Is ‘too much stuff’ an American thing?

Have you seen this YouTube video – Simple life Manhattan? This woman lives in an apartment that is just 90 square feet.  My office – one room in my house – is bigger than that! The best part of the video is that she seems like a really fun, smart person (ignore the mean comments to the video – some people simply have no class) and as a professional organizer, she has some skills that many of us don’t.  I was impressed.

I know that this other wonderful person has also had her share of trying to pare down and toss things that carry too much emotional baggage or simply take up too much space, and I wonder if this is an American thing? Are we the only country where the people – not everyone, but certainly a few –  struggle with having too much stuff? Do other folks around the globe struggle with too many objects taking up too much space and weighing us down with emotions?

I’m not convinced that having a lot of space is bad, but I admire those who can live in much smaller spaces and remain well-adjusted. I know when I bought my first home with my little girls in tow, we were happy, happy, happy with all the SPACE we had. We’d lived in apartments for the most part up until that time and they had always shared a room. When they finally had their own rooms,of course, they were constantly in each other’s rooms. One would shoo the other out of her room only to bounce into that room a few minutes later. This could go on all afternoon, especially if it was snowing and they’d been ordered to clean said rooms before they could watch TV.

When we moved to a much larger house (to accommodate a husband and dog and move to a better school district), we had a pie-eating contest for who got to move into the biggest bedroom. Most of our friends assumed the oldest would get the larger room, but I never established those kinds of rules with them – they are only 21 months apart in age and so it didn’t seem they had the same kind of older sister-younger sister structure. Plus, there was no one in the middle.

As they got older, they established a set of rules for when the other could enter the room. This may have been compounded by the fact that they have always shared a bathroom too. Privacy is the one thing a teenager craves more than anything – that and a sense of independence.  I stayed in the spectator role during these negotiations. Kids are good at figuring out a set of rules that are fair and sticking to them, I think.

When they moved to an apartment near their college, there were many loads taken in for donation: clothes, old toys, stuffed animals, you name it. Yes, I took a few things here and there that left me with fond memories, but for the most part they handled it themselves, sorting and deciding and tossing. Moving is always good for this kind of thing – it’s a useful time for examining what really means something to you and choosing whether it will go forward with you or not. I like moving for that – the cleansing is a good thing. Plus, moving into a smaller space means getting rid of some of your stuff. That can be very liberating, I think.

I don’t watch reality TV shows, but I’ve heard of Hoarders. It seems to me that while the need to hoard may depend on how a person grew up and the situations he or she has faced through life, but hoarding to that extreme may be an American thing. I could be wrong.


fourteenergirl Written by:

A mother, sister, wife, and daughter who writes, knits, hikes, and practices yoga on the west coast. Loves a zippy chardonnay or a tart margarita!

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