In economics, there is the idea of the “sunk cost fallacy.” The phrase refers to investments you’ve made that are now nothing but loss – in other words, a waste. You won’t get it back. The fallacy is the mistruth that you should keep investing in those things, or keep them around, so that you can ‘save’ or ‘avoid’ the waste. Believe it or not, overcoming the sunk cost fallacy and household junk go together. Or, at least we can say that the concept of collecting junk because ‘you might need it someday’ is one big lie we can tell ourselves.
In this article, we’ll explain how the awareness of the sunk cost fallacy can change your junk-collecting habits, and where you can spot it in daily, consumerist life.
Buying junk because it’s on sale and you want to save money in your hypothetical future
When you buy things only because they are on sale, or because you’re getting a two-for-one deal, you’re technically entering the possibility of the sunk cost mindset. If at a later point, you don’t use the items you overbought, or you do use them but only because you bought them (and there is no joy in it), then you’ve got sunk cost. You won’t get your money, time or whatnot back for them.
One way to avoid falling into this type of household junk collection is by not going for the sale. Retailers will always have new, shiny gadgets, clothes, and such for you to buy. There will always be something amazing for you to purchase at a discount. The ‘rush’ to get something you don’t need just because it’s at a lower price point, or might be useful to you ‘one day’ is not a reason to collect junk.
This is of course, speaking about specific circumstances. If you reaaaally need a new pair of shoes, and see the perfect pair on sale, then sure, buy them. That’s not sunk cost. You’re not wasting the shoes. But if you buy two of the same kind on sale because you think that in four years, after you’ve worn out the first pair, you can use the second pair…well…maybe that’s a bit much. There will be sales in the future.
And, often grocery stores do this with food items. If you’re going to eat the food, perhaps that’s not sunk cost. But if you eat the food because you don’t like it, as this article states, only because you paid for it, that is sunk cost fallacy
Not purging your household junk, because you might need them someday
Not getting rid of household junk because you ‘might need them one day’ is a common theme that minimalists try to overcome. It’s a junk-collecting habit because nothing goes out, which comes in.
When you view minimalist apartments in photos or videos online, you see that some people have learned to live with very little. You may be jealous of the ‘freedom’ they must feel (like always sleeping in a clutter-free hotel room!) or you may think, “that’s ridiculous and extreme, how do they afford to buy what they need every time they need it?”
Well, according to the documentary, ‘Minimalism,’ you only need to use this mentality in a way that works for you, if you want to benefit from it. It’s more about getting rid of what brings you no value, rather than restricting yourself to a life you can’t realistically live. Like the famous organizer, Marie Kondo, would say, if it doesn’t bring you joy, then get rid of it.
The minimalist blogs have methods for decluttering and clearing your household junk. Their ideas can make it easier to start, such as getting rid of the things you have more than one of, or starting with one room.
If you find you have no space in a room in the house (or more than one!), and are borderline-hoarding stuff, then it may be time to try out some of the tenets of minimalism. Maybe junk-collecting is a habit you’ve unknowingly formed, and it’s time to get rid of it.
To conclude: getting rid of household junk is opportunity, not sunk cost
Around the web you’ll read about how ‘lightweight’ and ‘free’ people feel when they get rid of their junk. According to this Psychology Today article, “we may not anticipate the positive opportunities that might follow once we have abandoned a sunk cost. We don’t recognize that new possibilities may open up once we lift the anchor and sail away.” In other words, getting rid of your junk, and ending your junk-collecting habits can mean a positive future with regards to your lifestyle. Start small, and see where it can lead!