The Big Declutter - Statistically Speaking

The Big Declutter - Statistically Speaking

The Big Declutter of 2018 is still ongoing in the Frugalitude household, and it’s definitely a marathon. There seems to be so much stuff to go through: papers, files, cupboards, drawers, etc. Or as Kerry Thomas said in her TED Talk, I had a lot of postponed decisions to revisit!

Since the decluttering is such a big effort, I was beginning to wonder if our house was particularly cluttered. Was I a hoarder and I just didn’t realize it? In times like this I find it comforting to turn to research and statistics to understand what is normal, or not. In case you are also feeling like an outlier, here’s some decluttering statistics that will (hopefully!) make you feel better too.

Why do I have so much stuff?

Perhaps it’s because we spend a lot of money buying stuff! According to the book Affluenza:

  • About 71% of the $15 trillion US economy is spent on consumer goods.

  • US consumers spend more on shoes, watches and jewelry than on higher education

  • And in 2005, the US had more than twice the number of shopping malls (46,438) as high schools (22,180) with 70% of people visiting a shopping mall each week.

  • 20 billion catalogs are sent out each year – which is approximately 70 catalogs per person.

  • Online sales were over $200 billion in 2012 and they continue to double every 4 year.

All of that shopping means that we end up with a lot of things, and in 2014 it was estimated that the average American home has 300,000 items. Now that was a statistic that made me feel better about how much stuff we have in the Frugalitude house! 


Do I need so much stuff?

Many statistics confirm that we don’t need so many things, and we also know we don’t need them:

  • 52% of Americans say their home is cluttered.

  • We wear 20% of our clothes, 80% of the time.

  • 21% have more than 50 items they do not use, and the top unused items are:

    • Clothes and shoes (67%)

    • Games and toys (34%)

    • Electronics (33%)

    • Jewelry and accessories (22%)

    • Kitchen utensils (18%)

If you are not sure where to start with your own decluttering efforts, then take a look at the things that you are not using.


Where does all that stuff go?

Even though the average US home size is over 2,600 square feet (compared to about 1,600 sq. ft in 1970), there is still not enough room for all of our stuff:

  • The top 3 types of clutter are:

    • Junk drawer 67%

    • Overstuffed closet 46%

    • Piles of paper 45%

  • 15% of Americans have a room in their home that they cannot use because it is full of items that they do not use.

  • Almost 10% of US households rent a self-storage unit, and keep an average of 38 items in them.

  • A 2015 survey by Gladiator GarageWorks found that about 25% of Americans say that their garage is so disorganized that they can’t fit even one car in it.

While I do have piles of paper and a junk drawer, I can at least be smug that the car fits in our garage just fine and we don’t need a self-storage unit to store stuff we can’t fit in our house. 

Why get rid of your clutter?

One big reason to declutter is moving house. 61% of Americans think that moving is their best opportunity to clear out their unwanted and unused items.

If you have no plans to move, here are 4 other great reasons to declutter:

  • It can save you time on cleaning. According to the American Cleaning Institute, getting rid of clutter could reduce the time you spend on housework by 40%

  • It can save you time when looking for things. 27% of Americans spend 2 or more hours per week looking for items they have misplaced in their homes.

  • Less stress. 57% of people report feeling stressed by clutter and 42% are more anxious because of it.

  • It may even help you lose weight. Research by Brian Wansink (Cornell University Food & Brand Lab Studies) found that cluttered kitchens encouraged people to eat 44% more of their snack foods that when their kitchen was tidy and decluttered.

What’s stopping you getting rid of your unwanted stuff?

If your answer is “I might need it in the future” or “it has sentimental value, then you can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone! According to a 2016 study by SpareFoot, 63% of respondents kept items in case they needed them in the future, and 51% said it was sentimental reasons.

The same survey found that 91% of Americans admitted to keeping an item because they would feel guilty if they got rid of it. The top 5 items that people kept because of guilt were:

  • Gifts (%7%)

  • Family heirloom (49%)

  • Rarely worn clothing (43%)

  • Greeting cards (41%)

  • Children’s drawings or craft projects (21%)

So now I know I am not the only one who keeps things because “I might need it in the future”. This is a habit I am trying to break with the help of The Minimalists (who also gave a great TED Talk about their journey). According to them, you can replace anything you need for less than $20 and in less than 20 minutes. They claim that: “This theory likely works 99% of the time for 99% of all items and 99% of all people”. Another great statistic to make me feel better!

The Big Declutter – 6 Steps to Successful Selling – Part 1

The Big Declutter – 6 Steps to Successful Selling – Part 1

The Big Declutter - Lessons from TED Talk Experts

The Big Declutter - Lessons from TED Talk Experts