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Is All of Your Stuff Depleting You of Happiness?

The people of Denmark have once again topped the charts as the happiest people on earth. Americans ranked 23rd.

Interestingly, Danes own and consume less than half as much stuff as Americans. The average home size in Denmark is 1,184 square feet while in the US it’s 2,330. On average, a US home has 350,000 items in it!

In the last 30 years, the size of an average US home has doubled, while the average number of people in a household has decreased by half. We are collecting and consuming more and more stuff and require more and more space!

If you want to increase your happiness, consider taking a cue from the Danes by scaling down the amount of stuff you own. The more stuff you own, the more time and money you spend maintaining and storing your things. That’s time and money you could be spending doing something you really love, like traveling!

Scaling down makes getting and staying organized much simpler. When you’re organized, you can live more comfortably using less space. Consider the amount of utilities, land, and items consumed by a 5,000 ft2 home compared to that of a 1,500 ft2 condominium. If you choose to live in a smaller space, being organized makes it possible to live comfortably.

As a professional organizer, the top two questions I get asked are, “How do I figure out what to get rid of?” and ”How do I know I won’t need that item again?”

Here is my answer: Get rid of everything in your home that is not meaningful or useful. If, down the road, you need that item again, you can easily find a different one on CraigsList, Ebay, or one of the many online free markets across the US.

Let’s say you get rid of an unused bookcase by selling it on Craigslist for $40. Let’s say that one year later you actually need a bookcase. Within a week or two you will be able to find a used one. Most of time, you will find one that suits your needs better than the old one. In addition you’d have saved or spent $40 over the last year, and you would not have stored an unused bookcase.

If you are willing to trust that the items you need will be available to you when you need them, you can let go of everything in your home that is not useful or meaningful. When you do this, chances are your level of happiness and the amount of money in your bank account will both increase.

Statistics Denmark. 2008. Denmark in Figures 2008. Available at “Average” (taken as typical) Danish home is 110 sq. meters, or 1,184 sq. ft.
Demographia. 2006. Second Annual Demographic International Housing Affordability Survey. (2200 square feet for new American home in 2006.)

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About the Author

Heidi DeCoux, Clear Simple Living, LLC
Minneapolis, MN 55419

If you would like to re-print this article, please contact the author.
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