I am astonished and surprised how it has become so much a part of my day-to-day, this saying no to myself. Every time I head to the store, I leave with only what I need (mostly). I drive past garage sales. I rarely stop at the thrift store. I could care less if my favorite store has a sale. Okay, that’s a lie. I do care. I just don’t need to do anything about it.
Because I go through a decision-making process on a daily basis. One that has become so common for me that I’m rarely aware of it anymore. And, I am proud of the work I have done over these years to build it. When we first made the decision to live a more practical lifestyle I had to work hard for many months to change the way I behaved and thought while shopping. Every time I thought about buying something, event the smallest something, I had to train myself to ask the following questions…
- Is this a need or a want?
And, to answer THAT question I needed to ask a couple of other questions. Because for real, I had lost perspective on what qualified as a need. a. Will my family be unhealthy, unsafe, or emotionally scarred if we don’t have this item?
b. Will anyone outside of my home notice that this item isn’t being used by our family? If I answer yes to these questions, I realize the item is a need and go ahead and grab it. I still am mindful about not choosing the upgraded bigger and better options that might no longer fit that “need” category. For instance, we all need socks. But, we don’t all need the cute socks with inspirational sayings that you can grab at gift shops. Or, we don’t need thermally insulated socks for our everyday. No, a need is simple, well-made white socks. Anything more than that starts to fall into the want category. (Totally admitting that I have a couple of pairs of the fun socks in my drawer :).)Another instance… we need cereal bowls. But, I don’t need the gorgeous Fiestaware bowls I saw at Macy’s the other day and wanted. Sure, they are cereal bowls. But the plain old white ones from Target are the need. The Fiestaware are a want. Levi needs sneakers for gym. He only needs a pair that will suffice for what his school requires. At this point, the need can get a bit personal and run into the gray area of want-ish. As the oldest of 10, I grew up with castaway clothes and items from the thrift store, certainly not any name brand clothing or shoes. I’m not angry with that, and I understand the economics of it that my parents were dealing with. But, for me, being able to give my son name brand shoes and clothing is something I’ve worked hard to be able to do. So, I choose to buy Nike, or Adidas, or similar. But, if he wants bigger and better than those he pays the rest of the cost.
- To determine if a want comes home with me…
a. Do I know EXACTLY where I will put it?
Truly, my house is small, and everything has a home. Often simply thinking about where I will put something determines its value. If I can’t think of where the item will live, I don’t bring it home.
- b. Is the cost of the item worth the experience I will give up?
I judge everything by the experience the money will bring. A $7 candle is worth a couple of coffees at the coffee shop for my hubby, and I. A $40 throw pillow brings my kids and me to the zoo. That $50 sweater means 5 $10 Tuesday Movie nights for my son and I. Usually that comparison stops me in my tracks. Very few items are more valuable than the experience I am giving up. c. Does this require extra/special cleaning?
Seriously, I HATE cleaning. So, if an item I’m thinking of grabbing is going to require special cleaning or make the cleaning I already have to do more difficult, I usually don’t want it anymore. Think about if that beautiful pillow is going on the couch where your kids and dog like to lay, do you really want to have to care for it? Probably not, right? Just leave it in the store. Heck, snap a picture and post it on Instagram to have others ooh and aah over it with you!
- To avoid Garage Sales and Thrift Shore shopping…
1. Think about the time you are taking to make the stops. Would you rather nap? If yes…go home and nap instead. Your wallet will thank you.
2. Is there a specific item that you are looking for or wanting for your home? If not…why stop? Just drive right on by.
3. If your son needs a new shirt, ask yourself if you can afford a trip to Target or the mall to get a new one and be done. Often, a trip to the thrift store results in buying many more items you didn’t need and could have spent that money elsewhere or on simply getting your son a new shirt without any fuss or muss. And never mind the other things you could have done with the time you spent at that thrift store rummaging through the shirts.
-note: I DO use thrift stores about once or twice a year to update my wardrobe with classics and basics. I love that they are good for my budget and good for the earth. For that one-off item that is required, I save the time and make a quick trip to the local store.
To sum up…
- Do I know where this will live?
- Will this make mine and my family’s life more valuable?
- Would I rather save this money to have an experience instead?
Frankly, there are fewer and fewer items that meet the requirements that I have made for home. And, the better I get at asking these questions and assessing the value items have in my home the less and less I see value in “stuff,” and, friends, I’m loving this place I’m at! The motto “Consume Less, Create More” is alive and well in my home, and I couldn’t be happier. But, a word of encouragement…it has taken many years for our family to feel like we have a better understanding of what “Consume Less and Create More” truly means. It took a retraining of our habits, thoughts, and priorities to get there. And we have a long, long way to go!