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!
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:
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…).