These two simple, psychologist-approved questions will revolutionise your spring cleaning.
If you have a Netflix account or any form of social media, then you’ll likely be familiar with the immense popularity of decluttering extraordinaire Marie Kondo. Thanks to her hit show Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, the words “does it spark joy?” and her approach to streamlining our storage have been etched into the minds of an entire generation.
The reason she has had such a huge impact isn’t entirely clear. Maybe it has to do with the fact that our age group is being forced into smaller spaces than ever thanks to the renting crisis, making it all the more necessary for us to cut down on our clutter. Or it could be because our generation is so invested in self-love, making us want to create an environment we can happily spend time alone in.
Either way, what has become apparent is that we are all trying to make our homes tidier. Asking ourselves these two simple questions might just make it that much easier.
Homewares brand Habitat has recently started working with interior designers Athina Bluff and Amy Brandhorst from Topology Interiors. Together with the furniture-selling favourite, they have been coming up with ways to create a calmer, more streamlined living space.
If you feel like you have too many bits and bobs filling up your home, but you’re not sure how to get rid of them, the Topology Interiors experts advise that you ask yourself this one, unmovable question: “Have I used it in the last year?”
“In order to de-clutter properly and sustainably, first you will need to distinguish between actually unnecessary clutter vs items worth keeping. One effective way to do this is to consider whether you’ve used the item in the last year. If you haven’t, perhaps it’s time to donate it charity, offer it to family or friends, sell it, recycle it, up-cycle it, or responsibly throw it away.”
Sometimes, though, things can be a little more nuanced. So, if the year rule doesn’t work for you, you can try looking at the endowment effect.
The endowment effect is a term that describes the amount of emotional value we put on something because we own it. The idea being that once something is yours, you view it in a different light, and find it much harder to part with it, even if the monetary value has reduced or you have no use for it.
Psychology Today reports that an interesting example of this is a 1991 experiment, in which three group of students were asked to either sell, buy or predict a fair price for coffee mugs. They found that the students who were asked to part with their own coffee mugs deemed them to be worth the highest price. However, those who were buying or deciding the price felt they were worth up to two thirds less.
This has to do with the fact that we tend to invest emotionally into items we own. Therefore, our judgement on whether we need it and what it is actually worth becomes biased, and we’re more likely to hold onto something we don’t need.
A way of combating this is to play a three-step game, which psychologists believe will trick players into revealing how much they really need all the spare items in their home.
1) Look around the room and decide how much you would sell each item for.
2) Once everything has a price (we recommend writing them down), ask yourself how much you’d be willing to pay for the same object.
3) If you would be willing to sell something for a higher price than you would pay for it today, then you know you’re adding extra emotional value onto something.
The difference in prices will show you how much extra baggage you’re keeping, and hopefully, it will inspire you to be a little more ruthless. Plus, it’s a tad more budget-friendly than hiring Kondo to come and work her magic.
Images: Unsplash, Getty
This article was originally published 27 September 2019.