University of California TV Series Looks at Clutter Epidemic in Middle-Class American Homes

LA JOLLA, CA – Contemporary U.S. households have more possessions per home than any society in all of global history. Put simply, Americans sure do love their stuff. But at what point do all of the toys, gadgets and big box consumables that fill their homes become too much? University of California Television’s (UCTV) web series “A Cluttered Life: Middle-Class Abundance,” tackles these questions by following a team of UCLA anthropologists into the stuffed-to-capacity homes of dual income, middle-class American families in order to truly understand the clutter that fills them. The short, three-part series is available for free online viewing at and the UCTV Prime YouTube channel at

“A Cluttered Life: Middle-Class Abundance” is based on the book “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors,” by Jeanne E. Arnold, Anthony Graesch, Enzo Ragazzini, and Elinor Ochs. These researchers were given unprecedented access to the homes of 32 “ordinary” middle-class families to meticulously document how they live. The videos feature interviews with anthropologists Arnold and Ochs of the UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families; Graesch, now on faculty at Connecticut College; and Lyn Repath-Martos, a study participant who offers a refreshingly honest perspective about her family’s home life. The result is a stunning visual ethnography that reveals the material culture of dual-income, child-centered households in America.

A Few Facts from UCTV’s “A Cluttered Life: Middle-Class Abundance”
  • Women who are bothered by their household clutter showed increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Men were unaffected.

  • The U.S. has 3.1% of the world’s children, but consumes 40% of the world’s toys.

  • In dual-income, middle-class American homes, only one in six meals is eaten with the entire family together.

  • Big box stores and grocery stores dedicate an average of 400 linear feet to frozen foods.

  • While refrigerators and pantries of U.S. households are stuffed with convenience foods, studies show they save only about 12 minutes of preparation time per meal.

  • Despite being the least used space in the home, parents prioritize remodeling the master bedrooms over highly trafficked areas like kitchens and bathrooms.

Episode Summaries - “A Cluttered Life: Middle-Class Abundance”:
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Episode 1: Stuff
What’s it like to have a team of anthropologists enter your home to meticulously document your family’s possessions? One study participant shares her experience while researchers explain what they discovered and what it says about contemporary American families. (Hint: Time to clean out the garage and get rid of some of those toys.)

Episode 2: Food
Europeans would be shocked at the amount of food that’s stored in American households. UCLA researchers open pantries and refrigerators to reveal the convenience foods and bulk shopping habits of dual-income, middle-class American families, and assess what the contents say about their lives.

Episode 3: Space
For busy American families, real estate inside the home can be as precious as the land underneath. UCLA anthropologists track how 32 families organize and prioritize their living space, with kitchens as command centers, bathrooms as bottlenecks, and master suites, in some cases, remodeled into hotel-like sanctuaries.

University of California Television (UCTV) draws on the tremendous knowledge resources of the University of California’s ten campuses, five medical schools, three national labs and other affiliated institutions. UCTV is available worldwide via live stream, video archives and podcasting at, on YouTube at and, on iTunesU in the Beyond Campus section, and on cable in select cities throughout California. For a complete list of UCTV’s outlets, visit

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