Webinar | The Future of Stuff
Trends Briefing: 29th July 2021 | 9am-10am | Register here
It can feel like society’s mind is already made up when it comes to the accumulation of material possessions. Thousands of years of Buddhism has taught people that letting go of our attachment to objects is vital to enlightenment and a decade of Marie Kondo has taught us that decluttering and organising possesses a “life-changing magic”.
We are not all Buddhist, and we have not all read Marie Kondo, but as the scrutiny over the environmental impacts and sustainability of our current patterns of consumption grows, it seems that the writing is on the wall when it comes to our current levels of material consumption.
And yet we remain stubbornly attached to our objects. New products, and new minor upgrades on products we already have, are often released to enormous fanfare. We no longer have CD or DVD collections as we can increasingly stream content digitally, but we do so through a proliferating series of devices from smartphones and tablets to smart TVs and smart speakers. Rising sales of vinyl and cassettes also indicate that for some people, some stuff is just being replaced by other stuff more imbued with nostalgia.
Prior to the pandemic, the anti-stuff mentality had reached something of a crescendo. IKEA’s CEO had stated that we had probably reached ‘peak stuff’, the experience economy had become an entrenched feature of mature consumer societies and the sharing economy had found its feet. The status quo in the binaries of ‘object vs. experience’ and ‘access vs. ownership’ had begun to reshape the economy and consumers’ experiences of the world.
However, restricted to our homes, unable to fully participate in society and its abundant leisure opportunities, we turned to stuff for comfort and for entertainment. Lockdowns saw surges in sales of televisions, loungewear and exercise equipment as we sought to live fuller lives within four walls.
How will the experience of the pandemic change our relationship with ‘stuff’? Post-Covid, will we resume our transition to less stuff or have our experiences of the last year changed what we value? And as digital ‘stuff’ becomes more important, what are the implications for sharing, owning, selling and donating?