Out of Sight Out of Mind

For many of us living in the middle of today’s consumer society, there is a steady battle between must-have purchases and space to put them. Our rationalizations at the store or at the computer terminal are compelling and rarely factor in the need to dispose of something else to make way for our new bauble. Just occasionally we will pride ourselves on being green and re-cycle some item.

Our throw away society has never been a true description of what we are living in today. Replacement rather than repair may be our strategy, but we often hang on to items that are not functioning or are obsolete. The ‘computers in the attic’ syndrome will become more severe now laptops and tablets are replacing bulky desktop machines.

Most of us cannot aspire to building a ‘MacMansion’ with room enough to store our stuff and hence every city in the US, and the UK, now has storage units available for rent to enable us to expand our clutter volume. Of course, it’s temporary, we tell ourselves, it’ll only be for a few weeks and then we'll sort it. The stats quoted by de Castella and Dailey in their article in the BBC News zine (1) indicate that storage longer than six months is normal in the UK.

What is our problem? Why can’t we let things go? In the behavioral economics world it is called divestiture aversion, or alternatively, the endowment effect. Once we own an object we think it is worth more to us than anything like it’s actual value just because it’s ours. Now that we have it, we are committed to it, even when we are paying to keep it out of sight.

Soon we will be hiring professional de-clutterers to de-clutter our storage units so that we can store more stuff in them.

  1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14718478

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