Do You Really Need That? Don’t Be Owned By Your Stuff!
Stuff is the lifeblood of the American Dream, apparently. Our culture inundates with the clarion call to buy, to spend. Whether we NEED the proffered product is a secondary, if not tertiary, purchasing determinant.
I fail to understand this seemingly unique-to-Americans drive to consumption. People buy material goods they don’t need in order to fill houses that are too big and then feel pressure to move to ever-larger houses in order to perpetuate the cycle. And then there’s an entire industry devoted to organizing all of this excess and unused stuff!
I issue a call to inaction. Free yourself from the endless consumption wheel. Be a bad consumer. Don’t be owned by your stuff.
This philosophy is freeing for me. I don’t make endless lists of things to purchase, rather I actively avoid shopping and endeavor to buy as little as possible. Consequently, I don’t suffer from buyer’s remorse. Every time Mr. Frugalwoods or I say “golly, what we really need is a … heated mattress pad” we both say “huh, that’s an idea” and we write it down. We don’t buy it that day, that week, or usually even that month. Instead, we wait and we observe. If we find ourselves in the same position a month or so later, we’ll start researching heated mattress pads and potentially buy one (full disclosure: we decided not to buy a heated mattress pad because they are darn expensive and we instead threw on another blanket. Also, I have what I would consider a rational fear of sleeping atop a bunch of electric wires. Just sayin.).
We come the point of purchase only AFTER we’ve exhausted all possible substitutes that we already own (like that old extra blanket) and considered if we’re fine without it (nobody froze in their sleep). There are times when one really and truly does need to buy something, I totally acknowledge this–and there are even things one ought to buy *GASP* new (this happens rarely, but is not unprecedented).
There are also times when it’s prudent not to buy the very dirt cheapest option–times when it makes more sense to invest in lasting quality. The Frugalwoods recent example: glass food containers. Since Mr. Frugalwoods cooks all of our meals, largely from scratch, we have a momentous demand for airtight food storage contraptions. We were limping along with ancient plastic containers, cobbled together with chewing gum and mismatched lids. Getting one’s lunch to work involved an entirely too complex system of pulleys and levers (ok, maybe no pulleys, but definitely lots of lid swapping). After careful discussion and research, we determined that buying a bonafide set of glass containers was a worthy expenditure. Here’s our rationale: glass containers help us in our frugal food efforts, reduce food waste, are healthier than plastic containers, and last a long time.
The Frugalwoods Guide to Should I Buy This Piece of Item Thing/Stuff:
- Observe that you desire an object.
- Write said object down on a piece of paper. Discuss with household members (if applicable).
- Consider if you own a substitute or good-enough analog.
- Monitor your lifestyle patterns to determine if you actually need said object.
- If said object is in fact needed (not merely wanted), commence research to determine:
- If item can be acquired used
- Best brand/option for item
- Cheapest price and/or highest quality
- Could it potentially be procured as a great trash find?
By applying this thorough method of discussing a purchase, waiting to see if we really need it, and investing in quality when it’s judicious to do so, the Frugalwoods home is not overwhelmed with junk. We don’t wade through piles to find what we’re looking for, we don’t have crammed cupboards or jammed closets. Life is simpler, easier, and I daresay calmer with less clutter. There’s no frantic racing around to find things, because, well, there’s just not that much to find.
Being a captive to your stuff is a terrible, suffocating way to live. Why put yourself through that torture? If you’re feeling overwhelmed by how much you own, start sifting and creating donate and sell piles. Please don’t throw things away–someone else can use it (possibly me at the thrift store). And if you have a large stock pot that you need to get rid of, please mail to the Frugalwoods Home c/o Frugal Hound (it’s the current item on the potential-buy list…).
What’s your approach to purchasing?
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Found you through the cheddarblock on MMM. Nice article. I have found that if I desire something and put it out to the universe that the thing eventually materializes. Sometimes putting it out to the universe might be a group text to family and friends or a sign on a telephone pole. Sometimes it is just the thought itself. I desired a friend — I looked for friends — I found friends. Funny, how the more friends I have, the less “things” I want or need?
So glad you found us! Thanks for saying hi! I like that idea–put it out into the universe and if you need it, it will come. Nice!
I have done that. 1. One time I was out on the Blue Ridge Parkway and sighed about how I would love to have a telephoto lens camera to take beautiful pix. About 1/2 hour later, I FOUND one laying on the path! I checked it thoroughly for any ID and would have contacted the owner if I could but there was none. We were miles from the ranger station, so the chance of it being picked up at a lost and found were remote.
2. I needed a stainless steel stock pot to boil chicken for our elderly cat. That afternoon I found a copper bottom Revere Ware in perfect condition at the Goodwill for about $5.00.
3. I needed an SLR for a camera class. That weekend I found a Pentax 50mm at a yardsale for $2.00
4. My old kitty passed on . I wanted a kitty and couldn’t afford the rescue groups fees for adoptions because I had lost my job. A friend of a friend called me up and said ” TOO MANY CATS! Come get your new kitten!” She was spayed and had had her shots and was wormed.
I have done this many times but these are four of the biggies.
Those are wonderful examples! I absolutely love how that works. It’s such a virtuous cycle of things not going to waste. Thank you for sharing!
We wanted the heated mattress pad too since we try to keep the heat down at night. We waited until they were marked 60% off at the end of season, and bought a heated BLANKET instead.
They say the blankets aren’t designed to be laid on like a pad, but we do it anyway. Just put it under the sheet like normal. It works perfectly well, and even has dual controls which we love!
Maybe you could watch for the clearance end of season and find a bargain. 🙂 Oh and of course, don’t forget the end of season discounted FLANNEL sheets, those will really help keep you warm!
Oh and we also traded out the mismatched plastic make -do containers for purex glass containers. I love them! They don’t hold odors, heat well, can go in the dishwasher, and it feels so much nicer eating out of glass than plastic.
Agreed! The glass containers were well worth the initial expense. We use them every single day and have been so pleased with how well they’re holding up. Thanks so much for stopping by!
Or maybe do like my Grandma did… keep the leftovers in a bowl/dish, place a plate over it and pop it in the fridge. No plastic, no need to buy containers of any sort, and reheat the food in the same bowl–less dish washing too.
This is a great list and it would definitely help me with my frugality goals when I need to make a purchase. Pretty much what I do right now is wait to purchase something for a few weeks. If I continue to obsess about something, I may go buy it, but oftentimes I forget about the object and move on with my life (and my money!)
So true! I look back at lists I made of things I “needed” and often, I’m like, What? Why on earth did I think I needed that? Glad I didn’t buy it immediately!
Hi, I found your site the other day and am reading all the back posts – loving the daft greyhound pics!
I just wondered what the lids for the glass dishes are like – the ones I’ve seen are flexible plastic that looks like it would split after a while? I’ve got a similar cupboard full of mismatched plastic tubs and was thinking of replacing the lot with new clipseal plastic tubs, but now wondering if glass would be better.
Thank you so much for stopping by and saying hi! I’m so glad you found us :). We actually have two different sets of glass tupperware–we cook in large batches and need a lot of storage. One set is Pyrex brand and the lids are a red plastic, but they’re extremely durable. They’ve been running through our dishwasher for several years now and show no signs of deteriorating. The other set we have is Glasslock brand, which has snapping lids that lock closed and are even more durable than the Pyrex lids. This is the Glasslock set we have: here
My husband and I are also “take your lunch to work” people. We had a gift certificate to Bed Bath and Beyond and discovered the Mr. Lid brand of tupperware. It was a LIFE CHANGER. The lids are attached to the container, so you never lose the lid! They’re BPA free, microwave and dishwasher safe. I hate admitting that tupperware changed my life, but it’s true. 🙂
Hah! Finding the optimum way of doing everyday things, like packing tupperware, has a real sense of satisfaction.
Our snap lock stuff really made a huge difference in what I was able to bring to work for lunch. Since I toss my stuff into a backpack, which then gets jostled on a vigorous bike commute, I’d never been able to bring soups or other liquidity things. No more! Now I bring all manner of liquids with reckless abandon!
We should start a “tupperware changed my life” club!
I know I am late, but Mr. Lid is my JAM!
Never too late to sing the praises of Mr. Lid.
Great list! I have another step that I’d add: before you buy something, picture yourself six hours into packing your house up to move. You see the item. You have to carefully wrap it up, put it in a box and load it onto a moving truck. Then when you get to your new house you have to do all that again in reverse. Is it worth it? Will you resent having to schlep this thing around?
When my wife and I last moved, a lot of our belongings fit into this category. We were fine with them until we had to move them, then we hated them!
That’s an awesome suggestion. Nothing makes you hate your stuff like moving! I am absolutely going to apply this test in the future. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing!
Several years ago I made foot warmers by sewing leftover flannel material into 12 inch squares. I filled them about 3/4ths full of white rice I bought in a huge bag from Walmart. A half hour before bed I stick them in the microwave for 2 or 3 minutes and tuck them between the sheets at the bottom of the bed. If my feet are cold I’m cold all over, so this is absolute bliss on a cold winter night.
Love your website!
Oooo those sound like wonderful little warmers–what a great idea! Thanks so much for reading 🙂
We’re about a decade older than you and now at that “joints getting creaky” age. For years, I had been saying to my DH that I wanted an electric blanket (Australian term for your heated mattress pad) but like you, he was loathe to sleep on a bunch of electric wires. Then Aldi had them on sale and I bought one (it has body region, heat level and duration control for each person). Guess who is now almost a bigger fan of them than I am.
For the record, most houses here are what one Australian architect called “glorified tents” in terms of climate control. In addition, where we live, for most of the year our climate normally necessitates getting heat out of the house, not keeping it in. All this means that, in winter, by the time one goes to bed, one’s toes have become so cold that sensation is lost (despite wearing ugg boots) and, like Cheryl, if my feet (and fingers) are cold, I’m cold all over.
For us using an electric blanket means that we don’t need to run the heater in the bedroom (so saving on energy, and not walking into it in the middle of the night – my toes are sadly adept at “finding” furniture in the middle of the night…or even the middle of the day). Also, in the middle of the night when we’ve cooled so much that we can’t get back to sleep, we can run our own sides individually for a short time – just enough to get us back to la-la land.
I find Pyrex and other/off brand glass containers at the thrift stores all the time. Some times they have lids, sometimes they don’t. And I’m talking new model to old granny era vintage. Not only did I get rid of my plastic this way I also found ceramic or glass to replace the metal cookie/pizza/muffins tins. (I may have found a rusty baked on mess at the bottom of a sink of forgotten dishes once to often.) For brand new glass containers I’ve found Big Lots tends to be slightly cheaper than Walmart on a day to day basis but Walmart occasionally has a better price on sales.