Here at TreeHugger we have a thing for stuff … and it’s not a good thing. Stuff sucks. Necessities and well-made special things that bring you happiness are great, but needless stuff, meh. It’s wasteful to produce, package and ship – and once we start drowning in our stuff we either suffer from the stress of it all (and eat cookies, for real!) or we send it packing to the landfill, where it may endure for many lifetimes. And while swapping and sharing and donating may postpone stuff's trip to the waste stream, it still weighs heavy on the planet.
Just how big of a problem is it? Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist did his homework and came up with a very sobering list of 21 surprising statistics about how much we own. It’s a clutter-phobe’s nightmare. But really, it serves wonderfully to highlight our obsession with owning needless things. I’ve borrowed from his facts and mixed things up a bit to share with you here; you can click over to Becoming Minimalist to see his original list and more great posts on the beauty of simple living.
- The average American home has almost tripled in size in the last 50 years; likely because we need more room to contain the 300,000 items that each home, on average, needs to house.
- Yet 25 percent of people who have two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32 percent only have room for one vehicle. Which could be leading to the fact that one out of 10 Americans require offsite storage. Note to developers: offsite storage is the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry.
- We start ‘em young A British study concluded that that the average 10-year-old owns 238 toys but plays with just 12 on any given day. 3.1 percent of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40 percent of the world’s toys.
- In the same vein, North America and Western Europe hold 12 percent of the world’s population, yet are responsible for 60 percent of private consumption spending. One third of the world lives in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, they are responsible for 3.2 percent of private consumption spending.
- The average American woman owns 30 outfits; in 1930 the number was nine. On average, we throw away 65 pounds of clothing per year.
- There are more shopping malls than high schools in the United States; 93 percent of teenage girls say that shopping is their favorite pastime.
- On average, women spend more than eight years of their lives shopping.
- Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on nonessential goods.
Becker writes, “the numbers paint a jarring picture of excessive consumption and unnecessary accumulation. Fortunately, the solution is not difficult. The invitation to own less is an invitation to freedom, intentionality, and passion. And it can be discovered at your nearest drop-off center.”
And even better, by not buying stuff in the first place. Given that a group of scientists recently come to the conclusion that Earth will be buried by increasing layers of plastic in the years to come, let's not add more flimsy clothes and bigger television sets and stupid toys and other cheap crud that we don't want to be accountable for. Thank you, rant complete.