When the news of the pandemic first began, so did the survival instincts of panic–buying and stockpiling. However, now as we settle into this new normal, our relationship with consumerism is being interrogated. For many who lost employment, household budgets were slashed overnight. The whim of shopping has all but disappeared. Interruption to supply chains has made getting many products more difficult and certainly less immediate.
As our gratification becomes more delayed, it forces us to be more conscious of what we are purchasing and why we want it in the first place. Combine this with spending more time at home, constantly confronted by our possessions. For many people, this time is prompting a re-evaluation of their material lives and a realignment in priorities going forward.
Even before Coronavirus, many people had begun this journey. As older people downsize and younger people delay home-ownership longer, there has been a marked shift in owning less. With climate change becoming an increasingly motivating factor, many have been adopting a ‘buy-less, waste-less’ approach. Fast fashion is under more scrutiny than ever. Minimalism has been steadily becoming seen as a virtuous, desirable lifestyle. Marie Kondo, with her bestselling book, Netflix show, and KonMari consultants, is already a sensation. When Tidying Up with Marie Kondo premiered last year, ThredUp, a web-based consignment shop in the US, saw an 80% jump in orders for their closet ‘Clean Out Kits.’
Now as people are socially isolating at home, many are using this time to embark on new projects. Home organisation experts have met people halfway by offering tips and methods online. In Ireland, Image Magazine has published a guide for a ‘Cathartic Covid wardrobe cleanse’ as well as a ’30 Day Decluttering Challenge’ to give people structure in this pursuit. This is another way that people can assert control on their environment during this time of crisis. Proponents of minimalism insist cutting back on the items we own helps to lighten our mental load as well—removing distractions and allowing us to appreciate the things we care about. This is an increasingly appealing outcome as many people face the prospect of being homebound for the summer. Brands should consider that this is a habit-forming length of time. While not every consumer will become a fully fledged minimalist, many will emerge with an altered mindset when buying new things.
While a good chunk of people has indeed resorted to online retail therapy, there is undoubtedly an equally large group who have started to see value in being more discerning about spending. Shopping trips have become a concerted operation with people more conscious of what are the most important items on their list. These new ways of living have made many of us more grateful for and resourceful with the things we already have. Therefore, in the face of a transformed economy, brands will need to work harder to earn consumers’ business. However, the crisis has also made the things we do want to buy, because of effort involved, the scarcity or affordability, even more precious. It is this specialness that brands will need to work towards to get on consumers’ newly established shortlists. To apply the principles of Marie Kondo, people may only make room for the brands that ‘spark joy.’