The Psychology of Stuff: A mini-series!

27th Feb 2018 2 min read
Category: Housekeeping Tips | Lifestyle — Tags: clean home, clutter free, gemma bray, hoarding, organised home, organised life, psychology of stuff, the organised mum

I am so happy to introduce this mini series! The Organised Mum Blog is getting brainy!!! The wonderful Emma, a Dr. of Clinical Psychology, also known on Instagram as @thepsychologymum is going to be digging deep into our minds, revealing the secrets about the psychology of stuff. This is a five part mini-series and let me tell you it is FASCINATING …

Emma … it’s over to you … 

There is a long history of thinking about the link between our home environment and psychological well-being. Thousands of years ago in China, Feng shui was used to optimise the impact of the built environment on happiness and harmony. Popular culture makes links between our well-being and home with phrases such as a “tidy house, tidy mind” and “cleanliness is next to godliness”. In western society, things are more easily available than they ever were before, which means we have more stuff than ever before. A study in the USA found that the average house had around 300, 0000 items (if your child loves lego I suspect you have far more!). They concluded that “We live in the most materially rich society in global history, with light-years more possessions per average family than any preceding society”. What’s the psychology behind all this stuff and how does it impact on us? It’s a complex relation which could fill a whole book, but I’m going look at what I consider the key aspects of this.

Let’s start with Identity

If you look round your house at what you own, it becomes clear we don’t just own items because we need them, or solely due to their function or purpose. Did you really need that macrame plant holder for its purpose of holding a plant? Or buy that on-trend grey and yellow throw for the purpose of keeping you cosy on a cold winter evening? Our relationship with things is a lot more complex than that. We buy, own and keep things for lots of reasons above basic need.

One reason is that items we own can be part of who we are: they are part of our history, they mean something to us or they say something about us as a person. They are part of our identity.

These items may also tell other people something about us and who we are. Sometimes we actively choose items to create a persona or to communicate we are part of a group. We may select a brand of clothes because it represents us, or a type of pram because we like the values and message that goes with it and what it says about us as a person (Marketeers know this only too well).

Similarly, our environment into which we put these things can also be part of who we are. We all have an internalised set of beliefs about ourself and other people- our schemas- and how we respond to our environment can be intrinsically linked to this. So if we think of ourselves as organised people, then normally we will want our environment to reflect that. If we think that it is shameful to have a messy house then we are likely to put an effort into making sure it is tidy. Of course, it’s not that simple,  but our schemas or internal beliefs impact on how we behave and interact with the world,  and therefore can have an impact on how we manage our things and the environment into which we put them.

Tomorrow we will talk about control