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Study: Consumers are “Deluded” About How Much Clothing They Leave Unworn

People tend to underestimate how much they hoard or waste, often by several orders of magnitude, according to Movinga, a removals specialist based in Berlin.

In a poll of more than 18,000 heads of households across 20 countries, Movinga found that most consumers operate under a kind of “collective delusion” about the amount of clothing that languishes unworn in their closets.

The most “deluded” country clothing-wise, Movinga said, was Belgium, which it gave a “delusion percentage” of 62 percent. Belgian respondents claimed they hadn’t worn 26 percent of their clothing over the past year when the reality, based on research data, was closer to 88 percent.

The United States tied with the United Kingdom with a score of 39 percent. American respondents said they hadn’t worn 43 percent of their clothing over the past 12 months, but researchers peg the number at a much loftier 82 percent.

Russians appeared to have the most accurate take on their wardrobe contents, with a delusion percentage of only 6 percent. Respondents claimed 47 percent of their garments went unworn. The “actual” value was 53 percent, the lowest among the countries surveyed.

Movinga’s aim with the survey was to open up discussions about “overconsumption, consumerism and how much we really need.”

“With the oceans becoming ever more polluted with plastic, and the fast-fashion industry bigger than ever, it’s time to start encouraging individuals to reconsider whether they really need more stuff,” said Finn Age Hänsel, managing director at Movinga.

Indeed, nearly half of consumers complain they have “way too much stuff,” according to a survey conducted by Savers, a Bellevue, Wash.-based chain of for-profit thrift stores.

But the numbers may shift as we move toward what some have dubbed the “sharing economy,” a model that appeals to millennials who prefer experiences over material possessions and consider ownership, as a whole, a drag.

Rent the Runway’s clothing-subscription service, for instance, is growing at a rate of 150 percent a year, Jennifer Hyman, the company’s CEO, told Recode in March. The company recently received a $20 million investment from Jack Ma and Joe Tsai’s Blue Pool Capital, along with another $2 million from Singapore’s Temasek, pushing its valuation to roughly $800 million.