“The average American has 300,000 items in their home and $16,000 in credit card debt,” according to a recent post by The Minimalists. I will admit, I was a little incredulous when I read this, until I realised I had over 30 items in my handbag alone (this includes my purse, but not its contents.) In my last post, I touched on how I am currently going through a decluttering phase. I am trying to eliminate all the “stuff” from my home, head and life. I want to leave only the things which Ms. Kondo would say, “spark joy.” In other words, if I don’t either use it, or consider it to be beautiful, it has got to go.
Most of this discarding has been relatively easy. I am experiencing a mixture of amusement and horror as I discover how much of a hoarder I truly am. Little did I know just how many possibly used, possibly unused batteries there actually were in my home. Some of it, however, has been more challenging. I find myself reluctant to let go of certain things. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to this. For example, I have a particular item under my bed. It was a gift, a number of years ago, and it has never been used. In truth, I am not sure if I have ever taken it out of its box. There is no rational reason for me to hang onto this. I can only assume it is my fondness for the giver that is preventing me from parting with it. As well as this, it is something that I asked for, and so I feel guilty for having had the person waste their money on me.
For these challenging items, which I just can’t bring myself to part with straight away, I have exercised a stay of execution. I am giving myself 3 months, and if, in that time, I still haven’t found a use for them, they are going, end of story.
Let’s face it, January is a pretty lean month for most people. Excessive spending over the festive period and a longer than usual wait for pay day leaves most of us feeling strapped. This financial pressure, coupled with the impending dread of the credit card bill landing on the mat, can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress. I am no different from anyone else in this, and I can assure you, I have been counting down the days until my salary hits the bank, and I can start spending again!
Wait, what? As the first couple of weeks of January trickle by, it is slowly dawning on me, that decluttering and throwing stuff away is only half the story. Unless I stop actually buying said stuff, I am never going to achieve the state of Zen-like minimalism I crave. Like the poor old Americans, my bank account drains and my house overflows. I have caught myself in a vicious cycle of constantly spending money I don’t have, on things I don’t need, and never having a penny to do the things I actually want to do. It’s insanity.
So, what is to be done about it? I have decided to go on a spending ban. I will not spend money on anything unnecessary. Defining unnecessary took a bit of doing, but for me it looked a little like this. No more buying clothes, period! I have wardrobes overflowing with garments. Just last week I took a black bag of rubbish out of my socks and tights drawer alone, so let’s face it, I am covered in that department. No more buying books, until I have caught up with the ones already on my bookshelf. (Books are definitely an impulse buy for me, and one click ordering on Amazon really doesn’t help!) No more buying a coffee on my way to have coffee. Grocery shopping will be done with a list, so hopefully no more gluts of canned goods. You get the picture.
I have also gone through my monthly direct debits and cancelled everything I could get away with. For example, I was paying separately for roadside assistance with AA, even though I get it as part of my car insurance. Why? Because I am crazy, clearly. Next to go were my Patreon subscriptions. Sorry guys, but until I get my finances in order, I need it more than you do. All these tiny micro transactions don’t seem like much in isolation, but they must be adding up, because come the end of the month, I always end up wishing I had the money back in my account.
To help me avoid retail therapy while at work, I have unsubscribed from all emails trying to sell to me. I have unfollowed anything on social media, which may lure me back to my old ways. I have never been a great shopper anyway, so this just gives me an excuse to stay away from the centres entirely, which suits me fine.
Don’t misunderstand me. This is not about being penny pinching or miserly. It’s not about squirreling away all the pennies either particularly. For me, it is just about being less wasteful. It’s about redefining the word “need.” (As in, yes, while I might like a new Fossil bag, I definitely don’t need it!) It is about recognising that I work damn hard for my money, and being a little bit more mindful about how I dispose of it.
I have lost count of the number of times recently I have heard people say that they need a bigger house, or more space, or more storage. The truth is we don’t need any of that. We don’t need more space to fill up with even more crap. What we need is less consumerism. Less time spent constantly coveting the latest and greatest of everything. Less expectation that the new, shiny thing will make us happy. Because, I promise you, it won’t.
I know I have said that I don’t believe in resolutions, and so I will be calling this my “less is more” challenge. I am not promising not to spend money at all. I am currently trying to redecorate my spare bedroom, so there will need to be money spent on that. But, I am going to make a concerted effort not to waste any money. Alcohol and take outs are also in the unnecessary category for now, which will only serve to improve my health in the long run, so win win!
I will keep you updated on my progress over the coming weeks, and encourage you all to take the New Year as an opportunity to examine your own habits and see if there are changes you would like to make. Be well xxx