It Doesn’t Start With Spending Money

I’ve been making lots of changes to my life over the last couple of years, and it’s easy when caught up in a new change you want to make to think that you need to buy “x” to be able to do it.

When I started decluttering it was because I wanted my home to be a nice place for me to be and to be able to invite friends over more often (without a stress-cry about how much I needed to clean/clear before I felt it would be presentable). As I mentioned before, I started this process by looking at Apartment Therapy and thinking about how I wanted my home to look and feel. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this, but for me it meant that my first thoughts were of all the storage options and organisational tools I would need (need – ha!) to get my home in order. How could I organise my kitchen cabinets if I didn’t have a spice rack? Without a wrapping paper storage bag how would I contain those unruly rolls? Why would I even start working on my wardrobe until I had better hangers that didn’t cause all my clothes to continuously slide to the floor?

Suddenly, even though my home was a total mess, somehow I had convinced myself that buying something was the first step. Except of course it wasn’t. The first step was moving things to their correct(ish) location within the house so that I could not only see how much I actually had but also work out what I wanted to keep. If I had acted on those first impulses – as I had done for years I might add – then I would have ended up with less money and more items to clutter up my home. As it turned out, I managed to stop myself on this occasion and didn’t buy any of those things. Instead I took the actual first step which was of course to just start. Buying something at this point would have been detrimental in various ways, not only would I have needlessly spent money, but I also wouldn’t have actually started the work. Needing to buy something before you begin is a great procrastination tool, and I really don’t need any help in that area! So how did it work out in the end?

The spices live in a box that I already had but was filled with other junk. As soon as I cleared it out I realised it was perfect to hold my spices and a recently cleared kitchen shelf would be a great place for it to live.

The wrapping paper got put into a paper carrier bag (you know the ones with strings) which of course worked absolutely fine. I now laugh when I think that I ever considered buying a wrapping paper storage solution! Not only did the used paper bag work fine, but as of this last Christmas I have used up my final wrapping paper supplies anyway and am not buying any more as I am trying to reduce my use of single use disposable items (as a step along my path towards reducing/eliminating waste from my life). So any box/bag bought specifically for this purpose would by now have been useless.

I did eventually buy a few new hangers to replace the wire ones that I had taken when I moved out from my parents’ house, but after getting rid of so many clothes I didn’t wear I realised I required just a few, instead of the huge amount I would have bought back then, only to no longer need them.

During my decluttering I came across so many items that at one time I had convinced myself I needed, and needed NOW. The thought of leaving that dress/notebook/rug/handbag in the store felt physically painful at the time of purchase, and yet a mere few months/years later the shine had worn off and it was just clutter in my home. What an utter waste of the world’s resources and my money. I try to remember this feeling frequently, as well as the specific examples of not-buying given above, whenever I am considering a purchase. This policy works in so many situations, not just organising a home. For instance:

“I need to buy a tennis racket and some new clothes because I’m going to start playing tennis each week.” Nope. I decided to borrow an ancient tennis racket from someone to start off with in case I didn’t keep playing, and six months later I am still using it because they haven’t needed it back yet and I realised it was absolutely good enough, especially considering that I am not even a skilled tennis player! I wore some leggings and an old t-shirt and guess what? They were fine and still are. Buying those new items wouldn’t have improved my game or my enjoyment of it, and would have cost me money I didn’t need to spend.

“I’m going to start making my own cleaning products and toiletries. I need some fancy storage jars and bottles.” Nope. My sink scrub lives in an old peanut butter jar and my vinegar ‘conditioner’ lives in an old window cleaning spray bottle, and both do the job. Using items I already had meant that I didn’t need to spend money on containers and that I could start straight away instead of waiting until I could could get out to buy something (by which time I might have lost all momentum!).

There will be times when buying something or spending money is necessary, but those instances are far fewer and further between than I used to tell myself. Now I try to start out with a different thought process: Can I do without it entirely? Can I start without it and see if I still need it later? Do I have something else that will do the job sufficiently? Can I borrow an item or find it second hand on a giveaway site?

The whole world is always trying to sell us something. It’s hard not to be tempted when you see a quick way to buy a ‘solution’ and I am nowhere near perfect in shaking off this temptation! But often the solution is either achievable another way, or not even really a problem to begin with. Furthermore, when you are trying to make significant changes to your life, the real step is often right in front of you and at least nine times out of ten it doesn’t start with spending money.

Thanks for reading,

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