I think by now we’re all aware that I love a good purge. There’s something incredibly refreshing about cleansing my home from the extra stuff and clutter and junk that was weighing me down. Sometimes I look at the giant pile of stuff I’m getting rid of and I have to wonder, Where the heck did all of this fit before? Real answer: it didn’t. I had just stuffed everything further and further into the cabinets or put things where they didn’t belong.
For many years, I was stuck in a cycle of of purging, accumulating, snapping, purging, over and over again. I eventually grew frustrated for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it takes a lot of time to purge stuff! I was doing a major downsize every few months and hauling bags upon bags over to Goodwill. Plus, it felt like I was constantly throwing money out the window. With every purge, I’d find items I had bought over the last couple of months and then never even used.
I finally realized that the only place where I could realistically break this cycle is in the “accumulation” phase, and this has been a game changer for me. I think this is the hardest part to take control of, because have you ever been to Target? I think Target may have trademarked the term “impulse purchase.” If not, they should look into it.
Over time, I’ve developed a filter system of questions that I ask myself before I make an impulse purchase. As you know, I’ve given up impulse purchases for home-related items in this season of my life, but general purchases are still a temptation I face every time I go to the store or place an order from Amazon. (Why yes, I would like to purchase the book that other people ordered with this product! How did you know?!)
If you’re up for a challenge, because this will test the fibers of your resistance, try asking yourself these questions before you check out with something you didn’t waltz into the store intending to buy.
1. Does it fit the budget? Even if it does, would I rather spend this same amount of money on something else? For example, would I rather have that pair of shoes or go out to a nice dinner with my husband? Would I rather drop $100 on that new chair or put it toward airfare to visit a new place or see my best friend? Sometimes buying the new thing is the necessary and right choice, and sometimes I’d rather make a different decision. Either way, I’m grateful that I have options and extra money so that I can make these choices.
2. Does this meet an immediate need? Will I use this item at least once a week? Once a month? If once a month, will it save enough time to justify the cost and the space it takes up?
3. Is it versatile? If it’s a sweater, will it match most of my pants and skirts, or just one? Will it be appropriate for work, home, and play? If it’s a kitchen tool, can it do double duty (i.e. a blender that can also be a food processor)?
4. Do I already have something similar at home? If so, does this go so far above and beyond the usefulness of the item I already have that I’d be fine with both 1) the cost of this new thing, plus 2) the cost of getting rid of the first thing? (Hey, I paid for it at one point! If I get rid of it, I no longer get any bang for my buck.)
5. Do I have a readily available space to store it in my house? If not, is there something I’m willing to toss to make room? Or will this likely end up at the back of a cabinet, pushed back by other things, forgotten until the next purge?
6. If I had to pack up and move tomorrow, would it be worth packing? Even harder: If I had to downsize to a fill-in-the-blank here (RV, studio apartment, etc.), would I choose to keep this? Now, this doesn’t mean I can’t buy things that would fall into this category, rather that I need to consider them carefully.
7. Would my husband wonder why in the world we need this? And if so, would I even be able to convince him it’s necessary? It’s not that I need to ask his permission—when we had the big “F-word” talk (finances), we agreed that as long as something is in the budget and costs less than $200 (aka is not in the “major purchase” category), we don’t need to check it with the other person. That said, Dan is my ultimate litmus test. He’s not cheap, but he is incredibly practical.
And here comes the real kicker:
8. Am I buying this because I truly need or want it, or am I trying to fill an underlying insecurity? Am I turning to retail therapy because I had a rough day? Am I ashamed at the lack of decor in my home and trying to compensate? Am I discouraged by my body and trying to cover it up with something pretty? Am I coveting this table setting because I want to be someone I’m not (i.e. a dazzling dinner-party host instead of a takeout-on-paper-plates kind of girl)? This is a really tough one to pinpoint, and I’ll write more on this in the next few weeks. For now, I hope this gives you some food for thought.
Sometimes if an item passes this inspection list, I’ll buy it without guilt. And sometimes, even if it passes these tests, I’ll still wait. Often within hours or days or weeks, I’ll forget about whatever the thing is that I thought I couldn’t live without. And sometimes, I’ll still be thinking about that item many weeks later, and that’s a signal to me that I can go back and buy it.
For example, I saw this adorable little wall hanging at Target a few months ago, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I’m committed to stay true to my word of not buying anything for the home until we move into our new house, but I’ll definitely go get it once we’re moved in. And if Target doesn’t have it by the time I’m ready to purchase? Then I saved some money. Or, I could find someone to hand-make it for me on Etsy. Then small business wins too!
These questions are not meant to be arbitrary rules that I guilt myself into following. Instead, I see them as tools that help me find perspective and force me to question my knee-jerk reactions to in-store displays and marketing. They help me to understand more deeply the difference between my wants and my needs. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to buy the things we want—I do it sometimes, I promise. What’s not good is buying things without considering what subconscious desires may be lingering underneath and without considering the cost beyond the price tag.