Deciding What to Buy

For the past five weeks, I’ve been traveling. At the end of September, I packed my bag and I’ve been on the road ever since. I’ve had fun, and learned a lot of Spanish, but to be honest I’m looking forward to seeing cold, rainy Portland again next week.

As always happens when I travel, I’ve come to marvel at how little I can live with. I have a hotel room (or a tent) every night, and I buy my food from markets, street vendors, or restaurants. But all I carry with me are my main 42-liter pack and a smaller 18-liter pack. (In other words, a carry-on size bag, and a bag the size of a briefcase.) For six weeks, these bags will have effectively contained all of my possessions.

Usually at the end of a long trip, I rant about the tyranny of Stuff. This time, I’ve been trying to direct my thoughts along more productive paths. What if instead of complaining about clutter, I actually tried to set up some ground rules to guide my spending? What would these guidelines look like?

Off the top of my head, they might look something like this:

  • Buy only what you will use — or value. I’ve decided that almost anything I own but don’t use regularly is clutter. I say “almost” to give myself a little wiggle room because there are certainly things I value — like my backpack — that I only use a few times a year but still provide value. (But this can be slippery slope. I don’t use my record player regularly. Do I value it?)
  • When it’s both possible and productive, buy quality. I used to be a vocal advocate of cheap, cheap, cheap. And for many things, I still think cheap (or free!) is the way to go. But I’ve learned — at the prodding of GRS readers — that it sometimes makes sense to spend for quality. When? You need to make that call based on the items you use and value most. For me, that means spending for high-quality computers. Plus, I don’t skimp on travel gear. (For evidence, read about my love of wool clothing.) You don’t need to buy the best of everything, but sometimes it makes sense to pay more for quality.
  • Don’t buy things you already own. Surely I’m not the only one who has a tendency to buy things he already owns. You don’t need three rain jackets, for instance, and you probably don’t need three wooden spoons in the kitchen. Own just one of everything. (“You own three rain jackets,” Kris said when she read this. “And I have three wooden spoons.” “I know,” I said. “That’s the problem!”)
  • Make decisions based on your own moral code. Some people refuse to own a gun. Some won’t own a car. Some won’t buy from companies that contribute to certain politicians or certain causes. In my own case, I do my best to buy local. Buying based on your values may seem obvious, but I’m always surprised at how many people talk one way and spend another.
  • Buy only what you can afford. Don’t fund your lifestyle with debt. Again, this may seem obvious — especially to GRS readers — but it’s a tough concept for many people to grasp. And it can be even tougher to put into practice. Staying within budget really can help reduce clutter.

Actually following these simple guidelines could help me spend less while bringing less clutter into my life. (As for the existing stuff, well, I’ve been working on thinning that out for the past four years!)

I’m not saying you should live like a monk. Hell, I don’t want to live like a monk. (After five weeks of living out of a backpack, I’m ready to wear some different clothes!) I’m saying that all of us — especially me — could save money and have less clutter in our lives if we were more deliberate about the things we bought and brought into our homes.

Though it makes Kris sigh, I often say I’d like to start our household again from scratch. In this fantasy world, we’d have a new, empty house — like a blank canvas. We’d move in slowly, little by little. When we found we needed something, we’d retrieve it from the old house. Then, after maybe a year, we’d get rid of all the Stuff that remained at the old house.

Note: Astute readers will recognize that this is just my one-year wardrobe project, but for everything in my life, not just clothes.

For me, the real test will be when it comes to the things I collect, like books and comics. I’m not going to stop buying books and comics. But maybe it’s time to change my buying habits.

Instead of trying to buy whatever interests me, maybe I should try buying new material only when I’ve finished reading the old stuff. (That could take decades!) And maybe it’s time to become re-acquainted with my public library.

What’s interesting to me is that despite having increased my income and decreased my spending over the past few years, there’s always room for improvement. I’m no longer fighting a battle against debt; today, I’m fighting against unnecessary spending.

Note: Two years ago, April explored this topic too. She shared a flowchart for evaluating potential purchases. That’s a bit too structured for me, but I would like to start asking myself questions like the ones I’ve listed here, to be more deliberate about the things I buy.
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There are 108 comments to "Deciding What to Buy".

  1. Marsha says 02 November 2011 at 04:19

    I need all 3 of my wooden spoons. Each has its own particular shape and size, and I frequently have more than one pot of goodies bubbling on the stove.

    In the interest of marital happiness, you shouldn’t nag your wife about her wooden spoons! You might get whacked with one!

    • J.D. says 02 November 2011 at 04:28

      Yes, in the “extended version” of our conversation, Kris pointed out that each of her wooden spoons was important, and that it was my three raincoats that were redundant. 🙂

      • Barb says 02 November 2011 at 06:39

        I think sometime you need multiples, sometimes no. Caught in the middle is me. I for example, cook for large groups and on thos occasions I need multiple sppons and multiple ladles-but only one metal and one plastic spatula. On the other hand, I have four sewing machines and all get used……sigh

      • cc says 02 November 2011 at 07:46

        LOL! i had a nice wooden spoon set and my husband insisted we throw them out, citing germs. since he just agreed to basically restock our kitchen through the wedding registry, i figured love is compromise and tossed them. if they bother him that much, i don’t mind. i have metal spoons.

        • partgypsy says 02 November 2011 at 09:56

          What I’ve heard is that wood is naturally antibacterial, so you don’t need to worry about them, only if they have a crack where you are stirring. I need all of my wooden spoons! I am down one because the dog got ahold of it and chewed it up, and I’m always looking for it before I remember.

        • Peggy says 12 November 2011 at 16:09

          re wood vs metal…as long as you and hubby are happy with your decision, then no problem.

          Personally, I don’t like the feel of metal so use wood a lot. I have several wood spoons, long chopsticks, but did switch from a wood cutting board to the thin silicon ones…Would never go back to wood for them! 🙂

      • PB says 02 November 2011 at 07:52

        My DIL is a very strict vegetarian, and I need to keep all cooking utensils in use separate if I am making a family meal that also includes meat. Like many things, it is only a problem if you make it one. I just exercise extra care.

      • Grog says 02 November 2011 at 11:34

        Are the jackets of different weights?
        Do some have hoods?

        Given the activities I do, they become important (and of value to me), even if you can warm yourself with layers. 🙂

    • Jen says 02 November 2011 at 05:47

      I too, as a frequent cook, will chime in on the multiple spoons. For me, it comes down to being mindful of what you need. I cook frequently and we entertain fairly often. Having multiple dishes on the stove top bubbling away I can think of few things that would annoy me as much as the need to keep washing my one wooden spoon as each dish needed to be stirred/combined, etc.

      If you need multiples, be mindful of them, and you’re good.

    • El Nerdo says 02 November 2011 at 09:10

      Spoons and the sort:

      1 bamboo for savory
      1 bamboo for sweet
      there was another one that died but i didn’t replace it– proof i just need 2
      1 skimmer
      1 ladle
      1 silicone spatula
      1 metal spatula

      I would never whack anyone with any of them though!

    • TinaPete says 04 November 2011 at 10:52

      I have several wooden spoons…here’s what I did with one of them. This is the prototype of a gift, so it’s a bit crude but I’ve kept it in my kitch for years. (Never added a link or photo before, hope this is OK)

  2. David says 02 November 2011 at 04:51

    One of the only nice things about moving is that feeling of starting over with a “blank canvas”, as you say. I love a good purge every now and then.

    You could try doing it one room at a time? Move everything out, then re-populate it, purging along the way.

    I think one of the most challenging issues about getting rid of unused items is the whole balance between things that are used rarely but necessary. For example, specialty cooking utensils. Yes, you only make turkey for Thanksgiving and maybe Christmas, but do you really want to re-buy a turkey baster every year then purge it?

    Bad example, maybe, but it irks me when I have to keep something around for that ONE time I’ll need it.

    • Steve says 02 November 2011 at 11:41

      The problem with moving “one room at a time” is that you have to pay for two places to live for as long as the process is going on.

      Perhaps a compromise is to leave everything in the garage until you need it? Or rent a storage unit?

      I am wondering about this quite actively, as my wife and I plan to move in the next few months, and I also think that we own too much Stuff.

      • Amanda B. says 02 November 2011 at 19:20

        I think he meant that you could move everything out of one room, store it elsewhere in the house, then move things back in as needed. So like a tiny one-room version of the moving thing, but without actually moving.

  3. STRONGside says 02 November 2011 at 04:53

    I agree with the argument of buying quality when applicable. I would also say that buying quality, used, items is also a very cost effective approach to buying the best items for the best price.

    Thrift stores are great places to buy gently used high quality clothing, and yard sales/auctions are great places to buy quality items that people no longer need.

  4. SB @ One Cent At A Time says 02 November 2011 at 05:06

    I am worried, is it minimalism in its early stage, JD?

    I see a connection, if you become spiritually rich(by means of travel, knowing other people or getting in touch with a monk etc) you feel less attracted towards materialistic pleasure. You no longer cherish you monetary richness.

    The more you travel or know other people, you become aware of the vastness of this world and your little house and the belonging therein becomes insignificant to you.

    I am originally from the land of monks and have seen many monks living their lives.

    • J.D. says 02 November 2011 at 05:14

      Ha. I don’t think there’s ever any danger that I’ll become a minimalist. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) But I do think it’s possible that five years from now I’ll live in smaller home with much less Stuff. 🙂

      • imelda says 02 November 2011 at 18:22

        Sometimes I think that minimalists are just as obsessed with Stuff as materialists…. They keep a running count of all their belongings, read magazines and websites about How To Get Rid of More Stuff, and spend money on “minimalist” solutions.

        It makes me feel like it’s just another obsession that distracts us from actually living our lives….

        • Rosa says 03 November 2011 at 07:12

          Like everything else, it’s the recent converts you hear from. If JD hadn’t been in so much debt before, he’d never have built this platform for talking about building wealth & spending less. The real minimalists are pretty quiet and angst-free about it, like the millionaires next door.

    • K.C. says 02 November 2011 at 07:44

      I find that the more I travel within myself, the less I am attracted to material things. As my spiritual life expands and deepens, I realize that while material goods are necessary, they do not make me happy. They do not make me who I am.

  5. BB says 02 November 2011 at 05:10

    I’ve been thinking along the same lines JD. I agree in the main, for a different reason.
    I love jewelry and acquired many pieces. When my mother died earlier this year I inherited her jewelry. Mother’s is not only more intrinsically valuable, but I decided I want to wear hers, to keep her with me always. So I’m selling off most of what I bought over the years.
    On the other hand, sometimes you have to have more than one of something. I need a short rain jacket for when I’m dashing in and out of the car, and a longer raincoat for when I have to be out walking the dog.

  6. Angela says 02 November 2011 at 05:24

    I grew up with a near hoarder level of clutter in my parents’ house, and I’ve gone in the opposite direction since then. I love purging the house, and since I seem to lack the usual gene for sentimentality, I’ll toss just about anything out.

    The problem, however, is that you live a different life when you’re traveling or backpacking. You know the duration of your trip is finite, and usually you have no other job than to experience the place around you. For that, a hotel/tent/whatever really can satisfy all your needs. But those who live there need to do things like go on a job interview, or cook a complicated family recipe, or do a fix-it project. And so do we when we return to our own homes.

    That’s why I appreciate posts like this that recognize the importance of conscious spending as opposed to just getting rid of everything you own. My living-out-of-a-backpack days are mostly over, and while I could happily revisit them anytime, I’ve come to see that there really are some Things (or Stuff!) that add real value to my life.

    • Rosa says 03 November 2011 at 07:18

      I was just cleaning up after my partner’s most recent fix-it job, and thinking about this.

      If we moved, most of the contents of the bin of plumbing supplies would go away. The new place would be a rental or at the very least have newer, modern-sized and shaped plumbing. The washers we just added to the bin (that fix our old, weird-sized tub fixtures) may never be used – they’re the remaining 3 from a 4-pack, of a size we’ve only needed 2 times in nearly 10 years.

      So the bin of things I just picked up and packed away fail every “should I keep this” test – rarely used, not loved, mostly not expensive to replace if needed, not valuable enough to save from a fire or move to a new place.

      But my partner spent 2 hours during a business day this week, finding those dumb rubber washers. In the meantime we had no usable tub or shower. There is no way in hell I’m tossing out that bin of plumbing bits just to regain the space or prevent having to pick them all up again sometime.

  7. ShackleMeNot says 02 November 2011 at 05:25

    Now THIS is the kind GRS post that makes this site worthwhile.

    Hi, my name is ShackleMeNot and I have a clutter problem.

    I’m active and I do a lot of outdoor activities (hiking, climbing, camping, snowboarding). I buy gear. Lot of gear. But I don’t have a great way to store all the gear when I’m not using it. I also have trouble getting rid of anything.

    Also, paper is my other main problem. I try to throw away junk mail and those ad sheets as they come in, but I always end up with a pile of junk paper after a few weeks.

    Organizing (and buying less) gear and creating a sustainable system for dealing with paper stuffs would go a long way toward fixing my clutter issues.

    • Iain says 02 November 2011 at 07:19

      I’m the same way with sports gear (Biking, Cross Country Skiing, Camping and Canoeing). Boxes are lableled and each sport has at least one box and in the case of Camping Gear lots of boxes and a set of drawers. Orginisation is your only way.

      Then of course there is the canoe in the livingroom. 🙂

    • cc says 02 November 2011 at 07:51

      my husband has more motorcycle gear than our house can hold… eventually we bought a big expedit bookshelf from ikea (holds a lot of random things), shoved what we could fit in the closet, and he sold off or gave away the rest. this probably only works if you have parts lying around from bikes three motorcycles ago, but it definitely cut down on a lot of “gear” clutter (much harder to deal with than regular household clutter)

      • Jean says 02 November 2011 at 09:08

        Ah, the Ikea Expedit bookshelves. They are a marvel, aren’t they? We have two in our very small flat, precisely because they seem to encourage order out of clutter and they hold an amazing amount of stuff. My son-in-law has about six of them scattered throughout his house — same reasons.

  8. Fish+Finder says 02 November 2011 at 05:27

    Hey, I’m a guy and I have three wooden spoons! My wife is the one with multiple coats. She finally agreed that she had too many coats when the coat closet hanging bar collasped a few months ago.

    • cc says 02 November 2011 at 07:52

      ha!! that happened to us, but i didn’t have the same epiphany. i just have coats hanging on everything now.

  9. My University Money says 02 November 2011 at 05:28

    Interesting idea about moving in. It’s funny because I know a lot of guys that fall into this trap completely when it comes to “toys.” Guys who go fishing 5 times a year, but own a $30,000 boat. I want to yell at them, “You could fly down to the Caribbean and charter a deep-sea fishing boat five times a year for 10 years for what you’re paying!” That’s probably not even factoring in the interest costs since it’s almost always bought on a plan deal. Why is it that so many of us fall into this consumerism-based lifestyle? Is it simply the effectiveness of our current advertising?

    • Fish+Finder says 02 November 2011 at 05:35

      Whoa! Hold up there My University Money, Boats are different. Only using one 5 times a year probably means the wife won’t let them go!!! 🙂

    • Kelly says 02 November 2011 at 07:40

      It’s not only the boat but the vehicle you “have” to own to be able to tow it. A guy I know has a big ole truck (with a big ole payment) that he has because he “needs it to haul his boat”. But he doesn’t have time to fish because – wait for it – he has to work 2 jobs to pay for the truck and the boat (among other things).

  10. 20's Finances says 02 November 2011 at 05:29

    I am finding that with increased income, it is hard to avoid unnecessary spending too! At first, when I was making a side income from a hobby, I wasn’t counting it as income. As a result, I would spend it without much thought. I didn’t let this go on too much though!

  11. njcatherine says 02 November 2011 at 05:39

    One time I had to leave unexpectedly with two small children to live in a hotel room in St. Louis for three months. Because it was unexpected, I had no time to think about packing. I just shoved basic necessities into a suitcase and left, telling my husband I’d have him ship stuff out later.

    Well, we got by on what we had, and I never asked my husband for that shipment. That taught me exactly the same lesson you got! On the basis of that, my intentions were to go home and get rid of 75% of my stuff, but you know what they about intentions.

    However, I did take a different approach to my stuff when we refinished our living room floors. We had to take everything out of course. When it came time to put it back, I saw that room as my “blank canvas” that you talk about. Instead of my typical mindset: how do I fit all my stuff back in, I resolved to ONLY put back the things I needed and wanted. I got rid of the rest. I LOVE my living room now.

    That might be a good weekend project–tackle another room by taking everything out, and then putting things back in, one by one, until you have “just enough” and then donating or dumping the rest!

    So, in terms of decisions on what to by: I agree with your list. I would say, ask myself, “do I really need this?” “is it going to last?” “do I already have something like it that I can either use or get rid of by replacing it with my new purchase?”

  12. Kate says 02 November 2011 at 06:14

    I used to hoard books, but after moving several times and getting tired of lugging them around and working at a library, I set a new rule for myself.

    I borrow a book from the library for my first read. I created a account so that I could track what I had read and write a review for myself. If it’s a book that I absolutely love, I’ll allow myself to buy a copy but try to find it used for cheap. 99% of the time, however, even if I’m happy with the book, I don’t find that I need my own copy. The nice thing about the library is that if I ever do want to read it again, I can just check it back out.

    I think I’ve bought five books in the past three years. And in the meantime, I’ve culled my personal collection and donated it to…the library.

    • Katie says 02 November 2011 at 06:48

      Though one things about books is that it’s very hard to make a living as a writer these days. Since I can afford to, I like to buy books written by authors I like so that they’ll be able to afford to quit their day jobs and write more! Kindle has been a godsend for me in this way; I no longer have to worry about storage space. When I do buy physical books, I try to give the ones I like to friends so they too can discover wonderful new authors.

      • Des says 02 November 2011 at 09:14

        I second the e-book solution for this, but you don’t have to buy a reader. I downloaded the Kindle app on all my computers and my iPhone. As long as they are connected to the internet, I can read a bit at work, log off and go home, and when I open my laptop in bed that night it syncs up to where I left on at work. I really love it! I just couldn’t bring myself to spend all that money for a device that would only do one thing, but their app is great!

      • El Nerdo says 02 November 2011 at 12:25

        I have the same “problem” and I tried the Kindle Reader on my laptop for a while, but I’m not crazy about it.

        -I can’t lend a Kindle book (huge bummer– how shall we corrupt the innocent?)
        -I can’t sell it either
        -It’s harder to jump pages– a book is a 3D object
        -It’s ugly by comparison
        -If you drop your book in the bathtub you lose $10. If you drop your Kindle in the bathtub you lose $200. If you drop your laptop, you lose $1000 or more

        I reversed course and now I am actually saving up to buy new bookshelves. Yes, yes, they take up space, and they are heavy to move, but a good library is beautiful, meaningful, and worth the cost. Just curate it carefully.

        • Katie says 02 November 2011 at 12:40

          I can address one of your issues at least – stick your kindle in a gallon-size ziploc and you can read in the bath with no trouble.

        • Anne says 03 November 2011 at 09:55

          I got a e-reader for free. I’m not wild about it. I never have remember to re-charge a book. I don’t have to worry about how I treat books. Their pages don’t crack or scratch in ways that need replacing. There are no programming flaws. (Right now my reader is doing something funny.) Books are easy imo.

          I use the e-reader for e-books and pdfs. I’m looking forward to perhaps getting magazine subscriptions on an electronic device when it becomes so ubiquitous that EVERYONE has one. (That’s usually when I get stuff like that.)

    • TinaPete says 04 November 2011 at 07:11

      Love your suggestion of using & donating to the library! Speaking as a librarian who has witnessed the decade-long, steady erosion of funding for our collections, I ask that you always vote YES when the library support bond is on the ballot. Happy reading!

  13. Dogs or Dollars says 02 November 2011 at 06:18

    Make decisions based on your own moral code. I too am surprised at how people’s spending isn’t in line with the general conversations we have. Its much easier to talk about the evils of industrial farming than it is to get your butt to the farmers market every Sunday morning and buy food from a real farmer.

    I’ve found that aligning my talk with my walk has naturally decreased a whole lot of our purchases. Do you know how hard it is to find American made shoes? I’d be hard pressed to have a closet full of them.

  14. Pamela says 02 November 2011 at 06:21

    You’re experiencing what people who’ve just through hiked the Appalachian Trail experience–a disconnection with the stuff you’ve left behind.

    In the case of backpackers, they even carry their shelter with them. So when they return home after a six month trip, they wonder why they have so much.

    I’m in the early stages of exploring life on a sailboat. I too am wondering why I have so much stuff. And without a tv, cell phone, stereo, and tons of other necessities of life, I still feel overwhelmed by stuff.

    Want food for thought, check out the book Material World. It features families from all over the world standing in front of their homes with all their possessions. It’s an amazing book.

    • shalom says 02 November 2011 at 06:59

      I second this – it’s a great book!

      We kept loaning ours out to friends, and I would worry that it would never come back home to us. Luckily, I found a stack of copies at a remainder book store, bought them and gave them away. (Hmm, maybe that goes against the spirit of this thread, since I helped a bunch of friends increase the amount of Stuff they owned…)

      • Rosa says 03 November 2011 at 07:22

        I love that book and have showed it to a lot of people (and also What the World Eats) but it exactly fits my rule of books not to buy – large, heavy, and available at our library).

        I figure by checking it out once or twice a year I am keeping it in active circulation so it won’t get weeded, and it ends up out of storage and on the library shelf more often so more people I don’t know are likely to see it.

  15. Janette says 02 November 2011 at 06:36

    We moved five years ago. We only brought into the house what we needed. The barn has about 8,000 lbs of stuff. Unfortunately we chose to live in the middle of no where – so selling it is a pain.
    But, we are slowly getting stuff again. The purge is back on…

  16. Adam P says 02 November 2011 at 06:37

    The fight against unnecessary spending has in the last few months become an automatic win for me, and the results are kind of shocking.

    It’s not that I don’t have “wants” but my wants are all four digits and up right now; and I’m too much of a GRSer to fork over that kind of dough unless it’s necessary. Even if I can afford it.

    Spending on little “wants” or even an under $1000 vacation isn’t hard to convince myself, it was a great reward to go buy a vintage book on amazon or new shirt at Lacoste or go see family in Austin for a long weekend.

    But when you have all you want in the world except say…a new Audi or original art work or five thousand dollar trip to the Galapagos or Baltic cruise…what then? I could afford those things (at least, one or two of them) but I’m too “frugal” now to spend the money on them–curse you GRS!

    I don’t even like drinking or eating out at restaurants anymore, which was the major expense catagory of my fun money.

    The last few months I’ve struggled with this, and my “gift and charity” column on my budget has shot up as a result”. Better than sticking it in ING and earning my paltry 1.25% interest! (edit- which isn’t to save I’m not saving – 20.5% to retirement and another 30% of net pay is going to ING already…I meant I don’t want to send even MORE money to ING)

    • cc says 02 November 2011 at 07:57

      do it!! that’s your reward for being good, you get to go on nice vacations guilt-free cause you can afford them. holla!

      i recently purchased a very expensive ticket to a convention i had wanted to go to for about a year. it was more money than i’ve spent in the last six months and it hurt to punch in my credit card number and see that big figure on my bill, but… i did have the cash to pay it off right away, and now a couple weeks later i have no guilt about the money spent and just can’t wait to go to the conference!

      playing the game for rewards works best if you take the rewards 🙂

      (i’m not trying to say ok, you don’t have any stuff, now buy all the stuff you wanted- but if there’s a big ticket item you want and you’ve earned it, you should take it!)

      • Adam P says 02 November 2011 at 10:16

        Thanks cc!

        I think I’m going to buy this painting I’ve wanted for a long long time and start my art collection. The cheapest one I have my eye on is $3000…I think it’s time I started giving myself a little something for my frugality.

        OR should I go on the trip…or….gah. This is going to take some thought.

  17. shalom says 02 November 2011 at 07:00

    Welcome back, JD! This is the kind of article that I’ve missed around here lately.

    • Amber says 02 November 2011 at 10:10

      Agreed. Inspirational, thoughtful, and a little insight into the J.D.-Kris dynamic — what we have come to look for and love!

  18. Catherine says 02 November 2011 at 07:16

    Sorry for the promotion, but on the subject of wool (and Icebreaker)… You can save 20% off at Icebreaker in New York City and a ton of other stores that don’t usually offer discounts by making a tax-deductible donation of $50 to Futures and Options (a NYC nonprofit that prepares underserved teens for the professional work world). Check it out:

    If you’re in NYC and about to drop a bunch of cash on a Coach purse or 3 Icebreaker shirts (Hello, Christmas presents!), this is worth it for the charity and for you.

    • Catherine says 02 November 2011 at 07:18

      On a personal finance note, I’m curious how people feel about a fundraiser (that doesn’t require a huge donation) that both encourages you to spend money, but offers you a discount?

      • Elizabeth says 02 November 2011 at 07:56

        I don’t know about anyone else, but I only buy an item for a fundraiser if it was something I was going to buy anyways (i.e. it’s useful to me or someone else as a gift).

        Sadly, only a small part of the purchase price actually goes to the cause. If it’s a charity I care about, I’d rather make a cash donation instead. I plan my spending and my donation budget, so I don’t feel guilty about not making impulse purchases “for a good cause”.

      • cc says 02 November 2011 at 08:04

        for a while this one dish soap was offering to give money to charity if you bought it- it had a big cute panda so was like “awww let’s save the pandas and get this brand.” i found out later they only donate if you go onto their website and give them your contact information. uncool, dish soap company! just give my money to the pandas.

        back to joy.

        btw, i would love to see a feature on charity things that don’t take a lot of money. i always feel bad when i see the animal shelter coin boxes and the salvation army bell guys and the vet food drive and the poor people’s thanksgiving dinner drive… i want to help out but cash is so, so tight.
        the obvious answer is to spend some time dishing out turkey or what have you, but i’d love to see alternate options covered since the holiday season is coming up. i’m currently working on some pet comforters for the animal shelter (from old tshirts and pillow fluff). i’d love to see what other readers are up to!!!

        • Elizabeth says 02 November 2011 at 14:15

          I love the pet comforters idea! I’d love to see a post like this too. (hint, hint, J.D. — this might make a good “ask the readers” post!)

          My mom and I have worked on various projects where the materials have been donated (and we have donated materials too.)

          If you’ve got unused crafting supplies, there’s always a group who will take them. If you’ve got crafting talent, you can find these groups to get the supplies to create something for sale or for comfort. (Like a blanket for a child in crisis, or a memory quilt for someone with Alzheimer’s).

        • Rosa says 03 November 2011 at 07:25

          I would love an Ask the Readers on this topic.

          I have found tutoring of various kinds – literacy, computer skills, homework support – really satisfying, and not super time-consuming.

  19. Amanda B. says 02 November 2011 at 07:21

    Having a tiny apartment has been one of the best things that happened to me, spending-wise. Any time I want to buy something, I have to ask the question “where will it go?” More often than not, that would require getting rid of something else. If I don’t value the item enough to get rid of something else for it, then I don’t need to buy it.

    I’m certainly not a minimalist but I understand what many minimalists mean when they say that they have “freedom from stuff”. Less stuff means a load off your back, fewer worries, no need for constant decluttering. It also makes it a hell of a lot easier to move.

    I want to move into a bigger apartment next year (with, oh, a living room?) and I have this idea that maybe I’ll try not to buy anything for the space until I’ve lived in it for a month or so. Just enjoy the empty space and then decide what I could really *use* in it. So maybe I am a bit of a kooky minimalist 😉

  20. Mutant Supermodel says 02 November 2011 at 07:29

    Welcome back! I’m getting ready for a huge purge via garage sale this month. I can’t WAIT!!

  21. Rozann says 02 November 2011 at 07:37

    Here’s my two cents worth – On books: I generally don’t buy a book UNTIL I’ve read it from the library and decide that it’s a “keeper” and will refer to it or read it again. On wooden spoons (or any other kitchen implement): I’m a stay at home mom of five children, homeschooled for fourteen years and cooked three full meals each and every day. I got tired of having to wash everything after each meal so I purposely got multiples of the most commonly used items in my kitchen, which saved tons of time for me. There is great value in evaluating your own life, your own needs, and then deciding what is important enough to spend money, time and space for.

    • Phillip says 02 November 2011 at 19:09

      It’s *sooo funny to read your comment about dishes-we just did the opposite! My wife and I got tired of letting the dishes pile up (family of four, no dishwasher) and spending a solid hour each night washing dishes. We intentionally took everything *out of our kitchen but what we needed for an average meal. Sure, this forces us to do the dishes more frequently but in smaller, more digestible chunks. I admit it’s a small bother to cart up dishes from storage when company’s over, but it helps our house stay clean and keeps me away from the sink each night.

      I agree completely with your last statement-it’s just funny to see the inverse solution to what works for our family!

  22. Steve S says 02 November 2011 at 07:40

    My wife and I have done something similar. When cleaning, vacuuming, or dusting, if an item has a lot of dust on it, or has been moved repeatedly for the vacuum but not used, it goes immediately to the basement (my iPod even made it down there once, no exceptions!)

    Then twice a year – or when it gets noticeably full (we don’t go down there often except for laundry and food storage) we sort through everything and either, 1) bring it back up (the iPod made it back up after a month when I started using it in my car), 2) sell on eBay, 3) sell on Craigslist (larger items that shipping is a pain), and 4) donate to Goodwill.

    Works pretty well. I just need to work on letting go of the emotional attachment to the books I own but don’t read. I should probably just make a list of all of them on my computer, and if I ever get the hankering to re-read one, go to the library or buy the e-book version.

  23. Katy+@+The+Non-Consumer+Advocate says 02 November 2011 at 07:41

    I have drastically brought down my belonging over the past few years, but I am FAR from being a minimalist, which is fine as that’s not my goal.

    For me, I like having space around the possessions that I value. Not only can I find what I’m looking for, but it’s much less stressful to not have all that visual stimulation. Having less Stuff means that I don’t need to spend time and money on Container Store style products, and that it’s not a problem for my husband and I to share a small-ish closet and a single chest of drawers.

    One thing that has been fun about getting rid of my Stuff, is that I’ve sold and made good money from it. From garage sales, Craigslist to eBay, I’ve made thousands of dollars from the extra belongings that were cluttering my home. And keep in mind, most of these items were bought underpriced from thrift shops in the first place.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your travel adventures and am glad you had a good trip and that Kris was able to meet up with you at the end.


  24. Jill says 02 November 2011 at 07:54

    This article really speaks to me. I’m the girls with 4 blue sweaters. I like blue and it looks good on me, but I decided to get rid of the two that look the most worn out (and will refuse to buy any more..i promise.) My husband and I just need to curb spending on our camping supplies. We really have everything we need but we always come across a neat gadget. The camping “stuff” is taking over our storage locker.

  25. Peggy says 02 November 2011 at 08:19

    What about packing up all of your belongings in to the basement or garage and starting your house from scratch that way? Or doing it one room at a time? It could work.

    I’m in the middle of something similar, having moved from one city to another, while my boyfriend stays behind in our home. I can pick and choose what I want to bring with me to my new home (while not leaving him without something he may need). It has also made me really look at those boxes I’ve had stored since I moved 4 years ago and decide what types of sentimental things I want to keep (specific letters from friends in my university years) and what I can really get rid of (old trophies).

  26. Kathryn says 02 November 2011 at 08:31

    Three spoons is (are?) totally justifiable so long as one is cooking more than two dishes at a time. We’re not supposed to use metal spoons with those non-stick pans! Three rain jackets? Not so justifiable, sorry, J.D. 🙂

    Books were a big problem for me too, but as I neared the end of my marriage, knowing I was going to move eventually, I hated the idea of moving all those books! Anything I’d read more than once or didn’t like well enough to read a second time had to go, and new rules were instituted for possible incoming books. Borrowing from the library and friends became the rule, with exceptions for reference material. Since then, I’ve bought maybe five books for myself (school textbooks excluded–and there’s a “fund” for that).

    Good luck on your clutter-battles, J.D. The minimalist in me is cheering for you!

    • Leah says 02 November 2011 at 09:05

      When you live in a rainy place, you might be surprised to find that three rain jackets are reasonable. I’ve got three. One is breathable and lightweight, so it’s good for warmer months or when being active outdoors. One is thicker and not really breathable, and it’s good for heavy rain. The last one is heavy and breathable, and I love wearing it in the rainy, cool winter.

      Of course, now that I no longer live in Seattle and instead am in snowy Minnesota, I should probably let go of some rain jackets and make sure there’s always room for my ski jacket and nice winter coat.

      As with any possessions, you have to ask yourself about utility versus space. If you’re outdoors a lot in a variety of conditions, multiple coats are important. For me, lots of makeup isn’t important (I have one tiny bag that I use a few times a year), but for others a whole drawer is a reasonable space to use. Anytime we talk about stuff here, my take-away is that stuff is a “your mileage may vary” situation.

      • Kathryn says 03 November 2011 at 10:48

        I was thinking about this later in the day and realized that in his rainy-er cooler neck of the woods, three rain jackets might indeed be appropriate, depending on temperatures and activity. In light of that and Leah’s reply, I duly retract my statement on the raincoats. Have at ’em!

  27. Mary says 02 November 2011 at 08:48

    We actually emptied the contents of our kitchen storing them on the back porch while we painted. Instead of bringing it all back in, we brought equipment and tools in only as we actually needed to use each item. We waited until after New Year’s to dump what wasn’t used and that brought us through normal living and the holidays. It was amazing how much we didn’t use at all. It kills me to see a $39 appliance just sitting there because I know how hard I work to get that much interest in one month!

    • happygal says 02 November 2011 at 17:37

      We also painted our family room, living room and kitchen this summer. Things had to be stored in the dining room. We have about cleared the dining room, but made a piece-by-piece decision about where each thing should go. Several items went to a charity. Some were seldom used and went to the basement. Some went back to their original space. It is fun to start over with a blank canvas. We also decided to clear the cabinets and drawers in the kitchen and rearrange some items. Now remembering where they are is causing our brains to work a bit harder than normal.

      JD, I know exactly what you mean when you said you were ready for different clothes after your trip. A few years ago we took a 12 day river cruise and I decided to take only black pants (five pairs). By the time we got home, I did not want to see black pants again for a couple of weeks.

  28. El Nerdo says 02 November 2011 at 09:00


    Rent a storage unit. Move most of your things there.

    Then fish things out as you need them.

    Then sell the contents after some time (depending on how much you’re willing to spend– ideally you’d keep it for 1 full year to test every season, but that depends on how much you want to spend for the experiment).

    Alternatively, if you have a basement, you could stuff everything there and pray things don’t catch fire. But that’s a waste of blank canvas.

    I did the storage thing/blank canvas thing when we moved from a 3 bedroom house to a one bedroom apartment. Got rid of tons of junk. But you don’t actually have to move. You just need to get the stuff out of the house, and methods can vary.

    Right now we’re finishing Fall Cleaning at Casa del Nerdo, and we gathered have a nice pile of things to take to the flea market, from tired clothes to unused electronics to forlorn musical instruments (wishful thinking kept them around too long).

    On the other hand, last time I decided to sell my records and turntable to “save space” and “go all digital”, I ended up organizing the records and listening to them more– just this morning we played a record when we woke up and it was delicious. And I didn’t have to worry about the NAS or the network being down and what not.

    This long ramble is now over.

    • Steve says 02 November 2011 at 13:30

      The closest thing to a decluttering success my wife and I have had was when we were moving some bookshelves across a room. We took everything off the shelves and put it in another room. Each of us was allowed to take whatever we wanted to put back on the shelves – not even a requirement that we use it. With the low bar we kept the majority of the stuff, but we did get rid of about 10%. It was at least easier to choose what to keep rather than what to get rid of. More positive energy or something.

  29. Rose Marie says 02 November 2011 at 09:49

    Yes – the local library! And, if possible, a library that is in a program with other libraries, so you can get any book you want, even if it takes a few days. Since I began working for Willamette University, I’ve been able to break my book buying addiction to almost zero. Like another person in the comments section, I have purchased a few books, but only after I read them and knew I wanted to read them again and again. And, I still buy books as gifts for my great nephews. But using the library is the perfect way to support your community, cut expenses and read as widely as you want!!

  30. Candice says 02 November 2011 at 10:39

    This is a great post. Every consumer should have their own set of buying guidelines.

    One guideline I have is to ask myself the questions, “Where will this item go? Am I willing to store it based on it’s size/purpose/frequency of use?” I am very anti-clutter, so this keeps me from pulling the trigger on a lot of purchases.

    My husband and I also have several purge sessions a year. If we discover that we have more clothes than hangers, we don’t buy more hangers. We go through our clothes and pull out items to donate or toss.

  31. retirebyforty says 02 November 2011 at 10:41

    Good policies. Let me know if you need any help reading those comic books. 🙂

    Don’t rent a storage unit. It’s such a stupid singularly American thing to do. Just toss the junks.

    • Steve says 02 November 2011 at 11:49

      Renting a storage unit long term is throwing good money after bad. However, renting a storage unit for a short term (defined period for a specific reason) can make sense. In dollars per square foot per month terms, it’s a lot cheaper than an extra room in your house full of the junk. And if it is used as per the above comments to help you get rid of the junk permanently, it’s a win.

      If you still have stuff in storage after a year, though, you should probably just get rid of it.

      • El Nerdo says 02 November 2011 at 12:11

        Exactly. For the record, I just kept my storage for 4 months: Moved out at the end of May, and in June and July we were traveling, so it makes normal sense to store. We got the new place August 1st. The following 2 months we took things out of storage only as we needed, and by the end of September we had either sold or given away everything that didn’t belong in the new place. But some people have ski equipment, and motorboats, and volleyball nets, and kayaks, and snowmobiles, and things that are supposed to be used seasonally (and don’t get used)– the “one year” was a theoretical limit, not a recommendation per se.

        In the case of JD, it would make more sense to rent a storage for a couple of months than to uproot and start fresh *in a different home.* Just think of the closing costs!

  32. brooklyn money says 02 November 2011 at 10:59

    I can get ebook loans through the NY Public Library now that I read on my kindle. Love it! I think a lot of libraries offer elending.

  33. Naomi says 02 November 2011 at 11:43


    Do you know about the Icebreaker close-out sale? Every December in NW Portland they sell enormous quantities of merino wool clothing at ridiculously low prices (such as $175 sweaters for $40). Worth seeking out.

  34. Steve says 02 November 2011 at 11:46

    What about potential purchases where you’re not sure if you want them or not? I don’t mean a case where you’re on the fence – the default there is to fall on the “don’t get it” side IMHO. I mean things where you think it might be really useful, but you’re not sure and might not be able to figure it out until you try integrating it into your life.

  35. Krantcents says 02 November 2011 at 12:04

    I have been living this way for a long time, but I called it low profile lifestyle. Things never made me happy anyway so I focus on the experiences. My wife and I are going to Europe next year and comparatively, we will indulge ourselves modestly. These are the things I value.

  36. Jess says 02 November 2011 at 13:21

    I recently did a version of this: moved in with my boyfriend, put almost everything into a storage unit. Three months later we broke up and I found myself with boxes and boxes of stuff I couldn’t even REMEMBER. I was awash with grief and didn’t even feel like unpacking, so I took it as an opportunity to be rid of a lot of things I’d otherwise held on to. As I unpacked, if I had any doubt about an item, it went in the Goodwill pile. I made three big trips with my car, and haven’t missed a single thing. (I wish I could give away still more, but it’s harder now that it’s all in place!).

  37. Jen says 02 November 2011 at 14:03

    Interesting that you mention your dream of starting to live in a new house with nothing. I used to dream of that, too. How it would feel to just start from scratch again, with less stuff. Funny, but it came true. I live in Germany now, in a tiny apartment with hardly anything. All my stuff sits in a storage unit in the U.S., and it feels like a burden. Some things I’m determined to move over here someday (such as furniture my grandpa hand crafted just for me), but I’m so looking forward to the day when I finally go back and empty out that storage unit and get rid of most of my belongings. Distance and time has made me realize how much I don’t need all the stuff I once thought I did.

  38. Elizabeth says 02 November 2011 at 14:20

    This post is timely for me because I’m thinking about Christmas shopping. I try to align my gifts with what the person needs or wants — but it can be tricky. I think sometimes it’s easy to splurge on someone else but not yourself.

    Unfortunately, some of the “clutter” I have around my apartment are gifts! It’s so hard to get rid of something you don’t need or use because it might hurt someone’s feelings.

  39. Ru says 02 November 2011 at 14:23

    I like to follow the William Morris philosophy: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

    I have a real problem with clutter- too many hobbies! There’s the sewing machine, the knitting supplies, the crochet hooks, the sewing accessories, the patterns, the non-fiction books, the spindle and wool for spinning, painting supplies, letter writing paper, sketchbooks, toy stuffing, fabric and so much more. That’s not even counting the tools for my degree and the work from previous years, although many of my tools are in my locker at university now.

    I’ve also got all my kitchen and housewares in my bedroom, ready for when I find somewhere I can move out too. It’s pretty packed in my room at the moment!

    • Elizabeth says 02 November 2011 at 16:27

      I love that William Morris quote too 🙂

      Oddly enough, this quote came through my feed today:

      “To be content with little is hard; to be content with much, impossible.” – Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

    • happygal says 02 November 2011 at 17:46

      I was at a charity flea market recently. A woman was selling crafts and talking about quilting. I asked if she were a quilter. She said no, just a collector of fabrics. That seems to be the way with most crafters…we collect all the supplies but never have enough time to actually create an item.

      • chacha1 says 03 November 2011 at 14:41

        There is a great thread on the Unclutterer forums about “decluttering our fantasy selves.”

        It winds around the idea of conscious buying (and keeping) as well as how to come to terms with the people we used to be and aren’t anymore.

  40. Diane says 02 November 2011 at 16:00

    I did this when I bought my house. I had lived in a 1073 sq. ft. 1 bedroom and den apartment. I realized that I was never in the living room and just used it to hold a bunch of furniture. When I purchased my 793 sq ft, 1 bedroom condo I ended up with a very nice open floor plan where my office is sort of combined with my living room so that I use the entire space and not just half.

    Worked out great, I don’t feel cramped at all and I got rid of a bunch of stuff.

    I did have a ton of books and I only kept the ones that I would re-read. When one of my fav authors comes out with a new book in their series (if it has been long enough since my last read) I will re-read the entire series before the new book. That has seriously cut back my purchases. Anything that I want to read and not keep goes next to my sister for her to read and then is donated to the library. Makes for a great write-off on my taxes.

    Oh and I have a lot more than 3 wooden spoons because after I use them they go into the dishwasher and it takes me a while to get a full load!!!

  41. Gina Lincicum says 02 November 2011 at 17:02

    Moving several times, including a cross-country move, taught me to live with less. It wasn’t worth paying to move some things from CA to VA, and then we lived without (and survived). Other things stayed in boxes for 2+ years and once we had the “room” for them, I decided not to bother. We had lived that long without them, we obviously didn’t need the clutter. Now that we’re staying put, I try to apply the same conditions.

  42. Emily Guy Birken says 02 November 2011 at 17:55

    In regards to you books and comics, I think that’s a very difficult thing to let go of for us bookish types. It took me years to realize that I didn’t need to hang onto every book I had ever bought and that I still got to keep the knowledge and pleasure I got from the books even if I no longer owned the book itself. When I moved in with my husband, I brutally purged my collection down by half. I still own way more books than you can comfortably shake a stick at, but I try not to buy anything new for my bookshelf unless I know I will want to keep it long term. For everything else, I borrow from the library and read on my Kindle.

  43. AC says 02 November 2011 at 19:27

    Good article. I especially like your “purge” idea of only buying (and keeping) those things we use and value. I held on to some old job equipment for nearly 4 years without use. I always thought “well, you never know, maybe I’ll end up doing that job on the side again.” Problem is, I didn’t and don’t have plans to do that job ever again. And the equipment had sat for 4 years! I sold it on Craigslist a week later for $125 (nearly 1/2 its original value when purchases 6 years earlier).

  44. Vince Thorne says 02 November 2011 at 20:09

    One word: Budget. Stick to a monthly budget and discretionary spending will not overwhelm you.

  45. Alex says 02 November 2011 at 23:07

    I would keep things even simpler than that. When you think about buying something, ask yourself, do I need this? And define need fairly strictly as in if it is a necessity or not (and I know even this can be very subjective). I agree with going with quality if you can afford it, but even minimizing my spending and only buying what I need, I end up with a lot of clutter from free things I pick up here and there.

  46. Jaime says 02 November 2011 at 23:50

    JD- Why don’t you spend a few nights or a few weekends going through your stuff and organize your entire household?

    Have bins labeled: keep, donate, and trash.

    Just deal with all the junk and get it over and done with. That’s what I did. I now own less than my boyfriend now. I digitized my life as much as I could. You should think about digitizing your collection.

    I got rid of my CD’s and now have an MP3 library. I buy e-books and got rid of most of my physical books. I only kept about 5 physical books. I bank and shop online.

    Of course this means that you have to have several passwords for all the websites but it’s worth it.

    I also learned to not buy things that I won’t use or that doesn’t fit my lifestyle.

  47. Diana Young says 03 November 2011 at 06:29

    Good morning. We down-sized to a small condo and a sailboat when we retired (early). A rule we try to live by is “if we bring something home or aboard, we have to take something out or off at the same time”. It was amazing to realize how many things you end up bringing home (of course food or consumables such as wine doesn’t count).
    Diana Author Financial Fitness for Beginners

  48. Jen says 03 November 2011 at 09:27

    The first time I moved, I cut my belongings by 1/4. The third time I moved, I cut my belongings by 1/3. Now that I’m in a house, I find myself going through shelves or cabinets at least once a year and tossing stuff into a box to donate/sell. The main thrust of this was: I Hate Dusting, therefore the less I have, the less I have to dust. That’s expanded out to only having four boxes of things in the house: two for Christmas and two of mementos that I don’t want to display but hold great sentimental value. I’m just about down to the things that matter and mean something to me. I’m trying to convince the family that I don’t want Stuff for Christmas and birthdays. They don’t believe in donations in lieu of presents 🙁

    One long-term goal is to travel for a year without the burden of a house waiting for me back home. That may not happen until I retire, but it sounds like a great plan to me. It does mean learning the basics of several languages (mostly European, a touch of Asian and Spanish), but I’m more than ready for a world culture adventure.

    • Lina says 03 November 2011 at 11:35

      I have done the same thing. For every time I move I purge more and more stuff. During the last years I have moved at least four times which have reduced my belongings considerably. Although previously I have found it difficult to get rid of books but no I have booked a table at a flea market and decieded to get rid of all the books that I havent read during the last year. I am planning to move soon again and I have realised that I dont want to pay again for moving books that I dont read or other stuff that I dont need. The stuff that is left will be donated.

      I have the same problem with some of my relatives that buys presents that I dont want or need. I have tried to say that I dont want christmas presents but it doesn’t work. My parents gives giftcards to stores, presents or books that I choose. We decide what we want or need (within a certain budget) and then we buy that as a presents. There is no surprises during christmas in our family but we get presents that we like and that are useful.

      • Jen says 03 November 2011 at 13:54

        Oh, every year I tell my mom exactly what to get me (Star Wars ornament from Hallmark) but she doesn’t believe me when I say that’s all I want. She feels “bad” that I’m only getting one thing, so she buys something else for me that I don’t usually want or need. Last year it was a t-shirt that had “Snow!” on it. A t-shirt..while cute, I can’t wear it in winter!

        I’ve done the ebay/craigslist dumping of my purged items, and the whole family has gone in on one yard sale every couple of years. I’m too lazy to do another yard sale, so this year, the purged items may just go to Goodwill, which is across the street from me.

  49. Slackerjo says 03 November 2011 at 13:02

    JD I think you are too hard on yourself. You have stuff, people have stuff. It’s really only bad if the stuff is putting you into debt or if the stuff is affecting your life (think hoarders).

    I suppose if you are really worried about stuff you can always hire a professional organizer to teach you the skills so that you can control/organize your stuff.

    • chacha1 says 03 November 2011 at 17:33

      I don’t think JD is being hard on himself at all. There’s no self-judgement in that article. “OMG I have three rain jackets I’m a terrible person!” LOL

      He is just at the point where he is really thinking about things differently and he shares that because some of us may be at the same stage.

      This whole process of financial reinvention (and decluttering, which seems to go along with it pretty often) is kind of like a kaleidoscope.

      Each time you change the dial you get a different vision.

  50. Louise says 04 November 2011 at 00:01

    JD, you can try this to declutter. For every new (or used) thing that you’re bringing into your life that’s not a consumable like food or toilet paper, get rid of two items you already own. Doesn’t have to be the same type of stuff (e.g. old pants for new pants). This makes you think harder about what you’re adding to your life and if you want it enough to get rid of stuff you already own. Also, it’s a declutter as you go process. If you’re not the type who wants to spend a weekend, a day or even an hour purging, this is a more gradual way to let things go.

  51. brooklynchick says 04 November 2011 at 05:35

    I have really enjoyed re-acquainting myself with the library as an adult. I reserve books online, and when I go in to pick them up, I browse, talk to librarians about what they are reading….it’s fun. I still buy books, but I waste a lot less money on books I am only going to read once. I buy from my favorite authors, knowing I often re-read those.

  52. Maria says 04 November 2011 at 12:54

    JD, currently I’m following an aesthetic called Wabi Sabi. It may have been mentioned here, but I don’t have time to read through these comments. A very good book on this philosophy is how you can apply it to your home. I’m reading “the wabi-sabi house” by Robyn Griggs Lawrence. It’s an easy read with some thoughtful suggestions on bringing “stuff” into your home.

    “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris

  53. Karyna says 06 November 2011 at 10:21

    JD, I also have to think very hard about my purchases: as a college student, all my possessions must fit comfortably within a 100sqft space.

    You seem to be having a dilemma over the “outliers” of your Stuff, the things that don’t easily fit into the rules (The record player is seldom used, but when you use it it is valued; your comic books are *possibly* expensive collections).

    For me, I add “Can I reasonably borrow this from someone I know?” So, although I love TV, I don’t own one, because I have friends who like the same shows that I do. I am a book-aholic but I only own a shelf’s worth because I borrow my books (from the library, or friends with good taste) and only buy them if I loved them so much that I know I’m gonna read them again.

    I’ve found that my friends are usually flattered that I like what they like, and are itching to share anyway.

  54. Judi says 05 February 2012 at 17:31

    As for de-cluttering, this is what I did with my young children’s rooms:
    Put all items that seemed clutter to me in a big trash bag and hide away in the basement. I tell the kids to let me know if anything important to them is missing. After 2 weeks or so the bag goes to goodwill.
    I only ever had to go find something on 2 or 3 occasions.
    And I did this 2 times a year for many years.
    Could work for adults as well….!

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