Loss Aversion

We have two weeks left to reduce our physical belongings to what will fit into a suitcase and a backpack.Yikes.

Even with this deadline, it’s comically hard for me to let go at times. I’m very good at imagining how random objects that I never use will be suddenly become very important to my happiness. What if I need to write a dozen thank you notes before I leave? Or what if we suddenly decide to have a large dinner party and need a dozen wine glasses? What if after all the time necessary for working, parenting, and preparation before we leave, I am somehow left with the thousands of hours that would be required to re-read all of the assorted books I’ve collected over the years? What then, huh?

It also doesn’t help that I really love some of our stuff: the coffee-colored couch that doesn’t show coffee stains, my cooking gear, the small shells and pretty rocks that have randomly accumulated on my office windowsill.

My attempt to step around the loss aversion is to ask myself: if I were looking at this in a store, would I buy it now? If not, it goes.

And generally, it goes. But it still hurts, a little, to let go of that imagined future utility or happiness.

Digital purging is even harder.

I was culling my old travel photos recently, in preparation for selling our desktop computer. While I might logically know that giraffes are photographically well-documented animals, it’s difficult to delete photos of the many giraffes I saw while on a walking safari in South Africa. They are MY photos, and maybe I’ll need them someday to jog my memory of those EXACT giraffes when I write my memoirs, after I become all famous and stuff for doing…. something.

In part, I think my struggle comes from the feeling that digital purging is less necessary than physical object purging.  Certainly I would feel sillier having a storage facility for a bunch of physical stuff than I would for paying some absurdly minuscule price for enough space to store all of my giraffe photos.

However, getting rid of my stuff isn’t just about spending less money to store it. It’s also about having less, so that I can appreciate what I do have more. Splitting my appreciation among 100 giraffes gives me less time, energy, and motivation to appreciate this one.


Even if there is a surplus of digital space in the world, there is only so much space in my head and in my life. I don’t need to preserve everything in my past. And maybe, by attempting to hold on to so much from before, I’m leaving less room for appreciating what is now and yet to come.