If you’ve ever tried to clean out your closet or garage, you know getting rid of stuff isn’t easy, even if you never use it. Here’s what leads us to get so attached to stuff, and how that makes it hard to let go.
From childhood, we form a connection with the things around us, especially those we personally own. This video from TED explains three reasons why we get attached.
- Endowment Effect: You value something more once you own it. For example, if you value two items equally, but own one and are given the option of trading it for the other, you put a higher value on the item you already own and don’t want to trade it.
- Sense of Self: Often times, we include our things as part of our identity and sense of self. You probably have a favourite shirt or mug, and you favour it over similar items because you subconsciously view it as part of who you are.
- Ownership Connection: We imbibe our things with an essence that we believe is unique to the items we own. They’re special to us because we own them and when presented with a copy of the item, prefer the original. This extends to items owned by our family (heirlooms), celebrities or other notable people. We ascribe a higher value to those items because of who owned them, even though the items themselves often aren’t that unique.
Of course, how attached you are to your things varies depending on the culture you were raised in, but most everyone experiences some degree of connection to their stuff. Check out the video above for details on each effect.
Why Are We So Attached to Our Things? [TED-Ed (YouTube)]