Let's say person is moving homes and has lots of kids toys, suits, shirts, ties and other stuff that he seldom uses.

He is am planning to sell it all in a car boot sale even if he knows that it's counter productive. He would have to use ~30£ on entry fees and fuel, without even accounting for Sunday lost.

Logical solution would be just drive to the nearest skip or charity shop, and yet he can't make himself to do it, which of cognitive bias is at play here?

I don't think this is 'sunk cost' because he is loosing that stuff anyway, it's just that loosing it and knowing that someone else will be able to use it somehow makes ones loss more acceptable, which is sub-optimal and suggests a bias.

  • $\begingroup$ This question is mostly centred on personal experience, which is off topic on this site. If you removed personal references and asked about the tendency to keep stuff in general, it would be a valid question. $\endgroup$
    – Seanny123
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Seanny123 I agree with you that question indeed is based on personal experience, but everything is - which means it does not make it less scientific to describe it in this way. I could argue that it makes it much more understandable. Anyway I could rewrite it in 3rd person, would that help? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 21:30
  • $\begingroup$ Honestly, it would. We're really touchy on this site in terms of any sort of personal advice, because we get a deluge of inappropriate personal questions every day. Consequently, we never want to show any sort of tendency towards personal questions. (: $\endgroup$
    – Seanny123
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Seanny123 Done, and thanks for the advice. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ The question can be worded in a better way, but the issue it is raising is very real. Anyone who tried to get rid of the old stuff runs into the issue of keeping stuff "just because", maybe it will be useful in the future, maybe it will be useful in side projects, maybe someone will want it. All of these reasons are highly unlikely, so it's hard to throw stuff out. $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 18:24

1 Answer 1


One possible explanation for the scenario you are describing is Endowment effect.

In psychology and behavioral economics, the endowment effect is the hypothesis that people ascribe more value to things merely because they own them.

One of the theories that explain the phenomenon is based on loss aversion :

It was proposed by Kahneman and his colleagues that the endowment effect is, in part, due to the fact that once a person owns an item, forgoing it feels like a loss, and humans are loss-averse.

  • $\begingroup$ Hi DesignerAnalyst, thanks for your answer. Please cope with me but I fail to relate how would Endowment effect that makes me overvalue my stuff would explain myself wanting sell my stuff at a loss if I know that I am better off throwing it out. Shouldn't loss aversion make me want to throw the stuff out even more. Or you think that since I overvalue my stuff I see it of greater value and therefore it shouldn't go to waste? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 13:49
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @MatasVaitkevicius I originally wanted to point out that the desire to "sell at a loss" might be just a mental trick to keep the stuff. It is almost certain that not all 100% of the stuff will be sold in one attempt, so the failed attempt may be used as a rationalization to keep the stuff to sell at some point in the future. $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexStone early stage of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsive_hoarding :) $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 15:16

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