Inside: Have you ever wondered how much stuff is in the average American home? Today we’re going to take a look at that and talk about how to simplify your stuff.
Think you might have too much stuff in your home? Or maybe you’re just curious how much stuff is in the average American home.
While putting exact numbers on this can be quite challenging, we will look at the data we do know to get a sense of the big picture. Often we look at numbers as a way to compare ourselves with what is ‘normal’. Sometimes that helps us feel better about our own situation.
The goal here is not to help us all feel good (or bad) about how much stuff we have. The reality is we could all acquire more things, but most of us don’t need to.
And the majority would be well served to declutter and simplify a bit more, especially if you find that your stuff has become problematic.
We’ll take a look at the data and you can decide for yourself if you have too much stuff or not. I’ll also offer some tips for getting started with decluttering.
How Much Stuff Is In the Average American Home?
Alright, so let’s get to it. How much stuff is in the average American home? It turns out this isn’t a very easy number to come by. Here’s what we do and don’t know.
What we don’t know about how much stuff is in the average American home
Have you ever read the statistic that says there are 300,000 items in the average American home? I’ve seen this one referenced quite a bit, but from doing some additional digging, I did not find any hard data to support this number.
The reference for this number is from an LA Times article in 2014 where it says that professional organizer, Regina Lark, cited “the average U.S. household has 300,000 things, from paper clips to ironing boards.” From there other news sources picked up on the number and have reshared it.
My first thought when I read this was, how was this study done? Did someone take an average-size home and then go count every item in it? If so, how did that work? Is a box of matches one item or does it count as one hundred?
I was curious about the methodology, so I did some further research. On Regina Lark’s website, she has a post about this topic which goes into a bit more detail on where the number originated from.
300,000 Items in the Average American Home?
Regina writes, “One thing I remember reading impressed the hell out of me: The average household contains about 300,000 things. In order to grow my company, I needed clients, which I found by speaking to numerous groups and organizations about clutter, and where I often referenced “300,000 things.”
I’ve asked some colleagues and a few clients to conduct informal surveys in their clients’ home or in their own home. We’ve concluded that items in homes could very well number up 300,000 if one were to count every single thing from underpants to office supplies to photographs to silverware.“
She ends the post by saying “I’ve often wondered if I had it in me to conduct a study about the average number of items the average household contained. If 300,000 things is where we land, it would be nice to finally put the query to bed. And I will never be out of work again.” (source)
In short, she recalls reading it, but it’s unclear from where and a few clients and colleagues did informal surveys that seem to support that the number could be true.
This 300,000 number is often referenced, but I didn’t find any solid data to back it up (you can blame my sociology studies and having a dad who taught statistics for my interest in even looking for it).
I would conclude that we don’t know the actual number of how much stuff is in the average American home, but there is other information we can look at that sheds light on the whole picture.
What we do know about how much stuff is in the average American home
Even if we don’t have a solid number for how much stuff is in the average American home, I think it’s safe to say the number is high and most people have too much.
Here are some other statistics we can look at that indicate that on average, the amount of things that people own has been increasing as are some challenges that come along with that.
Average size home
In 2020, the median size of a newly built single-family house was 2,261 square feet (source), which is well over twice as big as it was in 1950 (source).
Currently, 10.6% of U.S. households are renting a storage unit. (source)
In 2021, consumers spent an average of $997.73 on gifts and other holiday items while the median weekly salary in the U.S. in 2021 is $1,001 before taxes. (source)
Spending on non-essential goods
In 2019 a survey (for Ladder) of 2000 Americans found that on average, people were spending $18,000 per year on non-essential goods (source). A different survey that same year (for Ameritrade) found it to be on average $697 per month being spent on non-essential goods. (source).
Living paycheck to paycheck
Data from early in 2022 shows that 64% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck in the current inflationary times (source).
Stress about the state of the home
In a study (for Huffington post) 84% of recently stressed Americans say they worry that their home isn’t clean or organized enough. (source)
More stats & data
Check out this post for more statistics on clutter. You may find some of the numbers quite surprising!
Data is constantly changing
The data is constantly changing on what people are saving and spending even more so in these inflationary times.
It should also be noted that some of the surveys may not feel representative of your personal experience. It would be impossible for data from a nominal amount of people to be a blanket statement of an entire population.
The numbers can give us a glimpse of what is happening in some people’s lives and are a good starting place for considering our own circumstances.
Do YOU Feel Like You Have Too Much Stuff?
Perhaps you clicked on this post because you were curious about the numbers. Maybe you wanted to compare to the average so that you’d hopefully feel like maybe things aren’t too bad in your home.
However, if you are reading this post because you are wondering if you have too much stuff, you likely do. The fact that you’re asking the question is a good indicator that the stuff has become a problem for you.
There is no magic number of what the ideal amount of stuff is in a home. Different people have varying comfort levels with the number of things they own.
What matters most is how your things are impacting your life. These questions can help you determine if you have too much stuff.
Do you have too much stuff? The questions to ask yourself.
1. Do you feel burdened by your things? Do you have a nagging feeling you need to deal with your stuff?
2. How do you feel in your home? Are you able to use your space the way you want to?
3. Do you spend more time than you’d like buying, cleaning, managing, and maintaining your things?
4. Are you overspending on unneeded items? Do you often buy something and then discover you already had one?
5. Are you storing a large number of boxes that you never access? Do you have a storage unit that you dread dealing with?
Your answers to those questions are a good indicator of whether or not you have some clutter you need to deal with or not. If you did find yourself answering yes to a number of those questions, check out the resources below to help you get started.
How to Start Decluttering When You Have Too Much Stuff
Decluttering can feel overwhelming initially. Here are some helpful posts for getting started with the decluttering process.
Overwhelmed? Use these 7 tips for when you’re feeling overwhelmed with decluttering.
Not sure what decluttering method to use? This post discusses four popular decluttering methods and helps you pick the right one for your personality and home.
How do you decide what stays and what goes? Check out these questions to ask when decluttering to give you clarity and help you make decisions.
Ready to clean out your storage unit? Use these tips to help declutter and clean out your storage unit. You’ll get rid of the burden and save your
Want to stop clutter from coming back into your home? Use the tips in this post to stop the clutter cycle in your home.
Taking the time to declutter your home is a wonderful thing you can do for yourself and for your family. Then you can enjoy your home more and get time back for the things that matter most to you.
And just for fun…
How Much Stuff Do You Think Is In the Average American Home? Post your guesstimate in the comments section!
No, there is no real answer, but guessing is kind of fun anyway!
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Several times in my adulthood, I’ve enjoyed looking through the photography book Material World by Menzel, Mann and Kennedy. It is a fascinating look inside homes around the world. I’d encourage everyone to look through it to learn some about different ways of living.
Very interesting post. I’m pretty minimalist and i would still guess that I have at least 300 items in each room. Granted I basically live in a studio apartment so each room functions as multiple rooms. My bedroom is also my living room and the office for my husband and I and my closet (which is abnormally large) is also my craft room and garage (cause I store our camping gear and other stuff like that in it). Assuming that the average American has 300 items in each room and the have a living room a kitchen 3 beds and 2 baths I would assume that at the least ppl have about 2,100 items but I’m sure it’s waaaay more!
I would be interested in knowing more about this 300,000 number that seems to have no hard basis in fact. I wonder if a more reasonable to estimate the number of items based on square footage. In the long run, it really doesn’t matter anyway. If you have too much stuff, you have too much stuff. It doesn’t matter the total number of items. Is your stuff being used, loved, or practical? Is stuff causing struggles in daily living or stress? These are questions for each individual.