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I’m saving it for a special occasion

Hi Friend,

We all buy or acquire things that we are obsessed with and just “HAVE to have”. Marketers love us to feel overcome with obsessive need to possess something while ignoring price and practicality. Just owning it can give us a powerful high. Touching a delicious silk shirt and imagining you wearing it at a romantic dinner for two is a little dopamine hit.

I came across this article describing “specialness spirals”. I instantly recognised some of my clients’ (and MY) tendencies to see ordinary items as treasures to be revered and protected.

I bought this gorgeous journal cover from my very favourite Japanese brand Hobonichi. The outside is hand woven fabric and inside is natural leather and the zipper has a delicious grosgrain ribbon. It was a little bit of a splurge but I justified it as a graduation gift after completing my Master of Counselling.

I ADORE it! I can’t stop looking at it and admiring it. It is divine.

But it’s remains in its box.


So what did these marketing researchers find out about “specialness spirals” after completing six studies?

It’s kinda super simple but makes complete sense. Nonconsumption - the act of not using something turns our ordinary possessions into special treasures that we keep without ever using or discarding.

After acquiring the item we decide not to use it. That simple initial decision makes the item feel more special to us. The next time we go to use it we’re reminded of the last time we avoided using it and feel the need to protect it and save it for the future. WHY?

Reason 1: By simply deciding not to use my journal cover today it makes it difficult for me to know when to make a decision to use it. Therefore I’m more likely to hold off using it for an idealised future occasion? Because if I’m not going to use it today it must need a special occasion or purpose, right?

This leads to:

Reason 2: Whatever my actual reasons for not using the cover at the time, my mind tends to want a logical reason for my decision and will make something up that makes sense.

We often look to explain our emotions because we like things to make sense. We can’t feel sad because it’s raining we must have some existential crisis on the horizon. I might attribute my decision to put off using my cover because the perfect opportunity - like a business pitch - hasn’t come about yet. Really it was because I’d just eaten an almond croissant and had oily fingers!

So now my cover can’t be used until I get the opportunity to have a meeting with a client to pitch an idea! And, even if that day comes, I might decide that even that isn’t “special” enough.

The less you use it the more special it feels…

The more special it feels the less likely you are to use it because it becomes more rarified every time you decide not to use it.

ARGH! So, the Chanel No.5 perfume you got for your sweet 16th is now off, the cashmere sweater is moth eaten, and the wine is now vinegar.

By rarifying our possessions we lose out in a number of ways. We miss out on enjoying the possessions we love. We feel extreme disappointment and distress when we realise the possessions are ruined and we didn’t even get to enjoy them.

We live in a jam packed museum of “specialness” and can’t have people over to celebrate the milestone occasions when we could use our special stuff.

Just knowing that this spiral of specialness occurs not because the items are particularly special but because of a cognitive bias will help.

You can also commit in advance to using items before you buy them so that you have a plan

I’m off now to use my Hobonichi cover :)

Until next week :)

Jan <3

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