The Endowment Effect and Organizing

Sometimes our brains are scary. The Endowment Effect is a good example. I’m quoting from the mini-encyclopedia of

“This bias occurs when we overvalue something that we own, regardless of its objective market value (Kahneman et al., 1991). It is evident when people become relatively reluctant to part with a good they own for its cash equivalent, or if the amount that people are willing to pay for the good is lower than what they are willing to accept when selling it. Put more simply, people place a greater value on things once they have established ownership. This is especially true for things that wouldn’t normally be bought or sold on the market, usually items with symbolic, experiential, or emotional significance. Endowment effect research has been conducted with goods ranging from coffee mugs (Kahneman et al., 1990) to sports cards (List, 2011). While researchers have proposed different reasons for the effect, it may be best explained by psychological factors related to loss aversion (Ericson & Fuster, 2014).”


In simpler terms – we touches it, we wants it, my precious. Organizers have recognized this for years and years and years. We have a strategy for combating it with our clients: we might stand at the waaaaaaay far end of a room, holding an item weeeeelllllll out of our client’s reach, asking for the item on display “Keep it or let it go?” It works, promise. If the client hesitates, we’ll offer them prompts: “Do you still use it?” “How often?” “How do you use it?” and a gazillion others until someone reaches a conclusion or realizes s/he/they truly can’t decide yet.


Well, I’m delighted to announce I just learned another technique, because of my collaboration in a recent Redfin article, The Ultimate Room-by-Room Decluttering Checklist | Redfin. My clever colleague Cassie Thompson of Serene Spaces suggests that we try wearing gloves to break the emotional ties. BRILLIANT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Absolutely brilliant.


And never put it in its pocketses.


Coffee Mugs in Oven

About Lauren Williams

Lauren Williams, Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Virtual Professional Organizer®

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