Organizing Megatrends

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Back in 1982, John Naisbitt wrote a book called “Megatrends: Ten New Directions for Transforming Our Lives.” I remember loving this term –“megatrends” – and have always enjoyed considering how we will live, work, rest, and play in the future. Megatrends impact all aspects of life, including how organizing and productivity. Therefore, I’ve decided to share some “Organizing Megatrends” that are unfolding now in the early 21st century.

Organizing Megatrends

Skyrocketing growth in the Professional Organizing and Productivity Industry

The professional organizing and productivity fields will continue to grow at a rapid pace. A variety of factors are contributing to this trend, including:

  • The proliferation of books, TV shows, personalities, and apps on the topic of organizing and productivity. “Getting Organized” is now a common cover story for publications and websites, as well as a top new year’s resolution. The question of how to be more productive has also become a hot topic, fed by an ever-quickening pace of life pushing the need to make the most of every minute. As a result, Americans have both an elevated desire and expectation for the way in which we manage our time, space, and belongings.
  • The hiring of professional assistance to achieve organizing and productivity goals is increasingly mainstream. Where once a homeowner might have been embarrassed to seek help, individuals now view an investment in professional help as a wise use of time and resources. Similarly, businesses see value in bringing in productivity specialists to improve operations and increase employee effectiveness.
Increased Compassion & Support for Chronic Disorganization

In the past, it was commonly assumed (and therefore expected) that people could and should be able to organize their lives and make good use of their time. Those who struggled often felt embarrassed or confused as to why they were finding these functions so difficult. Fortunately, great effort, study, and research has gone into understanding why some people struggle in these areas. Organizations such as the National Association for Organizing and Productivity Professionals (NAPO) and the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) have taken the lead in training professionals to understand the myriad causes of disorganization, as well as developing strategies for how to provide relief, support, and guidance.

In the next decade, awareness and understanding of challenges such as ADD, hoarding disorder, traumatic brain injury (TBI), learning disabilities, shopping addiction, and other issues will continue to grow. Properly trained professionals will be key in helping individuals thrive in the face of difficult circumstances.

Increasing Specialization in the Organizing and Productivity Industry

In the early days, many professionals offered generalized services to anyone in need of help with organizing and productivity. As the industry has grown and matured, many professionals have chosen to develop niche capabilities to meet a variety of specific needs. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Productivity coaching
  • Digital organizing
  • Workplace system design
  • Downsizing and move management
  • Home inventory creation and management
  • Office and workflow design
  • Closet design
  • Floor planning
  • Feng Shui
  • Student organizing
  • Photo organizing
  • Chronic disorganization (see above)
Expanding Commitment to Sustainability

Keeping in line with the nation as a whole, the organizing industry will continue to value eco-friendly strategies and solutions. For instance:

  • Organizers, junk haulers, resellers, and recyclers will increasingly divert as much unwanted material as possible away from landfills/incinerators and into settings where it can be recycled or reused. Industries which find a way to profitably repurpose and recycle unwanted goods will thrive.
  • Towns and municipalities will provide more green alternatives for disposing of unwanted goods. In addition to processing of paper, aluminum, glass, and plastic, look for more ways to easily recycle, electronics, mattresses, paint, lightbulbs, batteries, and more. Some towns are even beginning to offer food scrap recycling programs to compost food waste.
  • The secondary market (e.g. Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor.com, The Real Real, Poshmark, etc.) will continue to grow in popularity, especially as the supply of new goods lags due to supply chain issues.
  • Sustainable organizing products will gain market share. Clear/plastic will continue to be popular for high-use needs, but materials such as rattan, seagrass, hyacinth, bamboo, wood, and even metal are all on the rise.
“Styling” Will Be Increasingly Important to Customers

As the world shifts to a visual interface (TikTok, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram…), visual impact has grown in importance. Consumers are regularly exposed to images of closets, pantries, kitchens, and offices in which items are beautifully arranged and elegantly labeled. Organizing megastars such as Marie Kondo, Martha Stewart, and The Home Edit now offer product lines full of beautiful containers and other pieces to make your home look like a magazine cover.

While functionality is still fundamental when it comes to organizing and productivity, aesthetic appeal is now a close second. Clients want spaces they can be proud to show off, meaning storage and furniture that is as attractive and decorative as it is practical.

Self-Storage Will Continue to Grow

The self-storage industry, which began in the US in the 1960s, has been growing by leaps and bounds. According to the New York Times magazine, approximately 1 in 10 Americans now rent offsite storage. For perspective, there are now more self-storage facilities in the US than McDonalds and Starbucks combined.

Self-storage often begins as a simple solution to a short-term need, such as a temporary place for items to remain during a relocation or while an estate is processed. Tight living quarters during the pandemic further drove demand as people altered their living situations to adapt to the changing environment. Entry fees for storage units are typically low and therefore offer a simple and affordable solution. At the same time, once people have placed items into a self-storage unit, they tend to remain inside for a long time. Due to high switching costs, incremental rents often seem less painful than seeking alternative arrangements.

A recent study by Mordor Intelligence estimated the 2020 value of the US self-storage industry at $48 billion and expects it to reach a value of $64.7 billion by 2026. Looks like self-storage is here to stay.

Photo Management is About to Explode

Almost every client I have is drowning in digital photos. Many people have them on their phones, in the cloud, and stuck on old computers. Few have them sufficiently organized and backed up.

The ease of taking digital photos, and relatively low cost of storing them, has resulted in a glut of digital images. The notion of filtering and organizing these photos often feels overwhelming. Most people are not doing it. As the next generation passes on, figuring out what to do with all of these images will become an increasingly popular topic.

Admittedly, the ability to store them in “tiny” spaces (e.g., thumb drives, cloud storage, hard drives, etc.) makes dealing with the problem feel less urgent than grappling with handed-down furniture or sets of china. Nevertheless, eventually an inability to find and enjoy wanted photos will become a problem.

The Association of Photo Managers consists of professional organizers who have training and skills to meet this particular challenge. Most people feel an emotional attachment to their photos, and want to have access to them, but need help figuring out how to go about it. This is probably the next “big thing” when it comes to getting organized.

Homes Design Will Be More Work-Friendly

If the pandemic has one lasting impact, it will most likely be the way in which we work. While not all people can work from home, many can and do. Additionally, while employees are returning to offices, it is not necessarily in the same format as it was in 2019. Hybrid setups will continue to be popular for the foreseeable future, which has implications for how we set up our homes. A few elements that will become common include:

  • Multiple workspaces. Especially in new construction, homes will have multiple possible workstations on the first floor. These will be anything from areas that can be privatized via a screen or panel door to multiple rooms designed for working. Large, open-concept spaces, which present a challenge for making calls and staying focused, will become less mainstream. Improved soundproofing and distinct spaces will be more popular for new homebuyers .
  • Easy-to-access charging for electronics will become increasingly important. Expect more outlets per wall, as well as USB ports and wireless charging options built into furniture. Garages will also be increasingly designed to accommodate EV charging.
  • High quality Wi-Fi will become critical for communities looking to attract remote workers. “Five nines” will be demanded. This term is used to describe the availability of a computer or a service at 99.999 percent of the time it is required. In other words, the system or service is only unavailable for 5.39 minutes throughout the year for planned or unplanned downtime. Since remote work is possible only if there is reliable Wi-Fi and cell service, look to see “five nines” start popping up on websites for homes, apartments, vacation destinations, and VRBO rentals.
Increased Focus on “Using Every Inch”

The housing market is tight and getting tighter. Combine this with rising interest rates and the threat of escalating inflation and many people are being pressured to make the most of the space they have. Look for an increased appetite for:

  • Multi-purpose rooms … e.g., the home office by day that is the dining room by night
  • Multi-function furniture… e.g., murphy beds, expanding tables, storage ottomans, etc.
  • Accessory Dwelling Units … small, independent living units built on the same lot as a stand along house.
Handheld Devices Become Increasingly Integral in Daily Life

With just about everyone looking down at their phones these days, you may wonder how we could possibly become more dependent upon them. Given the ease of gathering, storing, and accessing digital information, look for basic life functions to be increasingly tied to our “phones” (i.e. handheld computers). If you are not already, look to be using your phone for:

  • Banking & Commerce (e.g., online shopping, apps, Venmo, Zelle)
  • Security (keyless entry, Docusign, Ring)
  • Health (e.g., vaccination records, test results, medical records, prescription fulfillment)
  • Travel (e.g., Clear, Global Entry)
  • Planning & Task Management (e.g., calendars, task lists)
  • Communication (e.g., Email, phone calls, texting, Zoom, Teams, Facetime)
  • Home Management (e.g., Smarthome apps, Homezada, Pinventory, Nest)
  • Navigation (e.g., Maps, Waze)
  • Information (Google, Bing, online databases)
  • Entertainment (social media, gaming, streaming, ticketing, e-reading)
  • Memory Making (e.g., photographs, Dropbox, Photos)
  • Wellness (Noom, Headspace, Classpass)

*     *     *

Are you seeing these “Megatrends?” Are you seeing other trends on the horizon in the world of organizing and productivity?

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26 thoughts on “Organizing Megatrends”

    1. It was fun putting this together. I’ve had it on the “back burner” for awhile, and am happy to finally have put it all together!

  1. “Properly trained professionals will be key in helping individuals thrive in the face of difficult circumstances.” This is SO true!

    It’s one thing to hire a college student or someone with a side hustle to “just do a little organizing,” but the needs of people with chronic disorganization, brain differences, depression, grief, aging challenges, etc. require professionals with appropriate backgrounds, experience, and commitment to ethical standards. I love how you laid out all of these trends – it’s an exciting time to be in our industry!
    Sara Skillen recently posted…Stories and StuffMy Profile

      1. Great article Seana! I also find my clients love the one on one connection we have. Even simple things like being able to take their stuff to donate or recycle can lessen their anxiety.Hope to see you in May.

        1. Completely agree, Sue. I love doing what I can to help clients move forward. For some, that includes taking items for donation, or connecting them with resources for selling or disposing. It’s a privilege! Hope to see you in May as well. 🙂

  2. I love the way you put this together, Seana. So much has changed in the professional organizing industry since I opened my doors almost 17 years ago. I am one of those who specialize in chronic disorganization, hoarding, adhd and other brain-based conditions. Thank you for highlighting the fact that some professional organizers are specially trained to help people challenged by these conditions.
    Diane N Quintana recently posted…Want a More Balanced Life? HarmonizeMy Profile

    1. It has been exciting to see how our industry has grown over the years. I’m so thankful that people are truly investing in acquiring the skills and training necessary to bring success to clients in all realms. What you do can change lives for the better – what a gift!

  3. I love the list of specialties that are coming about over the years. Repurpose and recycle are super important in my organizing business while I do not work with home organizing clients as much these days, I do find that my small business clients are also looking for environmentally friendly options to dispose of things in their homes.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…How to Setup a Morning RoutineMy Profile

  4. I remember Megatrends on my mom’s bookshelf from my youth, and loved the idea that it provided research-based prognostication. You’ve definitely accomplished a similar feat; this should be a NAPO conference presentation! I particularly hope you are right about increased compassion and support, and about sustainability. And I am sure you are right about a continued focus on work-friendly spaces in homes, and am fascinated to learn about the “five nines.”
    Julie Bestry recently posted…Paper Doll’s Ultimate Stress-Free Backup PlanMy Profile

    1. And I’ve just thought of one more organizing megatrend to consider, and that’s everything related to aging in place. I’ve been seeing clients putting elevators into new homes so that they can accommodate elderly parents (and later, their own selves) having added mobility. And I’ve been recommending talking to contractors about installing dumbwaiters to help at all stages of life to improve organization but enabling people getting things up or down stairs so they can be put away properly. And I’m sure that’s only the beginning!
      Julie Bestry recently posted…Paper Doll’s Ultimate Stress-Free Backup PlanMy Profile

      1. That’s a terrific addition to the megatrends, Julie. One thing people don’t often realize about aging in place is they not only need a bathroom on each floor, but there needs to be sufficient space to enter and maneuver with a walker!

  5. That’s kinda amazing. The age-old (or digital age-old) photo storage questions. Things keep getting invented, but is anything perfect? Plus the idea of homes being organized and designed more for work from home. Which is something this country needed before COVID, for sure. And after!
    Tamara recently posted…Easter Sunday Brunch: Bunny PancakesMy Profile

    1. I think we were just thinking about the whole “work from home” thing before COVID, and then suddenly it became a necessity. So few homes were equipped for multiple people working from home simultaneously, but I think this could become a new normal for many.

  6. i’m seeing a lot of interest in selling items that clients no longer need. I wish the thought would shift to not purchasing un-needed items.
    I also agree with the focus on the home office of the future. I find even people with a dedicated home office are sitting in another more main area of their home to work. I wonder if future home design will focus on the home office first and design around it, instead of placing the office in an out-of-the-way corner of a home.
    Janet Schiesl recently posted…Sell Your Stuff – Is It Worth It?My Profile

    1. That is interesting to consider, Janet. I imagine some new apartments and homes will be seriously featuring the home office offerings. This could be a major “draw” when the market settles down and owners need to attract buyers again!

  7. Amazing to think about. Hugh changes are coming and professional organizers are going to be more and more in demand. I have used a home organizer and a moving organizer and both were worth every penny. They saved me so much time and effort and made life easier all around. This was a very thought provoking blog. I am surprised at how much is out there and available. Things I had never heard of. Great to think about.

  8. Hi Seana – I so enjoyed your blog article highlighting Organizing Megatrends. I am a passionate association professional with 40-years of experience. I have spent the last 10 to 12 years focused on helping associations understand the value of forecasting (not predicting) what current trends could mean to the way their associations operate and what type of services their members may need in the future, (regardless of the profession or trade).

    I’m wondering if we might connect and discuss the potential of collaborating on a session for the NAPO2023 Annual Meeting. I think that my futures training related to the leadership skill focused on the practice of foresight and your experience and understanding of current organizing megatrends, we could deliver a super engaging session.

    I would really enjoy scheduling a call with you to further discuss the idea. Let me know if you are open to a conversation at a convenient time. I can be reached at spine [at] napo [dot] net.

    Best,
    Sue Pine, FASAE, CAE

  9. Hi Seana – this was a wonderful, well-researched post! Do you mind if I share it with the Board of Certification for Professional Organizers (BCPO) Board of Directors for a discussion at our next meeting? Following trends is such an important part of our work. Thank you!

    Dani Tanner Liu, CPO
    BCPO President

    1. Hi Dani.. nice to hear from you! Of course, feel free to share it with the BCPO. I completely agree that it is important for us to be leaders in forecasting what is “next” in our industry.

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