The world’s fastest growing indictment

If I didn’t know anything about Americans, I’d find a clue in what has become one of the largest and most popular departments in stores like Target and WalMart: storage containers.

Or, I might find it in shows like “Get Organized,” where experts arrive at fabulously cluttered homes and show the owners how to better manage their stuff.

Most Americans have so much that we need creative ways to organize it, store it, and then–most import

ant–find it when we need it. Magazine articles are devoted to the subject, books have been written about it, whole careers have been created around it.

Gretchen Rubin–Good Housekeeping magazine’s new “happiness expert”–wrote a book called “The Happiness Project,” where learning to deal with clutter is considered one of the major steps toward being happy. Imagine. Another such book is Julie Morgenstern’s  “Organizing From the Inside Out.”

If those books–and others like them–aren’t telling enough, here are some figures recently published in Good Housekeeping magazine:

  • It is estimated that $8.6 billion will be spent by Americans in 2011 to organize their homes.
  • The average American spends 55 minutes each day looking for things he/she can’t find.
  • There were 46,000 self-storage facilities in the United States in 2010–200 percent higher than in the 1990s.

It sounds like an epidemic.

The other day, a co-worker was talking about her love of malls, and how it takes her a long time to go through one.

“If I don’t hit every aisle in each store, I might miss a good sale,” she said.

I guess she figures if it’s on sale, she needs it. That must be one of the ways Americans amass this “stuff” that they’re feverishly organizing–a very popular way, judging by the number of cars in the parking lots of those malls.

In the mobile home park where we live, everyone has a shed to make up for the lack of basements or attics. They have to contain things like garden tools, lawn mower and snow blower, bikes, Christmas decorations, and even out-of-season clothes. But, being new to the mobile home world, I was shocked to discover that many of my neighbors’ sheds are stuffed right to the door with boxes of things long out of memory. Opening those doors is asking for a life-threatening landslide.

I’m not sure what all this stuff, and this hoarding, says about us. We’re looking for happiness in things? We’re afraid to toss our stuff because we don’t trust we’ll have enough in the future? We’re too selfish to give away what we don’t need but that others could use? It hasn’t occurred to us to share what is obviously discretionary money with the poor in this and other countries?

Most Americans–myself included–complain about the economy and how hard it is to make ends meet. But most of us–myself included–seem to have enough money to amass enough stuff to create an ever-expanding storage industry.

We bemoan the poverty we see and hear about, but maybe the problem isn’t that there’s not enough for everyone in this country and this world, it’s that we all want more than what we really need–no matter what our incomes–and we’re not willing to part with anything once we acquire it.

What if, the next time we are prepared to buy yet another pair of shoes, or earrings, or gear to replace what’s already perfectly good, we take that “extra” money and give it to the charity of our choice? Or what if we give away one item each time we bring another one home? What if everyone did this? How might our worlds be changed?


About Monica Sawyn

I'm a retired newspaper reporter/columnist, and although I still freelance, I miss the weekly column I used to write. I still "see columns" in everyday life and need a place to put them after they're written--thus, this blog. I'm Catholic, have been a Benedictine oblate since 1977, and live with my husband and our beagle in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. When I'm not writing, I'm probably reading, sewing, taking photos or walking the dog.
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4 Responses to The world’s fastest growing indictment

  1. gtrgeorge51 says:

    Oh, man, are you ever right on with this one…

    • Monica says:

      Thanks! We’ve had a lot of talks about this sort of thing.

      • Denise Doyle says:

        After being full time motorhomers for twelve years, we learned how to live with only what we needed since there was no room for more than that. Now that we have settled down again, we look at each other in wonder at how much “stuff” we have already collected. Shame on us!! Now I’m going to go clean out my closets!(LOL)

  2. Monica says:

    You made me chuckle, Denise. I can’t believe how I consider every single purchase, even if we truly do need it!

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