We’re All Hoarders Now

A nation of pack rats scrambles to store its junk.

Illustration: Marc Rosenthal

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Since the 1970s, the average U.S. home has grown by 80%. Yet Americans face a “storage crisis,” according to ucla researchers.

The self-storage industry is only 35 years old. It took 25 years for the first billion square feet of storage space to be built. The second billion square feet was built in just 8 years.

7 square feet of commercial storage space now exists for every American.

1 in 11 households rents storage space—1 million more households than two years ago.

The New York Times reports a surge in multiyear, multiunit renters, or what one self-storage company calls “a segment of the population that has truly embedded storage into its lifestyle.”

In 2006, Americans spent $7 billion on organizational products for their homes, closets, and garages.

80% of Americans believe they would be more satisfied if they were neater.

2 in 3 Americans who make $35,000 a year or less call themselves “neat freaks.” Only 1 in 10 of those earning $75,000 or more claim the same.

48% of office managers admit to a messy desk but claim to know where everything is. 12% have a neat desk but no idea where to find anything.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “bucket” is the new “in” business metaphor because it’s “more macho” than “basket.”

Container Store staff are trained to develop an “emotional connection” with customers. Says a salesperson, “When someone comes in to organize belts or shoes, there is usually a bigger problem.”

Miles of Piles: Self-storage units cover 72 square miles, the area of Manhattan and San Francisco combined.

For her 1,000 pairs of shoes, Mariah Carey installed a revolving, climate-controlled, glass display case. “Closets are a big part of my life,” she told Hello! magazine.

Ashlee Simpson told People a 1,300-square-foot closet was the selling point of her house. LeBron James has a two-story closet. And Bob Costas paid $100,000 for a closet in the Time Warner Center.

American women would rather organize their closets than lose weight, according to a 2005 Rubbermaid survey.

1 in 3 ikea customers say they get more satisfaction from cleaning out their closets than from having sex.

Men who don’t organize their sock drawer have sex 3 times more a month than men who do.

Men who own Palm Pilots are 4 times more likely to forget their wives’ birthdays than men who don’t.

The National Association of Professional Organizers claims that Americans spend 55 minutes a day looking for things they know they own but can’t find.

4 in 5 new homes have multicar garages. Most two-car garages have one or no car in them.

75% of L.A. garages are used in ways that preclude any parking.

For $200,000 the GarageTown chain sells “condominium” storage units complete with fridge, cable TV, and members-only clubhouse.

Many upscale homes now feature a “transition room” or, as one woman told the New York Times, “the room where we will channel all our crap.”

After a Massachusetts family moved into a smaller home in 2005, the mother was “very depressed,” until they converted their den into a “Costco annex.”

According to Mental Health America, more than 2 million Americans are hoarders.

In 2003, a Bronx man spent two days trapped under his magazines—ranging from Vibe to the Harvard Business Review—before firefighters rescued him.

Many people have a bit of “pack rat” in them, says Harvard psychiatrist Michael Miller. “The impulse to gather and store has had evolutionary advantages.”

Last June 1,000 caged rats were found in a one-bedroom house in Petaluma, California. An animal control officer said their owner was “an intelligent man to talk to, but he smells like rat urine.”

60% of cited animal hoarders are repeat offenders.

In 2005, a 12-year-old Long Island girl was accused of strangling her mother after being told to clean her room. Her attorney claimed self-defense.

90% of parents say that their kids’ rooms are causing “mess distress.”

Last year, more than 6,000 people went to the E.R. with backpack-related injuries.

A recent study found that college conservatives’ rooms are more neat and organized than liberals’.

The U.S. produces 40% of the world’s new stored information.

Each American produces 800 megabytes of digital data a year, the equivalent of 30 feet of books.

The CIA burns up to 10 tons of documents per day.

The director of the National Association for Information Destruction says paper shredders are becoming “a household requirement as much as a washer and dryer.”

The initial version of this year’s U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Health, and Iraq Accountability Act bill set aside $74 million for peanut storage.

A Kansas salt mine is home to the world’s largest film collection, and, until recently, 400 versions of the Good Book owned by the American Bible Society.

The Mormon Church advises its members to keep a year’s worth of rations because “It may someday be as important to store food as it was for Noah and his family to board the ark.”

The average American fridge is twice as big as its European counterpart.

More than 70% of Americans are routinely unable to find matching lids for their 15-plus food-storage containers.

Sealed for Freshness, an off-Broadway play that opened in February, is about a Tupperware party “gone awry” and “lost youth, missed opportunities, and deviled egg containers.”

Two weeks after Hurricane Katrina, state troopers rescued 1,400 frozen embryos from a flooded New Orleans fertility clinic. The first set of twins was delivered in December.

The San Diego Zoo’s “Frozen Zoo” has semen, embryos, and dna samples from 675 species, half of them endangered.

For $110 a year, Clone usa will store your pet’s semen—provided you collect it yourself.

Sources on next page

Average home has grown 80%: “This New House,” Mother Jones, March/April 2005.

“Storage crisis”: “Changing American home life: trends in domestic leisure and storage among middle-class families,” Journal of Family and Economic Issues, UCLA Department of Anthropology, December 2006.

Storage statistics (age, total space, households renting): Self Storage Association’s 2007 Industry Fact Sheet; Michael T. Scanlon, President, Self Storage Association.

The New York Times reports more storage: “Hooked on Storage,” Suzanne Gannon, New York Times, March 8, 2007.

$7 billion on organizational products: Self Storage Association’s 2007 Industry Fact Sheet; Closets Magazine spokeswoman Helen Kuhl; the Freedonia Group.

80% would be more satisfied: “A Perfect Mess,” Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman, Hachette Book Group.

Neat freaks: Ajilon Office study, 2005, “What Does Your Desk Say About You?”

Office managers’ messy desks: Esselte study, 2005, “Work Habits of the New Millennium.”

Bucket vs. basket: “Business Types Get a New Kick Out of the ‘Bucket,” Christopher Rhoads, Wall Street Journal, March 27, 2007.

Container Store’s emotional connection: Why the Container-Store Guy Wants to Be Your Therapist, Sara Schaefer Munoz, Wall Street Journal, March 30, 2007; and Container Storespokeswoman Alli Bujnoch

Miles of Piles: Self Storage Association’s Industry Fact Sheet from 2007; Michael T. Scanlon, President, Self Storage Association.

Mariah Carey’s closets: Megan Conway, Hello! Magazine; “A Closet Obession,” Time, October 24, 2005.

Ashlee Simpson’s closet: “ For Sale: Ashlee Simpson’s House,” People, July 31, 2006.

Closet organizing vs. weight loss: A 2005 Rubbermaid study; Rubbermaid spokeswoman Lauren Spahr.

IKEA survey stats (cleaning vs. sex, sock drawer organizing, Palm Pilot forgetfulness): IKEA spokeswoman Janice Simonsen.

55 minutes a day looking for things: Greater Philadelphia Chapter of National Association of Professional Organizers’ “Organizing Statistics.”

To have and to hoard: Obsessive Compulsive Foundation, “Hoarding – A Successful Compulsion,” James Claiborn, Ph.D.; Dr. Randy Frost, Smith College; OCD Online: “What is OCD?,” Steven Phillipson, Ph.D.

Multi-car garages: National Association of Homebuilders; Greg Alford at the Peachtree Consulting Group; Tom Ehart, MarketResearch.com; New York “After $12,000, There’s Even Room to Park the Car,” David Kocieniewski, New York Times, February 20, 2006.

75% of L.A. garages preclude parking: “Changing American home life: trends in domestic leisure and storage among middle-class families,” Journal of Family and Economic Issues, UCLA Department of Anthropology, December 2006.

GarageTown condominium storage units: GarageTown CFO Brian Reid.

Transition rooms: “Oversize Mudrooms Tame the Clutter at the Door,” Leslie Kaufman, New York Times, March 22, 2007.

Costco annex: “Bulking up,” Mindy Pollack-Fusi, Boston Globe, January 5, 2006.

Two million American hoarders: National Mental Health Association, “Q&A: Compulsive Hoarding and Cluttering.”

Bronx magazine man: “Bronx Man Is Rescued From His Own Paper Prison,” Robert D. McFadden, New York Times, December 30, 2003.

Pack rats: Harvard Mental Health Letter, “Questions & Answers,” December 1, 2004.

Petaluma rats: “1,000 pet rodents euthanized; rat lovers furious,” Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle, June 28, 2006.

Repeat animal hoarders: “Hoarding of Animals: An Under-Recognized Public Health Problem in a Difficult-to-Study Population,” Dr. Gary Patronek, Public Health Reports, Volume 114, January/February 1999.

Messy-room strangler: “Dirty Room Led Girl, 12, to Slay Mom,” New York Post, June 1, 2005; “Girl Strangled Mother in Self-Defense, Lawyer Says, ” Los Angeles Times, June 1, 2005.

Mess Distress: “Kids Room Survey Uncovers The Dirt,” HealthNewsDigest.com; “Capture Kid’s Room Survey Uncovers Dirty Little Secrets,” PR Newswire, July 27, 2005.

Backpack injuries: : Scott Wolfson, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

College rooms: “The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives: Personality Profiles, Interaction Styles, and the Things They Leave Behind,” Harvard University, Department of Psychology.

Digitally stored information: “How Much Information? 2003,” UC Berkeley’s School of Information and Management and Systems.

CIA burns 10 billion tons a day: George Little, CIA spokesman.

Household shredder requirements: Bob Johnson, Executive Director of the National Association for Information Destruction.

Peanut Storage: “U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Health, and Iraq Accountability Act 2007: SEC. 3108. Peanut Storage Costs,” The Library of Congress, THOMAS.

Salt Mine: “Cold War’s Demise hasn’t Cooled Demand for Underground Vault,” Hutchinson News, December 16, 1994; Chris Eden, Marketing Manager, Underground Vaults; Liana Lupas, Curator of Scripture, American Bible Association.

Mormon hoarding: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, “All Is Safely Gathered In“; “Basic Food Storage: Where Do I Start?,” Brigham Young University Broadcasting.

Refrigerator facts: The Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, “A.D. Little Report.”

Matching lids: A 2005 Rubbermaid study; Rubbermaid spokeswoman Lauren Spahr.

Sealed for freshness: Sealed for Freshness.

Katrina’s Embryos: “Saving Grace: One small Katrina rescue mission brought a world of hope to families waiting for a baby,” Times Picayune, Sunday, January 14, 2007; Roman Pyrzak, Director of Laboratories, The Fertility Institute.

The San Diego ‘Frozen Zoo’: Conservation Research for Endangered Species, “Frozen Zoo“; Sharon Dewar, Zoological Society of San Diego Public Relations.

For $110 a year: Clone USA


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