Scientists have discovered a clever trick that will help you declutter your home

Clutter has a way of accumulating, but for so many folks, the piles around the house or things stored in the garage have nothing to do with being messy. It’s much more about the memories associated with the items that make them so difficult to part with. Well, a group of scientists have come up with a great solution for that.

Researchers found that people are more willing to give away items of sentimental value if they’re able to take a photo of them first. Because, after all, it’s not the object you’re holding onto. It’s the memory associated with it.

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Flickr | surprise truck

“We found that people are more willing to give up these possessions if we offer them a way to keep the memory and the identity associated with that memory,” Ohio State University professor Rebecca Walker Reczek told Science Daily.

The idea for this experiment started because study co-author Karen Winterich, an associate professor of marketing at Pennsylvania State University, caught herself hanging on to an old pair of basketball shorts that she didn’t wear anymore. She had worn them to beat a rival team and just didn’t want to let them go.

“I didn’t want the shorts—I wanted the memory of winning that game and that’s what I thought of when I saw the shorts,” she said. “A picture can easily mark that memory for me and I can donate it so someone else can use it, which is even better.”

From there, they conducted a field study involving 797 Penn State Students. When it was time for students to clear out the residence halls, they were met with one of two types of advertisement.

One ad read, “Don’t Pack up Your Sentimental Clutter…Just Keep a Photo of It, Then Donate,” and the other read, “Don’t Pack Up Your Sentimental Clutter, Just Collect the Items, Then Donate.”

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Flickr | tacoekkel

By the end, those who had been exposed to the ad advocating for preserving memories with photos of sentimental objects donated 613 items. The others donated only 533. So, it would seem as though those who knew they could keep the memory of items by taking a photo were more willing to donate.

The photo-taking method for saving memories is definitely a good option, and there a plenty of other tips for how to declutter even the most sentimental of items. Good Housekeeping recommends displaying a few of your favorite items from a collection rather than keeping the whole bunch stored away in a box (where they just take up space and gather dust). That way, your sentimental side is satisfied, but you can have less clutter. If you have three items to remember something by, eventually you won’t feel the need to keep the rest.

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Flickr | tnarik

And then you also have to realize that there may be some items, such as your wedding dress, that you’re just not willing to get rid of, and that’s OK, too.  You have to know what you’re willing to give up and what you’re not. It’s all part of the decluttering process.