“We need to get rid of all this stuff.” This has been said in my household for as long as I can remember. I never thought anything of this statement, until I realized it was a common one among many of my friends, either still living at home or moving out.
I then started noticing a common thread… I caught an episode of Tiny House, Big Living on HGTV. I came across a book on Amazon (apparently ‘inspired by my shopping trends’) about domestic purging by Marie Kondo, a best-selling author who helps people declutter their lives. I would log on to Instagram and see bloggers showcase their items precisely organized and arranged in a neat square frame. And I started noticing brands – all types of brands – offering to help consumers simplify their lives. Ironically, having a slimmed-down, simplified existence with less stuff has become big business.
Hot tweetaway: Having a slimmed-down, simplified existence with less stuff has become big business insit.es/2oKW9dH via @CoolBrands #declutter
Just listen to George Carlin in this 1986 Comic Relief appearance talking about the importance of stuff in our lives, it will get you to rethink your stuff for sure 😉
Millennials go Minimal
All this got me enticed to examine this cultural shift that is not primarily a result of, or dependent upon, technology. While technology has helped motivate Millennials to streamline their lives and possessions, it has not singlehandedly influenced them to make this lifestyle change. Millennials have not yet had the time or money to accumulate all the material possessions (and associated responsibilities) that are weighing on Baby Boomers and GenXers. On top of this, Millennials are entering the workforce while also paying off their student debt, which makes purchasing material possessions even less of a necessity. Decluttering and living a minimalistic lifestyle is almost the natural progression.
Showcasing experiences over stuff
“A lot of people think that this is a trend and they’re wrong. This is a generational shift based on values and so, it’s going to take a generation for it to shift again. Aesthetic trends come and go, but value-based trends, they have staying power”, says Blake Smith, CEO & Co-founder of Cladwell (a start-up that helps consumers create capsule wardrobes).
Not only does technology help eliminate the need for excess stuff (digital CDs, photos, books, etc.), but social media has encouraged this generation to showcase their experiences and to place an emphasis on going out and experiencing rather than buying.
“Seventy-eight percent of Millennials – compared to 59% of baby boomers – would rather pay for an experience than material goods,” according to a survey by Harris Poll and Eventbrite cited on Bloomberg.
So, Millennials are opting for experiences over stuff, they are going out more frequently than the average consumer and they are spending less on these experiences.
Hot tweetaway: #SocialMedia encourage #Millennials to showcase #experiences over #stuff insit.es/2oKW9dH via @CoolBrands #geny #nextgen
How brands support the decluttering lifestyle
With a lesser need for stuff and rather a desire for experiences, Millennials have greatly reshaped the retail industry.
“This is a generation that is bigger than the Boomers in population, but their wallets are smaller, and they are more into the style of life than the stuff of life. This is a big threat to retail. They’re not into a lot of shopping.”, Robin Lewis of The Robin Report in an interview with Forbes.
Hot tweetaway: #Millennials are more into the style of life, than the stuff of life insit.es/2oKW9dH via @CoolBrands #experiencesoverstuff #geny
Decluttering websites have partnered with social media to promote Millennials to get rid of clothing they don’t love, further promoting a more simplified and streamlined existence. While browsing the blog Advice from a Twenty Something, I discovered a website called Cladwell Capsules. With their mission statement being “A Smaller Wardrobe. A Bigger Life”, Cladwell promotes having less clothing for a more sustainable and free lifestyle.
“Being sustainable and responsible is not about getting more, it’s about getting smarter about what we have. Cladwell believes that cheap clothes hurt our wallets, the environment, and the workers who make them.”, as stated in Cladwell’s mission.
This mantra is incredibly appealing to the 20 something females looking for a simple, fun (and Instagram aesthetic approved) lifestyle. The combination of saving money, interacting on a web-based platform and creating a more streamline and personal style is the dream for many young women. And this got me intrigued by how big name brands were approaching people, not just the 20 something women; what kind of products and messages could be crafted to inspire people to declutter, own less, and winnow out unneeded possessions? I came across two brands – one-for-profit and one non-profit – and checked out what they are saying.
Hot tweetaway: Opportunities for brands to support #Millennials’ decluttering lifestyle insit.es/2oKW9dH via @CoolBrands #declutter
The Wall Street Journal reported that IKEA is developing products to tap into the growing pool of consumers: those living in tiny places. Innovations such as movable walls and sliding power sockets make it easier to create sub-rooms and move furniture around. As people continue to opt for smaller living areas, IKEA is devoting significant R&D on trying to figure out how to create flexible interiors through the use of sliding walls, plug-in wardrobes and collapsible beds.
Goodwill Industries is running a campaign that encourages people to reduce and declutter while helping families. In addition to helping less fortunate families, the ads also remind consumers that Goodwill helps fund job training and placement opportunities for people with disabilities or disadvantages. Goodwill’s website has a Donation Impact Calculator and provides links to the nearest donation center. One of my favorite ads informs readers that “Your clothes that are too small can do big things for others” and is supported by the tagline, “Donate Stuff. Create Jobs“.
At the end of the day, it seems that Neil Young, that perennial Millennial, might have been preaching to my generation’s choir when he sang:
I used to have a treasure chest
Got so heavy that I had to rest
I let it slip away from me
Didn’t need it anyway.
So I let it slip away.