Closed September 2017

Studying Americans in their Natural Habitat

Clutter Diet Blog- How American Families Live in the 21st Century

The Boston Globe says, "American families are overwhelmed by clutter, too busy to go in their own backyards, rarely eat dinner together even though they claim family meals as a goal, and can’t park their cars in the garage because they’re crammed with non-vehicular stuff."

Several media articles lately have covered a fascinating new book published in July 2012, called Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century. The book summarizes a four-year study of 32 American middle-class homes and families done by the UCLA Center on Everyday Lives of Families. They documented their study with motion-tracking devices, over 20,000 photos, over 1500 hours of video, and even saliva samples (used to measure stress).

Here are some of the interesting findings:

  • 75% of garages are too full to hold cars. I have always found it fascinating that people would invest thousands of dollars in a vehicle and leave it out exposed to the elements in favor of protecting piles of clutter. Which brings me to the next point…
  • Garages held between 300-650 boxes and bins of overflow from the study participants' houses. We always say that the garage is the "final frontier" of clutter, because you've made decisions to get it out of the house, but not out of your life.
  • More expensive convenience food saved families only about 11 minutes per meal. Cooking that meal together, in my opinion, would be one way to spend more time together as a family and would save you money. (Here is my favorite resource for meal planning to make family dinners a priority- the Six O'Clock Scramble service.)
  • Leisure time was spent in front of the television or computer, and over 75% of the parents never set foot outdoors in their own backyards in a week's time.
  • The women in the study who used words like "messy" or "cluttered" as they described their homes to the researchers had higher levels of stress hormones. (I have strong opinions about how the words we choose shape our beliefs and feelings about ourselves, which you can read here.)
  • Our country has 3.1 percent of the world's kids, but they have 40% of the world's toys. And when a new child is welcomed into the family, the family's possessions increase overall by 30% in that child's preschool years.

I have a whole story about why I feel so passionately about these topics, which you can read here— it's the reason why I say at the end of every one of my weekly Clutter Video Tips,

"May You Always Be Happy and Grateful for Having More Than Enough."

I want everyone to remember that this problem of clutter is really a good problem to have. If you feel grateful for your abundance, donate some of it to Goodwill®. (Find your nearest donation center here) You'll help yourself feel lighter, probably get a tax deduction, help the planet by keeping items out of landfills, and help people in your community to connect to lifelong career skills.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by clutter– as the Boston Globe article put it, "BOXED IN, WANTING OUT"we can help. We have helped thousands of people in 18 countries to lose clutter, gain time, and reduce stress. Get accountability and support and advice from our team of organizing experts, AFFORDABLY, at your own pace, online! You can try our service free for 14 days with our Quickstart program.

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Just wondering why you recommend giving to Goodwill. I find their items are often over-priced compared to other thrift stores or many times I have found new items cheaper at Walmart than used at Goodwill (for example, purses and shoes).
When I give items away, I first try to give to family/friends/neighbors, then to city mission or Salvation Army.
Teri from Nebraska

Lorie Marrero

Hi Teri, I recommend donating to Goodwill for a number of reasons. I believe in Goodwill’s mission which is “To enhance the dignity and quality of life of individuals and families by strengthening communities, eliminating barriers to opportunity, and helping people in need reach their full potential through learning and the power of work.”
Here are 10 things you probably don’t know about Goodwill:


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