I sometimes listen to The Minimalists podcast, though I can't entirely recommend it. They spend way too much time promoting themselves and whatever product it is they're shilling (particularly their documentary and speaking events). And I can't get on board with everything they suggest (no, I'm not going to teach kids to find "joy" in throwing out family photos and artwork - that's just weird). Plus, it's kind of frustrating when you realize how much of an initial monetary investment is necessary if and when you decide to adopt a more minimal lifestyle.
For instance, I decided to get rid of a lot of the clothes I owned, because I wasn't actually wearing them (didn't like them). But then I didn't have anything to wear, so I bought multiple copies of this one t-shirt I really like and made a sort of uniform out of it with gym leggings. The thing is, that's only possible because I'm in a secure financial position right now. So to lecture people to adopt a minimal lifestyle with less stuff - well, some people can't afford to throw out sub-par things that they will then have to replace. Yes, even bad, ugly clothes have function and worth. They keep you warm.
So all of that is just to say The Minimalists kind of rub me the wrong way.
BUT, I still find their podcast just useful enough to give them an occasional listen, if only to reiterate this one fundamental principle they constantly repeat:
Does it add value?
That's the question I've learned from them to ask myself before I purchase anything and before I decide to throw anything away. If the object in question adds value to my life (or will add value), then I'll keep it or maybe buy it. Though I have to be REALLY honest with myself about the answer to that question. Dishonesty = impulse/regretted purchase. If the object doesn't add value? Donate it (or just don't buy it).
Those old clothes weren't adding value to my life because they made it harder for me to get dressed each morning (decision fatigue) and they made me feel frumpy. They also made it harder to see/find what I actually owned (a lot of good stuff I had forgotten about because it was hidden out of sight due to sheer volume). And I happened to have the money to replace those clothes with a t-shirt that I already own and love, so I know it will add more value to my life. It's a pretty good rule of thumb and has helped me to make better purchasing decisions, something that I've always struggled with. (Maybe a lot of people struggle with it too?)
Taking inventory the other day, I noticed there are two objects in my life that add a HUGE amount of value to me.
The first is our robot vacuum cleaner. With two cats and a dog, our place can get pretty gross, pretty quick, what with mud getting tracked inside and fur clinging to just about every surface. Before we got the ILIFE vacuum, I was spending so much time cleaning our house. And that was time I really valued to do other things, like write. Eventually, it was my husband who talked me into getting one of these robot vacuums, because they had one at his lab and he saw for himself how useful it was. So we sprang, dropped the dough, and have never regretted it. That vacuum cleaner picks up SO MUCH DOG AND CAT HAIR. I don't have to vacuum or sweep anymore because of it, which has given me more time to do the things I actually value.
The second thing that has added a lot of value to my life is my convertible standing desk. I'm an editor. I work at a computer all day long. Being able to switch between sitting and standing in a matter of seconds has significantly improved my health in so many ways. I feel good at the end of the day, which wasn't the case before I bought the desk. My back feels great. My core muscles are stronger. And I've dropped a little weight that I had gained once I started working from home. I value all of those things, therefore, I really value my desk. If it broke, I'd buy another one, though it feels so sturdy I can't imagine it ever will (knock on wood, cause I love this thing).
Does it add value to your life? What a great question. Seriously, ask yourself that whenever you're of two minds about buying something. Will you value this thing in 6 months? If so, get it (if you have the money). If not, then don't worry about it. I wish somebody had taught me this 10 years ago. I would have saved so much money.
For obvious reasons, I've been trying to spend less and save more money lately.
This means drastically cutting down on "want" type purchases. I've stopped buying books and started borrowing everything from the library (especially graphic novels). I've also stopped buying or renting movies now that I've discovered the library's collection, which is actually pretty good.
But to really save money, I've been seeing how far back I can trim "needs" as well.
For example, tofu is a cheap and healthy alternative to meat that both my husband and I enjoy. I've also learned that Dove soap is a perfectly good makeup remover and is significantly cheaper too. In a pinch, corn starch works just as well, if not better than dry shampoos (plus, there's no weird ammonia smell).
But there are some needs I just can't ignore. The other day, I was putting on my shoes and discovered two quarter sized holes in the back of each heel. Granted, I've been wearing these shoes for almost seven years now, but I didn't realize I'd worn them out quite so badly.
So I need to buy a new pair of shoes, but it's never that easy.
I'm really, really bad at shopping. I consistently make stupid choices and end up wasting money. I don't know how I do it. I will spend over an hour trying on different pairs of shoes. I'm very careful to test them for comfort and how well they'll work with my outfits. Eventually, I'll make a decision and buy them.
But once I've worn the shoes a few times, I almost always decide I hate them. I'll think they make me look stumpy. Or they'll hurt my feet if I walk in them for longer than five minutes. Something like that. And by that point they're too scuffed and worn to return. This happens almost every time and then I'll have to go out and buy another pair. And maybe another. It might take me three or four purchases before I've finally found the shoes I like.
Isn't that wasteful? And expensive? I just can't afford to shop like that anymore.
It's gotten so bad that for the last year or two, I haven't bought any new shoes and have made a point to get as much wear out of my few favorite pairs as much as I can. My old Rockports and Coach shoes have worked pretty well, but obviously they can't, and aren't, lasting forever.
I'm the same way with clothing. I'll need a dress for a specific kind of function (say a casual sun dress for the summer), but it will take me two or three tries before I find one that I love enough to wear.
Last winter, I found a cute plaid shirt for less than $25. I loved it so much in the store, that I decided it would be smart to buy two, knowing how picky I am about my clothing.
Well, I got home and discovered that these shirts had the strangest cut that had somehow escaped my attention in the dressing room. They were really short on the sides, so they covered the entire top-half of my body...except for my love handles, which were completely exposed.
How did I not see that in the dressing room?!!! Now I have two fugly shirts that are useless to me. $50 down the drain.
Solution: Don't go shopping. Clearly, I suck at it.
But then this morning, I put on one of the few remaining t-shirts I own and found there were holes beneath each armpit. Not cute little holes. You could stick your fist through these. Mortifying, but I wore it anyway (with a sweater) because it was literally the best option I had. I need to do some laundry, but I also really some new clothes.
It seems like everything that's being sold is low-quality. It looks good in the store, but it falls apart almost right away, or there's some hidden flaw that doesn't appear until later.
Do you have problems finding good clothes? I feel like it's been a repeated swing and a miss for me lately. I think it makes sense to spend more money on higher quality items that last a long time, but even the expensive stuff is often just a pricey label on a piece of sweat-shop junk. It's hard to know the difference sometimes.
Writer, editor, scientist.