Last week I took my car in to get the turn signal fixed and an oil change. I knew there were other things wrong with the car (it has nearly 150,000 miles on it), but had no idea the extent.

There was a giant sinking feeling in my stomach when the mechanic called and told me the bill just for the “emergency repairs”. It was easily 4 times more than the cars trade-in value.

I was stunned. My hubby and I decided to do nothing for the weekend.

Becoming a one-car family was not on the spring to-do list.  But, I knew it was not worth the money to fix it. With math and logic on my side, I reasoned it was time to let the car go. We discussed how we could make it work as a one-car family, and it was surprisingly do-able.  Maybe not ideal, but do-able.

Over the weekend, the empty stall in the garage made me sad. The thought that I might never drive my car again made me sad.  We figured out we didn’t even need the car.  We would be fine. Maybe even better off (less gas, less insurance).

Yet, I mourned the loss of my car.  By Saturday morning I was reasoning myself out of the math and logic that told me there was no way it was a good investment to repair the car.  I was practically BEGGING to the heavens, my hubby, even my dog, to let me keep the car.  That it really wasn’t in that bad of shape.  The mechanic was wrong.

I knew my desire to keep the car was against logic.  And, it had nothing to do with having a car to drive around.

It had EVERYTHING to do with the fact that it was my car.  I bought my car outright 7 years ago. It was my car. Losing my car is what felt horrible.  It has been with me longer than any house we have owned and it is older than my kids.  But, most importantly it is mine.  I own it.

That same weekend a reader asked me about her struggle to get rid of a pair of dining chairs that she didn’t like and were given to her by someone she didn’t like.  She had them for a while and couldn’t bring herself to let them go, even though she despised them.  The chairs were good quality, just not her style.  She felt donating them was a waste of good chairs.

It got me thinking about why we have trouble letting things go, even things we don’t particularly care for. In comparison, letting my car (which I love) go seems obviously more difficult than dining chairs you don’t even like. But, surprisingly the same behavioral psychology is at work.

To move forward in your home to a new decorating style or to a less cluttered life requires a bit of work.  It’s mindfulness work.  It’s time to uncover a piece of the psychology that is holding you back.  Knowing what triggers you to keep something, even something you don’t like, is key to understanding how to let it go.

In this video, I reveal why it is hard to let go of things and 5 strategies to get over it and move on. Knowing this one reason why you second-guess getting rid of something is key to moving forward in your home.

How to Overcome the Endowment Effect and Declutter Your Home

So, what do you think? Is it real and are you a victim of The Endowment Effect?

I certainly struggle with rationalizing why I should keep things.  I hoard things like craft supplies, extra hardware leftover after assembling something, and freebies.  Someday, I figure I will put them to use.  Meanwhile, I am surrounding myself with unnecessary clutter and organization problems.  And, I never take the effort to actually use these things I keep lying around.  Feels like a good time to do some late spring cleaning.

What one tip from this video is going to help you most?  Share in the comments.

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15 Responses to The Real Reason It’s Hard to Get Rid of Things

  1. In regards to the car…sometimes it’s ok to fix something even is the repair is more than the “value” of the car. I have a 20 year old car that I still drive. Last year it needed a number of repairs that added up to almost 3K; more than the “value” of the car. But I chose to fix it, cause the car still met our needs for a 2nd car, and was MUCH cheaper than if I had replaced it (even with a decent used vehicle). If I chose not the replace it…that might be a different story though.
    But same principal can still apply to decorating. Perhaps you have a piece of furniture that is dated. Sometimes changing paint/stain or fabric can easily change the look of the item. I bought a dining table w/4 chairs at a thrift shop a number of years ago. Nice metal & wood pedestal table w/glass top & 4 chairs. I loved the diamond design on the backs of the metal chairs, but HATED the floral fabric on the seats. Since the basic lines of the item I really liked…it was easy enough to switch out the fabric on the seats.
    If everything about the item is no longer needed or fits what you find to be beautiful…then it might be better to let it go so you have space for an item you’ll love and appreciate.

    • Jackie says:

      I totally agree. If there is a piece of furniture you like and a quick makeover will turn it into something you love that is wonderful. But, if you don’t like anything about the piece, putting work into it just makes replacing it later all that much harder. We value what we own and what we put work into.

      I should add, we got the car back, but with the needed repairs we aren’t driving it. We are seeing how the one-car thing goes. If we decide we need two cars, then we will prioritize and do the repairs, because I adore my 11-year old car.

  2. Amy says:

    This makes a lot of sense. I have a funny confession about something that is hard for me to get rid of. My kids have a million stuffed animals, and it drives me nuts! We have a small house, and they only are truly attached to a small number of them, so when I find them all over the house, I secretly bag up the less “important” ones to donate. But the problem is, that if I don’t immediately get them out of the house (which never happens), they sit in the basement or somewhere, and then when I finally go to make a donation trip, I see these cute stuffed animals all shoved in a bag, and I start feeling sad for them, and thinking about where we got them from, and how cute they are, and I just can’t bring myself to get rid of them! How silly is that?!?

    • Jackie says:

      Amy, That is so not silly at all. When I start to feel overwhelmed by the toys, I go through and pull out the stuff they don’t play with and put it into a bin. I say I am going to donate them, but they are still in the closet. I work at eliminating best under pressure, like when my mom is having a garage sale and comes to take everything. I try not to take a second look. If it’s been in the closet forever and no one has missed it, it is okay to get rid of it. Those stuffed animals are playing with your head :)

    • Brittney says:

      I feel the same way about my daughters stuffed animals. She was very generous about getting rid of at least 1/2 of hers and I still have them in the garage waiting to be donated. It helps me to think about a child who would love them more. So that’s what I keep thinking. They will leave this house in the next month. As soon as I find a local place to drop them off. And I’m not opening the bags beforehand so I can’t see those cute faces :)

      • Jackie says:

        Brittney, Yes! Focus on the joy another child can get from them. And, definitely don’t open the bags…then you invite all the attachment back. You already did the separation step, now you are just going one step further.

  3. Connie says:

    “Adverse to loss” is an ah-ha for me. On hoarder shows, the hoarding almost always started after a big personal loss(spouse, child,or parent passes away)Now it makes sense, hoarding so one doesn’t have to feel any more loss. I will really use this as I look at the things I want to get rid of & have been procrastinating…thank you so much.

    • Jackie says:

      Connie, Your welcome. I found it fascinating to know that we avoid loss at all costs even when it means throwing away a pen we got for free at an event. It totally explains so many things we hold onto that seemingly don’t hold value. So glad this video gave you an “ah-ha” moment :)

  4. Gwen says:

    A quick response to the toy dilemma: at random times, maybe three to four times a year, I’d ask my girls to find however old they were items to give to some children that had nothing. Toward Christmas that number shot up to ten things. Now if it were the really nice item I could use for school or I wanted to save for friends younger kids to use, I kept that. But the kids knew this was just “done” in our family, all the while talking about and praying for children who did not have a thing. I called our Alliance Against Family Violence and they had a house for drop offs. I took my kids along. I don’t think they remember but maybe in the back of their minds, they will remember. Giving. Praying for these children.
    When you asked the question how much money would I spend to rebuy this item I was saying NONE!!! Before you said it as I thought of a number of things. I’m constantly giving to GW and have even more to give each season. Right now I’ve got to get a tote out–I’ve even been donating totes because the youngest’s wedding decor things are being tossed. So I have totes! So I’m now —- so I suppose I should start with that many items. Won’t be hard to do. One must just do it. Oh—I thought my kids didn’t play with their pony collection anymore so I donated it. They played daily. I just didn’t pay attention. They cried and still remember but I don’t think they are scarred for life. Hide for a month or two if you feel regret. No mention of any toy? Go straight to your donation spot. Do not pass go. Do not stop inside. Until you’ve donated twice!!!

  5. Meredith says:

    Thank you!!! This inspired me to jump into our neighborhood garage sale and get rid of some bigger items that I was having a hard time purging including some more valuable items that I just gave away to people who needed them. It felt great!

    • Jackie says:

      Yay, Meredith! I am about to take my own advice and send a bunch of stuff to my mom’s for her neighborhood garage sale. I can’t wait. Thanks for letting me know how good it is going to feel!

  6. Tiffany says:

    Your “ask yourself this” is key. I’ve heard a similar thing for going through the closet – “would I buy this today?”. If the answer is no, then it simply needs to go. I’m trying to apply this as I go through my house. We have a large home, but with 6 people living here, we have a LOT of stuff!

    • Jackie says:

      Tiffany, Yes, that one question helps so much doesn’t it? I thought having a larger home would solve all my storage problems…boy, was I wrong. It just means you can collect more junk before you have to deal with it. It feels good to thin out the clutter.

  7. Sherrie says:

    Great tips! When I consider getting rid of something I ask myself, “Will I regret getting rid of this”? If not, then out it goes. If I’m not sure, I do what you suggest and remove it from sight for a while. Also, when at garage sales or stores and I see something I might want to buy, I say to myself, “want or need”? If it falls into the “want” category, I then ask myself if I’ll regret not buying it. These questions have helped me prioritize whether or not something is worth buying or keeping.

  8. Anne-Marie says:

    I struggle the same as many with letting things go, but when I do, I realize how freeing the feeling is to finally have the feeling of less clutter. Clutter is heavy, and it clouds our vision – letting it go is lightening the load.

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