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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.