What would your life look like if it had less stuff in it?

We spend a lot of time just managing the things in our lives, but how do we go about simplifying our stuff?

Image: Simplifying our stuff, woman cleaning out a shed, man carrying a lot of stuff

Left: Dr. Betsy Ulrich cleans out a long neglected storage shed on the family farm, finding some real “treasures”. Right: Dr. Chuck Verderber helps his daughter move out of her college dorm.

I’m Dr. Lynda Ulrich, the founder of the website you’ve stumbled upon, EverWideningCircles.com. We’re here on the web because I got so tired of the negativity of the 24-hour news cycle, and could not find a place on the internet without an agenda and without a barrage of advertising. My husband, Dr. Chuck Verderber and I decided to do something about that.

Today’s article is an example of the kinds of insights we share – on any subject under the sun – in our daily articles. When you reach the end of this article, you’ll find out more about this project, and how to join us in our effort to prove this is still an amazing world, but for now, let’s get to this subject of too much stuff!

Have you noticed people buying bigger houses, apartments, or sheds to hold all their stuff? They (we) spend an inordinate amount of time moving that stuff around in our living spaces to accommodate even more stuff we acquire. All this time and money spent, and then eventually, we find ourselves questioning why we even got this stuff in the first place!

What if we took the time to really think about what we need in our lives, and pair our things and our stuff down from there?

Let’s take a look at how this inventor, video maker, and thought leader, Dave Hakkens, decided he was going to make his life a little less cluttered. Spoiler, it turns out it’s not actually that difficult!

Simplifying our stuff…

So, what stuff do you have that is no longer serving a purpose in your life?

We all have drawers and closets filled with clothes we would not wear. We have cabinets and drawers so cluttered and full of things that we can’t find what we want when we do need something. Why?

Here are 14 out of the 21 surprising details I found in an article by Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist.

See what you think and then head over to the whole article if you want to read a lot more in this train of thought.

Here are 21 surprising statistics about our clutter that help us understand how big of a problem our accumulation has actually become.

1. There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).

2. 1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage—the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades. (New York Times Magazine).

3. While 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle. (U.S. Department of Energy).

4. The United States has upward of 50,000 storage facilities, more than five times the number of Starbucks. Currently, there is 7.3 square feet of self storage space for every man, woman and child in the nation. Thus, it is physically possible that every American could stand—all at the same time—under the total canopy of self storage roofing (SSA).

5. British research found that the average 10-year-old owns 238 toys but plays with just 12 daily (The Telegraph).

6. 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally (UCLA).

7. The average American woman owns 30 outfits—one for every day of the month. In 1930, that figure was nine (Forbes).

8. While the average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year (Huffington Post).

9. But our homes have more television sets than people. And those television sets are turned on for more than a third of the day—eight hours, 14 minutes (USA Today).

10. Currently, the 12 percent of the world’s population that lives in North America and Western Europe account for 60 percent of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent (Worldwatch Institute).

11. Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education (Psychology Today).

12. Shopping malls outnumber high schools. And 93% of teenage girls rank shopping as their favorite pastime (Affluenza).

13. Over the course of our lifetime, we will spend a total of 3,680 hours or 153 days searching for misplaced items.The research found we lose up to nine items every day—or 198,743 in a lifetime. Phones, keys, sunglasses, and paperwork top the list (The Daily Mail).

14. The $8 billion home organization industry has more than doubled in size since the early 2000’s—growing at a staggering rate of 10% each year (Uppercase). 2

Maybe it is time we rethink our relationship with the stuff we never use so that we avoid repeating our mistakes in the future. A world where we consume less stuff now is, as we all know, a better place for us all in the future.

My daughter, and COO of EverWideningCircles.com, is a stuff collector. She loves having things–OK, sometimes it’s just junk–that she stumbled across that help her remember moments that are important in her life. Doing the research for this article has changed the way she thinks of all that now.

Perhaps, if we whittled down our lives to the things we need and those that bring us true joy, we could spend time (and money) having adventures, creating and enjoying great, healthy meals together, and simply soaking up time with the people in our lives who matter.

On this subject of too much stuff, I’d like to tell a story about a beloved patient of mine who was in the end stages of a battle with cancer, but still well enough to share her perspectives. I asked Mary what we should all know, without having to go through our own battles with cancer.

Mary said, “You know… I learned we don’t need much to be happy.”

Then she gave me the secret recipe. She said,  “I’ve paired my closet down to ten outfits that I would choose. I love the colors, and they are each perfectly comfortable. I have only 6 pairs of shoes there, chosen with the same criteria.”

Then Mary added an interesting comment that has haunted me a bit every time I search through my closet now. She said, “You know how we all keep things, but wouldn’t choose them? I only kept the things I would choose, and had chosen in the last two months. Everything else went to the goodwill bin.”

Mary then said she used the same litmus test for her socks, underpants, and so on. She gave all but 3 pieces of jewelry to her sister, and then paired down her kitchen cabinets and drawers by 75%.

Then she had to tackle her desks, books, and life’s worth of saved papers…

Every victory over clutter felt so good, she did the same in every other aspect of her life.

She said, “Now I can find anything I want in a flash, our household budget is a fraction of what it was, because we are not bringing anything but food into the house. And most of all, I spend my time on the people in my life, not on my things.”

Well, I think that about sums things up. Sage advice, Mary. Rest in peace.

Here at EverWideningCircles.com, we publish one article each day to prove this is still an amazing world, and have been for a year now. We have hundreds of fact-checked, inspiring stories here about every subject under the sun! Our global community from 190 countries is sharing insights that will open a door for you into just how much wonder and positive advancements are happening in the world.

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Stay open, curious and hopeful!

~ Dr. Lynda

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Notes:

  1. “Too Much Stuff #storyhopper.” YouTube. Davehakkens, 03 Dec. 2015. Web. 20 May 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jhy6OZzuRJE>.
  2. Becker, Joshua. “21 Surprising Statistics That Reveal How Much Stuff We Actually Own.” Becoming Minimalist. N.p., 12 May 2015. Web. 23 May 2016. <http://www.becomingminimalist.com/clutter-stats/>.

Dr. Lynda is a dentist, artist, global traveler, and philanthropist who looks for potential and shares it with the world.