This will help with the impulse buys

Have you ever bought something because you liked the look of it and then, when you got it home or a few days or weeks later become bored or disinterested in it?

That initial allure in the shop fades and it becomes another impulse purchase that becomes clutter.

Well, according to an article in Scientific American Mind in the July / August 2011 issue, there’s a reason for that.

Research undertaken by 2 psychologists – Piotr Winkielman at the University of California, San Diego and John T Cacioppo at the University of Chicago undertook research that showed that the easier it was for someone to identify an object, the more the person liked it.

How did they know?

By recording minute changes in the persons ‘smile’ muscles.

What they also found was that the shape of an item matters.

Sad people preferred things they had previously seen, and cheerful people were indifferent.

They therefore concluded that familiar forms are reassuring for us, or give us a sense of security in an ‘unsafe environment’.

All this explains our impulse buys that become clutter.


Let me ask you a couple of questions.

Do you have any catalogues amongst your clutter?

80 – 90% of my clients have catalogues amongst their clutter. They love to browse through them, dream of where they’d put things, how they’d use them, what they’d look like in them.

A love of looking at catalogues is, essentially, a way of familiarising ourselves with an object.

The more familiar we are with it, the more likely we are to buy it because we’ve imagined the scenarios of having / using / wearing it so many times.

Do you repeatedly look at catalogues and imagine what life would be like if you owned / wore that item?

Just like with our worksheet 7 in workbook 1, which we use with every Clutter Clearing Session, we are familiarising ourselves with the goal.

We are familiarising ourselves with how life will be improved when we get that item that we see on the page in the catalogue.

However, rather than working towards our goal like we do in our worksheet 7 in workbook 1 which strengthens the benefits and reasons to clear the clutter and let go of things – i.e. letting things go off the conveyor belt of our home, looking at a catalogue repeatedly is actually the equivalent of reinforcing the benefits of acquiring things – i.e. bringing things onto our conveyor belt of our home.

So the research carried out by these psychologists will make a lot of sense to the person with clutter.

Have you ever bought something, got it home and after a month or so got bored of it?

Not only is this the natural boredom factor, but according to this article, it’s because when we buy something it’s the appearance of the item that is priority. However, after about a month of owning something it becomes the feel and touch that is the priority.

So our priorities shift after we’ve bought something.

Have you ever bought something, got it home and thought ‘what was I thinking’?

That can be explained by this research too. Apparently, if we’re over exposed to things, then we’re more drawn to things that are more ‘innovative’. This can happen quickly, apparently after only 20 minutes of looking at something.

So what can we learn from this in relation to our Clutter Clearing?

It’s not telling us anything that I don’t already tell my clients!

We need to stop looking that the catalogues and dreaming about owning the item because all it’s going to do is make us ‘have’ to own it. If we weren’t imagining owning it, we wouldn’t convince ourselves we need it.

We need to buy things according look AND comfort. If we only buy based on look, we’re likely to stop using or wearing it within a month when the comfort factor becomes the priority.

Only allow yourself a maximum 20 minutes to decide on whether to buy something you need or not, because otherwise we’ll buy something that we’ll regret later.

Reference: Scientific American Mind, July / August 2011, pages 42 – 47

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