The other morning, I couldn’t find my coffee cup. I checked all the usual places—twice. And instead of waiting for it to turn up (it was in my closet at work), I ordered another one off Amazon. Granted, it’s a really awesome mug. And with my husband’s propensity to store all coffee mugs in his car, I’d planned to order another one anyway. But it illustrates a pretty serious point: I buy too much.
Cue all the usual excuses: It was on sale… I needed it… It’s just so pretty… He’ll look adorable in it… She’ll look adorable in it… I’LL look adorable in it… Really, it all boils down to one thing: it makes me happy.
I love opening a package. (Because, let’s be honest, with two kids and a full-time job, all my shopping is done online.) It feels like Christmas morning. I pull out the items (sometimes wondering – what did I order?). I try them on, or add them to the cupboard… bookshelf… living room… CLUTTER! I imagine the fabulous events I’ll wear the adorable dress/shoes/bracelet to… I think of all the exciting meals I’ll prepare and serve for all the people I entertain.
Except I don’t often go to fabulous events. I struggle to prepare meals using the pots and appliances I already have. I don’t use the fancy “time saving” gadgets. Because they’re a pain in the bottom to clean. (Garlic press? I’m looking at you!) And the only people I entertain? My family and friends. Who kindly overlook the Fisher Price/Playschool/Lego products that “decorate” nearly all of my living spaces.
Then I look at my kitchen/dining room/closet and think: Ohmygosh! I have too much stuff! And usually, I get sucked down the rabbit hole that is “January declutter & organize.” (Seriously marketing people?? For the past three months you’ve pushed, “Buy, buy, BUY!” and now you want me to purchase containers to organize and store all those things??! No!) Instead, I’m going to admit that I am the problem. And since it’s January, buying less is going to be this year’s resolution.
Admittedly, I’m not off to a good start. A lunch outing to Opry Mills turned into a shopping trip to Carter’s (It was on sale! I had a coupon! It’ll look adorable on her — NEXT winter!!) Clearly, I needed a plan. So here’s what I’m starting with:
Block Retail Emails.
I have a baby. That means I spend a lot of time sitting, rocking, and praying she’ll go to sleep. I have a mobile phone with internet access. You can see where I’m going with this. When I need a particular item, I’ll go to a specific store website (or Amazon) and seek it out. But when I have an email telling me that all clearance items are an extra 20% off today only? It’s just too easy to click that link. So that’s my first plan — to unsubscribe or redirect these emails to my spam folder. Out of sight, out of mind.
Do the Math.
And I’m not even talking the balanced budget math. (Thankfully, I’m not that bad about shopping.) I’m talking the sneaky sales math. Once I’m sucked into scrolling through Loft’s latest sale items, I often see one or two things that I didn’t know I needed – but simply must have. (See excuse: They’d look adorable.) I click and add those reasonably priced items to my cart, head to checkout, and then balk at the $8.95 they want to charge me for shipping! $8.95?! Heavens, no! There must be something else I need that can bring my shopping cart up to the $125 minimum for free shipping. I can’t believe I’m this ridiculous. I will spend an extra 20 minutes browsing, then spend another $50 on items that I might wear (that will certainly take up room in my already cluttered closet) that I didn’t originally WANT — simply to save $8.95. So, from now on, I’ll pay the shipping and save the extra spending — and the space.
Something Else Has to Go.
We’re a military family. We move every 2-3 years. That means I have to pack and un-pack EVERYTHING I OWN every 2-3 years. This frenzied 3-4 month span is an excellent opportunity to purge but also creates its own clutter cycle. I have storage containers full of curtain panels because they don’t work in this house – but I might need them in my next place. And since none of them fit these windows? I still have to go out and buy more. When it comes to housewares, this is a battle I cannot win. But I can try to get ahead of it in my closet and cabinets. New cutting boards? New sports bras? I need to fight my “but I might still need these” mindset and just get the old OUT. Or, since I’m trying to buy less AND de-clutter, I can ask myself some serious questions. Do I really need a new hand mixer? What will I do with the old one? Is my frugal, deal-loving heart going to be okay taking something that still works just fine down to Goodwill?
Do the Math Again.
This time, I’m working with a budget focus. I’m a big shopper, but I’m not a big spender. I have one designer handbag — and it came from the outlet. On sale. And I had a coupon. But I’ll walk into TJ Maxx and spend a fair amount of money on a lot of inexpensive things. In 2-3 years, when I’m purging my house yet again, am I going to keep and treasure these items? Or am I just supporting the economy and treating shopping as an emotional and diversional activity?
Ask The Serious Questions.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to shop. Some may consider me vain, but I feel better about myself when I look put together. And while I fall very short of “trendy,” I make an effort to stay somewhat current. So before I click “purchase,” I need to ask myself:
- Do I need this? Or do I want this?
- Am I okay with spending ($ amount) on something that I will likely get rid of in 2-3 years?
- What will this replace? Or is it worth adding to the clutter?