Ask Alexa Economic Advice from

Clutter Concerns

Jun 11, 2014    •    1756 Views

Dear Alexa,

My family and I are moving this summer. Packing up my closet, I noticed a lot of clothes that I no longer wear. However, these clothes—particularly my old sports gear—are hard to get rid of because they hold sentimental value. Alexa, I don’t know what to do! Should I give my clothes to a local charity or keep them?

An Overly Cluttered Chris

Dear Overly Cluttered Chris,

I am sorry to hear that you are struggling over whether or not to donate your clothes. However, you need not fret! Moving is already stressful enough!  From an economic standpoint, you should give your old clothes to charity.

Your situation is an example of what behavioral economists call a “positive externality.” An externality is an action done by a person (or between two people) that affects a third, uninvolved party. Externalities are not always good. For example, when a person smokes in a room, the smoke may harm someone nearby. In this case, however, your closet cleaning would have only benefits. A person who is not as fortunate as you could receive the clothing that you no longer wear. A donated t-shirt could even enter the market for used clothing and wind up in an East African port.

That being said, it is often hard to let go of items that hold sentimental value. That old athletic gear, your college sweatshirts or other items that hold fond memories are important to you. My solution would be to keep the clothes that hold the most meaning. I would suggest donating everything else. This way, you not only clean out your closet and have less packing to do, but you also help out someone else in need.

I wish you all the best with your move and in your future endeavors!


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