When you buy something, its overt cost is stated on the price tag, but there’s another potential hidden cost: that of de-acquisition.
De-acquisition cost: The mental, physical, and monetary strain it takes to get rid of something you realize you didn’t need in the first place.
It has never been easier to accumulate stuff. With Amazon Prime, you can have virtually anything you want on your doorstep within days. You click one button without thinking, and voila – order placed.
When you place that order, especially for an impulse buy, the only cost you probably consider is the stated price. There is, however, another factor worth considering. How much effort would it take to get rid of this thing if I eventually realized that I didn’t need it after all?
The answer? A lot more than it took to buy it.
One click vs. hours (or even days) of work.
Have you ever moved before? It’s painful because you have to dig through all your stuff. All the stuff you use every day along with all the stuff you haven’t seen in a decade. When you dig everything up, it’s natural to want to get rid of the things you don’t use anymore. But at this step, you may notice, stuff is not easy to dispose of.
Let’s take a pool table for example. Pool tables are awesome. They can be super fun. They’re a staple in any home entertainment space, but how many people do you know with a pool table in their home who actually use it regularly?
If you ever want to sell it, you first have to find someone who is willing to buy it. If in-person, you have to make time for people to come see the table, and if they do want to buy, you likely have to haggle with them on pricing. If you’re selling online (which probably isn’t super feasible for a pool table, but you get the point for other items), you have to go through the effort of creating a listing, taking decent pictures, and eventually packing and shipping the item if it sells.
Even if you just want to give it away, you still have to convince someone who has the means to transport it to take it off your hands.
It’s easy to accumulate stuff. It’s far harder to get rid of it.
It costs money to buy something, but it costs life to get rid of it. The amount of time, energy, and frustration it takes to get rid of things is expensive—sometimes monetarily, always spiritually. When you consider both obvious and hidden costs, purchase decisions aren’t as clear cut.
There’s a lot more friction in de-acquiring things than acquiring them. This makes sense because it’s in companies’ best interests to get you to buy more stuff, not to minimize your material footprint.
Knowing that there’s far more friction in getting rid of stuff than acquiring it I now ask myself before purchase something, “How hard would this be to get rid of?” Most of the time, my answer dissuades me from making the purchase. It forces me to factor in the hidden cost of having too much and needing to get rid of it.
You can always have more, but at some point, bigger is not better. Excess things does not equal excess fulfillment. Eventually, you may even realize that when it comes to stuff, less really is more.