college, so their student loan debt is zero, but they spend a few hundred dollars on clothing. However, the national average still gives you an idea of where priorities lie in the nation as a whole.
8. Food Clutter
In America, we have an issue with food clutter, which is over-accumulating purchases from the grocery store. These might be items that we think looked really good when we were browsing the aisles, a recommendation from a friend, or something from a commercial. We also might try to go on a diet, and end up with tons of food in our pantry that doesn’t get eaten.
Every year, between 30 and 40% of the food supply goes to waste in America. This adds up to 133 billion pounds being dumped in landfills and wastes $161 billion. Remember that an economy is all about supply and demand. So as long as people continue to buy more food than necessary, grocery stores will continue to supply it. The only thing you can do to fix the problem is to create a meal plan and eat your food before you buy more.
7. Our Stuff is Too Easy to Lose
How many times have you misplaced something in your home? Looking for a lost item can be terrifying, especially if it’s your wallet, keys, cellphone, sunglasses, purse, or something else that is equally precious to you. Turns out you’re not alone. According to The Daily Mail, the average person spends 3,680 hours, which equates to 153 days, searching for misplaced items. Not only does this waste time, but it also causes arguments, because four out of 10 couples admitted that they frequently have fights when they can’t find something in their house.
The reason why things get lost is that you simply have too much stuff, and this is a sign that you need to begin organizing. When there is a place for everything to go, and you get in the habit of putting things back where they belong, it should cut down on the amount of time you spend searching for lost items.
6. Time Spent Shopping
According to The Daily Mail, women spend 25,184 hours and 53 minutes over a period of 63 years shopping at stores. This adds up to a total of eight years of their lives. So many people go to the mall due to boredom, and this is part of the reason why the time adds up significantly.
In the age of Amazon Prime, there should be no reason to spend so much time shopping. We can order whatever we want at the touch of a button. But these statistics still show that we go shopping 301 days out of the year. If you want to save time shopping, try to buy in bulk, or make a list of things you absolutely need. Step back and ask yourself if you really need to buy the things you are going out for.
5. Pampering Your Pets
Depending on who you ask, you may or may not consider your pets a possession because they are a part of the family. But in the eyes of the law, animals are still things you own and are responsible for. The amount of money we spend on our pets adds up, especially if you purchase exotic pets and purebreds. In 2019, Americans spent $69.51 billion on their pets. This is broken down into food, veterinary care, supplies and medicine, grooming, boarding, and purchasing. To put things into perspective, this is more than many countries’ entire GDP.
Did Americans really need to spend $440 million on pet Halloween costumes in 2019? And did 30% of the nation need to buy their dogs and cats a Christmas present? We’re not here to convince you to stop taking care of your animals. But remember that these things people spend money on are a projection of what they think their pet “needs” when the reality is that they are just fine with food, water, exercise, and love.
There is a saying that the best days of owning a boat are the day that you buy it and the day you sell it. Believe it or not, there are 17 million recreational boats in the United States and one out of every 10 households owns one. You might assume that rich people are the ones owning these boats, but it’s actually a very middle-class dream. Most boat-owning households make less than $100,000 per year. When asked how often owners actually use those boats, only 25% of owners claimed they were heavily used.
Even small boats cost at least $10,000 to purchase, and there is a lot of expensive upkeep for repairs and cleaning. It’s not every smart to spend this amount of money on a hobby that is hardly ever used. For example, my next-door-neighbor owns a boat. He even built a huge garage to put it in and purchased a new pickup truck to tow it an hour to the beach. On nice days, he takes the boat out and cleans it lovingly with the music blaring, so the whole neighborhood knows that he owns a boat. But he only uses it to go fishing once a year.
3. Not Enough Room For This Consumption
In the United States, we only have 4% of our original forests left. Most of them were cut down to make room for land to build houses, stores, highways, and farms. We keep taking away from the land without putting anything back. Many of the goods we are consuming are coming from other countries. Think about how many goods you buy that are made in China, or the food that has been imported from South America. This lifestyle is not sustainable in the long-term.
According to a study called “Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth,” If the entire world consumed at the rate that the United States did, we would need five planets to make enough food and tangible goods. As time goes on, and countries continue to become more like the United States, our planet will continue to be in crisis.
2. Secondhand Purchases
In the previous entry, we talked about how bleak the future is if Americans continue to consume at such a rapid rate. One of the only ways to combat this is to buy second-hand items from thrift stores. This will reduce the demand for new things, and it also keeps the objects out of the dumps. Every single day, thrift store chains like Goodwill will cycle through their inventory, and a lot of it ends up in the dump. Goodwill generates $5.37 billion in retail sales every year, which is a tremendous amount of money from reselling objects that people once owned.
According to the US Census Bureau, only 17 to 18% of Americans will go thrift shopping any given year. So the vast majority of people only want to buy brand-new items. If you want to consider buying second-hand items, but you don’t like the experience of thrift shopping, try eBay instead.
1. Souvenir Shopping
Many minimalists will try to spend their money on experiences like traveling instead of buying too many things. However, when most Americans travel, they tend to purchase souvenirs for their friends and family. Many of these items can be silly novelty gifts that don’t actually serve any real purpose. According to Statistica, US souvenir shopping totaled 16.75 billion dollars in 2017.
The issue with souvenirs is that many of them end up in the trash or get donated to thrift stores. So if you want to cut back on waste, don’t get pointless things when you go to another country. Sometimes, taking photos and creating lasting memories are enough.