Got junk? You're not alone. In a survey for American Demographics by market research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres Intersearch, 15 percent of adults polled admit they're pack rats and another 64 percent are selected savers - they keep some things, but throw away other stuff. Not everyone has an attic loaded to the beams, though. Twenty percent of Americans are serious minimizers: They chuck out as much garbage as they can.
Older Americans are prime pack rats; 25 percent of the 65-plus population crams stuff in every nook and cranny of their home. Single households and those without children follow suit (22 percent and 18 percent, respectively).
Selected savers tend to be younger (74 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds fall into this category) and make between $35,000 and $50,000 (74 percent).
Minimizers, on the other hand, skew wealthy: 32 percent of respondents with incomes of $100,000 or more lead a clutter-free life. They don't wait for spring to clean out, either. Among wealthy households that throw things away, 54 percent say they pitch stuff constantly, compared to a national average of 34 percent.
Still, even minimizers can't resist a good tag sale - 31 percent admit to buying someone else's junk in the past year. Nationally, 43 percent of Americans found a bargain at a rummage sale in the past year, with middle-aged shoppers more likely to snag deals (59 percent among 45-to-54-year-olds).
We may love to pick through our neighbor's leftovers, but we're not as quick to haul our own junque to the front lawn: Only 19 percent of us sold something at a yard sale within the last year. Families with kids under 12 are slightly more likely to unload stuff at tag sales (24 percent) - how else to get rid of all those toys Junior has outgrown? Young families are also more likely to buy something at a sale (50 percent). Hey, a buck for a barely used board game sure beats the prices at the mall.
Not everything lands in a tag sale or in the trash, however. Seven out of ten respondents say they save financial records (for Uncle Sam, no doubt), 57 percent keep books, and 46 percent treasure newspaper or magazine clippings. Nearly 85 percent of householders earning $35,000 to $50,000 hold on to financial records, higher than any other income bracket. Pack rats, not surprisingly, are more likely to hoard everything, from sentimental greeting cards and letters (59 percent versus the national average of 44 percent) to old corsages and flowers (32 percent vs. the national average of 19 percent). Northeasterners are much less likely to press flowers into a scrapbook than Westerners are (13 percent vs. 23 percent).
Roughly 31 percent of Americans retain clothes they no longer wear, perhaps hoping that the styles will return (think bell bottoms) or that they'll fit into them again (keep dreaming). Wealthy households are more likely to save their clothes (35 percent) - a $2,000 cocktail dress probably wouldn't fetch much at a tag sale, anyway.
More young adults (aged 18 to 34) hold on to old e-mails than the average consumer does (20 percent vs. 15 percent). One out of five respondents with at least some college education has a cluttered inbox too. Residents of the West keep old e-mails more than people in any other region (19 percent).
For some, junk becomes more appealing when it's free. Nearly 13 percent of Americans say they've picked up used furniture left by the curb.
Who's more likely to cart off a knicked coffee table or a broken-in recliner? Low-income households (18 percent), Northeasterners (16 percent), 45-to-54-year-olds (15 percent), and people with at least some college education (15 percent). Even one out of ten householders making $100,000 or more admits to taking home someone else's garbage. You never know - it might be an antique.
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