Monday, December 15, 2008

Excessive consumerism: not just about the money

When we talk about reducing unnecessary spending, most often we think about money, but there are also other reasons to avoid buying things you don't need - even if you can get them really, really, really cheap.

By purchasing items I don't really need, especially cheap, low quality, mass-production ones, I'm encouraging a further overflow of this product into the market. I'm giving a hand to environmental strain and under-paid labor in countries like China.

When I buy things I don't need, I'm wasting valuable storage space, which is a scarce resource in a small house like ours. I don't want to end up re-arranging our furniture or adding extra shelves for the purpose of storing items I never use. We do have an outdoors storage shed, but it's meant to be a place for seasonal items and a stock for non-perishables like toilet paper, not a dump for things we mindlessly bought and never used.

I've also found that an excess of possessions has an effect of cluttering my mind. When I have too many items in my closets and drawers, I'm unorganized. If I have too many clothes, I'll put part of them away and only use a few items I love. I like to use one brand of shampoo, perfume, or body lotion at a time, and nothing grates on my nerves like a cluttered bathroom cabinet. I don't want to have trouble remembering which things I already have!

That's why I'm also careful about acquiring freebies or things people are giving away. For example, in a discussion of one of the posts here, I mentioned that we don't have a changing table, even though we could get one second-hand for free. However, we had to consider the fact that the baby's tiny room must already hold a closet, a cupboard, a guest bed, a drawer chest, and a crib. Putting a changing table in there would mean blocking the only bit of free space left.

Here's a useful article on the benefits of being more organized (hat-tip to LAF):

"How big is your wardrobe? Do you or your children own 30 pairs of jeans at $60 a pop because you don't keep up with the laundry or because your closet is so stuffed you can't find anything? That adds up to $1,800 worth of jeans. If you cut it down to even 10 pairs you would save $1,200. How many tops do you own? How about those shoes? Before you say, "There is no way I have that many jeans, shoes, or tops!" go count you clothes. You may be surprised..."

"Do you buy new items because you can't find something? The cost of things like tools, glue, tape, ropes, garden tools, kitchen items, light bulbs, batteries, office supplies and other things really adds up."


Keeping clutter under control by not buying items you don't need certainly helps you save money, but even more importantly, it preserves your sanity, your efficiency, and helps your run your home more smoothly. If you already have a lot of clutter, getting rid of it might involve a lot of work. Therefore, my solution is: don't let unnecessary items in your home in the first place - it will save you a lot of headache, time and money later on.

19 comments:

MarkyMark said...

Anna,

I've found that, the more things I own, the more they own ME. How so? Even if I can afford them, and even if I can store them, I still have to CARE for them. They still need maintenance and upkeep. At some point, one has to ask: could my time and energy be more constructively used doing other things besides looking after my ________?

I had this lesson jammed home when I had two motorcycles. After I'd had them two years, finances became enough of an issue where I had to take on the more routine maintenance tasks on myself; stuff like changing oil, adjusting and lubing the chains, adjusting the cables, etc. were simple enough to do myself, so I started doing them. Well, when you have two bikes to look after and you're working all the time, you don't HAVE much time! That, I dare say, is as big a downside to owning too much as are the other reasons you mentioned. Your objections to owning too much are indeed valid, but owning more means more things own you too. That is one thing folks don't think about when they buy stuff. That's my $.02...

MarkyMark

Anonymous said...

I think this area is most certainly one where "less is more". Just a couple days ago, I took it upon myself to go through several things in my second daughter's chest of drawers. I was amazed that there was so much unused clothing, as I do keep on top of things pretty well. Some of what was in there I will be able to share with a friend who has daughters younger than my own.

Life is much more sane, easier, & almost always more enjoyable, when we keep what is most used & best-loved, & release the rest to others who need it.

Brenda

simplebeauty said...

Anna,

First I just have to say I enjoy reading your blog so much! It is neat to get to "hear" your point of view from the other side of world from me :o) I just wanted to say that my little darling daughter is nearly two years old and I have never had a changing table for her. When she was a new born I would change her in her crib. It was easy because the side of her crib would drop down and her mattress was up on the highest level(her crib is very basic and will be used again someday Lord willing). I would then just use a changing mat that I had received with her diaper bag to lay underneath her to keep everything clean. Now that she is older, the sofa works just as well with the same changing mat in tow! When she is twisting around and giggling at the same time to get away from the diaper change, the floor has worked well too!! She has a very tiny room that I love, however there is NO extra space!

Have a wonderful day and may God richly bless you and your growing family! :O)

Suzanne said...

Good points, Anna! It's so tempting to buy things you don't need when you can get them cheap/and or free. But if you don't need them and can't or won't give them to someone who can, what's the use?

Anonymous said...

10 pairs of jeans?! You have got to be kidding me. Anyways, I suppose it comes down to what you have space and money for. I lived in a very small house before. My new house has more space, so I was able to decorate and furnish a room for our baby. I don't see that as wasteful or materialistic. I still clean out things on occasion and give money to charity.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Anon,

Decorating a room for a baby is lovely; as a soon-to-be-Mommy, I can certainly relate to that! :o) What I'm aiming at is keeping a distinction between the "must-haves" and "nice-to-haves". Decorations and most baby furniture fall into the "nice-to-have" category for us...

Bethany Hudson said...

This is great advice, Anna...much of it I follow myself. One of the hardest things, as you said, is gracefully telling people "no" when they want to GIVE you things. My sweet husband is not quite as good at this :-P And our tiny condo's front hall now has a jogging stroller that has been used only once cluttering it up! That, and all the toys and baby things everyone wants to give you that you know you'll NEVER use! Like you, we have no changing table, just a changing pad attached to a chest of drawers. I mean, c'mon, we've got to end up fitting at LEAST one more baby in that room before we move out of this place!
~Bethany

Civilla said...

I learned how to crochet rag rugs out of all those clothes (can't give them away, because EVERYBODY has too much stuff). The rag rugs are a cheap hobby. All you need to get started is a $3 crochet hook (size S), scissors, pins, needle and thread. I just have to keep buying thread (the cheap kind). The rugs make beautiful gifts for people. Google "rag rugs" on the web. I have simplified mine to where I just do them free-hand.

Anonymous said...

Anna --- what do you suggest for someone who may already feel overwhelmed by all of their clutter?
Thanks!

Anonymous said...

My mom didn't ever use a changing table either because she thought it was safer for the baby to be on the floor with a changing pad underneath than on such a high table. Then, if they roll over while you're grabbing a diaper, no harm is done. Because they are fast little wigglers! Even if you have one hand on them!

Mrs. Anna T said...

If you already feel overwhelmed by clutter, the only solution would to get rid by it, bit by bit. Do a small corner each day - a drawer, a shelf, a surface. Get hold of all the things you haven't used in a while, and decide which ones you can give away or take to a second-hand store; keep the old and loved ones, and throw away what is neither useful nor beautiful.

Kaitlin.Elizabeth said...

I used to live in a huge house when I was a little girl, but when I was about 12 my parents divorced and my mother could no longer take care of the house anymore (She had to get a job so she couldn't keep it cleaned/maintained or afford to keep it at all).

We moved when I was 16 years old to a much smaller house. When we moved we had to get rid of a TON of stuff, because we just didn't have all the space we used to! However, I realized how much junk we had accumulated. I had so many things I considered "keepsakes"... boxes and boxes of them. It was ridiculous. At first I found it hard to get rid of stuff (what if I need this? What about the memories attached to this?) but after a while I realized how little of it I really wanted and how much more I enjoyed the space in my closet for things I actually use everyday. Whenever I do go through the things I've kept, I always end up getting rid of a lot of it and I find it to actually be a very rejuvenating thing to do, heehee.

I love my new house too. It's a 200 year old house and it's loaded with lots of character and charm!

pearlsoftruth said...

Yep! I agree you wholeheartedly... I hate clutter, and I hate having useless things around. Keep life simple, is my motto... and keep it uncluttered :)
I start to get stressed and edgy when I have too much stuff pushed into cupboards etc. That is when I do a 'clean-out'.

I am also amazed at how many things are now on the market for baby goods. Really, how did they cope in our grandmothers and great grandmothers generation without all the mod-cons around today? They coped very well, and lived without the so-called 'essentials' of today.

Blue Castle said...

I've been reading your blog for quite a while now, and truly enjoy it.
This post is just excellent. It makes me stop and think about all the times I've bought something because it was on clearance, or taken something because it was free, only to end up getting rid of it because it just became more clutter. I'm still learning. :)

Laura said...

I recently went through a purge where I got rid of almost everything in my bedroom. I kept 3 outfits that I could mix and match, 3 pairs of shoes, and 3 books, (along with desk stuff and a few decorations and necessities). Everything else I put in boxes in the attic. It is so relaxing to not be tripping over stuff. Even if it is not gone for ever, it is out of my way. And I decided the only way I am getting anything new is to replace what I have.

Grace said...

Well said!! It's true for me that just knowing that I have cluttered corners in house clutters up my mind.

Mrs. June Fuentes said...

Mrs. Anna T.,

I cannot wait until after the holidays when we can really settle down and focus on cleaning house. Clutter control is always a battle in a house of 10, but definitely controllable.

Many blessings...

Bella said...

Love your blog! As an Interior Designer/Artist, the "nice to have" concept is definitely hard to grasp. Saying not to decorate to a visually artistic person/designer is like telling a writer not to write or a painter not to paint. LOL!
I'm so glad mid-century modern furniture is in style. It's simple and functional. I already have a room designed in my head for our future child. We're going to keep it minimal with a few decorations here and there. Clean and classy with lots of love. : )

With the right organizational skills/tips, a family's home doesn't have to look like a playground or jungle gym. If the kids know who's in charge, there's no problem. Keep the toys to just their bedroom and a chest in the living area. If you give them an inch, they'll take a mile.

A tip for for memorabilia or keepsakes, keep one or two items from a certain category and take photos of the rest. For example, if you played on a soccer team when you were little and have 7 trophies, just keep the one that you love the most. Then with the photos of the other trophies, you can create photo albums, scrapbooks, or just store them in your hard drive.
Blessings!

Erik said...

I'm not one for organization, but I keep pairing down what we have here. My thoughts on it are that the more possessions one has, the more tied to this world we are. I'd rather be free to move if needed and just pack up and go, rather then try to figure out just how to get all my junk from one place top the next. Or, if need be, simply leave it all behind. The more "things" we have the harder it is to do that.