The big business of buying less: unpacking the rise and rise of ‘decluttering’

We take a look at the technology that’s helping to curb your hoarding habits...

You’d have had to be living under an untameable amount of strewn paperwork and outgrown clothing to have missed the seemingly unstoppable craze for decluttering. What started within a handful of small (yet spotless) corners of social media, with then little-known ‘cleanfluencers’ offering tips on everything from folding your towels to positioning your pot plants — has swiftly become serious business.

So serious in fact, that the household cleaners market is now predicted to grow from £21.4 billion to £30.7 billion by 2024. And this January, following the release of the headline-hitting Marie Kondo’s Netflix show, charity shops have reported a record number of donations, spurred by people taking the plunge and culling their wardrobes. As Alix Walker put it for Stylist, “somehow, and without irony, 2019 has become the year we became obsessed with watching other people clean their toilets.”

But it isn’t just in our home maintenance habits that are undergoing a thorough spring clean. Recent years have seen a seismic shift away from a ‘more is more’ approach to consumer culture, towards an appreciation for minimalistic design; mindful technological consumption; and a meteoric rise in takings for the Japanese lifestyle brands that trade in the tastefully pared-back.

So just what is it about stripping back that’s sparked so much interest — and in a technological age — what are the wisest, long-lasting investments you can be making to streamline your lifestyle?

The smartphones offering a digital detox...

The discussion surrounding our skyrocketing consumption of digital data is not a new one. But, if you feel as though your scrolling habit is beginning to take its toll on everything from your social life to your sleeping pattern, then it might be time to free up a little more mind space. All this might sound oxymoronic, but it seems that app developers and smartphone manufacturers are working to help you adapt — and figuratively ‘declutter’ — with free apps such as Flipd and Forest working to curb your screen time and boost your productivity.

Most smartphones also now offer a comprehensive breakdown of your screen time and data usage, to help you set goals where you can see that your habits are most detrimental.

In their design of the Pixel 3, Google have taken it one step further, and incorporated a range of features to further ensure that users are taking enough time away from their handsets. Their Digital Wellbeing Dashboard can set app timers and reduce distractions — you can also flip the phone over to activate ‘Flip to Shhh’ and silence your notifications.

Your dining companions will thank you for it.

The technology that’s reducing your paper trail…

According to Helen Sanderson, author of the Home Declutter Kit, one of the best things you can do to create a lot more physical and mental space for yourself is to go paperless. “Paperwork accumulates fast,” she warns, “so avoid clutter by switching to paper-free wherever possible. The less you have coming in, the more mental space you have for being present and enjoying life.”

"The less paperwork you have coming in, the more mental space you have for being present and enjoying life...”

If there’s anything we’ve learnt from the astronomic rise of digital banking, it’s that there really is no need to receive monthly bank statements through the post anymore.

In fact, we’re struggling to conceive any key correspondence that cannot now be done (with far greater efficiency, and a much lower risk of accidentally ending up in the recycling bin) from your handset. Take a look at our list of the tech start-ups to watch out for in 2019 to find out which other businesses are now working to make your life a whole lot easier.

Not only will cutting down your papertrail mean far fewer over-stuffed drawers in your home and a little extra peace of mind, it is also a simple lifestyle change that can help combat excessive waste.

“OK Google, where did I put my keys…”

Whether it takes the form of a family PA called Alexa, or a tiny voice living inside your handset — voice recognition AI has gone from being the plot device behind a mind-bending Spike Jonze film, to a tool more commonplace than a pencil sharpener. Now, these ethereal companions are able to help you keep a track of your most essential belongings as you seek to live a less-cluttered life.

“One of the biggest fears people have around decluttering is that you’ll move things around the house and forget where you’ve put them,” says Sanderson.

Her handy tip for making sure you don’t spend days searching for your car keys is to tell your home assistant where you’ve placed them. Google Home Hub now includes a feature where you can ask it to remember the location of things like your passport and driving license, so you’ll never be caught short at the last moment.

Get online and sell what you throw...

Thanks to the soaring successes of brands such as Depop, Gumtree and Shpock, there are people who are quite literally making their fortunes on start-up selling sites. So, if you were looking for any more incentives to start clearing out your home, consider the extra income it might garner you.

To help you along the way, the Pixel 3 features a camera that is able to take a photo of an object and use image recognition technology to scan the internet and pull up information about it — be it a painting, a piece of furniture or an antique.

So, if you’re wondering whether that old bike that’s been sitting in your garage is worth any money, this is a great way of quickly categorising what’s worth keeping, donating and selling.

Looking for more exciting gadgets? Take a look at the wearable tech designed to improve your workouts…

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