A Cluttered Life: Middle-Class Abundance

anele_gwMarch 17, 2014

I would be interested in seeing how much this applies to people here who might otherwise be described this way (middle class, 2 incomes, with children).
My guess? Because the people on this forum are more focused on design than the average person, I think it is less likely to be true. In my case, we are a one-income family, so maybe we don't fit the mold from the outset anyway.

Parts 2 and 3 are available on the side bar or as you watch the video.

Here is a link that might be useful: Part I: A Cluttered Life

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I watched Part 1 and it was an eye opener. Most interesting is how research points to clutter raising stress levels in women, who are generally in charge of maintaining the house.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 6:58PM
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I grew up in a one level 1785 sf home...4 kids. There wasn't much extra room to accumulate stuff. The house we've had for almost 30 years has a basement, and therein lies the problem....at least for us. Anything we didn't know what to do with went to the basement...my mom did not have that "luxury." DH and I are in the midst of clearing out 30 years worth in stages, preparing for when we retire, sell, and move away in a few years.

My main level and upstairs aren't cluttered...but I still could probably go thru closets and drawers more often and purge.

Yes, we are definitely a society with too much stuff. I'll never have a house with a basement again!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 6:59PM
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Cousin of Affluenza.

Shopping addiction.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 7:09PM
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Fascinating. Thanks for sharing. So thankful for a recent downsize and deep purge of all things owned. It is quite liberating.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 7:36PM
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Junk is normal to me, frightening to others.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 7:47PM
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Some of the photos look like the homes belong to people who are at the beginning stages of a hoarding problem.

It did make me want to run and clean out our large pantry! We don't have large amounts of any one product, but 1-3 containers of lots of different things. I rarely shop at Costco because I just can't imagine going through a 5 lb bottle of Ketchup, etc and I don't manage meats in the freezer very well ... I prefer to buy fresh to be used in a day or two, but like Anele, I'm a stay at home Mom, so I have time to make several trips to the very local markets every week.

The overflowing garages they show must be in CA where there are very few basements and in many homes the cars get parked outside. When I lived in the Northeast the junk was found in the basement and the cars are in the garage.

I can't imagine that many products in a bathroom as the ones they showed. I have one shampoo and one conditioner in the shower and all my creams and makeup fit in a metal tote 7" x 12" and that goes in the cabinet out of sight, unless I am using it. I've always been on the neat end of the scale, so living surrounded by such cluttered spaces would drive me insane, but I know I would never get to that stage because I would have to fix the clutter way before it ever got that bad.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 7:54PM
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We did a "deep purge" when we moved about a year ago. It feels wonderful! We try not to buy much new stuff. It's much easier when your kids are grown, we had way too much stuff when they were at home.

We don't have a basement or an attic that would be a good place to store stuff. Not much in the garage. Just have a couple boxes of stuff that belongs to each of 3 kids. I don't even remember most of what it was that we donated or threw away, so it couldn't have been too important.

Thanks for posting that anele.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 8:29PM
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I've never heard of the "Cluttered Life" so watched a couple episodes. Any of the homes featured would drive me nuts. I like clear counters and less stuff. I now have empty closets and cupboard space. My 2nd fridge in the basement has an empty freezer and only bottled water for our fitness room. I should downsize on the fridge but one month of the year I need it to stock up on food to prepare meals for 10 guys each night.

I've had to clean enough homes after people have moved out, died or whatever and it's cured me from too much clutter. I don't want anyone to have to clean up after me when I'm gone. I buy enough to get by.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 8:31PM
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1/The savers. There are many people who keep things because they feel they might need/want/use something again, and just can't bring themselves to throw anything away.

2/The tired ones. People work all day, and if they have children, are bogged with other priorities. When the weekend comes, it's family time or I-just-can't-get-off-the-couch time.

3/The procrastinators. The 'I'll get to it eventually' theory. The pile(piles)build.

4/The non-ambitious(lazy). Maybe if I leave things alone long enough, someone else will do it.....or it will go away on it's own.

As for my own home, I do have 'stuff' but the majority of it pertains to the space I have in an antique mall, so the gamut is everything from furniture to fabric, and bins of buttons, hardware, beads, etc. It's fairly organized, not thrown in a pile, there lies the difference.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 8:45PM
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Ugh. Now I don't feel so bad about the few "treasures" I have scattered about my house.

My daughter's an only child. Although we didn't have a lot of money, she got just about whatever her heart desired (thanks to two generous sets of grandparents). She had lots of stuffed animals, none of which she would willingly part with. However, the lesser loved ones sat at the bottom of her toy box, out of sight, out of mind. I used to siphon off those toys in stealth mode and give them away at Christmas time. She never noticed. She had too much stuff.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 8:57PM
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That would make me itch to live that way. I take stuff I am not using to the rental house and store it from season to season. I am having a hard time dealing with more than one husband. Actually, there is just one body but two personalities. One who does not want to do household chores because he is old and the other one who wants to go have his "free time" because it liberates him.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 9:02PM
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I watched part 1 and can relate. Before kids I was very good about putting everything in its place (and everything had a place). Now I feel like I am over run with toys. I feel ungrateful if I mention it to certain generous family members (first world problem right... my kids get too many gifts!). I saved a lot of toys from my older boys (ages 6 and 4) in case we had another baby. Third baby is here and I'm finding that he is getting just as many gifts. I should just purge all the baby stuff because I know more will be coming in.

On top of that we have household projects underway, so the home is disorganized from that. The basement is being finished and a portion will have built in book shelves, so I have boxes of books in the office that act as a table for some of the larger toys that don't have a permanent place. Some of the furniture that is currently in the basement will be coming upstairs soon so it is out of the way during drywall. I'm dreading that! Not to mention the boxes, and boxes of toys that we put in the basement because I was getting so stressed out from seeing them all the time.

Yes, I know, I need to purge. I suffer from 1, 2 and 3 on patty-cakes list above!

I didn't watch the part on food but I can relate to chispa. My husband wants to get a deep freeze (I'm sure because he grew up with one) but I tend to use food as I buy it. If I make meals to freeze in an attempt to plan ahead they are never eaten and I always end up throwing it away because of freezer burn. I too am a stay at home mom so I have the ability to run to the grocery store often if needed. As for Costco, I only buy a few items that I know we will use before the expiration (no 5 lb bottle of Ketchup).

Thanks for sharing anele!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 9:11PM
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Whoa! I'm hyperventilating! The toy clutter they show would make me crazy. My boys are grown and when they were young I was a SAHM for the most part. However we never allowed that kind of overindulgence and I can't imagine that would have been different if I'd worked full time.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 9:16PM
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Amck, yes! I thought that was interesting, too. I assumed whatever clutter we have bothered me more because I am home. Maybe not!

Joanie, so true! I notice that every empty space quickly fills. I bought an end table with a few shelves on it, and within MINUTES the kids had stuff on it. Immediately. So, a basement, extra room, etc. is just too easy sometimes.

Tibbrix, I don't think it's all shopping, though. Like the one woman said, she said even sticks!

Annie, congrats on being liberated! That is a great feeling!

OldFixer, I wouldn't have thought of the word "frightening," but that's exactly what it was to me. I don't know why exactly-- have to think about that.

Chispa, you raise a good point about homes w/o basements. It is easier to "cheat" when you have storage like that. And as for bathroom items-- you would be surprised. My kids came home from the dentist and all of them have their own individual toothpastes that they are all insisting on keeping and having out. Driving me crazy. They may disappear tomorrow morning. And, even though I am a SAHM, we only shop once (maybe twice) a week. My toddler is too hard out. I plan my meals accordingly-- use what I need to quickly, and what can "keep" a little longer is used at the end of the week.

Nancy, that's wonderful! Looking back, do you think you could have decluttered more when the kids were home? I have the most issues w/others' things (inc DH) vs my own. I often think about how little I'd have if it were just me. Since I dislike clutter so much I got rid of most of my own.

Hilltop, that sounds like heaven to me-- especially the empty closet. When I first watched this, I thought it didn't apply to me at all . . .until I started to think about drawers and closets. Then, yes, it does. Not to the same extent as the people in the video (for example, I never shop at Costco because I don't know where we'd store things), but too much for me to be content here!

Linelle, I was just like your daughter. I couldn't part with stuffed animals because I thought (think) they are real! I wish my mom would have quietly given some away.

Patricia, you need a third husband- one who wants to help!!!

Amj, definitely purge the baby stuff! Babies like to play with whatever the older kids are using anyway . . .and anything contraband, like cords. (I have often wondered how I could market safe cords and outlets as toys.) If it is already making you feel ill to think about the mounds of toys, do it! But I know-- it's so hard to get anything done with young children.

Patty, that was a great summary. You are right-- there is no "one" reason people get this way. I do think that when 2 people work there is simply no time to get things done. But, part of it also comes from overscheduling kids. I don't, and it makes life easier. I am with my kids alone a minimum of 12 hours a day . . .if I had to take them to millions of classes, who would make dinner? And yes-- when you own a business such as you do, it's hard (and not practical) not to have overflow.

DLM, yes, I think the working-parent comes into play more regarding the food issues. If parents are both gone, how can anyone possibly cook? My mom was a teacher when I was younger, so she was home earlier. Now that I think about it, I don't know how she did it when we were older. My dad died when I was 13 and she took a job higher up, working at the Board of Ed. I guess that is why we had a LOT of stir fry meals . . .now I feel bad for complaining. I should have been helping!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 10:11PM
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Very interesting, thanks for the link. I watched all three videos, and had a strong aversion to all the pictures shown. Some made me almost physically ill.

It would be interesting to know how much retirement savings these families have. I'm sure they would all say "not enough." If they had invested even half the money they spent on pure junk-- and all those hideous plastic toys--- they would have a far more comfortable retirement.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 10:58PM
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I know clutter stresses me. Just seeing the clutter in some of those houses stresses me. I didn't watch the food one, but I watched the other two. It looks like they concluded that most of the clutter centers around children.

Funny that you should post this link today too. We are decluttering like crazy to get ready to sell and tonight was the attic. I had forgotten about half the stuff up there. I also found a couple of lamps I really like! Next to sort it and get it ready for a garage sale. Tomorrow, the shed. Scary. But I can't wait to be free.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 11:03PM
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Thanks for sharing -- the episodes just kept drawing me in. I can see and appreciate all the things they highlighted in there -- from the carts at costco filled with prepared foods (and nothing fresh) to the beginning stages of hoarding. I'm glad to be only guilty of a portion, but it certainly is eye opening.

I always have to chuckle when an intensive study is done, and they reach conclusions like "single bathrooms cause conflict" and "kitchens are the hub of the home".

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 11:04PM
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Anele, my kids are still in school but a bit older, so my days during school hours are pretty free. The dentist goody bags your kids got reminded me of the birthday party goody bags my kids used to get with lots of useless junk. Those took a few weeks to quietly get rid of without no one noticing! They didn't give any of this stuff out when I was a kid.

At our house we need to clean out some of our storage space, between an international move and cross country move, we still have unopened boxes in the basement from a few years ago. I need to purge miles of Christmas garlands that covered 2 large staircases and lots of large cased openings in our old house. We can make the time, but haven't made it a priority. There is no clutter in our living spaces, but the storage spaces are getting messy and that can lead to just dumping stuff in there instead of make the decision to donate, store or throw out.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 12:45AM
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I could barely make it through the first video. I'm not sure what bothered me the most - the clutter or the overabundance of toys. I honestly can't recall ever being in a home with so many toys - even homes that had a play room.

It actually made me feel better about my own home which certainly isn't cluttered. We don't have knickknacks, my kitchen counters have very few items on them, we even store the toaster and coffee maker in the pantry when not in use.

Watching the video made me wonder what the producers would think if they went through my home. My attic has Christmas decorations, 2 bed frames, suitcases and some extra tile from the bathroom remodels. The basement has a TV and a treadmill - it really looks a little bizarre but we made the children retrieve or discard all of their 'stuff' that had been stored down there. We did tell them that we'd keep a few things since they all live in apartments but it had to fit in the closet.

But I wouldn't want them looking in my small walk-in closet in my bedroom. I do have trouble discarding clothing that I think I might wear and as long as there's room to properly hang items I tend to hold on to them. However in all honesty I should eliminate about 25% of my closet.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 6:54AM
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I hate clutter too, but I found the labeling of those people offensive. Generally the middle-class have an average size house. Upper middle-class have homes where there's a lot of room for storage. And a lot of upper middle-class are so far into debt it's ridiculous.

It's a bit snobby to insinuate the M.C. have no money in savings because they have a lot of things. Maybe some are gifts they've received over the years?

If you took everything in a middle-class home and put it in an upper middle-class home, it wouldn't be cluttered. However, there are times my house looks cluttered too.

Some of the clutter in the video, like the toys all over the office is pure laziness. Just get a basket!

ETA: I'm blaming the makers of the video for labeling, not anyone here.

This post was edited by oakleyok on Tue, Mar 18, 14 at 7:21

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 7:19AM
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I am a serial purger (is that a word?) so seeing all those over-stuffed spaces makes me cringe.

I have been in homes (large & small) such as shown on the video. I work with a guy whose office is getting to the point of just having path-ways to get to from one point to the next.

I would never feel like I had a clean environment living with all that stuff everywhere.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 8:16AM
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I think often dual working parents buy every toy and child gadget made in an attempt to have the child be entertained and play alone instead of wishing to be with them. It will not work, because kids are pack creatures who gravitate towards company not inanimate objects, but "tired parents" will try every new toy, app and TV show in an attempt for their children to" give them a break". It saddens me so much when I see parents do this in such excess, not only because of the wastefulness, clutter and over indulgence it creates but because I think of it as a form of neglect of care.

Children want your time not your dime. Young children prefer helping you clean, cook, shop and your conversation to their stuff yet toy manufactures keep selling the idea that your child needs their product to entertain themselves and many parents keep buying this BS because they wish and hope with all their heart that the manufactures' claims might be true:(.

I hope this did not come across too harshly. I see this with many stay at homes too who want the toys to keep their children entertained so they can keep their eyes on their iphones instead of their kids:(.

Wonderful series Anele thanks for sharing!

This post was edited by roarah on Tue, Mar 18, 14 at 9:57

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 9:47AM
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Very interesting! I personally find part 2, on food, very revealing. Always amazed by the discussions one the kitchen board on fridge size (and extra freezer).

Also, from pt. 3: They made a visual of dots where people are every ten minutes in their house.
"Kitchens as command centers, bathrooms as bottlenecks, and master suites, in some cases, remodeled into hotel-like sanctuaries," i.e. the least used room but the one mostly renovated (average of 80K in LA area).

Here is a link that might be useful: project web site with all videos

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 9:55AM
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oakleyok, I missed that conclusion about middle class having no savings. That is unfair. There are savers and spendthrifts in every economic level. Granted, it's easier to have more money in the bank when you have a six figure income.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 10:04AM
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Marti, it was from a statement made above which is a very unfair thing to say, which is why I pointed it out.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 10:12AM
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Yes, I know people like this. Fortunately, I'm not one of them because:

1. as Hilltop notes, I don't want anyone to have to clean up after me after my death. I've had to go through this process for 3 relatives after they had passed. It's such a huge burden--I can't emphasize how time-consuming it is to sift through years and years of someone else's belongings, and determine who should get what, what should be sold, what should be donated, etc. My husband and I made a pact a long time ago never to put our kids through this.

2. I'm too frugal to spend the $$ required to build up such a collection of stuff! My goodness, I saw dollar signs with every scene!

3. I'm adverse to storing more food than my family needs in any given week, except for spices and condiments. I have the luxury of living near several grocery stores and can shop a few times a week for food we will consume within days.

Amj0517, I used to have a toy issue, too. However, as my kids grew older, I was able to have them go through their stuff and made them really consider what they play with, and what they do not. Now that they are teens, they're pretty good at making these distinctions. When they were younger, though, we used to purge toys twice a year. They didn't get new toys at holidays or birthdays unless we had room for them. Hang in there! This toy stage is temporary. :-)

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 10:21AM
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In my younger days, the only reason things were saved was because they were going to be passed on. Baby clothes were saved 'in case' of a second child, or given to a friend/family member who could use them, and I can never remember being turned down. Same with maternity clothes. I was also given clothing from a child 3 years older than mine, ironed, and boxed up beautifully. I saved everything for the day my daughter could finally start wearing some of it. After I was finished I did the passing down. Today it's thought of as recycling, but most is found in thrift stores as kids think they're above(maybe not all)wearing second hand 'used' clothing.

Maybe we need to go back to some of the old ways when expectations didn't run as high and getting new was the only way. It's one sure way of deleting the over-abundance of all of the stuff children tire of or outgrow.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 10:21AM
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I think part of the problem with toys and kid's junk is the idea that kids need everything that is out there. My granddaughter, who is 3 1/2, has 6 Disney princess outfits. She is playing little league and taking ballet. Her baseball equipment is pink and has My Little Kitty insignias. Why couldn't she use her brother's hand me down? But that would never happen becausue everyone else has cutsy girl stuff. She has several ballet tutus and outfits. All her friends are doing similar. Her toy room is full, but my d in law is very organized and there is a designated place for everything and a big clean up time everyday with rules. So it's not the clutter that bothers me. It is the idea that they have to have it all. And the idea of spending money on My Little Kitty gear is appalling. I can see how a disorganized or very busy home can get cluttered when people feel cpmpelled to keep up with all the current trends and demands. It's It is very hard for me, but I keep quiet, but I do and I am venting here.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 10:29AM
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I have only watched part one, but found it very interesting.

I grew up with parents who were not only frugal, so not big consumers, but also they are both "neat-niks" as we used to call them. We did not have a basement but had a reasonably spacious house for our family size, yet there is/was never clutter anywhere. We just didn't have a lot of stuff but what we had, always had a place. My parents still live in that home and everything is still totally organized. I am one of the lucky few that won't have that much difficulty when it comes time to helping them move. MIL, OTOH, is a total consumer/shopaholic. She lived alone in a 3000 sq ft house w/no basement but ever room had tons of stuff, plus she had two storage units. However, she was incredibly organized and everything was labeled, in storage bins, etc. we joked she kept Rubbermaid in business. When she finally downsized two years ago, going through nearly 50 years of family things was a nightmare (thankfully, we live on the other side of the country but poor dh's siblings were knee deep in it for several years prepping for the inevitable move).

While I'm not as bad as those in the video, I definitely am not as good as my parents in that regard. Dh and I used to do a big purge every time we came home from visiting MIL, haha. But, with four kids in a poorly laid out 2000 sq ft home with no basement, storage is at a premium. Plus we have four of everything, like four bikes, four skateboards, etc. our garage IS a nightmare but with four kids playing sports, we can't avoid it to a certain extent. They are old enough that we no longer have a lot of toys (youngest is 9), but we still go have games,etc. even when they were younger, due to lack of space, we were not completely overrun with toys, but we certainly had more than I had growing up.

I'm one if those people who does get stressed by clutter so I'm constantly going through things and purging, but that's not to say that I don't have clutter. I can't stay on top of it...For me, it's mostly paper clutter ohings I need to keep, at least for the time being, but I don't have a place for. We have no office so filing paperwork is a bit of a problem but now with computers, scanners ,etc. that is helping. But the kids bring so much home from school that piles up...field trip forms, study guides, info for upcoming projects due, etc. I try to keep it all organized but without an office, ugh!

One thing that helps me purge on a regular basis...Purple Heart, a charity that comes right to my house to pick up donated items. I keep a large shopping bag in my room for items to donate. As soon as the bag fills, I schedule a pick up and then in the days leading up to pickup, I fill at least a few more bags. Usually, it's clothes and toys. With four kids, that stuff accumulates (which isn't necessarily things we buy, but comes to us as handmedowns, gifts, etc).

Whoever mentioned party gift bags, I always Hated those things. I never ever did them with my kids. All of the stuff was just garbage from the Dollar Store. I routinely took them from my kids when they got them and tossed them when they weren't around and they rarely noticed. It disgusts me the amount of waste caused by such cheap goods and parents just perpetuate the problem/waste by feeling like they "have" to provide them b/c kids expect them. Yuck...

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 10:36AM
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Fourkids, great story. Most new homes don't have a basement or attic, so the garage is the only place to store most things. Christmas trees..bikes, sports gear, lawn equipment, auto equipment, riding mower...the list goes on.

Thankfully we live in the country and dh built two large outbuildings. One has all of his woodworking supplies and the other is more for storage. It has definitely come in handy!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 10:47AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Wow. Thanks for posting this. I watched all 3 videos. Fascinating idea to turn an archaeological eye to how we live today....and quite eye opening.

I have watched quite a few hoarder shows...like watching a train wreck, but part of me struggles to understand. What is clear is often the primary cause of hoarding is having suffered a loss (death, divorce, etc.) and an inability to deal with it emotionally. As a result, they can't cope with losing anything else, including in extreme cases, plastic bags or diapers full of their own excrement...or in the case of animal hoarders, the bodies of the dead animals.

In a similar, but far more mild strain, I heard the mother on the video talk about her "treasures" and to me that says she wants to preserve her kids' childhoods. Another narrator talked about how many of the toys were really things the parents related to more than their children...snoopy was an example...so they were not willing to let go of their own childhood. Most of us probably have some of this which is natural. But how to keep it in balance....

Just like any addiction (drugs, alcohol, gambling, shopping, hoarding, whatever) the key to overcoming it is to feel what you need to feel and then move on...not use that addiction to help you keep stuffing your feelings down so you don't deal with them, but carry them with you like open wounds that can't heal. I know, easier said than done....so much easier just to stash the stuff than to cope with the feelings.

Some other thoughts from the videos and comments made here....

I don't think it is a matter of sq feet that makes a cluttered home cluttered. I had an aunt who was terribly anti clutter...she literally threw out anything that hadn't been used in the past few weeks. She only had one dinner plate for each her and my uncle, one each coffee mug, etc. If she had company, it was paper plates. She lived in a mobile home and it was neat as a pin. As others have mentioned, no matter the sq ft, every available surface will get filled if you let it. Someone mentioned garages in the northeast? That's why 3 car garages are so popular here...2 are for cars and the 3rd is for clutter. Of course, even at that, I've seen 1 garage for cars and 2 for clutter, or even all 3 packed to the rafters. Sometimes it's a shock to drive by a neighbor's house when their garage door is open. And we have basements too!

I disagree with Oakley's point about money. Those homes had a lot more stuff in them than anyone could gift. Even if it were mostly gifted, which I doubt, that doesn't mean you have to hang on to it forever. Certainly if they spent less, they would have more in savings. (How many dual income households are working to pay for all these material goods, when if they cut spending, they'd be able to afford to have a SAHP. Certainly after taxes, clothing, transportation, day care, processed foods, etc. both parents have to have significant income to make it worthwhile to continue working.) While individually, the spending may not be unaffordable for a particular family, if we look at the stats on middle class savings and preparation for retirement, in the aggregate, it is totally abysmal.

Speaking of costs, while the parents' immediate choices are to look for ways to save time by buying in bulk and buying frozen foods, they don't factor in the loss of time that comes from dealing with the stuff. How much time is spent every day looking for something? How much time is spent on replacing something you'd forgotten you have because you can't see it or find it?

Reminds me of the McDonald's mantra on clean as you go...if you don't have time to do it correctly now, when will you? Instead we tend to stuff it and say, I'll deal with this later.

I also find the role that children play in the home now very interesting. It used to be (or at least my memory was) that while children ruled the roost in certain areas...their bedrooms, the rumpus room or family room or basement play space... it was contained. I found it so interesting that now children's things seem to leak out everywhere and it's tolerated. The entire home has become child-centered. They did mention in a video that even though $80k spent on a master suite remodel was not the most cost effective way of dealing with the house "factory" if you will...that needed better kitchens or whatever in the most intensely used spaces. Instead the parents opted for that as a need for retreat space where they could go to re-energize. (Though in another video they did say that toys even leaked into the parents' sactuary.) Thinking about it, I realize that growing up, we had much smaller homes, there was no parents' sanctuary and less need for one as the houses were parent-centered, not child centered.

I have often noticed, even with my friends with adult children, that the expectations of the role they play in contributing to house work and keeping the household functioning minimal. When I was young, my mom worked. I was a latchkey kid before we had a name for it. It was my responsibility to prepare dinner in the afternoon after school so it was ready for everyone when they got home from work. That's how I learned how to cook. So children can be enlisted in helping to maintain and organize a home and limit clutter, and help with the time constraints Mom/Dad faces, but they aren't.

Finally, perhaps the biggest eyeopener is the underlying chord of consumerism. How the expert manipulation by mass marketers and the ceaseless drumbeat of media assault (remember when you could pump gas or wait at the bank in quiet?) has so altered our sense of what is a need vs. want and what is acceptable accumulation in our lives and an appropriate level of material goods that we willingly suffer the life-shortening effects of high cortisol levels and stress rather that do without even the most trivial of items. Not to mention what this does to our limited natural resources and the impact on our environment....

Thanks for posting...lots of food for thought here.

Here is a link that might be useful: Does it pay for Mom to work?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 10:54AM
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When my son was in 3rd grade, he asked if, instead of presents, could his party guests bring things for the local animal shelter. It was a huge hit! The kids loved doing something for animals, the parents liked getting rid of old blankets and newspapers, we liked no new clutter, the shelter got needed items, and the cats and my boys enjoyed "quality time" when we delivered the goodies. He did this for as long as he had parties.

In the first videos did you see the shower stall filled with clothes just piled in? What was THAT about?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 11:10AM
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I'd mentioned to my 2 DDs that I'm thinking about taking them to high tea as their Christmas gift from me, rather than buying them "stuff". They were receptive to the idea (the 24-y-o more than the 7-y-o, though), and after seeing this video I'm determined to do it!

One thing I've noticed is that the gifts that my kids are given have changed. Everything has to be a complete kit with its own handy carrying case now. For example, rather than a bundle of all the things necessary to make friendship bracelets, maybe in a cloth bag, DD2 received a kit the size of a small suitcase (exaggeration, but it's larger than a big 3-ring binder) that does the same thing. I can't fit in all these "handy" cases! With my (much) older kids this wasn't a problem. The proliferation of cheap plastic junk is mind boggling. (Yes, I sound like an ungrateful wretch...)

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 11:12AM
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bpathome, your son sounds like a warm-hearted fellow! I love his idea, and will propose it to DD2 for future reference. I think she'd love it, too, but probably wouldn't come up with it on her own.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 11:15AM
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We don't have children, but we do have a smaller home. I don't shop at Costco, Sam's Club, BJ's, etc., because I have no space for all those huge packages. I do not stockpile cleaning supplies. I rarely even have an extra bottle of laundry or dish detergent or large pack of paper towels. We have no garage or basement.

I liked the part about the convenience foods not really being much of a convenience after all. Plus you have to consider the nutrition of the processed junk. Don't see a whole lot of fruits and vegetables in these homes.

That being said, we can easily get rid of a lot of stuff. We both work pretty long hours, so it is hard to do this without big chunks of time off.

The cluttered yet organized toys on the shelving don't bother me. But, yes, I remember all the gifts my nieces and nephews would get at Christmas. My one niece was an only grandchild on my SIL's side, and her parents would come with literally a carload of gifts while my parents, who had 10 grandchildren, would bring maybe 2 gifts.

We love to watch American Pickers and related shows, but they will pick 5 items out of thousands at any given site. There is always some family left with their loved ones' junk after they pass away.

My mother was fabulous about purging, and when she died, we had minimal stuff to distribute to each of us, give to charity, and throw out. Really, it was one of the best gifts she could give us. We know other people who had to hire multiple dumpsters.

My brother is a long-time volunteer firefighter, and he has seen many houses where the basements were fire hazards because items were stockpiled too close the furnaces or hot water heaters.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 11:15AM
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Our neighbors across the street are hoarders. They moved in 25 years ago...second marriage for him and his kids were already grown. He retired several years ago at 70 or so. She is younger and I think just retired. I was hoping they would move away, but they just put a big front porch (not very well done sad to say and we listented to pounding all Christmas day!)so not likely they are moving. They have never parked their two cars in the garage (snow!) and there is a little path from the opening to the side laundry room entry. A few years ago they needed new garage doors and spent 3 days emptying out the front 1/4 of the garage so the workers could install. They couldnt fit everyhing back in so they left an old, rusted settee in their side yard for 3 years. It had grass growing up through it. I think the kid that mows their lawn finally complained about it and they moved it. They also have had a big camper on their driveway for 25 years that I think they have taken out 3 times, 5 at the most. I shudder to think what their basement and the rest of the house look like. I just don't get people who have $60,000 + in cars sitting in the driveway unprotected yet have maybe $500-1,000 worth of junk sitting in the garage, (not to mention having to scrape snow ice/lug in groceries in the rain, etc.)

When we moved into our house in 1984 my oldest was 6 months old, two more followed within a few years. For 7-8 years our formal living room was the playroom. We had a small couch in there, a few toy boxes, baby swing, playpen, etc...I kept toys under control...they basically got toys on their b'day and Christmas and maybe 1 or 2 small items at Easter. I was a SAHM and we just didn't have the $ and I never gave into the begging for stuff at the store just to hush them up. When they got older and could play on their own more, DH finished off the basement for their playroom. Our storage area is a disaster as mentioned before and we are slowly going through 30 years worth, but a lot of it is the kids' stuff they will have to take back when we sell.

Keeping clutter at bay is a constant battle, but I could never live like my neighbors or the people in the video that's for sure.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 11:17AM
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I blame the 20 percent off coupons at BB&B.

Seriously, that amount of clutter just staggers me, but at least they were able to tidy up, even if that meant putting the visible clutter in some sort of order.

Clutter drives me nuts and I have thrown away (or donated) things I wish I had back simply because they were in the way at the moment.

My Achilles Heel(s), so to speak, are my bedroom, basement and most of all garage. The bedroom gets thoroughly picked up and cleaned frequently but never stays that way long. The basement is a catchall but I do get after it from time to time. The garage drives me nuts because it has mechanical stuff in it. I don't know what it is and am always afraid I'll toss something important.

My ex was the worst. He had things piled everywhere. You could not ride in the back seat of his car and if you lowered the visor, an avalanche of papers fell out. He still has a storage locker with his mother's stuff and she died 25 years ago.

Sometimes when I go to estate sales, I could just cry when I see the crap left in some homes. Piles of useless junk. I cannot believe people live that way. The saddest, to me, is all the money spent on worthless "collectibles".

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 11:23AM
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"I think often dual working parents buy every toy and child gadget made in an attempt to have the child be entertained and play alone instead of wishing to be with them."

I quoted this, but there are quite a few other castigating comments about dual income parents, working parents wasting money and buying stuff that SAH parents don't etc. I think that's offensive and unwarranted.

Clutter is not a function of being employed nor is it limited to dual income families! Let's not pick on each other here based on whether or not mom is working for pay or not.


    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 11:55AM
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Clutter is a real battle for me. I'm not the kind of person to hold on to stuff but my husband, well he's another story and my house shows it. I just can't keep up and sometimes it makes me feel defeated.

He was raised in Mexico and was really poor. So while he was growing up he was taught to hold on to stuff because 1. you never know when you'll need it or 2. it's worth money.

It's so frustrating to clean my house because god forbid I throw something of his out. So I live with it until he goes out of town for work (every 12 to 18 months). One example is to go containers. I swear and you won't believe it but I threw out 11 large garbage bags full of to go contains while he was out of town for work. Who in there right mind needs to go containers? I've gotten to the point I had to make him a deal so I could throw them out. He gets to keep 10 cups,10 food containers and I get the throw out the rest. LOL clutter control.

My garage is the catch all for extras. Mostly I just put all of his stuff in there because it's better in there than in the house. I hate it too. When it comes time to try and clean out and organize it, it makes my anxiety level raise and I have to take a xanax just to get started because I get so over whelm with all the junk.

The bright side is that I am teaching my kids that it's ok to donate items and throw out broken stuff. I don't want the kids to end up feeling like they have to hold on to stuff like their father.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 11:57AM
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RinP, I only mention dual income families for that is what the study focused on and at the end I said parents in both camps were guilty of not wanting to do the work to parent and hoped for toy distractions to entertain their children equally. I never meant to start a mommy war, sorry if that is how you read it, but my comments were balanced against both camps you chose not to see that.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 12:16PM
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Reading this thread is inspiring me to get up,from the computer and do some decluttering.

Funny, my kids have been wanting more "hang out" space. We don't have a traditional basement b/c we live by the water. Due to our lot size, the only way to have a garage was to put it beneath our house so our house is three stories, with garage on bottom and originally, an unfinished room next to it. Before kids, we actually used the garage for cars, and the unfinished space as storage. Eventually, we converted the unfinished space to a small rec/play room. The garage was taken over by bikes (we have 7-two for dh who likes to bike, then one each for the rest of us), plus the sports gear, scooters, skateboards, and typical outdoor/yard stuff. Anyway, Our family room is not big, and the rec room isn't either so when the kids have friends over, we don't have a much space for them all to hang out (teenager watching movies w/friends not appropriate for younger siblings, etc). So recently, the kids have been badgering us to enclose the space underneath our family room into a shed which actually makes total sense, and they willingly want to get rid of a lot of their garage toys....they know they have too much stuff! They prefer to convert the garage into additional living space.

I have to admit it does make sense. As much as I hate to give up the garage for re-sale value, the extra living space would be very nice for our larger than average family. Plus, the majority of homes in our community don't even have garages (community was originally a summer beach getaway with cottages) and the majority of those that do, do not use them for cars.

Anyway, my point was that my kids recognized that they have more material things than they need or want and would rather give up some of that stuff to make way for a larger rec room for hanging out with friends. I must admit it's something I'm considering...I'd love to have my kids *want* to hang out at our house with friends rather than worry about where they are and who they are with as they enter the teen years!

Sorry to veer a little off topic.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 12:23PM
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Back in the day my daughter loved My Little Pony. She didn't actually play with them, she just like acquiring them. Every new color combination, she had to have it. She was about 7 or 8. When I complained that she had too many (they were small and not too expensive, so my protests were feeble), she informed me that one day her collection would be worth a lot of money. Hah! Needless to say, we forgot to keep the original packaging for the Antiques Road Show far, far into the future. They are somewhere in a toy box in the attic.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 12:31PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

It is rather interesting to me different peoples perspectives on food and food storage. When I see pantry makeovers I am surprised at how spartan it i because my general goal is 6-12 months worth of staples and I like to get freezer packages from the butcher. For me this comes down to shopping style though. If I am placing an order online or going into town (usually about a 30 minute drive) and I tend to maximize those trips. Generally though, these are not convenience foods and an organized pantry makes it possible and buying in bulk at the best price possible absolutely maximizes my time and money. I would much rather garden or read a book than go back to the grocery store.

My biggest problem with clutter is my in-laws who have something from their parents that they do not feel they want to throw in the trash or donate so they pass it on to my husband who takes it. I am trying to work through these things and the gifts that have been bought for us when somebody else is travelling but has no meaning to me or hubby. I admit though, I often feel bad at Christmas/birthdays because I want to buy something for the kids but there is nothing that will really enhance their lives. We have enough toys, craft supplies and have filled the bookshelves.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 1:23PM
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bpathome, my son also collected items for an animal shelter when he was that age. It was a hit with the other kids and the parents. My son also really enjoyed taking all the stuff to the shelter, presenting it to the staff and feeding the strays some of the treats he collected. A win for everyone involved.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 1:24PM
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I typed this before there were more responses and I've missed people! Be back with more later!

Kswl, what is shocking is how expensive those plastic toys are. I am not against plastic, per se, but I since I find they don't get used, I don't buy them. (Other people, like my DH do buy them-- but only at Christmas, and even then, I've had him return things. They do not get used!) Thankfully, my side of the family does not buy those things for my kids. In fact, we are moving away from toys in general and just focusing on activities instead. My oldest is getting a trip on a plane to visit one grandma for her birthday, and going to see Les Mis from her other one.

Marti8, yes, it is so nice to declutter and be free. Very different from cleaning because you know you are actually making your life easier. RE: the 6 figure income and savings, it depends how big the 6 figure income is, too. Is it 100K or 600K? We have a 6 figure income and I barely feel middle class. We don't spend a lot on eating out or classes or home improvement. It goes to medical bills, groceries, the gas bill, etc.

Roarah: So true-- children do want our time more than anything, for sure. I don't think parents necessarily go into buying things just to ignore children, though. I think a big part of it is what others mentioned, that there is the huge push (because it keeps companies in business!) to get us to spend because we THINK it will make kids happy. We think, my child's life will be better with __ when that is often not the case. Usually, if we have fewer things, we have a cleaner house, more money, and more time. But, that is completely contrary to the American way! I do think, though, that the "natural" way of parenting has changed many, many people . . .sites like Magic Cabin or Nova Naturals, all the people who like Waldorf toys and the ideas behind it (where less is more and technology is frowned upon), etc. have a different view. Even then, however, people acquire SO MANY "natural" toys that are overwhelming for families. (Too much of anything, even something good, is too much.)

Gooster, yes-- hoarding is ENCOURAGED in our society, isn't it? We can save and be prepared at the same time! My husband keeps talking about getting a Costco membership since we have 5 kids, but I do not know where we'd put things. Plus, I do not want 5 million of anything. I change what I cook on a regular basis and don't want to have to use the same thing again and again. One of my friends shops there and she does it very wisely, but she is frugal in general. (My DH is not so I think it would be too much temptation for him.)

Chispa, yes! I hate the gift bags and rarely (if ever) give them out. If there are favors, they are ones the kids have made (like cookies). Moving is hard-- whenever there is change, it makes sense that there would be decluttering needed!

Maire, it doesn't sound like the small amount of "extra" you have is concerning!

Oak, very true about the size of the house. BUT, we came from a home of about 1300 (maybe) sq ft with 5 kids, 2 adults, and while my home was certainly not clutter-free, it really didn't look like those homes. Now that we are in a bigger space, it is far easier to keep clean, as you said. However, I still want our space used for living and not storage! The one house w/all the notes everywhere would drive me crazy. Too busy. My refrigerator is built in (no side access) and not magnetic on the front, so I have zero papers on it . . .I like it that way I very much agree about the savings, too. There are MANY reasons for not having savings, and while the toys are problematic, I don't see hundreds of thousands spent on them in the photos, either. (Like you said, some could have been gifts, too.) Marti was agreeing with you that the savings statement was unfair-- she wasn't saying what you said was unfair.

Patty, everyone I know still saves clothing/toys and passes them on! Some of the clothes my girls wear have been through several other children. My sister has 7 kids and I have 5-- we pass things back and forth all the time. Freecycle and internet groups are a way people do this sort of thing with strangers, too. Actually, the saving of clothing is one of the main things in my storage area. Since I have all girls ranging from 2-12, I figure I should save (not the really bad looking items) what I can. My oldest is the only one who gets new clothing most of the time.

FourKids, I want to be like your parents. Life is SO MUCH easier when you have just enough. And yes, donating on a regular basis is the way to do it. I was raised to believe that garage sales were the thing to do (my mom still has them, even though she is 81 and has nothing to sell!). Then I read Fly Lady 12 years ago-- she noted that since I am paying for the real estate to store the items, I need to bless someone else with them and move on!

Annie, would you agree that in true hoarding there is some level of mental illness? I wonder how that fits in with some "mild" hoarding. I have never been a collector of things . . .I never had a hobby like that, so I don't "get" it. My problems come from my children's artwork (not schoolwork-- that goes in the garbage the second they bring it home). I see that their childhoods are so fleeting and the artwork is a snapshot of who they are. I don't want to keep it all, but I want to do SOMETHING with it so that I can enjoy it. (Frame some to hang, put some in a book, take pictures of some, and toss the rest.) Just haven't done it yet! I also have a plastic chest (not huge) filled with letters from people. I don't think I'll ever get rid of that. So many memories, good and bad, that make up part of my life.

I read a book about a woman who found a single picture she'd drawn saved in her mom's drawer. She discovered this when her mom passed away, and was deeply touched. That has stuck with me-- all it took for her to know she was loved by her mother was ONE picture.

I also agree that children's items have taken over the house. That has happened for a few reasons. One, children simply have more. So do adults! The other is that children, compared to the Olde Days, do not have the freedom that children used to. I "know" things are generally safe out there, but I still can't stomach letting my kids do the things I used to do. So, they are home more! Granted, my children generally DO NOT like toys. I can think of very few that are used. They prefer dressing up (in anything), face paints, tape + paper (art supplies in general), boxes, etc. The only toys they truly use are Magnatiles, play silks (my husband laughed when I bought these, but they have been used every single day for the 10 years we've had them), and play food.

What I thought people on this board would least be likely to do is use a space unwisely . . .like the whole master bedroom thing. I feel that people here think about exactly where they spend their time most and are therefore more apt to spend the money on improvements they'd actually use, vs, go on autopilot with a master bedroom suite.

I laughed when I saw how many times people went in the kitchen. SO TRUE. I almost want to keep track in my own house-- or maybe not!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 1:24PM
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People have a lot of junk because it is so cheap. It is cheap due to near slave labor. Stop with "bargains". Buy really well made stuff, not a lot of it, and buy it once. (To borrow from Pollan)

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 1:33PM
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Anele, my kids are always wanting to have a garage sale for some reason. BUT, I don't want to hold onto things I don't want long enough to accumulate enough things to make a garage sale worth the effort. So, I'd rather donate it to a good cause.

As far as clothes, for a long time I used to get handmedowns for my oldest dd from my sister. I have almost six years b/w my oldest dd and youngest dd, but I save all her clothes, "just in case" but you know what, many of them end up being out of style now so the younger one doesn't want them. Flare and boot leg jeans were popular for my oldest, but now it's skinny jeans. So dd won't wear any of my oldest dd's pants. Anyway, I have six years worth of clothing stored under my bed for my dd. It's actually not that much as it used to be as I'm much more selective in what I save for her. Thankfully my boys are only two years apart, and they are at an age where as soon as my older son outgrows, I don't have to save too long b/f the younger one fits into them.

I just went upstairs to my boys' room which has very few toys as they are much more into sports/playing outside, but found two boxes of Lincoln Logs and a box of cowboy/Indian stuff. They are stored nicely away on their bookshelf, but I've never gotten rid of them. I think for years I hoped they would want to play with them, but for some reason, none of my kids were ever into building blocks or creative type of toys. :( After reading through this thread, I know it's time to pass them on to someone else.

Funny related thing..when my oldest was much younger, we were at MIL's house, the one who saves everything. She went up to her storage closet and pulled out several Fisher Price Little People sets - the originals from when dh and I were kids. She had saved them all these years. Oh how nostalgic - those sets were some of my favorites. It was one of the few times I felt happy about something that MIL saved. Alas, I don't think my kids have feelings like that about anything from their childhood, so it doesn't make sense for me to hang onto them. BTW, dd enjoyed them for a bit while visiting, but at home, she never played with the few modern Little People sets we had for her.

About that one piece of art found in the drawer, my mother the purger didn't save stuff like that but in her family room in a little nook in the back of the room, she has a bulletin board that has hung there for probably 40 years. On it is a painting I made in elementary school that has hung there all this time. Nothing special or spectacular about it as I'm no artist, but it warms my heart every time I see it. One of the few things my mom has saved all these years.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 2:16PM
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Dedtired----too funny....yes those 20% coupons from BBB are to blame! Let's sue BBB because our houses filled with their stuff!

Kitschy---so so true! I think Bill Maher once said "Walmart wouldnt exist if people didn't want cheap junk from China."

But I should talk.....I've worked in school library media for 18 years and FINALLY convinced DH that his 35 year old "collection" of National Geographics is worthless! He put them in the recycle bin. We still get parents calling wanting to donate them....uh no.....Pluto is no longer a planet, it's Thailand now, not Siam, and the Berlin Wall does not exist anymore....among a 1,000 other reasons...lol.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 2:18PM
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Joanie, who needs National Geographics when you can now watch those photos come to life on a nature show displayed on a large high definition plasma TV!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 2:26PM
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Tishtoshnm, I once lived in a rural area with 1 grocery store about 15 miles away. My pantry was much better stocked back then! I understand your approach to food storage and needing to maximize occasional trips to the grocery store. And I still shop at Costco and buy a few items in bulk. But I learned long ago that I really don't need a 12-pack of canned pineapple taking up space in my pantry because of my proximity to grocery stores. I can throw a stone and hit about 5 of them.

I also think Dedtired's note about the 20% BB&B coupons is something to consider, too. The marketing of coupons and the consumer mentality about using them promotes a great deal of clutter in my neck of the woods. Many of my friends go shopping *because* they have coupons, not because they need what the coupons are for.

The marketing of consumer products has us all believing we need more than we do. I recall, in my earlier adult years, shopping at Target and seeing the seasonal displays and thinking, "Oh, it's March! I need to get some spring-themed dishtowels!" I fell for that a couple of times before I realized what a waste it was.

If they build it, we will come. And if they market it, we will buy...

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 2:28PM
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To add, my current challenge is virtual clutter, the kind on my computer. That's a whole other issue for me. My hard drive points to hoarding...

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 2:31PM
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I used to think that BB&B coupons really expired when they said they did and would periodically throw the old ones out. My neighbor clued me in.

I don't shop at BB&B because I have coupons, but I use them when I shop there. I keep them in a side compartment in my car, and reach in and grab a handful. Technically everything's 20% off in that store, so it's probably overpriced to begin with.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 2:46PM
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Chispa....I know...it's hysterical...several times a year parents will call and want to donate boxes of old NG magazines. When a parent was really insistent and we didnt want to come across as unappreciative, we would give some to the art teachers for the kids to cut up for collages, etc. and recycle the rest.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 2:50PM
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Chispa, I've often thought how much land it would take to fill it with all the old Encyclopedias. Can you imagine?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 2:52PM
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I grew up with parents of the depression. Our home was so cluttered that it drove me nuts. I do not like clutter. But I have to admit that as I've gotten older I let things accumulate more than I did when I was younger. I blame that more on learning to relax and not being as anal about things as I was.

I am trying to be a Hands Free Mama and learn to let things go.

I don't remember where I read it above and it really doesn't matter. But I feel the need to say this. I have 4 children. Two of them when my dh and I were young and BOTH working and struggling. They were absolutely not spoiled. There was no extra money. They turned out damned near perfect. I had my last 2 when we were middle age, better off financially and have one income. Sometimes I think they might be better off if I was working like I was with my older kids.

Let's not assume things about working mothers that are not true. It's simply not fair.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 3:13PM
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One aspect which has not yet been identified in the thread is the very REAL potential to be ostracized by the peer group for toy AND clothing selections.

Spend any time in a daycare or school environment and you will witness how pervasive attitudes are, at very young ages, for brands. The marketing machine has done a terrific job of conferring status to objects. And, as parents, we also transmit our preferences to our offspring.

Young children are often taunted by their peers for what they have and what they wear. A truly gut wrenching scene often played out when a child is classified as unpopular based strictly on possessions.


    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 3:46PM
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Fourkids, my kids also want to have garage sales! I don't mind having them once every 5 years (maybe), but I'd never save things for the purpose of a sale. My mom did/does and that is how we were raised. She is still holding onto my aunt's jewelry (she died over 15 years ago) because she thinks she will sell it to a consignment shop-- it's all costume jewelry. I think she actually DID take it and they offered too low a price. I agree about saving clothing! When they are far apart in age and/or body type, there is no purpose. Mine are all close in age and all the same gender, so we have constant pass-downs going on. My kids love it! That is so sweet about your mom saving your picture!!!

Red, my parents also grew up in the depression and they are/were not hoarders. My mom has some things she does hold onto (like her work papers, since she used to do research) but not bad at all. OTOH, my ex boyfriend's mom says she grew up poor (I'm not sure how poor) and she is a true hoarder. Not the gross kind, more of the shopping addiction kind. Who assumed anything on this thread about working mothers? I must have missed that. My mom was always a working mom. I've worked from home on/off during my years home with my kids. I know I WOULD do things differently if I went back to work out of the home, though. We would definitely have more prepared foods like the people in the video. It is hard enough to cook as it is with the younger kids (getting easier), but if I were gone? Like I said above, as an adult, I get why my mom did a lot of stir fry meals. Not only was she working, she was a widow. Also, the video said that only 1 in 6 meals were eaten together. While we always eat dinner together, my husband does not-- he often gets home late, so it's just me + the kids. Technically, we are not eating dinner together!

Billygoat, I was very worried about that with my own kids, esp. since I have all girls. I am thankfully that there is not any of that going on w/my girls, even the one who is in middle school. I don't know if it's because we have a mix of people but it's OK.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 4:11PM
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I just got around to watching those videos, I like that it was factual and clear. Growing up my parents gave us what they could, we were not rich, and our home was small but never cluttered, but I must say my mom was a super housekeeper, it was almost a religion for her.

Years ago I remember reading this sentence

"you are what you surround yourself with"

this gave me permission to discard and purge what did not represent me, it also motivated me to create an environment that was more streamlined. It was not easy and I had to fight my messy nature in order to achieve my goal. I still have to push myself to be orderly.

I have great empathy for the people in the videos who are struggling with their overabundance and tight quarters, and such busy lives , it's not easy for sure.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 4:30PM
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As for the working/not working mom comments go reread what was written.

Billygoatjoe makes an excellant point. I often found myself wondering about this. I recently even was thinking I'd prefer our child doesn't eat the school lunches when he starts school. Then I found myself wondering if there would be teasing because the packed lunch wouldn't consist of, what seems very common and typical, junk food. (I know of this scenario happening!)

I don't mind toys, but I'm seeing where it could easily get out of hand. Every bithday and holiday (mainly Christmas) there are more and more toys. DS doesn't need anything and when we say that, we usually end up with toys for an older age range that isn't able to be used yet and the cycle continues. For now it makes sense for us to pack toys away until we're finished having kids, but I feel cluttered at times by it.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 4:37PM
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I first saw this book years ago (see link) it left an indelible impression on me - at the time I didn't have much of an income and hence very few possession. Now 20-25 years later I still don't have all that much stuff in comparison to the average American but I do have a house and furnishings - and Im aware of the trade-off, that I've sacrificed a certain amount of mobility and freedom in order to have more material comfort. Just cant up and go like I could back in the day.

One thing that struck me about the photos is that many of the families had very few possessions but what things they did have were so beautifully and artistically made. It kind of challenged my notions of "what is wealth," is it about quantity or could it be more about quality?

Here is a link that might be useful: Material World: A global family portrait

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 5:03PM
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Shee, I hope anything I said was not interpreted negatively toward working mothers. If so, please tell me.

I do think there is a big difference between both parents working. When I worked (from home) I had no time to do anything. Cooking for dinner was horrible, since I had young kids (inc a newborn). I would attempt making dinner and then go to work (in my own house) w/o time to eat. We had a lot more fast and prepared foods. Part of the reason I quit is because we spent so much money on that, and I wasn't making that much to begin with! It became expensive to work!

During that time (3 years) I had a wakeup call. I noticed my DH did not help more. I had to do absolutely everything I normally did + work. I also did student teaching several years earlier when I was pregnant and had a toddler. I was a fairly experienced teacher by that point (long story) but it was still extremely demanding. Again, no help from him. (My mom watched my daughter.)

I also worked out of the home part-time and brought my daughter with me when I just had one child. My DH was laid off at the time! And yup, still no help. I don't see him as lazy, believe it or not-- I don't think he is mean or is doing this intentionally. He is very smart, but clueless.

Anyway, I realized at that point that, if I went back to work, I would STILL be doing everything I do plus work. And, while the kids are easier in many ways as they get older and I make every attempt not to overschedule, things still come up occasionally. If my kids get sick (which they do), I think I'd always have to be the one to take off. Even when my 2 kids had to go to the ER, my DH insisted on going back to work that day. When I work, I put my all into it-- I would want to do my best at work, but then how would I possibly do it at all at home, or even the minimum????

I am sure there are families where the work is divided equally, but I've seen what would likely be my future and it isn't pretty. Even if it is divided equally, there is so much to do.

Sorry to go OT . . .just want to be clear that in no way do I support fighting between WAHM/WOHM/SAHMs. There are challenges to all of them.

Oh, and Shee, if it makes you feel better, my kids always bring their own lunches and no teasing ever. But, like I said, they go to a diverse school so maybe that helps.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 5:14PM
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Packing toys is a great idea, Shee. My son & his wife pack all the toys that the kids get tired of. They gave away the ones for younger kids. Since kids just love their toys, lol, when my grandkids get bored with all their toys again, they swap them out for old toys that are "new" again.

I do save my good knick knacks...or "dust collectors." Just like a kid, when I get bored I shop from my closets. And I'm getting at the age when I find something really cute that's tucked away, I say, "Oh, I didn't know I had that!" lol

I can't watch hoarding shows. I start itching. :)

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 6:28PM
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I do not like clutter. We completely purged our house four years ago. We were moving out for a complete reno so it made sense. We moved out for six months and there were a bunch of things in storage that I didn't need nor did I miss.so I did another purge when we moved back in.

But I have never felt the need for a lot of things. Our kids didn't have a lot of toys however what they did have was ski equipment and ski passes, bikes and helmets, basketballs and skateboards (and more helmets), gortex jackets and boots. Our basement is still full of ski gear.

My MIL just downsized out of her 4000 sq ft home that she has lived in for almost 60 years. I told my DH up front that he can bring in one thing from her house if he wants to but we are not a storage facility for her *carp* (which is what her stuff is - she borders on hoarding). He was really respectful of my wishes and took only her blanket box that was an engagement gift from her long deceased DH. It would have had to go into storage and probably would have been ruined.

I am a SAHM and I don't understand how this discussion became a SAHM vs everyone else discussion. However, I do object to being told that I probably buy my kids toys so I can spend my day on my IPhone. That's insulting.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 6:44PM
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I only said many parents from both camps are disinterested in engaging with their child, not all and certainly not anyone in particular. I am not the only one to notice this phenomenon, many studies have recently documented this sad, but certainly not the only, parenting style.Again, I meant no insult. Just noticing a sad trend in how many families are raising their children.

Here is a link that might be useful: a sadcreflection of the times.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 8:15PM
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I had to chuckle about the NG magazines. When an elderly neighbor (widower) died, his kids had to toss decades worth of NG and other magazines. He had a complete set of Life magazines (which was published weekly) going back to the 30's. They contacted a "get Life magazine from the week you were born" company that sells an issue for $10. Even they didn't want it or would only offer pennies an issue. So, the neighbors kids passed them out and tossed the rest. I've got an issue from the week I was born. :)

The other trap to run into is the "Oh, it's worth a lot of money, I'll sell it on ebay (someday)". For a few items, that might be a strategy, but if you're talking years of accumulation, it could take forever. The "Antiques Roadshow" TV program doesn't help any and it's going on almost 20 years in the US.

The best rule, which I admit I don't always follow, is "When in doubt, throw it out!"

This post was edited by DreamingoftheUP on Tue, Mar 18, 14 at 20:44

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 8:26PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

When does clutter become hoarding? Check out this .pdf. If your home looks like #4 or higher, you've got a problem.

Here is a link that might be useful: Clutter image rating

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 9:09PM
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I love the non-judgmental commentary of the researchers. Excellent videos. Thanks for posting this, Anele.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 9:19PM
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Re the savings issue--- did not say there were hundreds of thousands of dollars of toys in those homes. But there were probably hundreds of thousands of CHOICES to spend money on this perceived abundance rather than savings. If you understand the principle of compound interest earnings then those choices, made when the parents are young (and we know that because of the age of the children) will make a sigmificant difference in their lifestyle and comfort when they retire.

In terms of the relative term "middle class," I would not call spending tons of money on cheap junk middle class behavior. It's the behavior of a person who is impulsive, perhaps needy, poorly disciplined, etc. , and you find that across all income and education levels.

Speaking of conspicuous, pathological consumption, has anyone watched the movie Queen of Versailles? Same behavior, larger scale.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 9:55PM
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Anele - Oh, that wasn't at you. Rorah commented about working parents, but she also said how it can apply to the non working parents too. A few posters seem to be misreading.
I'll admit I'm not looking forward to the school years. :(

Oakley - We're trying the toy rotation thing too and it seems to be working for us.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 10:45PM
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I'll defend shopping at Costco, which the narrators dismiss with a sniff as a "big box store." (Oh the horror. Imagine, not shopping at Whole Foods...) The authors make it look as if Costco only sells convenience/junk food, but there is plenty of fresh, frozen, or canned items for those of us who actually cook meals from scratch. And you can buy frozen mixed berries or veggie packs in the frozen aisle, ya know, not just corn dogs... I thought the video was misleading in that regard.

When I was working with three teen sons at home, it helped a lot to buy food, toiletries, & cleaning supplies in bulk and to store it in my basement pantry. I'd shop at the local grocery store for fresh produce and items not available at Costco, but it was a time saver to have a store of staples at home that only needed replenishing every two or three months. "Some researchers found the families were only shaving off 12 minutes per meal." Well, 12 minutes times seven days is almost an hour and a half per week, assuming they only mean dinner, and even more time if they mean other meals too.

A 12-pack of pineapple is an exaggeration -- a 6- or 8-pack is more like it. But I was glad to have 8-packs of canned veggies on hand to throw into quick stews or soups or casseroles. I'd use fresh & frozen, of course, but could stretch it with canned.

A gallon of milk is a lot cheaper at Costco than at my local Stop & Shop.

Had to laugh at the scene in the food video where the woman is explaining about buying meat in bulk and dividing it up into dinner-sized portions along with other ingredients stored in the freezer for quick meals. The co-author looks amazed at this clever idea. Really, is she so out of touch with the workings of the middle class family cook that she's never heard of this time-honored tip before?

I'm with oakley -- too much labeling. "Why do Americans have so much stuff?" Such a sweeping pronouncement based on a sampling of only 32 families.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 11:02PM
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Awm, I think you hit the nail on the head-- this was a sample size of 32 families! And, in the video, they seemed to focus on one family in particular. I did not see 32 homes. Perhaps the book is more comprehensive and the video just sensationalistic.

I also did not think the actual video commentary was impartial. Some of it, yes, but there was one woman in particular who gave some non-verbal disapproval.

I know plenty of people who fall into the "middle class" category and do not live like that. However, I am thankful for all the discussion, and am more motivated to keep plugging away at decluttering when seeing this type of thing. (I was not in the mood to clean at all the other day, but Hoarders came on and I happily started cleaning within minutes.)

Personally, I don't even want it to come into the house in the first place. I am often paralyzed with making decisions about what to buy as a result, which creates its own problems . . .I think of the waste of money (even small amounts) and it's horrifying to me, as well as how I will then have to find a new home for the item.

This is why I have a love/hate relationship w/my home. It represents a lot of what I do not like-- my pickiness, lack of money to fix what I want, reminders of mistakes, etc.! But, when I see people (esp. my kids) enjoying it, then I forget all that (sort of!). I am ready to be done w/my LR in particular and call it "good enough." Change is often what leads to clutter!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 12:01AM
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Annie, I'm a 1 or less in all the rooms on the Clutter image rating! What I find interesting is that they don't differentiate between clutter/stuff and being a lousy housekeeper. In many of the photos the rooms go from neat to messy not because they got/bought more stuff, but because they started dumping their trash on the floor or other surfaces. So hoarding seems to occur more due to the inability to throw out everyday things and trash versus the ability to go out and buy lots of new material things.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 12:03AM
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Awm03, you have misunderstood that scene in the food video "where the woman is explaining about buying meat in bulk and dividing it up into dinner-sized portions along with other ingredients stored in the freezer for quick meals."

The homeowner was talking about a commercial kitchen like Dinner A'Fare, where people order meals they put together themselves using the premade sauces, ingredients and meat provided. Each meal is sealed in plastic, then a ziplock and frozen, and comes with printed cooking instructions. The interviewer was remarking on the cleverness of that type meal preparation. It's not available in all places, so she may not be as "out of touch" as your comment suggests.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 12:19AM
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Thank goodness for my local freecycle! I regularly give away toys, baby items and household items I no longer use. Clutter makes me itch. This has been a long winter in NJ, I am planning on a really good spring cleaning/purge very soon!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 7:48AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I didn't find the study particularly critical as much as it was reporting the facts. Perhaps some of the facts hit too close to home for some, but don't shoot the messenger. I thought it was interesting that the mother mentioned the toys coming from birthday parties and such...makes it easier to blame outside forces than recognize the role one plays in contributing to their own clutter.

I thought it was interesting when one researcher remarked that there is a firm process in place in the home for acquisition, but fundamentally no process for ridding the home of the stuff. (I know I suffer this with magazines, esp NYers, where they come in at a rate far faster than I can read and toss them...they continue to accumulate.)

I also thought the fact one researcher stated eye opening. America has 3% of the world's children and 40% of the world's toys. Amazing! The sample size may be small but from what was shown, it certain would seem to be representative of that fact. Old neighbors of ours, both working parents, added on a 3-car garage (they already had a 2 car garage) and built a large bonus room over the garage which became the play room. We went there and the place looked like a warehouse for Toys R Us. What I found most interesting was all of the children there, surrounded by these fabulous toys, were in front of the TV playing video games. Everything else was untouched.

About shopping at costco, etc. I didn't think the nonverbal communication was disdaining shopping at costco, but more at the effort that goes into the transporting and warehousing the material, which results in its own inefficiencies including not remembering that you already have plenty of whatever so end up buying even more and having to warehouse even more.

Anele, re hoarding and mental illness. Oh absolutely the real hoarders are truly mentally ill. To live the way they live is unbelievable. And for many, if they house is cleaned but they aren't treated, the hoards return in a matter of weeks. However, as with many mental illnesses, their roots are in human nature which we all share. So I may not weigh 500 lbs, but I can relate to self indulgence and overeating. I may not have a house crammed to the rafters, but I can understand emotional attachment to objects and the struggle to deal with loss. I don't have a shopping addiction, but I have experienced the emotional high one can get from shopping.

Beyond just paying for all the stuff that's stuffing our houses is the rapid growth and the expense of self storage units. Here are some interesting facts:

. rentable self storage space in the US is now 3x the size of Manhattan and the fastest growing segment of commercial real estate market

. nearly 1 in 10 households rent self storage space, up from 6% in 1995

. 10 x 10 unit costs an average $115/month to $146/month if climate controlled

. 68% of self storers live in a single family home

. 65% of all self storage renters have a garage but still rent a unit; 47% have an attic in their home; and 33% have a basement

Here is a link that might be useful: Self Storage fact sheet

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 8:31AM
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I was horrified by Annie's link - there's TRASH on the floor in option 2! I'm 1 or lower in most rooms of my house now (except the attic, which is starting to look like an episode of Hoarders, no lie). When I was working, with 3 small children, my house keeping was lacking and there was plenty of stuff (toys) on the floor, but not garbage!!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 8:38AM
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Annie.......you made my day....my rooms are a 1! Although I do admit some drawers/closets might nudge towards 2, over all my living areas are in great shape! The basement is another story.....maybe a 3/4.....but not messy like in the pics....just too much stuff we need to purge. Nice to know Im not as bad as I thought I was!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 8:41AM
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That's exactly what I'm talking about Annie, that $100 per month, invested at an 8%average return for 30 years.....

And people complain they have no money for retirement. I look at poor people who smoke and think how much that money they're burning could improve their financial lives, not to mention health. As the king of Siam says, it's a puzzlement...

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 8:46AM
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kswl, you're right. And the 12 minutes time savings per meal comment was about using such prepackaged meals, not buying in bulk vs. shopping locally as needed. Shame on me for not double checking before posting.

Still, there's just something about these videos that grates. "There is over 400 linear feet of frozen foods in the big box stores..." But it's not all cr@p like they imply, and grocery stores have large frozen food aisles too filled with much of the same, so why pick on Costco? Is there true dysfunction in these families or are they just harried, hard working but otherwise loving families muddling through life? If their only problems are clutter, prepackaged dinners, and lack of storage, I'm not so sure there's a real issue here.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 8:52AM
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Annie, I didn't say the study was critical. I agreed with others that 32 families is not a large sample size.

I also didn't mean that there were non-verbal criticisms in the Costco portion. I don't remember where they were in the series, but one woman was very impartial when relaying info, whereas the other gave some subtle cues that indicated disapproval. (She was also supportive in other areas, but this was only when discussing things directly with the homeowner.)

Awm, like I said, I don't shop at Costco because I don't think we'd use it wisely, but as I mentioned, I have a frugal friend who does. She gets higher quality food there at a price she can better afford. I've also heard that Costco treats their employees well, which is another plus.

And you're so right about the local grocery store . . .we had some friends visit from a small town in Ireland. They were shocked by just the cereal aisle.

RE: the number of toys people have . . .not a surprise that US children have so many. We are a society of overindulgence.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 9:05AM
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Awm, I agree with you that they have singled out Costco--- unfairly, as the local kroger's grocery store in my town sells a lot of bulk goods and even sells leather furniture in the lobby!

The focus of the videos is clutter, and how the acquisition, storage and payment for it affect the way a family lives. I think they are trying to convey that the clutter itself causes many problems--- not saying that underlying problems are the cause of the clutter. In some families, clutter may just be a bad habit. In others, it may signal deeper problems, but in all, it negatively affects the way they live. The videos seem pretty objective.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 9:08AM
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Circus Peanut

From an outside perspective, I simply don't understand why having children means one must have miles of Chinese-made plastic tubs filled with Chinese-made plastic toys in virtually every room in the house. They're cheap, hideous, possibly carcinogenic and certainly not durable; they have no virtue other than (perhaps?) a passing sentimental attachment to the person who sought them out.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 10:06AM
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I've been on the boards for years, but rarely get the chance to post very often, but I found this fascinating. I probably looked at it from a little different perspective than most.

I own an estate sale/downsizing company, so I'm afforded the opportunity to go into lots of homes and look in all those nooks & crannies that no one wants the outside world to see. Here are a few things that I see everyday....

The estate sale homes usually have an abundance of linens. I'm talking about 20-30 sets of sheets (all more than 20 years old) and dozens of blankets for a 3 bedroom house. 50 year old furniture is generally in immaculate condition. Cleaning supplies are sparse, but stored neatly under each sink. There's only one vacuum. The small appliances are minimal & in working order. There is an abundance of Tupperware & cookbooks. The freezer is full of Ziploc bags with things grown in the garden. I don't recall ever having done an ES where there wasn't a sewing machine and sewing supplies. There are always yard and hand tools to fix things around the house.

The downsizing families (45-65 age range) are selling large furniture, clothes, TVs & other electronics, books, clothes, china & glassware, artwork, clothes, vintage toys & games, decorative sit-abouts, yard tools and CLOTHES! Everything is generally in good shape although we do find a few repaired or damaged items.

Moving sales for young families are a whole different story. We do these most often for people who are being transferred for work and don't want to take anything with them. The garage is lined with metal shelves full of cleaning supplies...although the house is upside down and hasn't been cleaned in ages. There's a vacuum on each floor, carpet cleaner, and more Swiffers than household members. There are bikes & helmets in the garage, but the kids are buried under piles of stuffed animals in their rooms watching TV or playing video games on their unmade beds (even though the families know we're coming for a walk through). There's normally a stocked freezer in the garage. The furniture looks like rabid raccoons have been living in the house for the past year. Clothing is piled in corners. Toys are piled higher. Empty plastic storage containers are everywhere. There are broken appliances that were never thrown out, although a brand new one will be sitting beside it. The den is lined with shelves of DVDs and framed photos. The dining room, master bedroom & master bath are almost always immaculate.

I know that young families are busy...we were once young with small kids too. I've heard time & time again "Sorry about the mess. We both work." If everybody works & the kids are at school, there's nobody there to mess it up. Declutter, please. :)

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 10:17AM
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Oakleyok, I see where the conclusion came from. I thought the video producers made it. But I tend to agree that people who spend a lot of money on stuff don't have as much savings.

However, my kids had tons of toys so it probably looked like we spent a lot of money on toys. Way too many for their rooms. But I didn't buy it - their grandparents did.

I used to watch The Hoarders all the time and most of those people had spent their savings on stuff. It was so sad to see the older people losing their homes and all their hoarded stuff and no money to live anywhere else.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 10:38AM
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Oh, and thanks to that video I felt totally guilty when I was buying 3 huge boxes of Ritz crackers at Costco yesterday. ;)

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 10:39AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

anele, sorry for the misunderstanding. The only paragraph I addressed specifically to you was in answer to your question to me about hoarding and mental illness. I didn't mean to imply you said things you didn't.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 10:51AM
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Circuspeanut, having children certainly doesn't mean that at all. That's the unfortunate part about those videos-- leads people to generalize.

Persnickety, what a great comparison. I do know of some older people who have way too much (more along the lines of books, papers, etc.) but overall, I get your overall message. I think the reason some people have so many cleaning supplies is that they don't clean and use what they have up, then they have too many things to find the bottles they originally bought so they buy more, etc. Crazy cycle. I think I would pass out if I had to live in the 2nd type of house you described.

Marti8, my friend has the same issue re: grandparents buying toys. One grandfather alone buys so many toys (big, plastic ones that she would never buy). For him, the bigger the better. It is really hard because he is involved in the kids' lives . . .doesn't live close by but makes the drive often to see them, even for little events. Nothing she can really do that would not involve hurt feelings. LOL about the crackers! Life is too short to feel guilty!

Annie-- sorry for misunderstanding!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 11:10AM
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>I know I suffer this with magazines, esp NYers, where they come in at a rate far faster than I can read and toss them...they continue to accumulate.

You know, Annie, our local library maintains a magazine box. You can bring the ones you've read and rummage through for something you haven't seen yet. I think it's a great idea. Maybe your local library could start one.

Well, although I'm not at all in the target group for the videos, being single, I would have said my house is usually fairly cluttered before I watched those videos. I guess I'm tidier than I thought. But I have to say that I don't personally know anyone who lives like that, regardless of their income level or age. (Not saying it doesn't happen; I just wonder how widespread it is.)

While I don't do Costco etc because I have no storage space for all that stuff, I'd point out that even an uber frugalist like Mr Money Mustache (who would definitely tell them to invest that hundred bucks instead of spending it) approves of it if you have self-discipline:

Here is a link that might be useful: Is costco worth it?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 11:39AM
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When the mom interviewed talked about how stuff just comes in from all directions it really resonated with me. Clearly, that particular family chose many of those items that make up the clutter, but with young kids, junk really does come in from everywhere.

I have two kids and almost every time they leave the house, they come back with something. It might be school papers or projects, stickers from the grocery or doctor, a craft from camp, or a prize bag from a party. Once, my kids even came home with tiny bird bones in an Altoids tin. Thanks a bunch nature camp! It was quite some time before they were willing to part with those. The gifts they receive are not things I would ever chose for them- when we have cheap, plastic toys in great quantities it's almost always because they were given as gifts. When their grandparents visit they love to take the kids to the dollar store to pick things out, despite our asking them not to do that.

I feel for these families. My clutter tolerance is near zero so I'm constantly battling The Stuff That Is Everywhere. It doesn't take a ton of energy to acquire things, especially when they come from outside sources, but it does take a lot of effort to get rid of things. When the anthropologists talked about the families not having a mechanism to de-clutter, I think they really overlooked the time commitment, the emotional energy, and the physical work of putting in place a mechanism for regular de-cluttering.

So far, my own keep-it-neat strategies have included:

-Stashing prize bags and the like until the kids forget about them, and then tossing/recycling the contents

-Tossing junk toys the minute when they break- provided they're unfixable/unusable.

-Donating toys and clothes they're done using that are still in good shape

-Craigslisting the nicer toys and kid gear and putting the proceeds in their college accounts. I do this mostly with the high quality wooden toys I've purchased.

-Giving things we no longer use to neighbors and friends

-Asking the kids to consider whether or not they really want/need papers from school etc. They have a "special box" to save things that are important to them and the rest we recycle (minus the examples of their work that I save)

-Teaching the kids that they can decline something that's offered to them

Frankly, it's exhausting.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 12:35PM
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My niece just had her second son on the weekend and she hates clutter and to that end she has made it perfectly clear to the grandparents that they are NOT to give the baby or her first son any toys, clothes, etc to the kids. If they do give anything like that it will go back. If they want to give them anything it is to be money for the kids educations.

Her mother was a spender of money on junk (she still is but now she is an -ex so my brother doesn't have to pay her bills anymore) and my niece grew up in a house of clutter and junk.

Costco is a great place to shop but like ALL grocery shopping you have to go with a list and not get sucked into buying extra things. The Canadian Costcos have, except for local meat markets, probably the best quality and prices for meat. And I was one of those people who brought the meat packets home and repackaged them into smaller portions and froze them.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 12:58PM
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Very interesting videos and discussion. Thanks for posting this.

Would the reactions have been the same, specifically the "itchiness" many people experienced, if instead of possessions cluttering up living areas the video showed shelves and shelves of Rubbermaid bins neatly lined up in the basement of some 3000-plus square foot house? Is neatly organized excess more acceptable than messy excess?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 3:09PM
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Neatly organized excess definitely is more acceptable -- to me, at least!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 3:42PM
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Blfenton, why don't you tell your niece about toy rotation? As a grandmother I'd be devastated if I weren't allowed to buy things for my grandkids. Of course I don't lavish toys on them all the time, but I will buy them something special here and there.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 3:48PM
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Neatly organized excess gives me the heebie jeebies too.

I often have people come into my house and say "where's your stuff?". Part of it is personality, part of it is that we have moved often and that forces you to ruthlessly purge.

Thankfully my children are older and we are out of the stage where everyone and their brother showers them gifts. It wasn't just plastic stuff - there was expensive lifelike baby dolls, American Girls and all their stuff and electronics. Of course, even the expensive stuff looks like junk when it's in a big, tangled pile.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 4:22PM
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Our toy closet would definitely give you major heebie jeebies, deee!

Sometimes I think the neatly organized is worse-I've spent significant amounts of time organizing stuff and money on storage containers in my lifetime! And I don't even have those rows of shelved bins.

Something else to think about-if we citizens of first world nations stop consuming the goods of developing nations then how are those nations going to lift their citizens out of extreme poverty, as China has lifted millions?

Like I said before-fascinating topic!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 5:15PM
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I guess I should be thankful that my parents do not shower my kids with toys and other material things. I remember when my kids were little and were always getting stuffed animals as gifts. My mother saw how many they had and vowed never to ever give another stuffed animal as a baby gift to anyone-she didn't realize so many people gave them as gifts that kids were overwhelmed by them. My mother, as mentioned before, frugal as well as extremely practical, asks me what to get my kids for Christmas and birthdays. Much of the time, I can't even think of anything much, so often she'll get them one thing they want and then give them cash for their personal savings accounts. MIL used to give us things that my kids had no interest in or were just clutter toys they didn't use (she lives far away) but thankfully now she sends Visa cards or a check.

Coincidentally, today I went to visit my parents for lunch - my father wanted to show me where he kept all their personal financial/bill paying info in case something should happen to him (my mother is mostly computer illiterate except for googling on an iPad). While there, my father mentioned that he was going to clean out the attic soon. When I mentioned that I didn't think he had anything up there, he said it wasn't much, but much of it apparently mine! I didn't even realize they still had it (an old bike rack from my car, an old ride on toy my kids used to use). I looked around their kitchen and told them I was so thankful they were not collectors/consumers. If they ever downsize or when they both pass, it won't be too difficult a task going through their things. Well, except for the hundreds of books on my father's office. Aside from that, not too much stuff.

For the most part, my friends, though consumers, do not live amidst clutter. In fact, the majority of my friends have fairly well-kept, clutter free homes. Even when I stop by unexpectedly...their homes are not full of clutter. Do they look lived in? Sure, but that doesn't mean clutter necessarily. There might be stuff on the counters from breakfast, or a laundry basket full of clothes waiting to be folded, but not toys everywhere or piles of stuff everywhere. Offhand I can only think of one friend who has a lot of clutter...mostly toys, and yes her kids are totally spoiled and are the definition of spoiled brat.

I totally agree with TheRedHouse that it doesn't take much energy to acquire things, especially in my family with four kids who seem to bring home paper and more paper from school despite being a "green" school. As for projects, I stopped being sentimental long ago and throw most of their projects out. If something took a lot of effort and they want to save it, we take a picture of it. My son has a science project due soon and they've even stopped doing the tri-fold displays...now all the info is entered into a google doc online where they can be creative using downloaded images, fonts,etc. Heaven!!!!! And to think I saved my other kids' tri folds for him to use as examples-now I can throw them out!

Oh, does anyone have any use for Madame Alexander dolls? :) I'm not sure why MIL thought they made a good gift but for years she gave them to my dd-knowing we had absolutely no storage/display space for them. And why a kid would want a doll that just sits on a shelf? for years they've been sitting on a shelf in her closet in their original boxes b/c I couldn't bear the idea of just giving away these expensive dolls! And too lazy to try to sell them on Craigslist or eBay. See, this is how some of us obtain clutter....

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 5:21PM
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I just went to website for Madame Alexander dolls, and depending on which ones you have, some may really appeal to adults. Which reminds me about my grandmother -- she was too poor to have a doll when she was a child, so she collected them when she was all grown up.

Less sentimentally (but honestly!), if you ship then all to me, I'll sell them! After I give a couple of choice ones to my niece, that is -- she's um, 38 years old.

This post was edited by mjlb on Wed, Mar 19, 14 at 17:55

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 5:52PM
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Here's a link to an NYT article interviewing one of the anthropologists in the study.

Here is a link that might be useful: Interview with UCLA Researcher

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 6:58PM
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Anele - thanks for this thought-provoking thread. You posted on a Monday - on Saturday before, I felt compelled to post my reflections in a long-winded post entitled "OMG - What a wreck" after emotionally experiencing the impact of possessions at an estate sale. There was so much stuff I wondered how the owners fit. Few people likely read my ramblings - my post dropped like a stone - but I felt it a real coincidence; your fascinating video's were to me so timely! For anyone interested, I'll bump up mine.
I'm wondering if there may be a backlash afoot regarding unrestrained consumerism and new parents. I know my daughter has set very firm rules about what she will have in her home for her new baby, and basically anything plastic and/or from China, not organic or BPH free, etc. etc. is out, and overall quantity is limited.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 11:06PM
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Peewee, good for your daughter! We had a very strict "no toy guns" policy that was occasionally not respected, and I threw the toys away without any guilt whatsoever. When our children were very small we lived in a three bedroom Manhattan apartment and toys were carefully edited to them from taking over. At birthdays and Christmas we had a "one in, one out" rule...when our kids made their Christmas list it was never more than a few items, because they knew toys would have to go to make room for the new stuff.

In our family, Grandparents bought toys that stayed at their own houses. My parents kept very few toys and the inlaws stocked a lot more at their house, but many dated from DH's childhood. We weren't inundated with stuff for the kids. My brother's stepson at the time, 11 years old and at an English boarding school, usually received only three or four gifts for Christmas. Even with our relatively anti consumerist attitudes we all felt sorry for him even though his mother assured us that it was their norm. I was struck by the difference in consumer attitudes between countries.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 8:36AM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

Peegee, I wonder if it is more of an adjustment than a backlash. The world has been changing so much and so very quickly that it has taken this long for many to adjust and figure out how to cope. Dh and I got each kid one present for Christmas and even though they received gifts from other people and have no unsatisfied needs, I still felt bad about just one gift.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 1:52PM
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Tell me about it. We are cleaning up a large property we co-own with my parents for sale and the sheer amount of stuff is utterly staggering. We none of us had any idea how much, and we didn't think it was sparse, either.

I am totally committed to low-clutter now.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 1:56PM
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My mother raised five of us in a three bedroom, 1 bathroom house. She was a single working mother without a lot of disposable income when we were younger so we never had an issue with an abundance of anything. When we got older, she started to accumulate things, ranging from nice brand new items to estate sale cast offs.

When I became an adult, I realized that my mother had absolutely nothing from her youth and precious little from our youth so I started keeping everything. Some was in boxes at her house and the rest were in boxes with me. I moved almost every four years and would lug it around with me. Then I rented a two bedroom apartment with an attic and basement access for almost ten years. It was a very tidy place since I had no kids or pets with associated items and all of my excess was in the storage spaces. And then I bought a house and had to move. In the process of packing, I couldn't believe the kinds of things I was holding on to -- pay stubs from jobs I hadn't worked at in over a decade, receipts and/or manuals for items that had long since been disposed of, greeting cards from people whose names I didn't recognize anymore. I can't even remember how much I trashed. Yet, after getting rid of all of that, it still took me a full week to move from that apartment and I still left stuff behind and had a gigantic pile of discard on the curb for the scavengers and garbage men. I was mentally scarred by that experience.

When it came time to unpack at the house, I was ruthless with the things I kept. There was so much on the curb, it looked like I was moving out instead of moving in. This is a much bigger space than the apartment but I have a fraction of the items I had there. I don't believe in storage anymore. I turned a large portion of my attic into a walk in closet. The unfinished side has a few suitcases that also hold out of season clothing and less than ten boxes of keepsakes. My basement holds construction materials for the work I'm having done and inventory for my side business. Everything is easily accessible. I only own two pieces of furniture that are designed solely to display or store items and one is a china cabinet. I don't bring items into my home unless they have a clearly defined purpose. I have a wine rack that I use for magazines and if there is no open slot for a new magazine, I have to get rid of one, whether I've read it or not.

I have tried to get my mother to get some discipline around her home but it falls on deaf ears. So I often tell her three things. 1. You are too old to deal with all of this stuff so I will help you purge but I won't help you manage it. 2. You will still "look like you're asleep" when all of this stuff hits the curb. 3. If you even get halfway to the Hoarders level, I will drag you out of the house by your ankles and burn the house down.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 5:51AM
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Those videos & all the posts have been so interesting to read. My parents married in 1955 just out of high school. My dad passed away in 2005 at age 68 after a short fight with cancer and my Mom is in a nursing home with Alzheimers. I know when we had to move my Mom out of her home she shared with Dad for so long, their dream home, there was so much to go through. My Mom didn't like to throw away anything, but she wasn't a hoarder. She still had an item my hubby made her & Dad when he was in woodshop in high school when we were dating. They had so many wonderful heirlooms from the family but they had a large home & it took a long time to go through things. I've always been a neat freak when it comes to my home but I do love my collections and decor. After watching those videos, our family is no where near where those people are, I couldn't stand all that clutter! I'm gonna have hubby watch those videos and tell me my sewing/quilting room is NOT so bad afterall! That woud be the only room in my house that gets messy and cluttered. I tend to purge things after awhile & give away to family or Good Will. Getting older though I do think about getting rid of some things so our kids won't have such a chore. But, I think live with what makes you happy. Enjoy what you love in your home, you only get one chance. I have so many wonderful heirlooms from my family from furniture to quilts made by my Grandmas & Great Grandmas, crocks and wonderful dishes, cups & saucers from Grandma, etc. Those things mean the world to me, to my kids, probably not much. That makes me sad. It's a different generation!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 12:39AM
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I think there comes a time when you know it's time to get rid of things and have the mindset to do it. I've told my kids when I'm 80, I'll have a living estate sale~I'm 71 now. They won't have a clue what things are worth, so I've decided I need to take the bull by the horns and do it myself to make sure they don 't give everything away. Should I downsize and get a smaller home before then, there's a good possibility I'll do a bit of purging. I don't really have any collections, but I do love my white vintage tureens/covered bowls......and my Christmas decorations. ;)

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 2:56AM
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