Most of us sense it deep down, even if we struggle to articulate it: the constant presence of too many things in our homes and lives.
We see it when we’re looking for that one shirt in a pile of too many, when we can’t find a place for the new gifts we receive, or when we spend what seems like forever constantly cleaning, sorting, and re-arranging.
Our garages are no longer spaces for our cars but storage areas for boxes full of stuff we never use. Drawers become increasingly difficult to close, closets are stuffed to the brim, and sometimes, our belongings control us rather than us controlling them.
It’s helpful to take a step back from our current way of life and realize, while it is common to us, compared to human history it is entirely unique.
And by that I mean, consider this: Never in human history have human beings owned as much stuff as we do today!
We’re in uncharted territory, leading lives of unprecedented abundance. Even worse, not only is this level of possession-ownership entirely unique, it is a burden to us.
Consider these 15 startling stats to understand just how unparalleled our journey into materialism has become.
1. The average American home has quadrupled in size over the last 100 years—from 700 square feet in the 1920s to 2,700 square feet in 2015. (source)
2. Still, more than a third of Americans rent self storage—spending $38 billion every year. (source)
3. The average American shopper buys 60% more clothing items than they did 15 years ago but keeps them for half as long. The average garment may be worn as few as ten times before disposal. (source)
5. Yet, American households spend, on average, almost $1,500 on clothing every year. (source)
6. No wonder the average American throws away about 81 pounds of clothing every year! (source)
7. American credit card debt now exceeds $1 trillion for the first time—twice as much credit card debt as just 10 years ago. (source)
8. Americans make one impulse purchase every two days, spending up to $5400 annually ($324,000 over their lifetime). (source)
9. Americans spend over $8 billion every year on unwanted gifts. (source)
10. The average American household now owns 25 connected devices. (source)
11. The average person in Great Britain owns 80 books which they haven’t read. (source)
12. Each year, 119 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States. That equates to 130 billion meals and more than $408 billion in food thrown away each year. Shockingly, nearly 40% of all food in America is wasted. (source)
13. Even though we stock our kitchens with food we don’t eat, Americans now spend more on dining out than on groceries. (source)
14. 80% of the items we own are never used. (source)
15. Americans spend $18,000 per year, per person, on nonessentials. (source)
The numbers are clear and paint a picture of just how much we’ve accumulated. It’s surprising, really, when you think about how different our lives are from all other previous generations before us.
But here’s the good news: we don’t have to keep living this way. There’s a simpler, more freeing path ahead. Owning less and making more room for what truly matters.
So, why not start today? Begin with one drawer, one shelf, or one closet. Consider this your invitation to a lighter, more intentional life. And the first step? Maybe it’s as simple as a visit to your local donation center.