We are living in a material world. And we are all material girls.
But have we gone too far? Was this one of Madonna’s rare moments of wisdom and clarity? Was she predicting an apocalyptic future of hoarding and houses overflowing with unnecessary luxury items?
Look, just calm down for a moment.
Yes, we have more stuff than we did in decades past. But is it too much? What even is ‘too much’? Can you really have too many cardboard cut-outs of Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid in your home? Yes. Yes you can.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get stuck into the stone-cold numbers and facts. In the research below, we’ve pitted Australia against 7 other countries from around the globe to investigate how our ‘stuff’ compares on the world stage. We also did some local investigating of our own (more on this later).
Do we have too many screens?
Modern Australian life revolves around screens. The Australian Bureau of Statistics says the average Aussie household has 6 devices that can access the internet.
Screens are the first things we check in the morning and the last things we look at before sleeping. The average Aussie racks up 9 hours of ‘screen time’ every single day. Heck, you’re reading this on a screen right now, you junkie.
But how does our screen addiction compare with other countries?
Fact: 95% of Australians own or use a mobile phone.
Side note: Despite our love for movies and television, the number of Australian films produced each year is comparatively low. We only make twice as many movies as Singapore, a country that is literally just 1 city. *sheds patriotic tear*
And 17% of Aussie households intend to buy another PC in the next 12 months. Good grief.
It’s not just computer monitors hogging space in our studies, though. 30% of us have a telephone answering machine at home, and 9.5% of us even have a fax machine sitting around. Come on, guys. Get with the times and stop wasting space in your home office. Note: These numbers are from Roy Morgan (Australia), January-December 2016.
Do we have too much clutter?
This is where we put on our journalist hats and did some surveying. We spoke to about 300 Australians about their clutter.
When we asked people how much spare room they have in their home, a shocking 1 in 5 people said they barely have room for themselves. And almost 70% of respondents gave a negative or neutral answer.
When we asked people to nominate specific rooms that are ‘moderately or very cluttered’, the garage was unsurprisingly popular. However, the study/home office was also a common response, followed closely by the kitchen and living area.
So what kind of ‘stuff’ is clogging up our homes? Well, in an unexpected twist, it turns out that books are the most common item that Aussies claim to have a ‘large collection’ of. Were our respondents just trying to sound intellectual by overestimating how many books they own? We’ll let you decide.
In any case, clothes and DVDs/CDs are also frequently to blame for cluttering our households.
After reading that the average child has over 200 playthings (but only plays with 12 of them), we were surprised by how few people said they had a large collection of children’s toys.
Also, 35% of us have 10 or more surfaced furniture items in our homes. This probably isn’t helping.
Side note: When asking ourselves if we own ‘too much’ stuff, we also have to consider the psychological impact our belongings have on us. In Australia, 24% of people measure their success by the things they own. Meanwhile, 40% of us feel lots of pressure to be successful and make money.
Singapore wasn’t included in this study, so we gave their spot to China (and with a 71% ‘agree’ rate, they definitely won this contest). Source: Ipsos
Do we have too much stuff in the kitchen?
As we saw above, 21% of Aussies feel their kitchen is moderately or very cluttered. So what’s the deal?
Well, we don’t like to over-generalise. But every Australian ever born is hopelessly addicted to coffee.
OK, maybe not quite. But a concerning percentage of households have a coffee machine in their kitchen, along with a variety of other (debatably) non-essential appliances.
And while the kitchen isn’t the sole perpetrator of consuming electric power, it definitely contributes to your home’s energy usage. Let’s look at how we compare in this regard, just for fun.
So Australia’s power consumption isn’t that ‘fun’ after all, but at least we’re doing better than Sweden. Maybe their superior, minimalist refrigerators are to blame.
Do we have too many cars?
In a spacious country like Australia, cars are understandably popular. But are we vroom vrooming ourselves towards cluttered garages and congested streets?
This averages out to 1.85 cars per household.
Here’s how we compare with other countries.
Confused by Singapore’s low number? Auto registration is ridiculously expensive there. And with such a condensed urban area, an excellent metro system and affordable taxi rates, there’s just not that much need to have a car.
Do we have enough space for our stuff?
Let’s address the elephant in the room, shall we? Australia could fit millions of elephants on its unoccupied land.
Our population density is pretty comfy compared to countries like Japan and Singapore. Even in Sweden, every square kilometre is shared by 21 outrageously attractive people.
But here’s the thing: those elephants wouldn’t last long. The majority of our country isn’t suitable for most lifeforms – humans included. So our coastal cities and larger towns are much more compacted than that ‘3’ figure would suggest. As such, the average home size has been declining in Australia, leaving us all with less space for our stuff.
So, do we have too much stuff? After analysing all these tables and all the data available, the answer is obvious: We don’t know.
Yes, we’ve got plenty of screens, kitchen appliances, books, clothes, and cars. But we don’t stand out as hoarders on a national scale, which is nice. Compared to some countries, our belongings are even modest. Yet compared to others, we’re drowning in stuff.
At the end of the day, it’s all subjective. If your home’s clutter stresses you out or your cupboards are bursting with unused items, then yes, you probably have too much stuff (you might need a self-storage unit, wink wink). But if your house is comfortable and clean, you might not need to worry at all.