How Much Stuff Do We Have? The Results Are In

by Chris Tecmire

Homeless Hoarder

 

Experiments in Frugality is a series of personal experiments aimed at pushing the envelope of frugal living.  My aim is to more fully explore simple living, learn new lessons, and possibly inspire you to do the same.  If all else fails, it should at least be entertaining :)

Each of the “experiments” is designed to last between 2 weeks and 3 months and will be updated occasionally to show my progress.  Most of the experiments are designed to go further than we would normally choose to go, in order to explore boundaries and determine the concept’s validity.  I’ll be the guinea pig and you can sit back and watch.

 

Experiments in Frugality #1 – Part 2

 

As you know, the 1st experiment requires us to get rid of 25% of our belongings.  In order to more accurately do so, we need to first know how much stuff we have.  What’s 25% of an unknown quantity?  I don’t know either.  That’s why we had to complete a thorough inventory of each of our personal possessions.  The results are in.

A couple notes before I reveal the results.

Items that counted as only “1″ even though there were more

  1. Silverware Set
  2. Important Documents
  3. Memory Box/Tote
  4. My Sports Card Collection – they fit into a small shoebox
  5. A box of sea shells that we use to decorate

I tried to use common sense when counting our belongings.  I certainly don’t want to include every single sea shell or glass marble that is used to fill a vase or decorate a shelf.  A while ago we purchased a small box of sea shells at a garage sale to use in decorating.  They wouldn’t be worth much to us separately, so I counted them together.

Like I stated in the previous post, I’m also not going to count every spoon in our silverware set as an individual so that it’s easy to ditch a couple if we’re getting close to making our quota.

The card collection was the toughest decision.  If they didn’t fit into a shoebox or a single binder I would feel the need to count them individually, but the box is packed away much like our memory boxes.  I probably could have went the other way, but I feel this is the more conservative method in this case.  I plan on giving the entire collection to my kid(s) at some point anyway.  I see it as one item in my mind.

 

Drum Roll Please…

 

Trisha, Landry, and I own 3,377 items. 

I have included Landry’s name in there because I was ready to blame him for the number of items we have.  After all, a baby automatically brings a plethora of new items into your life like pacifiers and burp rags that you never considered purchasing before.  However, it turns out that over 90% of our items have nothing to do with Landry.  Shoot!  I was really banking on having an excuse.

 

The following chart shows how our belongings break down into categories.

 

 

More Detailed Analysis

 

Clothing - 846 items (25%)

It turns out that clothing is our largest contributing category.  I suppose that makes sense when you consider every pair of socks, underwear, gloves, and shoes the average person owns.  This also includes accessories like belts, hats, and ties.  Some of the clothes are seasonal and stored out of sight and a few are maternity as well.  Between the 3 of us, we have 846 articles of clothing.  Wow!

That seems ridiculous, but I also know that we’re not above average.  I rarely buy new clothes and Trisha’s far from a shop-aholic.  Here’s the individual clothing breakdown:

Trisha – 47%

Me – 26%

Landry – 27%

Our 5 month old son has more clothes than I do!  That’s partially due to the fact that, Lord willing, we’re planning on having more children.  Therefore, even though Landry has now outgrown them, we still don’t want to get rid of the newborn clothes in case we have another boy in the next couple years.  Also, our friends and family are very gracious with baby gifts.  They have showered us with clothing (and other goodies) from the very beginning.  In fact, the truly remarkable thing about all of this is that Trisha and I have purchased less than 20 of Landry’s 229 items of clothing!  Over 90% of his clothing has been given to us.  That’s the power of supportive friends.

Also, at least half of Landry’s clothes are sized at 6 months and above.  So, we’ll be in good shape going forward too.

The fact that clothing is our largest category means that we’ll have to take a pretty tough look at it as we dismiss 25% of our belongings.  This is a category we could afford to cut back.  You know what?  Since it makes up exactly 25% of our total items, if the 3 of us just go naked from now on, we’re all done!

Media – 751 items (22%)

This includes books, movies, and music.  I knew we had a lot of that stuff, but I wasn’t prepared for it to be the 2nd largest category.  This will be another area where we can make a considerable improvement.

Movies – 314

I used to collect movies in college and amassed over 200 before I left school 10 years ago.  I actually sold 50 or more at a garage sale a couple years ago.  However, I’ve probably bought another 75 at garage sales since then.  It’s a weakness.

Books – 249

This is a tough one.  I tend to like to hold onto books.  I’ve still never read a good portion of our library, but in the back of my mind I keep thinking that I will.

Music – 188

CD’s – 119

I don’t own CD’s any longer.  This is Trisha’s collection.

Records – 69

I do have records however.  I like the sound.  I listen to my Ipod more often, but there’s something about the classics spinning on a record player that can’t be beat.

Miscellaneous – 713 items (21%)

Nothing much to report here.  This is everything that doesn’t fit into any of the other 5 categories.  Just about everything in our garage and bathroom fits into this section.  So does the camera equipment (Trisha was a photographer), electronics, office supplies, and odds and ends.

Kitchen – 521 items (15%)

Every cup, plate, bowl, spatula, tupperware container, and appliance was accounted for.  I think this total is probably pretty normal.  Kitchens are often chocked full of lots of little gadgets and storage containers.  The number was a little bloated due to about 70 items that Trisha has used for food photography in the past.

Decorations – 388 items (12%)

Decorations include candles, blankets, furniture, trinkets, Christmas decorations, anything on a wall, and more.  We’re not really trinket people, but they still add up pretty quickly.  We have quite a few candles and plenty of blankets though.  However, more than 30% of our decorations are of the Christmas variety.  We have a lot of ornaments.

Baby Stuff - 158 items (5%)

Obviously, we already discussed clothing, so this doesn’t include Landry’s clothes.  These are toys, burp rags, pacifiers, receiving blankets, bath items, etc.  He has some baby furniture like a Pack N Play, changing pad, crib, and car seat, but the majority of the baby category consists of small items like towels, blankets, and rags.  I think he also has 4 or 5 of those snot sucker things.  I’m not kidding.  Trisha couldn’t find one that she liked until recently.

 

 

So, there you go.  That’s the sum of our parts, our possessions displayed for all the world to see.  Now we must get rid of 25% of these items.  25% of 3,377 = 844.

So, our next step is to sell/donate/destroy 844 items.  Wish us luck.

 

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Homeless Hoarder Photo taken by Richard Masoner.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jamie May 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm

You could get a basket and a clipboard to keep tally of how many items go into the basket. The most common thing i’ve heard, for clothing, is that if you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it. I actually have MORE clothes waiting to go to salvation army than I have in my closet :o )

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Chris Tecmire May 10, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Yeah, I’ve heard that rule too and it seems logical to me. We’ll probably start there and see how many items that eliminates.

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Katie May 10, 2012 at 3:37 pm

You guys crack me up! I love that you’re willing to DO this!
You’ve got me not only waiting to see what you decide to part with…
but you’ve also got me parting with BOXES of STUFF…and this is only the beginning!
Not sure I want to COUNT all the stuff though :)

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Chris Tecmire May 10, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Yeah, the counting isn’t much fun but it’s enlightening. I don’t think we would count our items if it weren’t for trying to accomplish a specific goal (25%) and for the accountability of the blog. Getting rid of stuff is a worthy goal whether you count or not. Good work!

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Jayne Grenier May 10, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Ugh… I think I have more things than that in my mudroom right now, waiting for a garage sale. I was talking to my Mom not long ago about how all this STUFF keeps us from enjoying our stuff! Since then I’ve been trying to weed out. I realize we partly hang on to things out of fear- “But what if I NEED it someday.” I’m ready to take that chance. Not sure I’ll ever get close to less than 4000 things though, even if I get rid of 1/4.

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Chris Tecmire May 10, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Ooooh…you’re going to have a good garage sale :) Oh wait, I probably shouldn’t come check it out though since the point is to get rid of items, not gather more.
Yes, you’re right on as to why we keep things. Fear is a big part of it, but we rarely miss the items we get rid of. Plus, as long as they’re not incredibly important family heirlooms, the worst case scenario is that you have to go find another gravy boat in a couple years when you realize you DID “need” that second one for the giant family dinner. Not that big of a deal.

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Brooke Illig May 10, 2012 at 10:41 pm

This definitely has me motivated to start getting rid of the things that aren’t getting used or just taking up space. Started donating clothes already :)

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Chris Tecmire May 11, 2012 at 7:49 am

Way to go Brooke!

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Diane Ripke May 25, 2012 at 12:00 pm

I’m pretty sure I have the disease of hoarding !! However..you have inspired me..maybe..I’m totally impressed with your efforts and can’t wait to tell people that I actually know someone who knows exactly how many things they own..BUT..you are half my age and that equals energy and organization..haha..I think I will give it a try so my kids don’t have to gut this place out when we are gone..this job alone could be the end of me! Good luck with getting rid of 844 items…..when is the garage sale? Jk….(:

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Chris Tecmire May 26, 2012 at 6:58 am

Diane – the garage sale started yesterday and ends this morning, but it sounds like maybe I shouldn’t let you in :) The last thing you need is to take some more of my stuff and add it to what sounds like a big job coming up. ;) You’re right – it’s amazing how much energy it takes to get rid of things. Probably more energy than it took to get them in the first place. Good luck and God Bless!

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Rozzanne Perryman May 31, 2012 at 9:01 am

Tip – if you have a “junk drawer”, take all the items and put them in a tote. Each time you need to use an item take it out and when done with it put it back in the drawer. Whatever is left in the tote at the end of….whatever length of time you choose (say, 9 months) give, sell, or throw away. I’ve tried it and it works!!

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Chris Tecmire May 31, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Great tip Rozzanne – thanks.

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