About the project

Drawer full of stuff

Just take a picture of where you keep this kind of stuff and send up a short paragraph or two about it.

This project aims to explore ‘dormant things’  – items which people keep in spaces in the home such as cupboards and attics which they do not currently use (or never have). Understanding dormant things has implications for understanding memories, life and relationship changes and also for developing more sustainable consumption.

Carefully stored or saved for later?

This project explores the accumulation of things in domestic spaces. Houses are full of items that have accumulated over time – ranging from items deliberately stored and concealed to those placed somewhere for later consideration and often forgotten about. Like archaeological layers, these accumulations tell us about the histories of a house, the people who live and have lived there, and their wider relationships and lives.

Memories and futures

However, very little is known about these ‘hidden’ spaces within the home, such as drawers, attics and cupboards, as there is a lack of empirical research on the topic. This project would be the first to offer a comprehensive understanding of ‘dormant’ things – things at rest or not currently in use – within houses as this relates to past memories and possible future uses.

The research will have two strands:

  1. in depth research in people’s homes looking at dormant things and where they are stored (I am still recruiting for people who live in modern houses to be interviewed. Interviews last about an hour in people’s homes. Please email me to take part at dormant-things@manchester.ac.uk)
  2. a citizen social science strand where people are invited to contribute photos or drawings and stories of their own things and where they keep them.

Current levels of consumption are understood to be unsustainable, and whilst there has been a wealth of research on things people get rid of or buy, there has been very little research on accumulated things in the house in relation to these debates. Most household items spend at least some of their lives stashed away in drawers or cupboards.

In highlighting these things, this project will shed light on long-term relationships people have to things (as well as more short term ones) and why certain things are loved and cherished while others may be kept but forgotten.

Looking at things that accumulate in the house involves understanding how they may be used again and provides a more complex understanding of the lives of domestic objects than reducing things to being used or unused.


The research will be carried out by me, Sophie Woodward; I am a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Manchester. I started my research career rooting around in women’s wardrobes as part of a project into looking at why women wear what they wear (and wrote a book of the same title) and am now continuing as a pseudo-archaeologist/sociologist doing research in people’s cupboards and attics. I am fascinated both by everyday things in our homes, that may seem unimportant but are actually a fundamental part of how we live our lives and connect to other people.