Why We Hold Onto Everything

Why We Hold Onto Everything

We have all struggled to find reasons to throw out our old possessions. We know we probably don’t need that shirt because we never wear it, but when we complete our “spring cleaning”, we can’t bring ourselves to throw it away. So the shirt survives another round of “cleaning”, but as you add new clothes to your wardrobe, it continues to sit there collecting dust. Why can’t we just let go of the old shirt?

Most of the time we refuse to let go of objects because we tie them to self-worth. From a young age, we are taught that we can own things. According to the British Psychology Society, studies have shown that by the age of two, we are able to understand the idea of possession. Once this idea of possession is developed, we tie things into not just how they are ours but how they represent ourselves. These items can represent your style, remind you of important events, or represent your achievements. You know that those medals from when you played little league as a kid just take up unnecessary space, but they represent an important time in your life. They represent fond memories of friendship, as well as your achievements of the past. They represent who you are, so how could you possibly part with them?

Inc. reports that we also link objects that we struggle to throw away with certain relationships. For example, you may be more inclined to keep that stuffed teddy bear simply because your grandmother gave it to you when you were younger, and it reminds you of her. Or you may keep a T-shirt that doesn’t fit because it reminds you of a family vacation that holds fond memories.

Junior Betsy Reeve agrees with this thought. She comments that she still possesses old clothes and stuffed animals from her childhood. “I have good memories with those things and don’t want to give them up,” she said. “For the clothes, I tend to think ‘Oh, what if I need this in the future,’ even if I know I won’t.”

Senior Ella Heal hangs onto things for different reasons. She finds she has clothes galore because “[She’s] afraid that maybe [she’ll] need it sometime in the future. So [she] doesn’t want to throw it out because then [she’ll] have to buy it again.”

This brings up another reason in which we are habitual hoarders: money. Many of us like to conserve the money we have, and the thought of having to buy an item we already own seems absurd. Holding onto these items protects the loss of money and keeps us from having to repurchase what we need.

One of the most pressing reasons as to why we struggle with throwing out old possessions, according to NBC, is our need for safety and security. We, as humans, are afraid of change. Our personal items help ground us in something comforting in a world that is ever-changing. We find it difficult to throw away those items that remind us of better times.

Our personal items mean a lot to us and while most of us will never come close to the level of becoming a hoarder, we all have these tendencies. Hoarders keep these things for the same reasons, and while we comfort the idea of hanging onto unnecessary items with the idea of its not as bad as it could be, just remember that we all need the comfort of our possessions.