Summary:

Consuming goods is about as American as apple pie, so it’s no wonder that homes across the country seem to be overrun with clutter. A recent study from the UCLA Center on Everyday Lives of Families explores just how enmeshed we are with our things.

Credit: MelvinSchlubman

Credit: MelvinSchlubman

Consuming goods is about as American as apple pie, so it’s no wonder that homes across the country seem to be overrun with clutter.

For four years, anthropologists and other researchers at the U.C.L.A. Center on Everyday Lives of Families observed 32 middle-class, dual-income families in Los Angeles to explore how they relate to all of their stuff. Their finding? We really are a nation of hoarders.

According to a story in the Wall Street Journal today, about three-quarters of the families in the study couldn’t fit a car in their garage, with the typical glutted garage holding 300 to 650 boxes, storage bins and other kinds of home items. The study also estimated that a family’s number of possessions increased by 30 percent with each new child during the preschool years alone.

And, apparently, all the congestion is contributing to increased stress for mothers (not fathers, interestingly). The researchers found that mothers whose speech mentioned messy homes when giving tours of their houses had higher levels of stress hormones, as indicated by saliva tests.

For years we’ve had Craigslist and eBay (as well as Goodwill and other second-hand stores) to help us offload our unwanted junk. But, as we’ve reported earlier, several startups are trying to make the process easier and more social with new mobile apps. Their pitches differ slightly, but the basic idea is that if posting an item for sale is as easy as snapping a picture and sharing it with friends on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere, people will stop accumulating things in their closets and garages and start selling them. As this study points out, we certainly have the stuff to fill these emerging mobile marketplaces, but it will be interesting to see if we can finally summon the will to use them.

(Image by Melvin Schlubman via Flickr)

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