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.
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:
- Homes today have a lot more items than was common in previous eras. Strong economic conditions, combined with relatively affordable goods, has resulted in a higher expenditure per household on goods and services than in previous generations. Furthermore, COVID has seen people spending more time at home than ever before, driving the need to have strong systems for storage and function.
- 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?