Thirty-nine pairs of shoes

That’s how many pairs of shoes, on average, were visible in the homes of 32 middle-class, two-income couples, according to researchers from UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families. Don’t be mistaken: This doesn’t mean that families own 39 pairs of shoes.

Rather, researchers found 39 pairs of shoes in plain sight in Los Angeles-area homes, not in closets or boxes or otherwise put away and contained. I’m fascinated by that information, and I’m sure I’ll be equally captivated by the other findings in their book, “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century”, which will be available next month. A Wall Street Journal article this weekend gave me a taste of what to expect in the book, which is the result of four years of study of these families and their possessions.

The Journal reports that the researchers meticulously catalogued every single visible item in each home, snapped 20,000 photos and gathered 1,500 hours of videotape of family activities. Among their conclusions, the paper reported: “The more objects attached to the front of a family’s refrigerator, the more objects per square foot in the house overall.”

The research team of archaeologists, anthropologists and other scientists also found that 75 percent of the garages in the study were so packed with stuff that there was no room to park a car. Another finding that captivated me was the 30 percent increase (estimated) in a family’s number of possessions with each new child just during the preschool years. Everyone who’s had kids will nod in astonishment at that figure. I’m surprised it’s not higher!

I can’t wait to read this book because I’m sure it will help me:

—  show clients that they’re not alone in being overwhelmed by what they own

—  better understand what people hang on to and how it becomes clutter

—  develop more techniques to help my clients simplify their lives and ease the stress that all this stuff creates

And clutter does create stress, the researchers found. As the WSJ reports: “Mothers who used words indicating that their homes were messy or cluttered in their videotaped, self-narrated house tours had higher levels of stress hormones toward evening, as measured by saliva tests. There was no such correlation with fathers.”

Which perhaps explains why all my clients have been women!


About organizesf

Professional organizer June Bell ( combats clutter and chaos with sage advice, tested techniques and good humor.
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