Overstuffed: Is less really more?

Posted by Steve Kleber on Jun 06, 2011

Welcome to the Kleber & Associates blog! Overstuffed: Is less really more?. Here’s the latest.


It seems the more you have, the more you need. What if Americans traded in all of their “somethings” for nearly nothing? The recent “extreme-downsizing” trend is becoming a tempting challenge for many, and as their piles of possessions shrink, so do their homes.

In “Forget Marta Stewart—Try Martha Hubbard,” Ellen M. Kozak claims she is on the verge of tossing nearly all of her possessions and moving to a small space because the idea of less junk to dust, less floor space to sweep and less to account for is appealing. So appealing, in fact, that some are even setting a limit on the number of things they own. The 100 Thing Challenge, a grassroots movement in which people eliminate all but 100 of their possessions, is a minimalist trend that is proving successful for people across the country who are “overwhelmed with stuff.”

One reason for the purging of our possessions is the technological advances we’ve seen in the past few years. Electronic readers have replaced the books on our bookshelves and iPods have diminished our CD collections. Smart phones have virtually everything we need: camera, calculator, computer, alarm clock, and so much more including, of course, a phone. These things that took up space before are now all housed in one or two central systems. We don’t need alarm clocks, calculators, CD players or books if there’s an option to consolidate all into one device. These objects could even be considered irrelevant, especially to those adopting the “100 Thing” mentality.

But even if you do have more than 100 possessions and haven’t packed up your car and headed to warmer weather where you can toss your bulky winter wear and never worry about that snow shovel, the idea of having fewer items in smaller spaces is a continuing and noticeable trend, especially in the housing industry. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the average size of a new- single family home declined from 2,521 square feet in 2007 – the peak of the housing boom – to 2,377 square feet in 2010. After the economic downturn in 2009, it seems everyone learned to cut out what they don’t need. People are now making the most of the space they do have; they’re remodeling their homes instead of moving into new ones.

Whether it’s an extreme elimination of items or a simple downgrade, it looks like the “bigger is better” mentality is on its way out. Much like we’ve seen the change from big gas guzzling SUVs and trucks to fuel-efficient eco-friendly cars, the change from excess to absence in possessions – and subsequently living spaces – is right behind.

This entry was posted by Steve Kleber on Monday, June 6th, 2011 at 8:20 am and is filed under Housing Market, Research. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.