Answering your questions on mental health, relationships and life issues

Dear Barb,

While storage units can be incredibly helpful as interim storage during a move or vacation, many of my friends have storage units being used as long-term storage for unnecessary extra belongings for themselves or their adult children. American houses are bigger, families are smaller, and garages are common, why do we need so much extra space for our stuff?


Concerned About the Trend

Dear Concerned about the Trend,

The average 10-year-old owns 238 toys, but only plays with 10 of them on a daily basis. The problem is called consumerism. Here are two symptoms that demonstrate how severe the consumerism disease in America has become.

Need to entertain oneself

A resounding symptom with consumerism is the need to entertain oneself. No longer can the simple outdoors or library books keep individuals entertained. People are finding themselves in need of thousand-dollar entertainment systems, with more televisions in homes than people and those televisions being turned on for more than eight hours a day. Additionally, man’s affinity for technology has led to thousands of dollars spent on tech gadgets each year. This causes the need to store the old devices somewhere in order to make room for the newest and up-to-date version of the items.

Excessive spending, zero saving

One huge symptom with American consumerism is the excessive spending. Americans make large amounts of money each year, but spend nearly all of it and land themselves in piles of debt. It can be hard to save money when you are spending, with nearly half of American households not contributing to their personal savings accounts. All of this spending on self creates a domino effect until the last domino falls. One quick example; statistics show the average American family spends $1,700 on clothes each year, but throws away nearly 65 pounds of clothing annually.

The disease of consumption has severely infected and changed the American environment. Many see it, but unfortunately many are oblivious to it and are entrenched in this disease and secretly enjoy it. Without severe analysis of lifestyles and spending habits, Americans will continue to sink themselves into more stuff and debt and yes, storage units to shelter their collection of things. Do the math for the rental fee just for one year and rationalize if all the items being stored have enough value to support this cost.  Perhaps your friends should consider cleaning out their closets and storage units they are paying rent for monthly and use that money saved monthly to find enjoyment and satisfaction in hobbies aside from shopping and accumulating things. After all, you can’t take it with you. Here is part of the last words from billionaire Steve Jobs — we can all learn from him.

“ … Only now do I understand that once you accumulate enough money for the rest of your life, you have to pursue objectives that are not related to wealth. It should be something more important: For example, stories of love, art, dreams of my childhood. No, stop pursuing wealth, it can only make a person into a twisted being, just like me. God has made us one way, we can feel the love in the heart of each of us, and not illusions built by fame or money, like I made in my life, I cannot take them with me. I can only take with me the memories that were strengthened by love. This is the true wealth that will follow you; will accompany you, he will give strength and light to go ahead … ”

Barb Rock is a mental health counselor for the House of Matthew Homeward Bound program in Tacoma, and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at

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