Forgive me while I wax a little bit philosophical. My spouse and I have almost completed a fantastically successful kitchen renovation that I've been anticipating ever since we moved into our humble abode. As anyone who's lived through a renovation knows, major projects cause major disruptions. In the process, I've realized just how much time, money, and effort I spend dealing with all the things we own.

Getting things out of the way
We've been using a makeshift basement in the kitchen for months. Our dining room has been a table set up next to the television. All the living room furniture was moved out of the way or put out onto the porch. The living room and the spare bedroom have been filled with cabinets, appliances, and other parts of the new kitchen-in-the-making. The dining room looks like a particularly disorganized high school shop class.

In other words, the entire house has undergone a game of musical chairs, with every room's contents moved into some other room for the duration of the project. Only the bathroom has been spared, and that's only because it's too small to hold a table saw.

What is all this stuff?
It's now time to put everything back where it belongs, which is taking quite a bit of time and causing me to take a serious look at all this stuff I'm spending so much effort to shift around. While digging through the boxes and trying to clear out the clutter, I've come across a number of things that cause me to just shake my head.

Among them: a yogurt maker that got used maybe a half-dozen times, a pantyhose collection that hasn't seen the light of day during this decade, enough plastic food containers to fill three or four refrigerators with leftovers, and four different coffee presses and stovetop espresso makers. (We like our caffeine, evidently.)

Do I need all this stuff? And does it make us happy? The answer, in many cases, is a resounding yes. I'll be clutching certain possessions until my dying day because they make my life so much easier or more organized. Consumer spending also keeps the economy hopping. But, looking at some things I just have to wonder, what was I thinking? And I know I'm not alone.

The business of stuff
The Self Storage Association reports there are 59,657 self-storage and mini-storage facilities in the United States. They range from public companies like Public Storage (NYSE:PSA), U-Store-It (NYSE:YSI), and Extra Space Storage (NYSE:EXR), to thousands of tiny operations run by small business owners. The total market capitalizaton value of the entire self storage industry exceeds $220 billion, and it collected $22.6 billion in gross revenues last year, according to the association's statistics.

In addition, entire businesses, like The Container Store, exist solely to help us categorize, store, and retrieve our stuff when we want it. Based solely on observing people in check-out lines, I've seen how organizational devices also count for big business at other chains, such as Linens 'n Things and Target (NYSE:TGT).

We spend money insuring our stuff, and for good reason. A major auto accident or home fire could be financially disastrous without the protection that insurance provides against major financial losses. Even renters, who don't have a house to protect, would be well advised to get renter's insurance to protect all of their belongings.

On the darker side, stuff can be even more costly when we buy it on credit, eventually paying more than the advertised price for the privilege of having possessions that we can't really afford. All that interest means our stuff costs us more than we know, and we can spend a long time paying for it.

The bottom line
As I reach the end of this renovation project, I've gained new respect for the sheer amount of stuff I already have, and I have a little more gratitude for the land of plenty in which we live. I may also be a little more careful, for a while anyway, when I think I need to go buy something. Chances are pretty good I've already got it lying around here someplace, if I could only find it.

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Fool contributor Mary Dalrymple does not own stock in any company mentioned in this article. She welcomes your feedback. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.