Why We Love to Hoard…and How to Overcome it

Frustrated hoarder

Why do we hoard? Easy. We like our lives the way we are, and want to keep them that way.

Change can be scary. It insinuates to our brains that order is about to be wrenched into chaos, our lives soon to be thrust into upheaval. So it’s no surprise that our instinct is to try and keep things exactly as they are. It also leads to an inability to let things go:

The endowment effect is a reflection of a general bias in human psychology to favour the way things are, rather than the way they could be. I call this status quo bias, and we can see reflections of it in the strength of habits that guide our behaviour, in the preference we have for the familiar over the strange or the advantage the incumbent politician has over a challenger.

This preference for the status quo extends to our stuff, too, and plays a role in why we hoard. Recognizing the endowment effect while attempting to de-clutter is an easy way to combat our tendency to hold on to things. Psychologist Tom Stafford suggests you confront hoarding by asking yourself, “ If I didn’t have this, how much effort would I put in to obtain it?” More often than not, you’ll be able to let an object go.

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