Wasteful World

How much of our belongings are we really using? 

Study investigates the gap between perception and reality when it comes to wastage of food and hoarding of possessions

As relocation experts, at Movinga we are always looking for ways to make the moving process more effective. We are particularly interested in the often excessive collection and accumulation of belongings and its impact on our society, the environment and even on the economy. As part of a larger study on relocation trends to be released later this year, we conducted a poll in order to understand the dissonance people have between their perceptions and reality, particularly when it comes to hoarding and wastage in their own homes. The results are compelling, with the gap revealed to be starker than we anticipated, and we hope it sparks a much-needed discourse on over-consumption, consumerism and how much we really need.

The poll was conducted among 18K+ heads of households in 20 countries and compared individual’s perception on how much they own versus how much they actually use to reveal the level of delusion we live in. We looked at three categories in the poll: household posessions, clothing and food. We then combined the results with data collected directly by researchers investigating waste and hoarding of unused property in each of the markets polled.

The first step in reducing the amount of waste and unused items we all have in our homes is to be aware of the magnitude of the issue and our own personal denial. At Movinga, we calculate that 22% of items moved in each relocation won't be used again. We hope this research opens the subject up for discussion on how to be more conscious of our collective hoarding and wastage.

We at Movinga aim for making moving a more sustainable process. As we can see in our study, France and Sweden rank in the top 3 and show that people there are more sensitive towards the topic of decluttering and sustainability. That's why, in addition to our first market of Movinga Germany, we aim to bring more sustainable processes towards our work as Movinga France and Movinga Sweden as well. The highest impact on the environment and the most efficient way to reduce CO2 on the streets is the concept of bundling, which we implement in our processes and which is only one of our many relocation services that we offer.

In the table below you can see the gap (Delusion) between the amount people think they are wasting or not using versus the reality.
What percentage of your wardrobe hasn't been worn in the last 12 months?
What percentage of your grocery shopping ends up as waste?
Since your most recent move, what percentage of your transferred belongings are still not in use?
(Note this is part of an ongoing study on relocation behavior to be release in the months to follow)

Methodology :
To conduct this study, 18,000 heads of households in 20 countries were polled with the following questions: What percentage of your wardrobe hasn't been worn in the last 12 months?; What percentage of your grocery shopping ends up as waste?; Since your most recent move, what percentage of your transferred belongings are still not in use?

The survey included 1,000 people in the USA, 2,000 in Germany, 2,000 in France, 1,500 in Sweden and 500 to 800 participants from other countries. Only householders between 22 and 60 years of age were interviewed. Margin of error is +/- 5%

Afterwards, the results were compared with the data from specialists in the field of waste and hoarding. Interviewing 20 families comprising of two adults and two children as well as 10 single households about their behaviour regarding the topic of wasting and hoarding.

For the clothing, they took an inventory of the participants’ closet; then follow the daily use during a period of 12 months to record how many things in the wardrobe they didn’t use at all during the past year.

In terms of how much food people throw away, the participants were asked to keep track of their wasting habits during a period of six months - in doing so, they had to take into account grocery shoppings that went directly to the bin as well as leftovers.

The unused things were determined in an one-time interview where the interviewer took a tour through the participant’s house (including the attic and basement). Together, they counted the things which hadn’t been used in the last 12 months with the exception of pieces of art and other decoration which is for display only.

Comparing these two datasets allowed to calculate a margin of delusion for the three fields of clothing, food and stuff. On this basis, the participants’ home countries can be ranked according to their rate of delusion.

Discard Studies Compendium: The Discard Studies Compendium is a project by Max Liboiron, Michele Acuto, and Robin Nagle. https://discardstudies.com/discard-studies-compendium/

Additional sources for research:
Circle Economy: A social enterprise based in Amsterdam.
Environmental Health Perspectives: Claudio, Luz: Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry, Sep 2007.
WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme): A registered charity based in UK.