Americans, Our Stuff, and how much is 1,500 pounds anyway?

Americans have got a lot of stuff.

You’ve probably noticed.

Even if your own garage isn’t ridiculously full or if you’re like us and don’t have the luxury of a garage, you’ve probably driven by your neighbors’ homes when their garage doors were open and seen the piles and piles of stuff. Boxes. Shelving units. Bins piled so high or so haphazardly–or both–that no car will ever see the inside of that garage.

In fact, there’s pretty much an entire industry built up around trying to help people organize all of their excess stuff. Stores that sell only storage containers. Magazines about simplifying. I’ll confess, even I get tempted to freshen up my closet spaces when I walk through those aisles at Fallmart.

But clearly we’re not very good at it.

We like our stuff. We like the stuff we use. We like the stuff we don’t use. We keep things for potential future uses that we think we can envision but we never make time for. We keep clothing that doesn’t fit us anymore because we really believe we’ll lose weight. We keep old appliances we might fix some day. We keep stuff just because we don’t want to deal with the hassle of going through it. (Surely not I, said the disciple…)

Did you know that one in ten households in the US rents a storage unit?

One in ten!

That’s according to “Stuff: An American Phenomenon,” a little article in a recent issue Compassion International‘s magazine.

That’s a lot of stuff.

A lot of stuff being housed in structures–spacious, sturdy, climate-controlled–significantly nicer than the structures many of the world’s poor call “home.”

And the amount being spent on those rental units? Significantly more than a lot of the world’s monthly salaries.

That should embarrass us.

And by “us,” I’m including those of us who don’t have storage units, because we’re all part of this problem, my friends.

Our houses are too big and we still can’t fit everything into them. We have closets just for our coats, closets just for our linens, separate closets for each member of our households. We buy special storage compartments to fit under our beds. We switch out our winter clothes in the Spring and our summer clothes in the fall. (The fact that we even have enough clothes to need to switch out our wardrobes should embarrass us.)

I’ve blogged before about stuff, but somehow I keep coming back to it. (There was that post about the 100 Thing Challenge, my embarrassing confession of owning 31 pairs of shoesmy occasional rants about the current economic system, and also one of my favorite posts from the early days of Texas Schmexas.)

I’m bothered by the amount of stuff I’m carrying around in my own life. (Both literally and metaphorically–when we visit family over the holidays, our car is packed full, and we recently upgraded to a much larger vehicle!) I’m bothered by how attached to my stuff I become without even realizing it.

I hung out recently with my sister-in-law who is about to join my brother in Saudi Arabia. Kelsie and Stephen had to go through all of their personal belongings and decide what would go with them on their new adventure. They would be gone for two years at minimum, after which point they’ll probably continue to live overseas.

So they, quite literally, don’t want much baggage.

The company my brother works for would pay to ship 1,500 pounds of stuff for them.

1,500 pounds.

Kelsie tells me that’s about the equivalent of one room’s worth of stuff.

One room.

1,500 pounds.

And they have two small children.

How do you even begin to sift through your entire life and decide what is worthy of making the 1,500-pound cut?

I am overwhelmed even thinking about it.

But I am thinking about it.

I thought maybe you’d want to think about it, too.

If you had to sell or give away all but 1,500 pounds of your 
family's belongings, what would make the cut? How hard would 
that be? How would you decide what to keep or what to give?

4 comments on “Americans, Our Stuff, and how much is 1,500 pounds anyway?

  1. Robyn Porter says:

    To survive and give me comfort: important papers; warm blankets; good cutlery; notes from my son; phone charger, my favorite pillow; my favorite jeans; iPad; three dogs worth of toys, leashes, bowls; duct tape; extension cord; sunglasses; good moisturizer; and flint.

    • elizabeth says:

      Hello, Robyn. Thanks for stopping by Texas Schmexas. This is a great list!

      Any chance you are a fan of Survivor? (Because of “flint” as one of your items.) 🙂

      I’ll be sharing my list soon as a future post.

      • Robyn Porter says:

        I do love Survivor!! But I added flint because I always seem to run out of matches…and flint just seems pretty cool. Looking forward to seeing your list! Happy New Year!

  2. Terri says:

    I was having a hard enough time trying to get to 100 things, so I don’t know about weighing all my stuff. But I am trying to operate with the William Morris quote: have nothing in your home that you do not find to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

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