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Generations and consumption

Our consumption patterns, habits and values are influenced to a large extent by the environment in which we grew up and they also affect the way we develop as people. It is a topic that has interested scientists for years, and it interests us at Elfa too. What role does the era in which we grew up play in our consumption habits? And what significance does this have for the storage in our home?

Generational research

According to generational research, our values are shaped between the ages of 16 and 24. It is during those years that our consumption habits and our priorities in life are largely entrenched. Today’s generations are commonly divided up into: Generation Z (age 16-25), Millennials (age 26-41), Generation X (age 42-57) and Boomers (age 58-76). According to generation researcher, consumption expert and Elfa Insight member Anders Parment, there are distinct differences between these generations.

A white wardrobe is slightly open giving a glimpse of a brown jacket sleeve.

Quality and sustainability

The issue of climate change is making sustainability increasingly important in our societies and economies. The amount of things that we consume has a huge impact on the climate, but our impact can be lessened by consuming in a smarter way. It is becoming increasingly common to borrow or rent things that we need instead of buying brand new products. However, this is more popular among younger people than the older generation.

Quality is often set in relation to price. One way in which consumers can protect the environment is to buy a more expensive product that will last longer. But is this something we are willing to do? In this respect there are some interesting differences between the generations. Boomers are the ones who care most about and give priority to quality, as opposed to the “buy and throw-away” approach.

A woman rushes through a living room fitted with Elfa’s classic wall-mounted “Sparring” shelving system full of books.

Consumption and storage

Consumption requires storage. Most people usually regularly sort through their possessions to limit the amount of items they need to store. Many people also try not to buy new items, while some people choose to clear things out and get rid of them.

The importance of having good storage solutions for items of all sizes is rather obvious when you look at what the different generations mainly have in their homes. Apart from clothes, which take up most of the storage space across all the generations, it is kitchen equipment that dominates for Generation Z and Millennials. Books take up space in the homes of the older generations, Generation X and Boomers.

There are also differences in how the generations regard their future consumption. Many Gen Zers are hesitant to buy new things if storage space is limited at home. However, very few Boomers think that way. This could be for a variety of reasons. Of course it may be to do with the size of the home and the possibility of smart and flexible storage options. It might also be that their consumption habits have been influenced from an early age by the period and environment in which they grew up.

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Christine Dalman, storage expert and Elfa Insight member, offers a few simple tips on what you can think about when it comes to consumption and storage at home. These are based on four scenarios.

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1. Den som bor mindre och har behov av att maximera existerande ytor med smartare och mer flexibla lösningar kan exempelvis använda dörren som förvaring med krokar och korgar för småsaker. 

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2. Den som bor större med möjlighet till fler förvaringsytor kan göra med fördel satsa på flexibla hyllplan med kärl i olika storlekar – allt för att förenkla för återvinningen eller för hobbyrelaterade aktiviteter i hemmet.

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3. Den som har många prylar i lådor eller utspritt i hemmet uppmanas att rensa och sortera bort sådant som inte behövs och därefter strukturera upp med förvaringslösningar, exempelvis en dekorativ skräddarsydd fondvägg, där favoritprylarna sätts i spotlight.

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4. Den som föredrar att hyra saker behöver också skapa plats för att det ska vara enkelt att ta emot eller ge ifrån sådant såsom kläder eller hobbyprylar. Kanske finns outnyttjade utrymmen som kan användas smartare? 

Elfa Insights 2022

Elfa Insights is Elfa’s think tank where we investigate trends, needs and challenges related to storage. We do so by conducting consumer surveys and collecting views and insights from leading experts in the fields of architecture, sustainability, fashion, interior design and future predictions. This gives us the opportunity to delve deep into our favourite subject, storage, and inspire others to bring order, structure and harmony to their home and thus create space for important everyday things.

Anders Parment 

Generational researcher, author and social commentator. Works as a teacher and researcher at Stockholm Business School on issues relating to the future and how new generations are shaping it. As well as writing books (he will shortly be publishing one about Generation Z), Anders is a speaker and works with organisations to help them better understand the future.

Mia Erlandsson 

Architect and interior architect at White Arkitekter. Works on everything from major public projects and process management to small detailed interior solutions and design concepts. Chair of the panel of judges for the “Golden Chair” award presented by the Swedish Architects organisation for the best interior architecture in Sweden. 

Charlotte Mattfolk 

Expert on the future, entrepreneur and strategic advisor. Founder of the AI platform IAMAI that matches management consultants with assignments and gives access to “Streaming Knowledge”. Author of the study “4 Scenarios for a Future Life”.

Christine Dalman

Elfa’s Senior PR Specialist and Storage Expert for the past 30 years. 

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