Diderot effect


This week, I’m sharing a concept, the Diderot effect, I learnt from my personal favourite newsletter, Dense Discovery.

Kai Brach writes extensively on the concept of Enough. If you aren’t already a subscriber, I highly recommend you head over there right now and subscribe!

Dense Discovery / Issue 143
You decide to upgrade your laptop. It arrives a few days later, along with the new sleeve and adapters you added to the cart during checkout. That new screen is stunning and it really puts your old external monitor to shame. So now you’re eyeing that beautiful new 5K monitor to match.
Dense Discovery / Issue 143
You decide to upgrade your laptop. It arrives a few days later, along with the new sleeve and adapters you added to the cart during checkout. That new screen is stunning and it really puts your old external monitor to shame. So now you’re eyeing that beautiful new 5K monitor to match.

The Diderot effect, named after 18th century philosopher, Denis Diderot, iswhen the purchase of an item leads to a cascade of new purchases to ‘complete’ the look. Thus enslaving you to a never-ending cycle of consumption.

At the start of the pandemic, I started putting together my home office. I bought a standing desk, keyboard, monitor, pegboard, and so much more. It was really really fun. A nice shopping project during the lockdown. It was also exactly what Diderot warned against.

Since I learnt of the Diderot effect, long after I put together my work from home setup, I’ve been trying to avoid falling prey to it. But I have to admit, it’s fun to complete looks and buy accessories.

So instead of trying to avoid the cascade of purchases (since I enjoy it so much), I now try to think of purchases as groups of things. That is, I now factor in accessories and complementary purchases into the equation before I buy anything new.

So it’s no longer, “should I get a new pair of shoes?”, instead it’s “should I invest in this new look?”

That is, if I’m not willing to spend the money to buy 5 other things to go with the shoes, or if I’m not excited about the whole new look, I don’t buy the shoes.

So far, I think this helps.

Seeya next Monday,

Lesley

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