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Monday, 3rd March 2008

Stuff happens: Unused things cluttering up our homes

Stuff happens: Unused things cluttering up our homes (PDF; 62 KB)
Source: Australia Institute

This study is about the extent to which Australian homes are cluttered with things that are rarely or never used. A nationally representative online survey of 1,002 respondents was carried out in December 2007, and was followed up with a series of telephone interviews with people who identified themselves as having problems with clutter.

Our survey findings show that 88 per cent of homes have at least one cluttered room, and the average home has three or more cluttered rooms. The spare room is the most cluttered area in the home, followed by cupboards, the garage and bedrooms. Not surprisingly, people living in detached houses had more clutter than people living in townhouses or apartments, and people with kids in the home tend to have more clutter than those without. Victorian homes are the most cluttered, while New South Wales homes are the least cluttered.

Four in ten Australians say they feel anxious, guilty or depressed about the clutter in their homes. Women are much more concerned about clutter than men: almost half of the women surveyed said they were anxious, depressed or worried about the clutter in their home, while a third said they were embarrassed by it. Indeed, fully 59 per cent of women said there was a room in the house that they don’t like visitors to see because of the clutter.

Naturally enough, clutter tends to accumulate over a lifetime, with older people having much more than younger people and people who own their own home having more than mortgagees or renters. However, younger people are more worried about their clutter, and more anxious to do something about it. Older people, by contrast, seem to have accepted or resigned themselves to their clutter, despite having more of it.

Our research shows that many people – 84 per cent of survey respondents – are in the strange situation of having bought things in order to deal with the excessive amount of things they have bought. Around a quarter had even bought vacuum storage bags – which suggests that the stored items will not be in use for some time. One in five respondents had built a shed or garage to keep or store things, while one in eight had even moved house to accommodate their superfluous ‘stuff’.


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