THE BLOG
01/28/2016 02:44 pm ET Updated Jan 28, 2017

How Much Enough Is Enough?

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How do we determine when enough is...well...enough? Dictionary.com defines enough as "adequate for the want or need; sufficient to the purpose, to satisfy the desire; an adequate quantity or number; sufficiency." Now stop and think about how many of each things in your drawers or closet. How many pairs of jeans do you have? How many panties? How many t-shirts? How many pairs of shoes?

In a study conducted by the UK company Gocompare.com, researchers found that the average woman has more than 19 pairs of shoes and spends more than U.S. $25,000 during her lifetime on shoes (and that's if she's not buying high-end labels...since the study says the money is spent on approximately 469 pairs of shoes over a woman's life.)

I admit to owning close to 100 pairs of shoes and that I could go for a couple of months of not doing laundry before I'd run out of clean underwear. I live in an age of super abundance, and it is this super abundance that helps organization like The Freecycle Network thrive and keeps Goodwill stores stocked with merchandise. (If you've never heard of Freecycle, it is a free member-organization where people post items they have extra of or would like to donate and others post what they need to see if anyone can fulfill that need. The objective is to keep stuff out of landfills.)

But our desire to possess extends far beyond clothing and shoes. Many of us have shelves or boxes of books; hundreds, if not thousands, of CDs, vinyl, and/or music downloads; collections of keepsakes; dozens of mugs; and a bunch of stuff in the closet, drawer, or garage that we're keeping just in case we need it. As I look around the house, I realize that even our dog has accumulated multiple beds and nearly three dozen toys sporting various stages of "decomp." And of course, having more than enough can extend to electronic things, too. I, like many people, have multiple e-mail addresses and websites, half a dozen social media accounts, and way too many e-mails at any given time in my folders.Our electronic worlds are often as cluttered or more cluttered than our physical spaces.

In From Naked Ape to Superspecies: Humanity and the Global Eco-Crisis by David Suzuki and Holly Dressel, the authors write that since the 1950s, "we've almost tripled the amount of material goods in the average North American's possession." And yet many of us rarely reflect on what we have.

In late September 2014, our dishwasher malfunctioned and then its supply line stuck open and flooded two different stories of our house. Flooring, walls, ceilings, lighting, cabinets, counters--everything had to be gutted and replaced. In times of disaster, we are forced to determine what we need and what we can live without. As the abatement and demolition companies came in, and the packers, we asked ourselves questions like how many mixing bowls and mugs do we really need? What important items and childhood momentos are worth trying to save? As we're nearing the end of the rebuild and unpacking the boxes that contained our pre-flood lives, I find myself asking "does someone need these things more than I do?" (My usual rule is if I haven't worn it or used it in six months to a year, then I find someone who will use it or I donate it to charity. Maybe I should apply a similar time frame to my inbox, folders, and old computers, iPods, and Kindles that are collecting dust.)

Walt Whitman wrote, "I have learned that to be with those I like is enough." How do you define enough?