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The Ongoing Struggle Against Stuff

I just walked into my bedroom and was greeted by a vision of clutter.  How did this happen?  Why do I still have so much stuff?  Do I really need it all?  Certainly part of the problem is that my room is messy – I’ve had another busy week (I’ve resigned myself to this being the norm for a least a few more weeks).  But it’s messy because I have enough stuff that it is a trick to put things away.  Shelves quickly look messy – because they have too much stuff!

Time to do some more unstuffing.

Another issue is that once I get rid of things, a vacuum is left.  Space is created that can easily be filled with more stuff if I allow it.  I need to be strong and not fall prey to temptation!  This is much harder now that I actually have a little income left in my bank account after all my bills are paid.  I am carefully squirreling most of this away as my contracts end in April and I won’t have work again until August.  Still, it’s tempting to buy a few things after so many months of just squeaking by.

I have indeed succumbed to these urges a few times over the last two weeks.  It was hard not to, considering the bargains I came across.  Specifically I bought myself two lovely stock pots – which I’ll use for years – one a 12L pot and the other a 15L pot.  I paid $85 for both, a large sum for me to let go of these days, but a tremendous deal.  Regular price for each pot on its own cost a fair bit more than what I paid for both.  I had been saving to buy a good stock pot, and to get two for less than I expected to pay for one was more than I could pass up.  But still, I could have just bought one, and saved even more.  In fact, that’s what I did, but a few days later I went back and bought the other.  I do cook a lot, and having pots of different sizes is very useful.  The biggest pot is one that I will likely rarely use, but when I need a pot of that size (typically during canning season), it will be very handy.  I used my roommate’s pot of that size this fall, which made it clear that such a big pot is a fantastic tool to have on-hand.  So I have two new pots and, despite agonizing over the ethical (and budgetary) impact, I don’t regret it.

Now, you’d think that would have scratched my need-to-buy itch.  But no, I further gave in to the urge on another occasion.  I recently discovered a new second-hand clothing store – Talize, a new Canadian chain – which not only has terrific prices, but also has really nice clothes.  Very well organized by item, size and then colour, this shop is full of great second-hand finds.  I bought two sweaters ($6 each), several blankets for the dogs ($2 -$3 each, including a full size wool blanket in perfect condition) and a beautiful piece of jewelry ($0.99).  I am sick to death of just about every item of clothing I own, and I can’t tell you how excited I am at the prospect of revamping my wardrobe at these prices.  Most second-hand clothing stores I have been to either have nothing but poor quality items for cheap, or have nice clothes but at much higher prices.  I’m not sure how this one offers the best of both (nice clothes, cheap prices) but I’m going to enjoy for as long as it lasts!  Shopping here fits both my budget and my life-ethic.

This week I hit the jackpot at this store.  I found a beautiful, full-length genuine sheerling coat in lovely dark taupe with cream colour trim.  A coat like this would cost easily $1000 new, if not more, and I got it for $18.  And given the current cold snap, I couldn’t have found this coat a day sooner.  It is far warmer than anything else I own, and I’ve even been wearing it around the house as I’m rationing wood until get more until Monday (figures we’d run out of wood on the coldest week of the year, the same week our wood supplier went on vacation!).

Exciting as all of this is for someone with a deeply programmed desire to shop coupled with a horror of consumerism, I need to make sure I don’t fall into the trap of buying things because they are cheap and used.  To make sure I don’t do this, or at least avoid it as much as possible, I am working on a set of shopping rules for myself.  The few I have come up with are as follows:

– I must need it before I see it.  No impulse purchases (i.e. I was saving for a stock pot, and then waited until I found a great sale on stock pots)

– No random shopping trips.  I only go into stores if I am looking for something specific.

– If I have a similar item, I must be willing to replace it with the new item.  For example, I bought two new sweaters, so need to select two of my old sweaters and donate them to charity.

– I must be able to pay cash for it.  Credit cards are for emergency break-downs on the highway 200Km from home only.

– I can only purchase clothing items that are in excellent condition and fit perfectly, including when done up (i.e. no jackets that look great as long as I don’t do them up!)

– I can only buy something new if I can’t find it used.  Exceptions include underwear and footwear.

I have been trying hard to stick with this, and so far these rules have kept me from coming home with armfuls of new or new-to-me stuff.   And as I have developed a gag reaction to my space being cluttered, I will harness this reaction to further destuff every time I do bring in something new.  Now I must sign off to go and select two sweaters, a bracelet and a coat to add to my charity pile.

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2 Responses

  1. I can totally relate to this post and I really like your guidelines for purchasing. I especially like the idea that once you buy something new you must donate the old (sometimes I like to re-purpose or give as a gift to someone I know who needs or wants the item). I am also one of “those” types that is programmed with a desire to shop.

    • Isn’t it strange, this desire to shop? I hate it, yet I find myself driving past shopping malls and even (shudder) big box stores, and longing to go in. I cannot explain it, just do my best to control it!

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