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Why Do We love Getting Rid of Stuff?

Lately I feel like I can’t go anywhere without hearing about Marie Kondo. You might feel the same. Although her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up came out years ago, it seems like her new Netflix show is generating millions of trips to local donation centers.

I haven’t watched much of the show, I haven’t finished the book. And yet you could still find me the other day singing about how much junk I was get- ting rid of and dancing through the house as I started getting rid of stuff.

Why are people so in love with less? What makes someone sing and dance over getting rid of stuff? The answer: it’s science. Don’t believe me? Here are some reasons why we love to purge, and why “less is more” is something we can all enjoy. With scientific studies and articles to back it up.

  1. Too many options stress us out. Maybe it’s at home, or at the grocery store. I know I have spent way too long staring at the baby food section in Target over the course of my life. (Which ones taste good? Does this flavor combination beat this one? Which one will make my kid a good eater? What nutrients do they actually need?) At home, I feel the same way. With too many clothing options, I feel overwhelmed and end up spending more time getting dressed. The Harvard Business Review says it’s actually less likely for someone to make a purchase if there are too many choices. (Or IF they buy, their level of satisfaction will likely be less.)
  2. Less stuff and less options open up for more creativity. They say that messiness means you have a creative mind, and I like to think that’s true for me. But having less options actually makes for more opportunities to get creative. I found this to be true when we took on the challenge of not spending extra money for a month. We ended up finding creative ways to have fun for free, and the challenge actually made it even more fun. Also, according to Psychology Today, kids experience greater creativity and more enjoyable play when given fewer toy options rather than more.
  3. Too much stuff makes us less productive. Do you feel like you have to clean before you take on a task? I’m not much for cleaning, but I will definitely put effort towards a cleaner space before I start working on something. (Or maybe I’m just a procrastinator.) But the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that too much clutter actually makes it harder for you to focus. The tagged post relates clutter to a toddler screaming in your ear as you try to get something done. You can do it—but it’s significantly harder to concentrate on what you’re doing. I can relate to that analogy.
  4. Unfinished tasks (like purging) keep us distracted too. It’s been hanging over my head since the Marie Kondo show came out on Netflix that I need to get rid of stuff around my house. Actually, it’s gone on longer than that. I’ve started it here there. But because I know it’s going to be a huge task, I get tired of it and then put it off. And then I’m cleaning up toys for the twentieth time today, and so mad that I haven’t done it yet. It’s a persistent cycle.The Zeigarnik Effect, noted in an article at SparringMind.com, is all about our need to finish tasks. If not, it bothers us.
  5. Experiences give more satisfaction than things. Most years I can’t even remember what kindsof gifts I got for my birthday or Christmas. But I remember the birthday parties my parents put together for me. And I remember things like traveling to New York City with my husband as my Christmas present one year, going to Annapolis with him another. Surprisingly, this is science too. A Cornell University psychology professor has done research on how we adapt to things, and over time, they become less important to us. But experiences, even one-time-only ones, provide more long-term satisfaction.I tend to think, as the article men- tions, that an item will mean more because it lasts longer. But truly, the experiences aremuch bigger and more special in my memory.
  6. Decluttering leaves you more con- fident and even energized. Okay, so this isn’t a scientific study. But Psychology Today talks about how making confident decisions helps us feel confident. And how making many quick decisions is actually energizing. I can vouch for that! Once I got started, it was much easier to attack the pile of toys I needed to get through. I had a desire to finish it, and I felt great about the amount of things we were able to toss or donate.

How does decluttering feel for you? Do you find t rue for you, or not so much?


Jenn is a constantly-caffeinated wife, mama, and writer. By day she goes on adventures in Roanoke with her two boys. By nap time she pens whatyoumakeitblog.com, empowering moms to live a beautiful and purposeful life, right where you are. Chat with her on social @whatyoumakeitblog.

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