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Product ‘purgatories’ may aid in decluttering your closet if you’re struggling to clean it out.


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Researchers from Seattle University’s Albers School of Business and Economics and the Indian School of Business published a report that provides new insights into how consumers make decisions about keeping or disposing of possessions they no longer need.

The article, “Prepare for the Disposal Bite: Product Sanitizers Encourage Mental Simulation of the Disposal Process,” was recently published in Journal of Consumer PsychologyWritten by Matthew S Isaacs and Purnima Venu.

Spring cleaning, moving houses, and tidying closets can be fraught with tough decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. Celebrity arrangement consultant Marie Kondo recommends keeping a piece only if it sparks cheer—easier said than done for many people.

“It’s not just clinical hoarders who end up with a lot of stuff,” the authors wrote. “Even well-functioning adults have a tendency to retain products that have outlived their usefulness.”

The research team presents a strategy to help consumers avoid the trap of hoarding and finally getting rid of items they are no longer needed. Researchers have found that moving an item to a “purgatory” or transitional space, such as a storage unit or basement, makes it easier to dispose of.

In one behavioral experiment, researchers asked participants to think of a rarely used item in their kitchen. One group of participants sent the researchers a picture of the item in its current location. The other group was asked to move the item to a storage space or vault and to submit a photo of the item in this new location. When the researchers then offered to connect all of the participants with an organization that would help them dispose of the product, the participants who took the item to the sanitizer were more likely to throw it away than those who didn’t.

In two additional studies, the authors found that moving an item into a transitional space prompted consumers to mentally envision its permanent removal, which facilitated its eventual abandonment. In other words, imagining disposal allowed consumers to psychologically prepare for the possibility of parting with the item forever.

Previous research explored ways to make product owners less attached to their items so that they would be more open to giving them away. This new work offers another way to move from mentally perceived elimination to making it a reality.

The authors conclude that “by helping them eliminate clutter, product sanitizers may be able to improve consumers’ psychological well-being and arouse their happiness.”

more information:
Matthew S. Isaac et al., Preparing for Waste Disposal: Product Sanitizers Encourage Mental Simulation of the Disposal Process, Journal of Consumer Psychology (2023). DOI: 10.1002/jcpy.1342

Provided by the Society for Consumer Psychology

the quoteAre you having trouble cleaning out your closet? Why ‘Clutters’ Can Help Clear Clutter (2023, May 22), Retrieved May 22, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-closet-product-purgatories-clutter.html

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