Postdoctoral Fellow: Jen Owen

Jen OwenResearch topic: Getting your stuff together: The role of storage and decluttering services in the management of domestic materiality
Research pathway: 
Human Geography
Host institution:
Cardiff University

My PhD thesis examined what the growth of the self-storage industry in the UK can tell us about the changing needs of individuals and families in the face of life-course trajectories, transitions and events. Semi-structured interviews and object-elicitation techniques were undertaken with over thirty self-storage users to gain an in-depth understanding of their motivations for renting a self-storage unit, their spatialised material practices (of sorting, moving, disposal and storing), and the stories behind the (often) dormant but significant objects. Self-storage emerged as a lens to think through several important themes: (i) storage as a necessary space and practice following bereavement; (ii) the performance of identity and gender; (iii) everyday emotional geographies of care and love; (iv) the importance of storage in anchoring feelings of home and belonging during periods of mobility and uncertainty; and (v) the role of materiality over the life-course.

As well as working to disseminate the findings of my PhD at conferences and through writing publications, I am further developing my understanding of the issues associated with ‚Äėliving with things‚Äô (Gregson 2007) by reflecting on the social construction of excess, clutter and hoarding and the place of decluttering services. Working as a volunteer with the Attic Project, I hope to provide crucial insights into the experiences of people attempting to live comfortably and safely in later life.

Twitter: @jen_owen11