Trending: The Decluttering Lifestyle

Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, brought minimalism to the mainstream. Although it is not a new concept, the minimalist lifestyle is trending across the United States. The movement has inspired people to move into tiny homes, cut their wardrobes, and donate their possessions. Countless bloggers document their forays into minimalism and even the television channel, HGTV, has taken to highlighting the benefits and has three shows on tiny houses in its current lineup. Many entrepreneurs have picked up on this and are figuring out how they can capitalize on the minimalism and decluttering trends.

Millennials in particular are seeking out this minimalist lifestyle. Millennials– the 18-34 demographic make up more than a quarter of the U.S. population and the majority of the workforce. Millennials have a unique set of values around how they choose to spend their money. They grew up during the recession, entered a struggling job market, and must now pay off record amounts of student debt. Retail expert, Robin Lewis, of The Robin Report, explained the consequences of millennial factors, “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.”

Millennials are highly adept at using technology and social media influences many of their purchases. They prefer to spend on experiences rather than on stuff. Seventy-eight percent of millennials—compared to 59% of baby boomers—“would rather pay for an experience than material goods,” according to a survey from Harris Poll and Eventbrite cited on Bloomberg. They favor products marketed as ethical, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. By 2017, Retail Leader expects millennials to spend more than $200 billion each year and about $10 trillion in their lifetimes.

Americans have accumulated more clutter over the last hundred years. In 1930, the average woman only had 36 pieces of clothes in her closet. Today, the average consumer has 120 items of clothing, but 80% go unworn, according to Cladwell, a startup that helps consumers create capsule wardrobes. We spoke with Cladwell CEO and Co-Founder, Blake Smith, about how his company helps consumers free up their lives by owning less stuff. He explained a capsule wardrobe is, “a small number of items chosen to be interchangeable, comprised of things that match [your] coloring, [your] personality and [your] lifestyle.” Cladwell was born when Smith was frustrated by his wardrobe after he moved to Hollywood for a job. He reached out to Christopher Merchich—Cladwell’s other Co-Founder and Head of Fashion and Customer Success—to ask him what he should wear. Merchich responded with a list of 30 items that Smith needed in his wardrobe. Smith loved the experience so much that he decided to make it a business.

Today, the service consists of two parts: a closet cleanout and creating your capsule. “You have to go through your closet. You have to take every single item out, lay it on your bed, look at it and say, ‘Do I love this? And do I wear it often?’ If those two things are true, you should keep that item; if they’re not, then it is taking up space that it doesn’t deserve in your closet,” explained Smith. Cladwell provides helpful instructions, tips and videos to walk the user through this process. Next, Cladwell’s algorithms generate the ideal wardrobe for the individual user. After they check off what they already own, users shop for missing items. “We actually link to brands that we recommend—we are not paid by those brand—but we linked to them because we’re your friend, to help make sure you buy quality as opposed to quantity,” Smith elaborated. The company said a capsule wardrobe saves users $600 per year.

The company currently has tens of thousands of users who use the platform every day. “It seems like it has really struck a chord with our generation right now,” Smith said. Cladwell is also testing an outfit generator service that will help users get dressed every day. The enhancement will help increase brand loyalty and customer engagement among users who pay a quarterly $15-subscription fee. The staying power of Cladwell, however, goes beyond branding and customer engagement. “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. I think we’ve got another 20 years of growth,” Smith said.

The minimalist trend extends beyond stuff and into areas such as housing. Getaway, the first project out of the Millennial Housing Lab, allows people to test out tiny living for $99 per night. Although the company’s tiny cabins are meant for weekend getaways, Getaway is, “Proud to be helping build the Tiny House Movement,” which involves, “a simpler life, being friendlier to the environment, financial security, self-sufficiency, and lots of adventure,” according to the company’s website. These are all values that fit into the millennial lifestyle.

At Fung Global Retail & Technology, we believe the minimalism and decluttering movements will stick around for some time. Even as millennials pay off their debt and garner more disposable income, we believe they will choose to spend their money on experiences—such as traveling, concerts, and eating out—rather than things. Other industry trends support this idea. The sharing economy, in which consumers choose to use the new set of services available through Uber and Airbnb rather than buy cars or timeshares, and the caring economy, comprised of consumers who spend on ethical and sustainable brands, are two examples. We predict companies that provide consumers, particularly millennials, with services that fit into this minimalist and socially conscious lifestyle will see success.

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