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Already Downsized? Learn How to Buy Without Adding Clutter to Your Life

By Elizabeth Dunkel January 09, 2020 Lifestyle

If I read one more article about downsizing and decluttering, I think I’ll scream. At first it was refreshingly liberating, this KonMari method of asking, “Does this item bring me joy?” – yes, you’re in; no you’re out. Boom!

But now I’m in overdrive with the hoarding shows and organizing blogs. I open a cupboard and ask myself, what doesn’t bring me joy? I’m not satisfied until I’ve gotten rid of at least one thing every time I open a closet or a drawer. It feels like war.

Then there come the decluttering, professional organizer strategies, such as: put all your clothes hangers in one direction. If you wear an item, turn the hanger around when you put it back.

At the end of a pre-decided number of months, any hanger that hasn’t been turned around, means the particular item of clothing must go.

That sounds fine in theory. But I live in the tropics, where months can go by before I need to grab a sweater or my rain jacket for traveling to colder climes.

The kitchen version of this is: put all your items from a particular drawer into a box on the counter. When you use the item, it goes back into the drawer. At the end of a month, whatever unused items are still in the box, clearly aren’t needed and can leave the premises.

Well, I don’t use my cherry pitter except for cherry season, once a year, but I wouldn’t dream of getting rid of it.

How did we get to this moment, when all we can think of is getting rid of stuff? Well, for many of us, it’s because the past few decades were about unbridled consumerism. More was better. More showed we had ‘made it.’

We indulged. We were raising families and had big entertaining needs. Now, times have changed and we have changed. Our lifestyles and values have changed.

What We Need to Do Now Is Learn How to Buy

We have to learn how to buy better, buy properly. First, it’s important to understand that buying is an addiction. You always want more. Shopping is a powerful drug. It gets our neurons blazing, our hearts pumping. Buying is a promise: “If I buy this, I will be happy.”

The excitement of buying is almost like a sexual thrill. There is the hunt, the flirtation, the courtship and the desire to possess. I want you! Capped off by the climactic moment when we say, “Yes!”

One of my resolutions this year is to become a responsible consumer. Responsible to the environment and to my community. But most importantly, respectful to me.

I’ve just finished an exhausting round of garage sales and donations, and I’m not interested in decluttering every few years due to bad purchasing decisions.

Clarify Your Purchasing Style and Triggers

We don’t buy a cute puppy every time we see one. Sure, we pet and coo at them, “Gee, I’d like to take you home with me.” But then we walk away. Why? Because we know that bringing a puppy into our lives implies a commitment of years of maintenance and caring.

So, too, should we walk away from unnecessary purchases. Love it, admire it, but you don’t have to own it. Now there’s a concept to cultivate!

A sweater isn’t just a sweater. A sweater should imply years of having that sweater in my closet. Do I want to make that commitment?

Maybe the question we should ask ourselves is, “Are you a future garage sale item?” I cannot tell you how many things I’ve not bought because the answer to this question has been yes.

Tips for Buying Well

  • Before you go shopping, shop your closet and your drawers. You’ll be amazed at what you find.
  • Don’t shop with credit cards. Pay cash. That’s a reality check.
  • Cut up all your store credit cards and just have two bank cards. One you use, and the other is a backup when technology falters. Pay your bill in full, each month.
  • Don’t shop as entertainment or out of boredom.
  • Only go shopping when you need something.
  • Want to stop buying? Stop shopping.
  • Buy what you need, not what you want.
  • Stop buying. Period.
  • If you do buy, use the one in, one out rule.
  • Sometimes it’s not about decluttering, it’s about organizing and arranging. Nice, clear, coherent organization. You see what you have, you love what you have, you use what you have.
  • Every time you don’t buy something, put that money into an account. You’ve just saved it.
  • Learn to enjoy the feeling of not buying. What’s the feeling? I’ll speak for myself: I feel great, wealthier and in control. Much more peaceful. Happier! What about you?

If you enjoyed this article, please check out my series on How to live like a millionaire and on anti-consumerism.

Do you have any shopping/not shopping tips you can share? What have you discovered about not shopping? Do you find that not shopping helps you feel wealthier? Any anti-consumerist tips you can share? Please do so in the comments below!

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Nancy Barringer

Excellent advice.

The Author

Elizabeth Dunkel is a writer and novelist who recently moved back to the U.S. after living in Merida, Mexico for 25 years. Elizabeth is the proud founder of the Merida English Library. As a Cambridge CELTA certified teacher of ESL, she considers herself not just a teacher but a dream maker. “Teaching English empowers people to reach their dreams.”

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