The Society of Stuff
There is nothing like moving house for forcing one to confront their consumer self. It is one of the only situations when a person has to take full stock of what they own and why. It is an experience that is often full of angst and frustration.
How might we use the event of moving house into a unique opportunity to change our ownership habits?
The Society of Stuff is a speculative service that allows members to have access to the things they need without having to properly own them. Members of the Society pay a monthly fee which permits them to withdraw objects from the Society’s repository. These objects can be tables, hair dryers, a cutlery set, or whichever other kind of item people tend to lug around with them from house to house for years on end. With SoS they can return these items when they no longer need them and request others they do need instead.
Two major aspects of the service work to disrupt users’ usual unhealthy attachment to their posessions:
1. In the SoS app members can see their objects’ histories and their previous owners’ feelings about them, thereby framing ownership as a link in a chain. Ownership is thus replaced with stewardship, consequently discouraging accidental hoarding as objects are always only passing through and on their way to serving some other SoS member in need of them.
2. Members cannot choose the specific object they want, only its type. A taste profile determined when members sign up makes sure to allocate them items that will most probably be to their liking. The removal of choice changes the relationship between owner and object. For example it makes it harder to use your personal posessions as a way to define yourself.
The Society of Stuff draws on several current cultural and social trends: the sharing economy, low millennial home ownership rates, the rise of “if you like this, you’ll like that” algorithms, and the international best seller “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo.
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