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Do I Have Too Much Stuff?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 17, 2024
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Determining whether you have too much stuff is a personal decision, and also often involves comparing what you do have to others. There really is no objective measuring stick capable of defining how much stuff a person should have. In a Western culture obsessed with consumerism and material wealth, some might ask if it would even be possible for anyone to have too much stuff. After all, not having enough is often much more problematic for people than having too much. Millions of people around the world probably wish they had more, as they have the opposite problem. The problem of having too much stuff is definitely a luxury of the rich.

The comedian George Carlin developed a routine around the concept of "stuff." Carlin's belief was that almost everyone has a large supply of stuff, possibly too much, but we insist on storing it in smaller and smaller containers of stuff. When our closets become full, we move some of it to drawers. If we need stuff for vacation, we put some of our original stuff in suitcases. We even buy smaller versions of stuff just to have on hand when we leave our big stuff behind on a trip.

The actual question about "too much stuff" goes much deeper than it may appear. What we're actually discussing is the accumulation of material wealth over a lifetime. You might ask if there a logical stopping point for accumulating things, such as when we find personal fulfillment in what we already own. The idea of too much stuff suggests that a saturation point has been reached and the rest of one's stuff is unnecessary. Obviously, most people have more stuff in their closets and storage containers than they will ever need to get through a typical day, but is it too much?

Some may say that a umbrella serves no purpose until it rains. In that same sense, much of what we accumulate over the years may no longer appear to have a purpose, but one day it might. We may have too much stuff to manage at any one time, but that might be more a question of not enough storage space. Many people have a pack rat mentality, which means they will not part with a single item without a court order or a decent fight. For them, the idea of "too much stuff" would sound alien. Others prefer to eliminate stuff and clutter as soon as it threatens to accumulate and affect their peace of mind.

It may be possible to have too much stuff if you no longer find satisfaction in what you have or in getting it. Collectors often feel a compulsion to continue acquiring items until they no longer bring a sense of satisfaction, and the collection process becomes more of a hindrance than a hobby. When contemplating the idea of having too much, you should consider if all of these material possessions are providing a sense of accomplishment or if they are acting as a barrier to your true happiness and satisfaction.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By candyquilt — On Apr 16, 2011

I feel sad about consumerism being on the rise. If we donated even a little bit of the money we spend for buying unnecessary stuff, so many people would benefit and have a better life.

I won't deny it, I have had such times in my life when I spent without thinking and bought useless things. But as I became more interested in religion, I realized that I don't need to be living this way. I think that peace and happiness don't come from stuff, it comes from having a purpose and it comes from loved ones.

Has anyone heard about the Kerala model? Kerala in India is one of the poorest places and the residents have really low income. But researchers have found out that the standard of living in Kerala is the same as developed countries.

I think what the Kerala example is telling us is that money and stuff doesn't guarantee a good quality life. You can have very little stuff and still be living very nicely.

By fify — On Apr 14, 2011

If people bought things only when they needed it, most shopping malls would probably close in the U.S.!

I go shopping for stuff because it makes me happy and also because I want to keep up with the latest trends and fashions which change so often. Shopping in America is a culture. It's what I do when I'm bored, it's a form of entertainment and that's why it is so easy to have too much stuff.

At the same time, I am spending a lot of money buying this stuff, so it's hard to part with it. But there are ways of dealing with it. One thing that I do is resell any used or unused items I have lying around.

If I know I am never going to use something, I can at least sell it and buy something else with that money. If I had to throw it away, I wouldn't let go of it because that would be like losing the money I paid for it. But selling returns some of the cost back to me and I can use that for new shopping needs.

By burcidi — On Apr 12, 2011

This is a relative question. I think it has a lot to do with personality and also cultural and personal background.

My mom and I think completely different about accumulating stuff in the house. I don't like clutter and busy environments. Especially too much furniture and stuff in my house makes me feel claustrophobic. I need some empty spaces around the house to feel good.

My mom on the other hand, loves buying stuff for the house, whether it be a new piece of furniture for the living room or a new set of plates for the kitchen. She can never have enough house items.

I think this might be because her family had low income while growing up and she spent many years in boarding schools where she was not allowed to have any belongings of her own other than a tiny locker. These experiences might have created a sort of hunger for buying house items for her. I, on the other hand, have always lived with family and had plenty of belongings even in the dorms when I went to college. So I don't feel that way at all.

I do think that buying and keeping stuff even though you have absolutely no need for it might be a psychological disorder at some point. But if that person can look at the origin of that issue and figure out why they are buying something, I think it can be easily resolved.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range...
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