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Connections to Our Belongings

Ethnographic research to uncover the universal and strongest motivations of users keeping belongings. Identified new opportunities for consumer products.




Design Researcher


Ethnographic Research, Consumer Products, Insights & Opportunities

There are two polarizing behaviors all consumers have to their belongings:


Most of us have too much stuff already yet purchase new products regularly 


There is value in getting rid of our excess belongings and owning fewer items

Despite how contrasting these behaviors are, we believed that there are underlying motives that are driving customers to continue buying or decluttering.

Are there universal connections to our belongings?

Qualitative Research Methods

Diverse Interviews

Participants selected from different demographics (age, nationality, city) and life experiences (renting, first home, forever home). 

Why do we have so much stuff?
Why do we keep things forever hidden away, and yet, never revisit them?

Research Analysis

Analyzing quantitative results using A&I + POEMS Framework (activities, interactions, people, objects, environments, messages and services), and additional exercises to arrive at our insights and opportunities. 

Key Findings

We found that behaviors despite different personas and lifestyle were rooted in two themes:


Belongings with associations to family members and loved ones


Belongings give shape to who we are and how we define ourselves

Insights & Opportunities

Selected insights and opportunities below are some options to create products and services that consider a deeper understanding of acquiring and keeping belongings.

The objects with the strongest connections are usually related to family/loved ones

How might we replicate this connection we have with family/loved ones in the design of a product?

Belongings can be reflective or a disguise of a person’s self identity

How might we remove the hierarchical status of things?

Home is not just one physical space, there is strong emotion attached to it

How might we capture the essence of the feelings of home in a product?

People imprint strong memories and feelings onto treasured items

How might we provide a way to revisit or re-experience that memory or feeling?

People long for journaling even though they often don’t journal

How might we redefine journaling?
At this point any team would be able to take the idea through the design process and work towards launching a solution in this space.
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