This is not about the physical weight of our stuff, which has got to be a dramatic number if anyone ever took the time to calculate such a figure, but rather about the psychological weight of our possessions.
In the United States the average size of a household in 2015 was 2.54 people compared with 3.33 people in 1960. (1) In the United States the average size of a single family home in 2013 was 2,598 square feet compared to 1,725 square feet in 1983. (2) Think about those diverging trend lines for a moment. As our households have gotten smaller, our homes have gotten significantly larger. Why?
Probably because we have so much stuff. We have so much stuff that it does not seem like developers can build self-storage facilities fast enough. Depending upon who you ask, self-storage or mini-storage will be an $30 billion dollar industry in the near future with the United States accounting for more than 90% of that market. That is more than $27 billion dollars to store stuff that we cannot fit into houses that are a lot bigger with fewer people living in them. Huh?
I wish that I had the ability to visualize development like Johnny over at Granola Shotgun. It is a skill I really wish that I had as I watch multiple mini-storage facilities being put up on my short drive home from work. At the moment I can count three large mini-storage complexes being built on development parcels that are within city limits, near major arterial roads, and near the region’s major employers. Does it seem crazy that we would build storage for our stuff on these relatively high value parcels of land?
Remember, this is stuff that we do not need on a regular enough basis to actually store in our homes. Even worse is that someone is going to pay money on a monthly basis to store this stuff that they do not need regularly enough. Heck, there is an entire legal canon dedicated to determining when a mini-storage unit is considered “abandoned.” Storage Wars this is not.
Seeing these mini-storage complexes being built near me and speed reading several blog posts about Marie Kondo—thank you Root Simple—got me to thinking about the stuff in my house. My wife and I are by no means hoarders or even great collectors of stuff, but I think we have become inundated with stuff that does not add value or joy to our lives.
It is quite easy to end up with boxes of stuff you do not necessarily care about or know what to do with. When parents age out of housing or pass away a large quantity of family “heirlooms” generally finds its way into the possession of the next generation. The irony of this passing of stuff is that if there was a true “value” in the items no one would pass them on until they passed away. Yet, you will find yourself with boxes full of baseball cards, depression glass, mismatched flatware from the old country, and binder after binder filled with old pictures. Most of this stuff will sit in boxes in a storage room or, god forbid, a mini-storage unit you make monthly payments on until your own children are old enough to become the caretakers of this heritage. And so the cycle goes.
Take for example a set of custom oak bookcases that I inherited from my father when he passed away several years ago. I did not part with the bookcases when I sold my father’s home following his death because I felt that there was some connection in the item. Both of my parents were professors and, for a time, I chased that goal but that was more than a decade ago and I no longer harbor any desire to be a member of academia. The books lining the shelves represented a different life and most had not been touched in years. Now, I am getting rid of both the books and bookcases. It does not feel sad. It feels good.
Piece by piece I intend on evaluating all of the stuff in my house so that I do not end up paying a monthly rental fee on a mini-storage unit.