Photographed by Michelle Drewes.
A very helpful concept to understand when sorting through your things is something psychologists refer to as the "endowment effect."
There you are, clutter-clearing an area of your home, and you come across an object that has no real value. And, even though you no longer use it (or perhaps have never used it), you feel reluctant to let it go. Everything about it screams at you that it is clutter, but somehow you don’t feel able to throw it away.
Another time you can see this is when you buy new clothes. Suppose you buy a new jacket. Before you bought it, it was just another jacket hanging in a shop and meant nothing to you, but as soon as you own it, something changes. Now it’s YOUR jacket. It now means more to you than it did before. Even if you take it home and never wear it, it’s yours. Even if every time you see it, you realize you wasted your money because it’s not the right jacket; it’s still yours, and so you feel reluctant to part with it.
Or, at least some people do. Psychologists have observed that most people feel more attachment to an item they own than to something they do not own, and some people feel this more than others.
In behavioral economics, this leads to something known as the “endowment effect” or “divestiture aversion,” where people place more value on an item they own than one they do not, even if they have only owned it for a few minutes. This is because humans are hard-wired to be loss-averse, and letting go of something that is owned can trigger feelings of loss.
So, here’s something you can do next time you come across such an item while clutter clearing your home. Ask yourself this simple question: "Before I discovered I had this item, how much effort would I have been willing to put in to obtaining one just like it?"
This gives you a completely different perspective, and more often than not, you realize it’s not something you would put any time or effort into acquiring. It’s something that happens to have come into your life at some point and is now just taking up space. This change in standpoint makes it much easier to let it go.