Why is it so hard to declutter?


With the approaching spring, comes all sorts of resolutions for decluttering those cupboards and drawers. I start out with great intentions, only to get waylaid by re-reading magazine clippings, looking through old photos, or examining various odds and ends I had forgotten all about. I usually end up replacing all but one or two items back in the drawer, neater this time, but still cluttering up my drawer space.

So I was interested to read research which explained why it is so difficult to throw things out. The more you touch things over a lifetime, but even just in the last few minutes, the more attached you grow to those things.  In “The power of touch: An examination of the effect of duration of physical contact on the valuation of objects“, researcher James Wolf reported that the longer a person touches an object, the greater the value assigned to that item.

That is why those lifestyle shows which feature a decluttering expert will hold up the items for the owner to make a decision on whether to throw it out or not. It is more effective than having the person handle the items themselves and risk getting all sentimental again.

Now think of the last time you bought something. Perhaps it was a dress that you tried on, or a new lip gloss you tried at the make-up counter? Chances are you didn’t even know you wanted the item, but that very act of touching it and/or trying it on greatly increased the likelihood that you would buy it.

So, if you find your home cluttered by unnecessary items you have been buying and holding onto, perhaps it’s time to have a friend with no attachment to these objects come and help you with your clear-out.  Above all, keep your hands off your clutter!


4 responses »

  1. I love to declutter! But the hardest for me was to declutter books- now I give (most) of them to the local library, where I can go touch them again if I need to 🙂
    Now if could only stop gaining & losing & gaining a stone over & over again so I could confidently decide to declutter one or the other set of clothes….

  2. I’m just spending half an hour over a cup of tea catching up on my reading of blog posts, gosh, I am such a clutter queen, I just might need that someday and invariably find that once I have thrown it out, that I find a use for it – bar size 10 clothes of course!
    I recently put lots of books and toys for age 0-4 up into the attic, I probably should have given them to a charity shop but couldn’t bear to!
    Many thanks for the mention re the utility, plasterer is coming on Friday yay, and then hopefully my kitchen will return to some sort of order (as lots of utility stuff is in the kitchen!)

  3. Oh gosh. Looking at Susan’s comment above and I can relate to not being able to let go of the books. I’m sure there are a thousand books in our sitting room and I won’t part with them. I keep imagining the wonderful shelves I’m going to have some day to accommodate them. 😮

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