Today’s guest post comes from “Brandon Zeller, who graduated from Brigham Young University in 2008 with a philosophy degree. He currently studies at Harvard Law School. He enjoys soccer, formal logic, and most varieties of cheese.
What makes us get so much stuff that we don’t need? This post (and the next) describes a few traps that lead to clutter and why those traps are hard to avoid.
One trap that leads to having more stuff than you want or need is the “Free Stuff” phenomenon. Chances are you own a lot of things because the acquisition cost was so low. It almost doesn’t matter what it is. If you can get something for nothing, you want it. I know that I have a lot more T-shirts than I actually wear. My wife and I have two TVs in our 1-bedroom apartment because we found one for free.
Perhaps the most common and most dangerous example of the “free stuff” phenomenon is free food. There is a lot of free food out there—and it’s almost always unhealthy and more than you should be eating.
Why You Fall For It
It’s tough not to fall into this trap because the normal ways we talk ourselves out of getting stuff aren’t available here. You can’t tell yourself that you just can’t afford it, because, hey, it’s free!
Even defenses like “where would I keep it?” and “what would I do with it?” aren’t as effective when you’re trying to keep yourself from getting free stuff. After all, it’s not as painful to throw away free stuff if there doesn’t turn out to be anywhere to put it or anything to do with it.
Check out This Deal!
There’s a second trap that is a subset of the “free stuff” phenomenon. This is “Check out this deal!” syndrome, in which you’ll buy something you don’t need because you can get a great discount on the purchase.
When I was in college, a local grocery store ran a sale on cereal: eight boxes for eight dollars. Being a college student, I was powerless to resist cheap cereal. I not only bought eight boxes for myself, I bought eight more for my roommates.
The trouble was that they also saw the sale and went for it. Soon, our kitchen was stuffed to the rafters with thirty-two boxes of cereal. Within a month we were begging people to take them from us.
(Note from Damien: I was one of Brandon’s roommates; we were buried alive under cereal boxes.)
Why You Fall For It
The tough thing about this trap is that it’s a natural outgrowth of being a smart consumer. If you consistently think about your purchases and do research before buying things, you know a good deal when you see one. Often, it becomes hard to think “this is a great deal!” without also thinking “I should buy this!”
So, there you have it, two accumulation traps we are prone to fall for. Free stuff is hard to avoid because hey, it’s free. Great deals are tempting because they make us think we’re savvy shoppers. Stay tuned next time when we look at more accumulation traps.
Do you fall for these accumulation traps? How do you overcome them?
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