Chinese New Year is just around the corner, and I’m sure many of you would have already started the annual spring cleaning. Just before the celebrations start, Most Chinese households will engage in this time-honored tradition to spring clean the whole house exhaustively. Aside from having a cleaner house to entertain guests, it is also a means of ‘sweeping out the bad luck’ for the new year. It is also a great opportunity to declutter and get rid of things that you don’t need. However, in most cases, the decluttering is not through, as many things end up being hidden in the storeroom until the guests leave. The clutter gets reintroduced to your house until the next round of spring cleaning.
This is a shame because experts from the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute have found that clutter inflicts a very real psychological burden on people. In addition, having a lot of clutter around the house makes your home environment less enjoyable, makes it harder to complete tasks, leads to overeating as disorganization creates will power reducing stress, will cost you money, and make you feel more tired.
However, there may be things that you seem to want to keep at all cost, cluttering up your home. Ever wondered why you think this way? Read on to find out.
(*We are not advocating that you throw all your stuff away, but mindfully curate and organize your things and get rid of harmful clutter.)
These Things Are Linked to Your Self-Worth
There will be always that item you resolve to throw away during spring cleaning but somehow or another, you find a reason to keep it. This is probably because that item is linked to your entirety and self. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology shows that we view these items as part of our self-worth and identity in those things instead of being a possession.
Self-worth can be measured in many different areas. One’s worth could be based on their looks, while for others it may be being accepted. If you value success, you will probably face struggles removing items that signify your past accomplishments, as throwing away may make you feel less accomplished. It could be your very first expensive watch that no longer works; the transcript of your first deal; or a stack of old research reports. These items serve as a tangible reminder of your success yet they no longer serve a purpose.
If your self-worth is based on your relationship with others, you may realize that you will almost never ever throw away gifts from other people. Throwing away an old tattered shoe given by your childhood friends may make you feel that you are throwing a part of the friendship away. Donating old clothes that will never fit again can make you feel that you are not grateful to your grandma. These items although, can never be functional again will symbolize someone that is loved and blessed.
This goes both ways as well. An item can be linked to something that is detrimental to your self-worth. It could be a gift from someone that was abusive to you but you hold on to it for some reason. However, holding on to things like this is obviously not good for you.
So what do you do? Do you throw it or keep it away? The next time you are faced with this dilemma, consider whether any of those items represent your self-worth. Weigh the importance of the item, will you regret throwing it away or be filled with frustration by looking at this non-functional item every day. If it holds important value for you keep it in an organized manner, otherwise, get rid of it especially things that are detrimental to your self-worth.
Hoarding Disorder Exists
According to the American Psychiatric Association, Hoarding Disorder is defined as “People with hoarding disorder excessively save items that others may view as worthless. They have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions, leading to clutter that disrupts their ability to use their living or work spaces.”
To pu it in a local context, a study conducted by the Institute of Mental Health in 2010 found that “One in 50 people in Singapore will display hoarding behaviour in their lifetime.” The study also found that 0.8 per cent of the 6,616 respondents surveyed had displayed hoarding behaviour in the past 12 months.” This behavior is more common than you think and affects many Singaporeans.
Although you may never reach these levels of hoarding, it is good to be aware of the hoarding behaviour you may be exhibiting. Common symptoms include:
- Cluttered living spaces
- Refusal to discard items
- Keeping piles of newspaper, magazines or junk mail
- Merely shifting things from one pile to another without getting rid of it.
Sunk Cost Fallacy
The Sunk Cost Fallacy is defined as making a decision based on a desire to not see your past investment of effort money or time to go to waste. Examples include spending the time to finish a book despite losing all interest in it. If you’re holding on to things that have no practical value and don’t bring you joy anymore, you may be a victim of sunk cost fallacy. Need more examples?
“I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on this, it’d be a waste to throw it away even if it’s spoilt.”
“This movie is boring, I should watch it till it ends since I’ve already paid for it.”
“I’ve regretted choosing to take a degree in economics, I should just complete the programme since I’ve invested years of effort and money into it.”
The right thing to do is actually to make a decision based on what is the better outcome for you, instead of worrying about your past investments.
Sunk costs are painful but if you pay more attention to this fallacy, you have the opportunity to push past that and you might realize that you will do things differently and probably have an easier time making a decision that will lead to a better outcome for your future. Consider throwing away the things that no longer hold any value and for want of a better word, spark joy for you.
As the saying goes. “Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it”.
To help you reduce committing sunk cost fallacy, here’s some advice. Spend your money wisely, as your decision today will affect your future, don’t spend it on overpriced goods, especially those that do not last. Know what you are paying for, if the item only costs $10 to produce, you shouldn’t be paying $100 for it. Start making smart purchasing choices with IUIGA’s transparent pricing model!