I didn’t have salt and pepper shakers. This is a shock to most people. First, they must process my presumption that I have properly seasoned your food. Then, they consider my audacity in skipping over this mainstay of culinary tools. Why no shakers? Simply put, I hadn’t found the right ones yet. That’s the key point in my organizational advice.
As Tyler Durden in Fight Club explains, “You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your — khakis.” Similarly, I started a journey several years ago to question what I own and what “owns me.” So, I refuse to bring something into my home that I don’t love or need. This is one of the quirks of careful consumption, which permeates my home. In our consumerist society, most people think that waiting to get the right object is considered a little bizarre. Below are some quirks of this process.
You won’t settle for “just now”. This means you refuse to bring something into your home when you feel it doesn’t belong. For example, I’m using my kitchen chairs as part-time desk chairs. I’m not sure I truly need a desk chair or that I’ll keep my current desk. So, I’m making do with double-duty furniture.
You are willing to borrow for the short term. I know this seems cheap but, I will borrow or rent things before I buy them. Trying them out to see if they work in my life is the best way to make the decision. This really helps with tools for new hobbies or furniture in a temporary space. More than once I have assumed that I was going to need tools or supplies that I never used.
You do a lot of research — online and in person. You probably think about a purchase for months before it actually ends up in your home. You ask a lot of questions, especially for current users of the product. And when you are finally sure, you buy it.
In the meantime, your life will seem a little odd — missing a few normal pieces. But, it’s a refreshing habit in our consumer culture to be a little more deliberate about purchases.
Questions to Ask
If you’re interested in a lifestyle focused on careful consumption, you will find yourself questioning every purchase. This is a journey that I started as a young adult and it is starting to shape both my consumption and creation. Below are some of the questions I use during the buying process.
Is it in my budget? If it’s not in the budget, you probably shouldn’t buy it. Obviously, you have to start by having a budget. Then, you need to get your spending on track with the budget. This helps with impulse buys that you may regret later.
Can I borrow it? This works well for tools, instruments, and large items. Often, family and friends have stuff in storage that they prefer to see used. I’ve even had people loan me art or furniture because they would prefer someone enjoy it. As long as you’re responsible, borrowing is a good way to figure out whether you want to own one for yourself.
Can I get it secondhand? Careful consumers look for ways to use items that have already been produced. This lowers the overall amount of waste in our society. If you can save something from a landfill, that is a win. Figure out if the item is something that you can get used.
Do I already have one? While it may sound obvious, many shoppers repeatedly buy items because they lose them. It’s a common problem with clutter. To avoid this issue, make sure you organize and declutter your home before shopping again.
How long will I keep it? This question speaks to the durability and sustainability of the product. For non-consumable purchases, try to buy items that you intend to keep for a while. For consumables, give some thought to how you will dispose of wrapping and waste.
Where is it made? There are several questions related to this can help with ethical consumerism. This question forces you to acknowledge the origin of the item and understand how it came into existence.
If you’re starting to think more carefully about what comes into your home, then you will find yourself asking the questions above.
Tips and Tricks
With each new month is a chance to save a little cash and look at ways to declutter our lives – like with the 30-Day Minimalism Game. After a month of conservative financial choices, most people are a burned out on frugality. So, below is a list of ways I try to feel richer without spending money.
1. Go to the library: This is one of those tired tips from frugal people that no one seems to use. Our local library is often very empty. If you feel a little deprived in the spending area, get some new media from the library. The new stories will make your world feel a little bit richer.
My tip: Start with a book of quotes. These small ideas can be digested quickly and inspire a new tone for the day.
2. Propagate a plant: Not only is it cheap, propagating a plant allows you to duplicate your possessions. The extra sprout can move to your office or make a nice future gift. Also, the process of researching and growing a new plant feels rewarding.
My tip: Work with a green-thumbed friend on this little project. They can help you make sure you maintain both plant’s health.
3. Rotate your stuff: Pack some stuff away for a few months. Whether you choose clothing, accessories, or home decor, a little free space feels good. Then, switch the items out every few months. It will make things feel fresh, like you’re shopping in your own home.
My tip: Set a personal limit on how much you’re willing to store. For example, I have limited home decor to 4 bins total, 3 for Christmas decorations and 1 for other decor. This means I have to get rid of something before I bring in a new decoration.
4. Use those supplies: Almost everyone has random leftovers from hobbies lying around their house. Pull them together and start looking for ways to use them. If they’re cooking ingredients, find a few recipes to use them. If they’re crafting supplies, create something new with them. Not only will you free up some space but, you might get something new through the creative process.
My tip: Mark Montano’s blog gives a lot of ideas for supplies that most people are trying to use up. He posts frequently so, keep your eyes on his site.
Live with Intention
To summarize, holding back the clutter in your life starts with an intentional thought process. Each day, you will find yourself choosing between chaotic clutter and calming free space.
Whether you are a creative person, Type A or super busy, you will benefit from this shift toward anti-consumerist thinking. Who can ask for better organizational advice?