Commentary

The Burden To Unload

When you get to a certain stage in life, it’s all about decluttering. Clearing the decks of everything from old furniture to old flames. The dozens of cardboard boxes still in the garage from the last move (15 years ago). Layers of furniture crowding the basement like the rings of a tree, paying tribute to evolving tastes. And, of course, kids’ college furniture ranging from the cheapest Jennifer Convertible to foldable dining table and chairs.

According to the US Department of Energy, one-quarter of Americans can’t park even one car in their two-car garages because there’s too much clutter. And thousands of photographs gather dust stored in shoeboxes on the top shelf of the closet. Plus papers upon papers upon papers. Harris Interactive found that 23% of adults incur late payment fees because they lose their bills.

Dozens of new businesses have grown up around this problem to enable downsizing, organizing, decluttering — physically and mentally. Chances are the kids won’t want what you have been saving for them — your mother’s rocking chair, the antique silver or their own kindergarten drawings.

According to one millennial quoted in the Washington Post, “I consider myself a digital hoarder. If I can’t store my memories of something in a computer, I’m probably not going to keep them around.” And in December 2013, Zipcar reported in a survey that 61% of 18-34 year olds picked “experiences” over “possessions.” Which means they’re really not interested in taking your stuff, as sentimental as it may be to you. 

It used to be a no-brainer to put an ad in the Penny Saver to sell an old couch. Then Craigslist became the “go-to” and now there are at least a dozen new apps to help you sell second-hand stuff. One of the newest, called Saily Saily, aspires to create a truly sustainable community by helping individuals sell their used stuff. Others like OfferUp, Close5, and Sello do the same. Move Loot says “it’s the easiest way to buy and sell furniture online.” 

And then there are the photos. As fun as it may be to peruse your hundreds (thousands?) of photographs documenting life events from your honeymoon to your kids’ first day at school, it’s probably time to pare down and digitize. This way, you won’t be forced to toss those treasured moments; you can instead send a box of pictures to GoPhoto or ScanMyPhotosand they will put all your pix on an archival DVD.

And then, you can create an account on sites that make it simple to put everything in your personal cloud. Your digital photos, videos, music and documents (things you can never find like the title to your car, your homeowner’s insurance policy or even your will!) all displayed and organized for you.

As writer Jura Konclus wrote in the Washington Post, “A seismic shift of stuff is underway in homes all over America.” 

Marketers and entrepreneurs need to recognize this movement, which leaves a huge opening for services that speak to the burden boomers feel, ironically enough, to unload.

1 comment about "The Burden To Unload".
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  1. James P Murphy from J P MURPHY & COMPANY, November 19, 2015 at 2:24 p.m.

    Only a mature, intelligent and perceptive adult could have written this. Thank you for putting things in perspective so well and for an enjoyable break from the daily grind.

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