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Disposable Halloween and the ghastly future of the interiors industry

It’s Halloween Eve and I bring you spooky facts and terrifying thoughts about the future of home decoration... Want to future proof your seasonal moments? Follow me into the dungeon of consumer behaviour… (please do read on, it IS scary…)

Credit: dhgate

As a someone who works with trends and the future, it has been both interesting and a relief to observe how the environment and its associated topics of sustainability and waste are gradually being woven tighter and more significantly into the fabric of both everyday conversation and business strategy across so many industries.

It’s not just single use items like cotton buds, drinking straws and coffee cups that we need to worry about, but the things we own and use for a while and then decide to throw away because we are bored with them. Thanks to economics, we still believe we have a right to do that. But… that belief is changing.

A reason for it is that we’ve recognised that our world is full – full of ‘things’ and objects that we decorate ourselves and our lives with, things that we use to express our personalities. Things that we don’t ever really need (and we know we don’t, because we throw them out). We are ‘stuffocated’ (to use James Wallman’s term), and have been for some time.

However, we aren’t there yet. And we certainly aren’t there when it comes to seasonal and celebration occasions. Halloween is still an exception to the rule. As is Christmas. And Valentines. And Fastelavn (one for the Danes… a Scandinavian holiday involving fancy dress and a cat in a barrel...). All moments involving short lived decorations and outfits and sometimes plastic pumpkin candleholders. We don’t keep them until next year. We throw them out and buy new next time.

So here is my spooky fact for you: around 12,500 tonnes of Halloween costumes are sent to landfill every year in the UK. Put that into context: 300,000 tonnes of clothing is thrown away in the UK on an annual basis. These are significant statistics.

Charming, but will you still have it next year?

I’m British, but I live in Denmark. I wish I were able to say that Denmark is a leading light in the use of reusable, natural decorations, but sadly it's not, anymore. Behaviour has changed and despite a culture that embraces nature and the outdoors, it’s also a culture that puts full gusto into seasonal, hygge, home decoration AND into keeping up with the majority. That adds up to an environmental disaster led by the common practice of replacing your seasonal candlestick when a new design is available.

Currently, the clothing industry is coming under fire for its waste and over production. But candlesticks, cushions and armchairs are not much different to clothing. They are a tool for self-expression, and home decoration is rising in interest as a way of expressing yourself. So it really is only a matter of time before the interiors industry is next in the firing line.

People want less stuff, and the world needs less stuff. This is the future we are moving towards. You cannot avoid it. You need to work with it.

It’s not a future to fear, but as a producer it’s one to be excited by. There are creative problems to be solved, and new materials and business models to explore. These are opportunities to refresh and stimulate a business, and a way to shine the light on a brand from a different angle – one that has a firm footing in the future.

Things to think about as a designer, marketeer or strategist, and as a human:

  • Are you focused on selling, re-using or upcycling?

  • What are the materials you are working with? Are they future proof?

  • Are you solving the problems your consumers do and will have, or are you just giving them new problems to deal with?

I regularly speak about ‘the stuffocation generation’ and how to people who don’t want to buy. It’s an area of special research interest at The Future Thief. If you want to book me for a presentation or chat more about what it means for you in the future, please get in touch. I’d love to help.

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