A new study released by mobile marketplace OfferUp has found that many Americans are increasingly drowning in things they no longer need or want, yet – strangely enough - there is a widespread struggle to meet household expenses on time every month.
The report, Buried: The State of Stress and Stuff, polled more than 1,000 Americans across the country as well as residents in 10 major cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta and Dallas. The results offer a startling look at a nation that struggles to balance financial insecurities with a desire for fewer things. The study was commissioned by OfferUp and conducted by ClearVoice Research.
Key findings include:
"After years of experience working with clients, one thing is very clear: Americans have too much stuff and it's causing them unnecessary anxiety," said Collette Shine, owner of Organize and Shine, LLC, and president of the New York chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers. "People have a hard time decluttering for a lot of reasons - such as an underlying emotional attachment or because the process is simply too overwhelming. But that needs to change, especially as many face financial pressures. One way to ease the process is to turn the things accumulating around your house into money."
Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans (84 percent) report having financial concerns and close to half (46 percent) find it difficult to meet typical household expenses on time each month. Emergency savings, retirement and housing payments top America's overall financial concerns. Meanwhile, individual expenses are also a source of anxiety - 32 percent of Americans report being stressed about medical expenses and 24 percent report concern about affording holiday and birthday gifts for their families.
Keeping up with their neighbors' spending habits and standard of living is another top concern for many Americans. 40 percent of Americans believe they are less financially secure than most of their friends, and only 15 percent believe they are more financially secure. For parents, this constant comparison means:
- 15 percent want their kids to be popular and believe having brand names is a part of that.
- 12 percent think buying brand new items for their kids is important because they don't want to be perceived as poor.
- 7 percent are embarrassed to buy second-hand items.
However, many Americans are taking steps in the right direction. While some Americans struggling to make ends meet have resorted to borrowing money from family and friends (25 percent), racking up credit card debt (24 percent) or skipping the doctor (22 percent), many are taking action to fix their financial situation:
- 68 percent cooked more often instead of eating out
- 66 percent spent less money on clothes or beauty products
- 55 percent cut down on meal expenses
- 46 percent skipped social or extracurricular activities
- 39 percent opted to not plan a vacation
- 13 percent took a supplemental or part-time job
- 7 percent moved to a cheaper home
"We really wanted to understand how Americans think about the things that they have in their homes and what keeps them up at night," said Nick Huzar, co-founder and CEO of OfferUp, "We found that almost half of Americans think they have more than $1,000 in unused items sitting around their homes. Many Americans are simply not taking advantage of the hidden value that is right there in front of them."
The glut of “stuff” suffocating many of us in the Western world has spawned apps such as OfferUp, Stuffstr and Yerdle, aimed at alleviating the anxiety. Meanwhile, apparel brands such as Patagonia continue to remind us to only buy what we need and to take care of what we already have, while a number of clothing startups have emerged that are highlighting the value of buying – or even renting – fewer, better-made items.