By Simon Bond

I have just returned from 6 days in Asia; Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore in 6 days. Hardly glamorous stuff (all trips up the back by the way) but very enlightening and beneficial considering where things sit right now from an economic standpoint. When I travel I always arrive at the airport at least three hours early so I can "people watch"; watch their behaviour and their habits, if they shop, where they go, why, whether it's business or pleasure, etc. Thats because airports these days are shopping centres where airplanes come and go and you can get a great snapshot of things in a contained environment. By the way, in Singapore, an airplane takes off or lands every 90 seconds.

Walking the streets and talking to many people in Shanghai I got the feeling that there is a real underbelly of discontent, a simmering below the surface. People are worried about their jobs, costs are rising, yes there is inflation out there, and there is a real slowdown underway. Anyone who tells you that there isn't simply has to go there and do their own homework. Alibaba and Tencent only employ a measly few compared to the amount of traditional jobs that are created in manufacturing that are being lost right now.

In Hong Kong the punters are also worried, the management of the hotel I stayed at gave me a great snapshot of the "new" consumer. I stayed in Causeway Bay for the reason that it is the centrepiece of retail and shopping in Hong Kong. But they are worried, very worried. People's habits have, and continue to change, visitors are booking last minute, staying shorter and buying less. 

They described it to me as now being all about the "experience", consumers are still eating out, spending more on small holidays and on health and fitness but they are pulling back on material items. It was also the same in Singapore. So three out of three gives you more than just a snapshot, it gives you a fuller and rounder picture of where this is heading. 

What I did find of particular interest was the increasing amount of book titles devoted to minimalism, how to live a more frugal lifestyle, how to get by with less, how to do better with less and the life changing magic of "tidying up". In my opinion all due to the lingering and ongoing effects of the "great recession".

Most of us know we own too much stuff. We feel the weight and burden of our clutter. We tire of cleaning and managing and organising. Our toy rooms are messy, our drawers don’t close, and our closets are filled from top to bottom. The evidence of clutter is all around us.

Today, increasing data is being collected about our homes, our shopping habits, and our spending. The research is confirming our observation: we own too much stuff. And it is robbing us of life, but thats changing and you should look to whether these changes underway affect your investments and the sectors you are in.

Below are 21 surprising statistics about our clutter that help us understand how big of a problem our accumulation has actually become.

1. There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).

2. The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years (NPR).

3. And still, 1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage—the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades (New York Times Magazine).

4. While 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle (U.S. Department of Energy).

5. The United States has upward of 50,000 storage facilities, more than five times the number of Starbucks. Currently, there is 7.3 square feet of self storage space for every man, woman and child in the nation. Thus, it is physically possible that every American could stand—all at the same time—under the total canopy of self storage roofing (SSA).

6. British research found that the average 10-year-old owns 238 toys but plays with just 12 daily (The Telegraph).

7. 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally (UCLA).

8. The average American woman owns 30 outfits—one for every day of the month. In 1930, that figure was nine (Forbes).

9. The average American family spends $1,700 on clothes annually (Forbes).

10. While the average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year (Huffington Post).

11. Nearly half of American households don’t save any money (Business Insider).

12. Our homes have more television sets than people. And those television sets are turned on for more than a third of the day—eight hours, 14 minutes (USA Today).

13. Some reports indicate we consume twice as many material goods today as we did 50 years ago (The Story of Stuff).

14. Currently, the 12 percent of the world’s population that lives in North America and Western Europe account for 60 percent of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent (Worldwatch Institute).

15. Americans donate 1.9% of their income to charitable causes (NCCS/IRS). While 6 billion people worldwide live on less than $13,000 a year (National Geographic).

16. Americans spend more on shoes, jewellery, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education (Psychology Today).

17. Shopping malls outnumber high schools. And 93% of teenage girls rank shopping as their favorite pastime (Affluenza).

18. Women will spend more than eight years of their lives shopping (The Daily Mail).

19. Over the course of our lifetime, we will spend a total of 3,680 hours or 153 days searching for misplaced items. The research found we lose up to nine items every day—or 198,743 in a lifetime. Phones, keys, sunglasses, and paperwork top the list (The Daily Mail).

20. Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on nonessential goods—in other words, items they do not need (The Wall Street Journal).

21. The $8 billion home organisation industry has more than doubled in size since the early 2000’s — growing at a staggering rate of 10% each year (Uppercase).

The numbers paint a jarring picture of excessive consumption and unnecessary accumulation. Fortunately, the solution is not difficult. The invitation to own less is an invitation to freedom, intentionality, and passion.

And it can be discovered at your nearest drop-off center. And it's going to be, just wait and watch.

Awakened by the economic crisis, people are returning to old-fashioned values—optimism, self-reliance, practicality, hard work, thrift, community, honesty, kindness — and they are applying these ideals in their relationships and their careers, and in their consumption habits as well.

For mine thats a good thing but it will impact how you invest, and what you invest in.