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Buying begets buying: how stuff has consumed the average American's life
Old 10-25-2015, 04:20 PM   #1
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Buying begets buying: how stuff has consumed the average American's life

Great article in The Guardian on consumerism.


Buying begets buying: how stuff has consumed the average American's life | Life and style | The Guardian

Excerpts:

"In 1950 the average size of a home in the US was 983 square feet. Compare that to 2011, when American houses ballooned to an average size of 2,480 square feet – almost triple the size."

"The second you open your wallet to buy something, it costs you – and in more ways than you might think. Yes, of course there’s the price tag and the corresponding amount of time it took you to earn that amount of money, but possessions also cost you space in your home and time spent cleaning and maintaining them."
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Old 10-25-2015, 04:46 PM   #2
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So true. We are moving out of what used to be our primary family home (we also have two others). It has 4,200 square feet. Loads and loads of storage. We used to think that was a great thing. Truth is, it's a curse.


We haven't really gotten rid of much other than old clothes in years. As a result, we are finding things we didn't remember we had. Much has gone into the garbage, lots of clothes and books given away. Still more stuff will be sold in an estate sale. That still leaves a lot of "stuff" to move. I shake my head at the amount in total of money we spent buying this stuff that we are now working feverishly to somehow get rid of. The frightening thing is that we still had space left over we could have filled up. Thankfully we didn't, and thankfully the other places have less storage space.
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Old 10-25-2015, 04:51 PM   #3
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Downsizing and decluttering discussions are fairly common here, but always lively.

I've been trying (mostly successfully but not always) to do that for years, but I freely admit I still have more to do.
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Old 10-25-2015, 04:56 PM   #4
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I've definitely noticed the extreme amount of "stuff" that people buy but have never understood why. I grew up in a house around 1000 sqft for 4 people. Since I have lived on my own i've never had a place over 860 sqft and that is more than I need. My current home has 860 sqft with no basement, garage, attic, or other storage. I have more than enough room. I've lived on my own most of the last 18 years and have almost no more stuff now than I had then. I can't comprehend why people buy sooo much stuff. They must really like their jobs because they have to work a lot longer to pay for all of that stuff.
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Old 10-25-2015, 05:15 PM   #5
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My home is 864 square feet with a garage and breeze-way. I only buy what I need and when I buy I get the best quality I can afford; that way I am not replacing junk on a regular basis.
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Old 10-25-2015, 05:31 PM   #6
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We have ~2300 sf but spend 90% of our time on our main floor (950 sf) where or great room (kitchen/dining/living area) is with an adjoining master bedroom suite. Downstairs is for guests (mostly our kids when they visit) and laundry but other than for laundry and the spare fridge we hardly ever go down there. DW has a 400 sf hobby room above the garage. In reality, probably way more than what we really need but we can afford it and enjoy it.
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Old 10-25-2015, 05:38 PM   #7
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No one said it better than George. "Stuff".

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Old 10-25-2015, 05:41 PM   #8
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I've been getting rid of stuff for years and still have a ways to go. It is scary how much stuff we've donated and never missed. Here is a video from a university project on modern American clutter that I like to watch now and then as a reminder to declutter:

A Cluttered Life: Middle-Class Abundance - UCTV - University of California Television

We have some friends that moved to an apartment and it has not been lost on us how much more free time they have than we do. I don't think we will downsize in the near term, but we can declutter.
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Old 10-25-2015, 07:14 PM   #9
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I've been reading a lot of voluntary simplicity material lately (including several books by the OP's near cousin, Cecile Andrews), so I'm definitely on board. Have been for 20 years, actually. It's a big part of why I'm able to ER.
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Old 10-25-2015, 07:20 PM   #10
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Getting rid of the Dog has also saved me a fortune in slippers!
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Old 10-25-2015, 10:35 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aaronc879 View Post
I've definitely noticed the extreme amount of "stuff" that people buy but have never understood why. I grew up in a house around 1000 sqft for 4 people. Since I have lived on my own i've never had a place over 860 sqft and that is more than I need. My current home has 860 sqft with no basement, garage, attic, or other storage. I have more than enough room. I've lived on my own most of the last 18 years and have almost no more stuff now than I had then. I can't comprehend why people buy sooo much stuff. They must really like their jobs because they have to work a lot longer to pay for all of that stuff.
Just move to a 2,000 sq ft. place and you will feel the temptation to fill it.
Nature (and Consumers) hate a vacuum.
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Old 10-26-2015, 06:33 AM   #12
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I guess we have plenty of "stuff" we could get rid of but in general, don't have a problem with what we've collected over the years- we usually pass along useful items to others if no longer interested but do enjoy the toys we've collected prior to early retirement. Especially now we have so much time to use them. I certainly don't feel my life has been "consumed".
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Old 10-26-2015, 06:39 AM   #13
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I was walking through the house this morning looking around. My inside "stuff" appears to be about right for the space provided.

My problem is the cabinet shop inherited from my grandfather, 5 cars, 3 boats, 2 ATV's, a fifth wheel trailer and a lake house. All the "supporting stuff" to maintain the toys is where I'm overwhelmed.
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Old 10-26-2015, 06:56 AM   #14
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Sounds about right. I've heard this relentless pursuit of more stuff, and grinding and working harder and longer to get it, called "affluenza".
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Old 10-26-2015, 07:09 AM   #15
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Getting rid of the Dog has also saved me a fortune in slippers!
I make my dog go barefoot.
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Old 10-26-2015, 07:17 AM   #16
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I make my dog go barefoot.

I love this forum - I have only been a member less than a month but the creativity and advice and humor has been amazing. So glad I came to this board.
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Old 10-26-2015, 07:36 AM   #17
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No one said it better than George. "Stuff".

You beat me to it!

Am living in a 550 sq. ft. apartment right now, it feels a bit cramped. 750 would be perfect. Specifically my bedroom is a bit too small.

One person household.
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Old 10-26-2015, 08:17 AM   #18
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We moved from a 2400sf house to a 800sf mobile, filling a 10x20 storage locker in the process. I was taking stuff to storage the other day and it occurred to me that we haven't so much as opened a stored box or even needed anything from storage in the past year. Why do I need all this stuff?!
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Old 10-26-2015, 08:39 AM   #19
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When I purge (which is not as frequently as I should) my screening is:

Have I used this item in the last year?
Do I anticipate using this item in the next 12 months?
Is this item valuable?
Does this item have sentimental value?

If the answer to all of the above are no, then I recycle, donate or trash it as appropriate.

DW still has mimeograph from high school, college and grad school in the attic in a box that I have moved at least 4 times over the years. I have pointed out to her numerous times that she hasn't looked at that stuff in 20 years and that it is probably all obsolete by now anyway... to no avail.
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Old 10-26-2015, 08:57 AM   #20
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A somewhat popular topic here, but never gets tiresome IMO. We used to buy stuff for all the wrong reasons, but fortunately we wised up about 20 years ago. Began seriously decluttering more than 5 years ago (thanks eBay, GoodWill & trash) and found it surprisingly liberating. We both continue to pare down everything.

DW and I are very wary of buying anything these days unless we are replacing an essential item. We plan to downsize from our 2300 sqft home to somewhere in the 1300 (me) to 1800 (her) range one of these days too - we're both looking forward to it!

We've both found we'd much rather spend whatever discretionary funds we have on (bucket list) experiences than stuff nowadays.
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We shop because we’re bored, anxious, depressed or angry, and we make the mistake of buying material goods and thinking they are treats which will fill the hole, soothe the wound, make us feel better. The problem is, they’re not treats, they’re responsibilities and what we own very quickly begins to own us.
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