Self storage warehouse with boxes inside

The New Storage Industry That’s Sparking Joy

10 min read • May 25, 2021 • Kayla Voigt

Does this “spark joy”?

Coined by organization guru Marie Kondo, this phrase has become part of the everyday vernacular of decluttering. With a renewed emphasis on minimalism, Kondo’s takeover of all things household-related began in 2014. Others have followed, like the Home Edit duo Joanna Teplin and Clea Shearer.

Now, Americans have spent more time at home than ever before—and they’re realizing just how much stuff they don’t need. “[People] are also spending more time at home, so they are noticing their clutter more and being more inconvenienced by it,” Sharon Lowenheim, aka Organizing Goddess, told Apartment Therapy.

Grpah showing time spent in residential areas

Source: “Coronavirus: How much more time are people spending at home?” Al Jazeera

For an industry predicated on the idea that you can’t have too much stuff, it’s surprising how many things it takes to get organized. 

The Psychology of Clutter

We all know that clutter makes us feel worse—but that doesn’t stop the constant engine of consumerism, even when we’re stuck at home. Study after study shows that organized spaces make us feel healthier and happier, which leads to longer lives. 

The latest demand shift toward organization more likely comes from living through unprecedented, uncertain times—a chance to add control when it’s impossible to control current events, like the COVID-19 pandemic. “During times of uncertainty, people usually search for activities that may help them control this uncertainty,” psychologist Martin Lang told Time. “It’s pretty well established that levels of chronic stress are rising, so you can draw this parallel that when people generally are more stressed—from work or life—ordering things around them is a response.”

A New Design Aesthetic

The pandemic changed several key design elements—namely, eschewing Scandanavian minimalism for more color, squiggles, and natural spaces—but 1 trend that seems to have real staying power is the ROYGBIV-style “shelfies” inspired by the Home Edit. 

 

 

“Even if you’re not one of the Home Edit’s 1.6 million Instagram followers, you’ve almost certainly seen the aesthetic that it has, if not invented, at the very least codified; a look that can best be summed up as Pinterest organization porn: rows of pristine white shelves filled to no more than 75% capacity, pantries with paper towels artfully arranged in the shape of a pyramid,” writes Amanda FitzSimmons for the New York Times. “If you search for the hashtag #pantry on Instagram, you’ll turn up 400,000 images, many of them kitchen closets organized in the style of the Home Edit.”

Another new trend? “Japandi,” fusing Scandanavian functionality and minimalism with Japanese elements, which fits neatly with Kondo’s KonMari brand and organization company. “The perfect fusion of Japanese and Scandinavian, Japandi design focuses on simplistic, minimalistic designs that are aesthetically pleasing but rooted in function,” writes Ashley Knierem for The Spruce. “Expect to find a plethora of natural materials, muted colors, clean lines, and minimal, yet well-curated, furnishings.”

 

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A post shared by KonMari (@konmari.co)

We may see these trends filter into office design in a few years. But more importantly, these trends reflect a growing need for an aesthetically pleasing life that matches our Instagram feeds. Consumer demand is shifting, and new business models and products rise to fill it.

Professional Organizers in Demand

While not everyone can be like Reese Witherspoon or Khloe Kardashian and have the Home Edit style their 5,000-square-foot closet, more and more Americans are turning to professional organizers for help. 

“Professional organizers and productivity consultants work a whole spectrum of services to help people,” National Association of Productivity and Organization Professionals (NAPO) executive director Jennifer Pastore Monroy told the New York Times. “The relationship that clients build with a professional organizer is a very personal one, and so your experience will depend on what you’re trying to get out of it.”

NAPO counts 3,500 members—and the profession is still growing. KonMari provides its own database of certified consultants. Professional organizers can complete a course in the KonMari method and pay annual membership to be included.

“I had a 10-year career in construction, and when we had a baby, the early mornings and long days were just not compatible with raising a child,” Phoebe Cusack, a Boston-based consultant, told Vox. “Being a certified KonMari consultant allows me to make my own schedule and spend the time I want to spend with our daughter. And most of my clients embark on their Tidying Marathons because they want to spend more [and] higher-quality time with their friends and family.”

But will people ever stop buying stuff in the first place?

The Rise of the Storage Industry

If these decluttering empires have anything to say about it, no.

“Over the years, my followers and readers reached out to me to ask about the products I use every day that spark joy,” Marie Kondo told FastCompany about her product line. “I’m not saying the fewer things you have, the better. The emphasis is more on whether you are savoring the love you have for your belongings and taking the time to care for them. If you have a huge house with ample storage, it’s perfectly natural to have a lot of things.”

Elaborate organizational storage as a product isn’t a new concept. The Container Store struggled initially during the pandemic, but after a few months at home (and with the Home Edit’s Netflix show), sales have bounced back—up 17.8% in October 2020, with online sales up 87%—with stocks at their highest point in March 2021.

This need for organization won’t end when we leave our homes again. As long as Americans value the pursuit of stuff, the storage industry will be there. “‘The Home Edit’ is less a show than an elaborate infomercial, the kind where people struggle with some onerous household task in black-and-white and then relax into color when they obtain some new miracle product,” writes Kyle Chayka for the New Yorker. “Kondo’s store and Shearer and Teplin’s brand ultimately operate on the same mixed message: dealing with your stuff is easier if you buy even more of it.”

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Kayla Voigt

Always in search of adventure, Kayla hails from Hopkinton, MA, the start of the Boston Marathon. You can find her at the summit of a mountain or digging in to a big bowl of pasta when she's not writing. Say hi on Instagram @klvoigt.