To Keep or Discard? A Cultural Approach to Decluttering Possessions

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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Decluttering practitioners and organizational gurus have emerged to guide consumers on how to manage their possessions and the home environment. For instance, the KonMari Method for decluttering and tidying one’s home by discarding and organizing possessions has created a lot of buzz among consumers, also in Finland. This study aims to provide insights on how decluttering relates to consumers’ relationships with their possessions, and what kinds of meanings are attached to clutter and decluttering. Moreover, as decluttering has been previously studied as part of the voluntary simplicity lifestyle in the stream of consumer and marketing research, the aim is also to understand whether decluttering possessions is part of a larger shift towards simplicity and non-materiality in consumers’ lifestyles. In order to holistically understand the phenomenon of decluttering one’s home from a cultural perspective, nine interviews with Finnish consumers and an analysis of relevant decluttering self-help literature were conducted. The data was analysed using a hermeneutic approach. The findings suggest that although discarding possessions is one of the most significant elements in decluttering projects, a lot of emphasis is also placed on the items that remain after decluttering. Clutter and decluttering also appear to relate to the culturally constructed views on order as something to aspire after and maintain, and disorder as something to be avoided. Decluttering was further portrayed as making everyday life easier. The meanings related to clutter and decluttering also extended beyond the material home environment, as both were associated with social and conceptual meanings. According to the findings of this study, consumers may also simplify their possessions without adopting the voluntary simplicity lifestyle.
Thesis advisor
Tillotson, Jack
Toyoki, Sammy
Schouten, John
possessions, disposal, decluttering, clutter
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