Americans have fully embraced their roles as consumers and, now, individuals are spending more and more of the money they earn by accumulating more stuff.
Since the early ‘80s, the personal savings of each person across the United States has been dropping from 11 percent to below zero. In the present, personal bankruptcy filings have, over and over again, reached record highs.
Experts explain that new ways of advertising and a cultural shift toward consumerism are the factors behind the impulse to shop. Moreover, with the falling cost of commercial goods through mass manufacturing and online shopping, it is easier to browse and buy when there is the urge to make a purchase.
The Financial Consequence
People who are borrowing excessive amounts of money to fund their purchases. This, unfortunately, results in a lack of savings and debt. According to a report from 2019, one in four millennials carries credit card debt for at least a year. One in 10 millennials has had credit card debt for over five years.
The excessive use of credit cards is hazardous because it usually comes with high-interest rates. The longer a person pays off their due, the higher the interest accumulated.
Non-payment of credit card dues can negatively affect a person’s credit score. A low credit score will prevent them from successfully applying for other financial products one day, including a mortgage or another credit card.
Worse, experts suggest that credit cards encourage impulse purchases. People become more likely to buy—even if they do not use credit cards by displaying a sign that the establishment accepts credit cards.
Moreover, nearly half of all American households do not have savings. This has dire implications because saving money cannot drive a person toward poverty and bankruptcy. In case of an unexpected event such as an illness in the family or an economic downturn, the person will not have a fund to serve as a buffer. Later on, they also would not have the capital to retire.
A Problem of Clutter
The accumulation of stuff in American households is also causing a huge issue. Previous reports revealed that, on average, a home in the U.S. has about 300,000 items. When it comes to clothing, a woman owns an estimated 30 unique outfits — one for every day of the month—whereas, in 1930, women only had nine businesses in total. Americans also hoard electronics. There are more television sets than people in an American home.
Reports have suggested that people consume as much as two times as many material goods compared to only half a century ago.
Not everything gets used regularly, however. The average American discards about 65 pounds (29.48 kg)-worth of clothing annually. The other possessions, meanwhile, are hidden in outdoor storage buildings. About one in 10 Americans pay for storage offsite. There are also more than 50,000 storage facilities across the U.S.
Clutter is more than just an aesthetic problem. It has adverse effects on a person’s mental well-being.
Despite the American instinct to consume more material goods, it has clear major repercussions that impact almost all life aspects, primarily financial and mental health. People can decide to find relief from the burden of clutter by getting rid of some stuff they have but no longer want or need. They can recover a small amount of the money they spent by selling these items online through platforms like Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Craigslist, ThredUp, Poshmark, and TheRealReal.
They can also do a good deed and donate these items to charity shops or non-profit thrift stores. Goodwill, the largest chain of thrift stores across the U.S. with 34 stores, accepts donations and resells secondhand goods to fund job training and placement and classes for disadvantaged people who cannot find employment through traditional means.
However, to truly solve the problem, decluttering is only step one. There need to be significant lifestyle changes that reduce shopping for non-essential items such as clothing, home decor and furniture, and electronic products. A family of four does not need four television sets at home. An average woman does not require a closet full of clothing. While adding storage solutions can help organize stuff, things will continue to pile up and create a mess if a person accumulates belongings.
Mess is a problem that affects different aspects of a person’s life. Yet, people continue to accumulate more stuff. Significant lifestyle changes need to be made to solve the problem.