Sunday, August 28, 2011

Living With Less: Buying Less to Begin With

First, a bit about last night.

I'll talk more about how we moved another time.  It's an entire post (or series) on its own.  But what you should know that applies directly to last night is this: we didn't get a moving truck.  We mailed about 10 boxes to ourselves and loaded the rest in our own car.

That's what we tell everybody.  But, the truth is, we actually loaded up two other cars too.  When my parents came out to visit us in July they brought us a second load of our things, most of which were things from my childhood that I had been storing at their house since before I got married.  Then, on Friday, Bryan's mom (and brother and aunt) drove in with the final load.  Bryan's really nice sister and her husband were kind enough to store it for us from the time we moved until Bryan's mom brought it out to us on Friday.

Saturday morning, we unloaded the last little load of things from their van.  Saturday night (last night) we finally took a final stab at getting everything officially "unpacked."

After some preliminary sorting (i.e. looking through Olivia's clothes that didn't fit her when we moved and realizing that half of them do fit her now), my basic strategy was to enlist Bryan to bring everything down to me in the basement where I could sort it all simultaneously.  After about five minutes of sorting and emptying out boxes and storage tubs, I started having the same day dream I have every time I have to sort things; I started day dreaming about our entire house burning down.  We'd all be safely out of it, of course, but then I wouldn't have to sort stuff.  Win-win.

Okay, it's not really a great plan.  But I think about it every single time I have to sort things.  So if you're in the middle of sorting all your stuff and you hit that phase where you wish your house would go up in flames or you just want to throw everything in the trash, just know that you're not alone.  :)

And know that you can make it through.  Last night was frustrating and messy, but today our basement is clean and tidy and rather satisfying to behold.

So that was last night.  But I want to go back now and talk about why last night was so frustrating.  Or, at least, part of why.

When we first moved in to our new place, we had only our little car load of stuff (and the 10 boxes we mailed to ourselves).  Our new home felt empty and huge.  Then we got furniture and trash cans and all the little things that make walls and doors and floors feel like a home that can function happily.  We were really quite comfortable at that point.  I missed exactly zero of our things.

Then my parents were kind enough to bring the second load of our belongings.  The little bit of unpacking we did right away of those things made our home feel a little more full and homey, but not too full.

Then, on Friday, Bryan's mom was really nice and brought us the third and final load of our stuff.  And, while I cannot really express my genuine gratitude for having our things brought to us free of charge, I started to hate our things.  Stuff, stuff, stuff.  Everywhere.  It was great to have Olivia's clothes since she needs the bigger sizes.  But everything else?  Man, where are we going to put it?  It's too much stuff!

Or, at least, that was how it felt to me.  It still feels that way to me, but since we painstakingly sorted through all of these things for hours already and decided they were important to us, Bryan has--for the mean time--talked me into keeping them tucked away in our utility room where they won't get in our way.

Okay, so now that I've talked about all that, I want to get into the real reason for this post: buying less to begin with.  Because that, my friends, is the very best way to accomplish Living With Less.  Sorting is hard and it can so often be frustrating and overwhelming.  How much less we would have to sort if we didn't bring it home in the first place!  So let's talk about how to do that.

Here are a few of the most common ways Junk will trick you into bringing it home:

  • It's free!-- Okay, so you didn't pay a cent for it.  But is it valuable to you?  Will you wear it regularly?  Will you use it regularly?  Is it going to earn its keep?  If not, don't touch it.  It may follow  you home.
  • It's a great deal!-- Things are only a truly great deal if they fit all of the following qualifications: 1. You were planning on buying it before you saw it in the store, 2. It's cheaper than it usually is, 3. You can afford to buy it right now.  If you have to answer "no" to 1, 2, or 3, it is not a great deal.
  • We need it!-- Of course there are things we need.  But be careful not to use Need and Want interchangeably   They are two incredibly different qualifiers.

Don't let Junk fool you.  After all, it's just Junk.  And you're an intelligent human being.  You're way smarter than Junk.

And if you're still tempted by it?  Imagine it being stored in your basement/garage/closet and having to sort through it in three months.  Is it looking a little less appetizing to you now?  That's probably because it's Junk.

The stronger we are to begin with, the less mess there is to deal with later.  Now that is win-win.


See the entire Living With Less series HERE.


Amanda said...

Katie, I love this series! Between a bunch of changes we have made recently and will be making soon we are really trying to live with less. We are cleaning out the junk, buying less, and working within a much tighter budget so that I can stay home with our daughter. I love reading your thoughts on living with less and it has inspired me to get back into sorting and purging. I had been doing well and then just stalled out. I can't wait to read more! Thanks!

Dorothy said...

I've always been a great de-junker, and I love a tidy house, but I have to say after reading this stuff I was inspired again....and cleaned out two bathroom drawers. Ha! One more big bag of stuff to get rid of that is no longer lurking in the darkness. :)(Well, I guess it technically is still lurking in the darkness...only now it's in the outdoor trash can!)

Janelle said...

You're so funny - and so right. when I moved back to the state I currently live in, I brought just my infant son, myself, and the few personal and furniture items I truly loved. And everything "fit" in my tiny 2 BR apartment. Now, a number of years, a *somewhat* bigger house, a new husband, and 4 kids later, my house is bursting at the seams! As is our shop full of Junk, I mean important items.

I haven't entirely caught "the bug", but I am desperately feeling the need for some space. I have FORBIDDEN my mom & MIL to buy any more toys, and limited them to only clothes for the NEXT season.

A few months ago we moved all toys to the garage & kids can switch out one theme box for another - I can now see what they really do play with. So, much of it is about to live somewhere else.