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Struggle to let go of clutter? These simple questions will turn you into the next Marie Kondo

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Megan Murray
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These two simple, psychologist-approved questions could revolutionise your home.

We’re willing to bet you’re familiar with 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 millennials are being forced into smaller spaces 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 and it seems asking ourselves these two simple questions might just make it that much easier. 

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Homewares brand Habitat and interior designers Athina Bluff and Amy Brandhorst from Topology Interiors have come up with some simple advice on how 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.

"Does it spark joy?"

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.

Ask yourself, “Have I used it in the last year?”

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. 

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How Marie Kondo's de-clutter method can help you make better decisions

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.

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Images: Unsplash, Getty 

This article was originally published 27 September 2019. 

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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