You are at: > Health & Lifestyle

Dr Jessica Grisham The Fear of Throwing Out Interview

Do you have FOTO?

It's a feeling we're all familiar with – the inability to get rid of something despite knowing we're never likely to use it again. And to make matters worse, we often can't quite put our finger on why we find it so hard to throw out. Now, this phenomenon has a name – FOTO, or the Fear of Throwing Out.

According to leading psychologist and expert on collecting and saving behaviour, Dr Jessica Grisham, it's impacting more than just our storage space, it's also weighing us down mentally and stopping us from embracing a happier life.

Recent research, commissioned by Australia's fourth largest mobile service provider, amaysim, found that 4 in 5 Australians (80%) confess to holding onto things they no longer need, for reasons they can't explain. What's more, over half (57%) admit to feeling guilty or frustrated about the things they can't bring themselves to throw out. Clothes (64%), travel mementos (48%) and books (47%) top the FOTO list – inflatable flamingos probably made it too (not a fact).

The research also shows that FOTO can span over years, even decades, Dr Grisham states: 'Often people keep hold of things that remind them of happy times, or because they have spent a lot of money on an item, perhaps when starting a new hobby or fitness regime. By keeping them around and not using them, items can change from being a source of pleasure to a source of angst. This negative feeling may linger for as long as they are unable to throw the thing away."

Overcoming FOTO and liberating yourself can be as easy as identifying those few things in life and taking the plunge. 77% of people confirmed they feel happier after getting rid of things they no longer need.

'By breaking the habit and removing a few key things we've been holding onto for too long, most people experience a sense of liberation that will drive them to do more of the same. By overcoming FOTO, people can improve their mental wellbeing as it can help them embrace who they are today by having just the things they need around them," Dr Grisham says.

According to amaysim's Commercial Director of Mobile, Maik Retzlaff, this is the same insight which has driven the brand to create a small but mighty $10 phone plan, offering the many Australians who regularly waste data, just what they need.

'It's the same FOTO mentality that's stopping people from making the best choices when it comes to what they need in their lives. We want to inspire Aussies to move on, by letting go of outdated things from the past like lock-in contracts and data inclusions they don't use," Retzlaff says.

For more information about amaysim, please visit

Interview with Dr Jessica Grisham, Psychologist and Expert on Collecting and Saving Behaviour at UNSW Sydney

Question: What is The Fear of Throwing Out?

Dr Jessica Grisham: FOTO is the feeling you get when you look around your home and see an old pair of jeans that no longer fit, or a trinket from your trip to Prague 10 years ago, and you know you should get rid of them. But you find that something stops you from actually getting it out of your house and into the donation bin.

Question: Why do so many Australians struggle to get rid of things?

Dr Jessica Grisham: Australians report that they struggle with hanging onto things for different reasons. They keep things because they think they will need them someday, or because it reminds them of a special time or person, or because they feel guilty for throwing away something they have spent money on.

Question: Why do you think many of us cannot bear to part with certain objects?

Dr Jessica Grisham: It is human nature to become attached to our possessions. Some special things feel like they are part of us, like they represent part of our identity and are an extension of ourselves. That is not necessarily a problem, except when we find that there are too many things and it is beginning to drag us down, or creating a cluttered headspace.

Question: How does FOTO affect us mentally?

Dr Jessica Grisham: In the amaysim research, the majority of people reported that they would feel happier and lighter if they could get rid of some of these things. They described feeling frustrated that they were hanging onto things that they felt they should be able to let go.

Question: What surprised you about this research into The Fear of Throwing Out?

Dr Jessica Grisham: hey could not initially identify why they were hanging on to things they no longer need or use. Things were probably building up without them pausing to reflect upon why. I think that could be a helpful aspect of this research, in that it will encourage people to notice when they are hanging onto things they don't need and how it may be affecting them. Another interesting finding was how long people were hanging onto things, with a quarter of Aussies hanging on to things for over 10 years.

Question: What advice do you have for women who can't throw away clothes?

Dr Jessica Grisham: If it doesn't fit or flatter you, donate it. Life is too short to wear things you don't feel good in. If you haven't worn something in over a year, that is telling you something. You don't like how it looks or need it anymore. That means it is time to go. Think of other people enjoying these items if that helps you to get rid of them. Getting rid of the unnecessary stuff will help you to organise, store, and appreciate the clothing that you do like and wear.

Question: What are the different types of FOTO?

Dr Jessica Grisham: There are two main types – hanging onto something you might use one day or keeping something for emotional reasons, because of the memories associated with it or the positive feeling it gives you.

Question: What can we do, to overcome FOTO?

Dr Jessica Grisham: The first step is becoming aware of it, and then you can start challenging yourself. Take incremental steps to get rid of the things you no longer need or enjoy and it will become easier to make those decisions. Plan a time where you will go through your closet or cupboard and focus on that task. Reward yourself with something non-material, like a coffee date or a manicure, for a job well done!

Interview by Brooke Hunter



Join our VIP Club
Enter Competitions
Add to Bookmarks
Free Toolbar Download
VIP member - Login