Stuffocation – is access the antidote?

Poppy - Stuffocation.jpg

This time last year, I moved in to a new flat with my partner. It was our first time living in Leeds, and it was also the first time we wouldn’t be staying in a slightly mouldy, slightly crowded student house. Instead of mildew, we smelt freedom!

Excited to switch up the white walls in to something recognisable as home, we decided to hang curtains. Three trips to Ikea later…we had some. The only issue being, how to get them up?

‘Buy a drill’ was the obvious thought. But my stubborn desire to live with less disagreed. We didn’t need a drill. We just wanted functioning curtains, without a side of *environmental guilt.

*An Attenborough induced feeling that follows me round the retail environment these days.

My reaction appears to be a symptom remedied by what Google describes as ‘the Access Economy’. A business model whereby products and services are traded on access rather than ownership, occurring when access becomes so convenient that it voids the premium of ownership. With spending awareness soaring, this is an idea that is quickly becoming popular.

Swapping and sharing of course is nothing new, this is something that is wired in to us as children, along with eating our greens. However, leaps in technology, paired with a wobbly economy has meant that even long-standing industries are starting to see disruption.

Whilst most of us have experienced the refreshing ease of AirB&B and Uber, these companies are not alone in how they operate. Platforms like Borrow my Doggy, Lend and tend, Homeshare, Taskrabbit, the Volte and OLIO all offer access to interesting products and services that may have otherwise been bought, or just inaccessible.

Outside of peer-to-peer trading, access has infiltrated the wider market too. Streaming services like Netflix and Spotify offer vast libraries of media without the expense once paid for owning a personal copy. With the UK Access Economy expected to hit 9 billion by 2025, it would seem consumers are starting to see through the halo of ownership and recognising some of the burdens that can come with it.

‘Stuffocation’ is a word used to describe the rejection of the stress, storage, maintenance, cost, and emissions that come will owning too much stuff! With shoppers abandoning the high street in larger numbers than during the depths of the recession, there is a clear call for something to give.

Does this mean the end of consumerism as we know it? No, but there is a definite shift in the way we approach ownership that should not be overlooked. I for one, never did buy that drill. Instead, I have space in my cupboard, my curtains look lovely and, in my head, I also received an imaginary Hi-5 from Attenborough himself.

Annabel Gerrard