Lots of people, myself included, often keep items long past when they are useful because of the fond memories they bring back. It feels good to remember happy times you had and sometimes it feels that if we do not keep the item, we will not be able to recall the memory. Unfortunately, when this happens too often, our homes end up cluttered with things that have no functional purpose and take up valuable space. This clutter impacts us mentally too as many people report having a cluttered home is stressful and impacts our ability to think clearly. In addition, focusing too much on the past makes it harder for people to live in the present.
I know I personally am always looking for strategies to help declutter my life. Authors such as Marie Kondo, and her incredibly popular book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, have had a ton of success helping others declutter their lives.
As written about on the website ScienceDaily, a recent study by researchers at The Ohio State University looked at one strategy to help encourage people to reduce clutter, by taking pictures of their belongings before discarding them. The thought behind this is that by taking pictures of the items, a person can preserve the memory of the item without needing the actual item in the home.
The study involved college students living in residence halls that were encouraged to participate in a donation drive before they left for their holiday break. The catch is that half of the students had advertisements for the donation drive that encouraged them to collect their items and donate (control condition) while the other half of the students had advertisements that encouraged them to take a photo of their items then donate them. (experimental condition).
The researchers then went to the donation bins for each residence hall and counted how many items were donated by residence hall. They found that more items were donated in the experimental condition encouraging photographs of belongings compared to the control condition (613 items vs. 533 items).
This is an interesting (and sneaky) study that shows a) how easily people are impacted by advertising, and b) that taking photos of belongings can help people feel more comfortable with donating their belongings, likely by reducing fears that the memories will be lost (although this was not studied directly).
It would be interesting to know how often people actually go back to these pictures to return to the memories. From personal experience, while it can be hard to let go of belongings, once the belongings are out of the home, it is hard to find how my life has been negatively impacted.
It would also be interesting to learn how well photos really do bring back old memories or if having some tangible item brings back memories more clearly. Research has probably already examined this so a little digging around might find this answer.
Now admittedly online or electronic clutter is still clutter. However, I think we can all agree that having a bunch of files on a computer is preferable to having your belongings bulging out of your closet and on top of every workable surface in your home.
In sum, if you are having difficulty getting rid of belongings and are desperate for some space, try taking a picture and seeing if that helps assuage the guilt of letting go. While letting go of items can hurt, often it is like ripping off a band-aid and the feeling after can be freeing and calming
Article link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170626093553.htm
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The Clinically Relevant Insights Blog, part of ShawnWilsonPhD.com, shares news and research related to psychology and wellness.