Questions to ask before you acquire

One of the reasons we get cluttered is because we acquire a fair bit of stuff rather unintentionally. We let bargains and marketing and the need for “newer” or “better” get the upper hand over us.

Instead of asking yourself “Can I afford it?” and “Do I wanted it?” when shopping – ask these questions.

And answer honestly!

  1. Am I just buying this to feel better about my life? You could have the urge to purchase because you feel bad. You might feel anxious, stressed, tired. You might need a dopamine hit or some cheering up and you’ve gone looking for it at the shopping centre. Think hard – is there another way you can feel good without buying? Perhaps going fora walk in nature, watching funny bloopers on YouTube, cuddling a puppy or having a massage might do the trick instead.
  2. Where is this going to live? Do I have space for it? Buying stuff when your home is already full or overflowing is just buying problems. If you can’t think of a helpful home for the item, it would definitely be worth re-thinking the acquisition.
  3. Do I have this on my “to buy” or “need” list? If you’ve previously identified a need for this item (like last week when your kettle shorted out and refused to work) then it can be justified as a need. But if you see a fancy kettle and you think “Ooh, this is nice and it’s 60% off!” and your kettle at home hasn’t bothered you at all until now, then you are simply responding to marketing and don’t actually need it.
  4. Is the price the most enticing thing about this object? This is where you decide whether you actually want the item itself, or you want the thrill of the discount. If you had to pay full price, would you? That’s the test of true need.
  5. How does this item “die”? What happens when you’re finished with it? Does it go into landfill? Wash into the sea? Sometimes by thinking about the whole life cycle of the item, we can be encouraged to leave it on the shelf so that we aren’t contributing to landfill or other environmental issues.
  6. Is this item going to make my life better, and for the long term? Very frequently we buy based on the excitement of something new. A new top, the latest magazine, the new kitchen gadget, the exercise thingy. We buy because we think it will make our lives better. And sometimes in the short term it does, but long term it ends up in the back of a cupboard and ignored. We want to buy things that KEEP paying the rent on the space they take up, not just the deposit!
  7. Do I really need it? Or do I just want it? Perhaps you’re self-soothing and don’t really need the item at all. Usually we buy things we don’t actually need, they’re just for temporary highs. If you can spot this happening, you can avoid it.
  8. Do I already have a similar thing? Often we buy something we already have at home that does most of the job already. We might buy a food processor because the blender doesn’t grate (but we have a grater in the drawer) or we might buy an avocado slicer when we have perfectly adequate knives and spoons that can do the job. Think first – how have you survived so far without it and can you keep on surviving without it?

A few reasons why you have too many clothes

For those of us that have more clothes than space (and I count myself in that right now because when I unpacked my summer clothes out of rotation last month, I got a shock at how full my wardrobe suddenly was!), then it’s helpful to understand WHY, so that after a declutter, it doesn’t fill back up again.

So here we go – here are some reasons you have more clothes than space:

  1. You don’t have a style guide or curated colour palette. This means you buy things that don’t suit you or “feel like” you (they’re probably on special though, so enticed you anyway), OR they aren’t consistent with other styles in your wardrobe so you find them hard to match up and then don’t wear them. You need more clothes when things don’t match.
  2. You refuse to pay full price. When you shop with a discount in mind, that discount becomes the main reason for buying something. It is so enticing that regardless of the item and its suitability, you buy it anyway. By paying full price for something, however, you are more intentional and deliberate. You don’t compromise at all. You don’t think “well it’s a bit tight under the arms but I’m sure it will be okay” or “This will do for now”. You think “This has to match with several of my other clothes, shoes and accessories, fit perfectly and last me a long time”. And so you only buy it when it promises just that. Paying full price means ultimately buying less items overall.
  3. You don’t shop with a list. When you go shopping without a list, it’s easy to impulse-purchase. It’s easy to buy things you want, instead of things you need. Keep a list at all times (in your head, your phone, in a notebook, wherever!) so that when you’re shopping, you can refer to it when the impulse strikes. Update it regularly (when you are standing in front of your wardrobe thinking “I really need a black singlet for under these tops” or when something gets a hole in it that you can’t repair). Then make a rule for yourself – Only buy things that are on the list.
  4. You can’t let go. Hanging on to clothes we don’t wear anymore is a common behaviour. There are a lot of reasons we stop wearing clothes – we don’t fit into them anymore, they go out of fashion (as I’m getting older I am ignoring fashion more and more though!), they get “tatty” or worn and not suitable for public display. However a lot of the time, we keep them anyway. If you can’t let go, and you keep buying more, it’s only going to get more and more cramped in there.
  5. You follow fast fashion. In the fast fashion industry there are over 50 seasons in a year. That’s a new collection every week. If you strive to keep up with these seasons, you will invariably end up with an over-full wardrobe. The antidote is to be comfortable wearing clothes for many years, and creating a style for yourself that does not depend on trends. Also being selective on what trends you follow can help, too – that will reduce the influx a little.
  6. You haven’t set any boundaries. You buy what you want, when you want it. Your space expands (or compresses!) to fit the clothes, instead of the other way around. Your shoes are in five different locations, your clothes span more than one wardrobe, or have spilled over into tubs in the garage or spare rooms. Set some boundaries on how much space your clothes can take up, then stick to it.

So these are a few areas for you to address if you want to ultimately have a “just right” volume of clothing in your life – give them a go and see how well it works!

A better life? You choose….

When we buy things or keep things, we often have reasons why.

“I might need it”
“But it’s part of my history”
“I need to finish it first”
“I’ll feel guilty”
“It’s still usable”
“These things always come in handy”

ALL of those rationales could be re-written as “My life will be better if I keep it”, couldn’t they? You’d be prepared, or have memories, or have knowledge awaiting you, or you won’t feel guilt. You’ll be better off than if you discarded it, right? I mean, that’s why you’re keeping it, really, isn’t it?

Next time you catch yourself making an excuse to keep something, tell it how it is. Say how you think it will make your life better. Then question that. Will it REALLY? Or just potentially? Or just in the short term?

What about your goal of living a life that is more intentional, mindful, simple and meaningful? Will living like that make your life better?

So which will you go with?

Keeping: “My life will be better if I keep it”

OR

Discarding: “My life will be better if I don’t keep it”.

It’s up to you to choose, so choose well.

Mindful shopping: an antidote to clutter

One of the most common causes of clutter I come across is excess acquisitions; when people buy more stuff than they have space or need for.

People shop for various reasons. One is a basic need – you need sustenance, so you buy milk and bread. You have a hole in your shoe, so you buy a replacement pair to stop your feet getting wet.

Another reason we buy things is to give to others. Presents, gifts, donations. Or as an investment – jewellery, art etc. We also shop to create an environment we feel happy in. We buy home-wares, clothes, artwork and decorations.

Another big reason we buy things is to make ourselves feel better. To feel more successful, to feel more content, to feel more beautiful, more intelligent, more accepted, more creative.

Finally, we shop to get an adrenaline rush. Either the thrill of the chase, or the thrill of the bargain. And then once addicted, it’s just for the rush and no other reason.

People don’t usually shop with the intention of filling their house to unhelpful levels, nor with the intention of growing large amounts of debt, of feeling constantly unsatisfied, or of needing to buy more storage, or of filling our oceans and landfill with excess goods we didn’t need in the first place.  But this is what happens anyway.

Shopping mindfully can help to reduce these negative effects of consumption.

Ask yourself what do you really NEED, and can this item give you that? Will that pretty notebook really make you happier than you are today, beyond the first page of using it? Will that new outfit really make you feel more attractive in the long term?  Will that new phone still be good enough when the next one comes out?

Ask yourself if your home and your life can handle more stuff in it. Is there a home for that item? Do you have time to maintain it, put it away, dust it, clean in, move it around, repair it etc?

Ask yourself if you already have enough. Do you have something else already that can do the same job as that thing you’re eyeing off? Can you survive without the item? (for most things the answer is yes as you’ve survived just fine without it so far!).

Finally, as yourself what truly makes you happy. True, lasting happiness comes from being accepted and part of a community. It comes from helping others. It comes from being grateful for what you have. It comes from learning and growing. It comes from being mindful and present.

Ask yourself these questions before you next make a purchase – and be intentional and mindful of what you bring into your life.

The culture of “better” is hurting us

It might be because of the hundreds of homes we either declutter or empty every year, but I am very, very aware of the amount of stuff that our culture is wasting.

Our culture of “better” is toxic to say the least. We are made to believe that unless we have a home that is in fashion, we have failed somehow. That we can’t have “ugly” things or old thing, or things that don’t match (side note: what you bought last week will be ugly to you or someone else one day but you think it’s gorgeous now – what does that say about us??).

We at Clear Space send TONS of furniture to Auction Houses and charities every month. Literally tons. It’s all perfectly usable and the supply really does outnumber the demand, which means that even quite usuable stuff is often rejected by all and ends up in landfill.

But despite the massive supply to second-hand places, how many people ever consider buying second-hand?

Most people think “Why would you, when a new one is $5 from Kmart or $15 from IKEA and it’s “modern” and pretty?

I beg you to rethink this obsession with fashion. I beg you to rethink this obsession with buying cheap stuff and replacing it frequently with more cheap stuff.

There’s some amazing secondhand stuff available if you just take the time to look. I can virtually guarantee you that a 50yo, $30 coffee table will last longer than the $250 new one you buy.

Embrace sustainable purchasing, embrace “old is new”, embrace the idea that what you have is good enough and doesn’t need to be “upgraded”.

Let’s not fall for the Culture of Better.

What’s your “Getting Home From Shopping” routine?

When you arrive home from shopping, laden down with bags, what’s the first thing do you do with the stuff?

a) put the bags on the nearest horizontal surface
b) put the bags in whichever cupboard they fit
c) unpack the bags and put the stuff whenever it fits…
d) unpack the bags and put all purchases in their homes, culling existing items if the new ones don’t fit.

Most of my clients have the habits of a, b and c. They’re not wrong, lazy, messy or stupid ways to do it, but they are unhelpful. They cause clutter, waste and disorganisation. They are also a result of excess acquiring.

Firstly, if you don’t have room to put your purchases away then perhaps you need to cull more and buy less. Secondly, if you aren’t excited about using the item (and instead leave it in the bag to be lost in the clutter) then perhaps it wasn’t really needed and was bought on impulse.

Sometime a habit is a by-product of another habit. The unopened bags are a result of not shopping mindfully and intentionally; fix the shopping habits and you will fix the bag issues.

It requires more than decluttering

There’s always a lot of talk about decluttering as the Solver of All Woes.
 
We’re told that if we throw out a lot of stuff, we’ll be happy.
 
That’s not incorrect per se; I truly believe that with less stuff comes less complexity and stress, but decluttering is a medium-term benefit, not long-term (and organising is short term!).
 
By decluttering, we are ridding ourselves of all the things that weigh us down and complicate our lives. But if that’s the only thing we do, then we’ll have to keep decluttering forever, and we’ll still have big impact on our environment and culture.
 
What is better, is a change in acquisition habits over the long term.
 
What we don’t buy today, what we don’t get given as gifts, what we don’t grab on sale, what we don’t “save” from kerbside waste, will not need to be decluttered later.
 
The items we choose to repair instead of discard, to purchase from ethical and sustainable suppliers, to buy based on the material’s end-of-life destination, to buy second-hand, will not end up in landfill at the same rate it will for lesser quality goods.
 
So yes, declutter, but also please, put into action some new habits and lifestyle changes so that in five years time, you’re not still decluttering madly nor sending a lot of unnecessary items to landfill.
 
Some habits to try could be;
* only buying what you need
* avoiding sales
* saving up for things instead of using a credit card
* largely ignoring clothing and decor trends (they’re just there to make you consume more and then you produce more waste)
* buying fewer items that are higher quality, repairable, and are produced ethically and sustainably
* giving experiences as gifts
* not accepting “free stuff”
* buying second-hand when you do need something
* showing your love with presence instead of presents
* avoiding the “disposable” mentality
* keep things until they fall apart or are no longer serving you, not just because there’s a “newer” version
 
You don’t need to be “perfect”, and do all these things (I certainly don’t always) but any small attempts you make now will reward you and our planet significantly in the future.

7 reasons why paying full price is a good thing

I openly advocate paying full price and avoiding “bargain hunting”. Of course, people ask me why on earth I would possibly want to do such a crazy thing, so here’s why!

1) It makes you stop and think before you buy. It puts in that little delay that gives your mind a chance to catch up with your heart. We buy on emotion and justify later with logic. We need to short-circuit that. We need to think “Do I really NEED this?” before “Oooh! 40% off! How could I NOT buy this? I’m sure I’ll find a use for it”.

2) You value the item more. You aren’t going to spend a lot of money on something you don’t value, and you don’t value something you don’t spend a lot of money on. You will care for it, repair it instead of discard it, love it, nurture it. It will last longer.

3) The item will be used. You are far more likely to use something if you have paid full price, because you are less likely to compromise. Shoes are half a size too small and not in your colour? Well that’s okay because it’s 40% off and therefore only $35. Then they never get worn because they hurt your feet and don’t match anything you own. But if you’re spending $140 on a pair of shoes, you’re not going to walk out unless they are absolutely bloody perfect.

4) You buy less items because you are spending more on each one. Your home is therefore less cluttered. Less clutter equals less maintenance, equals more time for rest/play.

5) You can’t use the bargain to justify the purchase. You have to use something else to justify it. It makes you more accountable. It makes you think hard about the item, its value, its usefulness, its versatility, its quality.

6) You become more discerning about ‘cheaper’ items. You question discounts, you question manufacturing ethics and the environment. You become a more responsible consumer and when we have more responsible consumers, we have more responsible suppliers.

7) You buy intentionally. You don’t only buy on Black Friday (or if you do, it’s something you placed on your “want to buy when it’s on sale because I’ve thought long and hard about it and don’t have to rush to get it” list months before). Your trigger to purchase isn’t a sale, or a rack, or a sign out the front, or a catalogue. Your trigger to buy is a NEED.

We all hoard stuff. Yes, even you.

We all hoard to a certain degree. That’s “hoard” with a lower-case h. I’m not talking about Hoarding Disorder (another post, another day!).

I have a friend who has a well-organised, substantial hoard of travel toiletries. I have more staples than I’ll use in the next 5 years. And I have amassed quite a collection of iPhone cables.

We do our hoarding either passively or actively. If we actively hoard, we are aware of the volume of stuff we have, and we continue to acquire them and choose to not discard any (shoes, notebooks, pets, furniture, craft supplies and books come to mind).

When we passively hoard, we accumulate relatively mindlessly (as part of everyday life) and don’t have the corresponding habit of discarding established. And so we gather a little collection without realising. My friend recently went through her junk drawers and found several boxes of staples and no stapler. I think they’d also accumulated several rolls of tape. She was surprised – she had no idea they had that many.

First Aid, anyone?

First Aid, anyone?

That’s passive hoarding and you’ll see it manifesting in things like pens, tape, broken things you intend to fix, cassette tapes and VHS tapes, cords and cables, placemats, old paperwork, coffee mugs, plasticware, water bottles, stubbie-holders, vases and platters.

You don’t realise until you go to declutter just how much you’ve accidentally kept!

If you’re passively hoarding stuff, it’s a good idea to establish the habit of regularly going through those areas and having a quick cull to keep the volume at bay. Another good habit is to have a quick review whenever you bring a new item into the house and see if anything needs to go to make room for it or to maintain the current volume.

What do you find that you passively hoard?

5 Clutter-Enablers to Keep Your Eye On

I was with a  client recently and I was holding a catalogue that she asked me to toss in the recycling. I looked down as I tossed it in the bin and I saw a product on the back and my first thought was “Oh! That looks handy!” and started to think about where I’d put it and who’d use it in the house and where.  My next thought, thankfully,  was “For goodness sake, Rebecca, you don’t need a jigsaw-puzzle mat”.

But still, I was sucked into creating a need in my mind based on seeing a picture of something. I didn’t need nor want a jigsaw mat until I saw it. Sucked in, Mezzino!

So it got me thinking about ways we accidentally allow need to be created in our minds where it didn’t exist before. Here’s some of them that might be familiar:

1) Home shopping networks and catalogues – the culprit that got me.  There’s one here in Australia that is particularly enticing because it has clever gadgets that spark your imagination. The issue is that they are very specific products, made for narrow purposes, which means you have a lot of products doing just one thing each. There are common things like avocado slicers (which slice nothing but an avocado) or garlic crushers (again, just for garlic) or more unusual items like an egg cuber (makes a square egg, of course). They create need where there is no real need (got a knife? There’s your avo slicer and garlic crusher in one!).

2) Sales. Marketers know very well that when we shop we buy stuff based on emotion and we justify the purchase with logic (after the fact most shoe saleof the time). And when we shop in sales, the weight of emotion is stronger. We get a kick out of getting something for nothing. For getting something for less than what someone else may have paid. Then after the purchase, there’s more logic to back up the decision – “But I got $200 shoes for only $100!”. Nope. Discounts are not a real thing. They are something that masks the fact that you spent $100 on something you probably didn’t need. Something you won’t really use and will eventually have to discard (which can hurt for some). So you didn’t save $100, you wasted $100. Of course, you can buy stuff on sale, and you can save money, but only if you intended to buy that item before you saw it, and you were prepared to pay full price. That’s the only time you actually save money on a sale.

3) Charity auctions. You can accidentally spend money on things you don’t need because you can justify it by the thought that the money is going somewhere good, or that you were going to buy something like that anyway. Be careful; if you have clutter issues, it’s best you just make a donation.

4) “Clubs”, party plan and purchasing schemes. I had a client that was part of a scrap-booking group. There were three tiers to membership, each involving a compulsory purchase of materials each month. She felt like she’d be letting down the organiser if she dropped down a tier or two, but didn’t want the stuff and it was literally filling up her house. Any time you’re required to make a purchase in order to fulfil a commitment, run away!

5) Shopping as entertainment. When you shop for the fun of it, you are more likely to impulse-purchase. You are more likely to buy things just because they’re on sale or cheap, or they’re pretty. Shopping is a helpful activity when it’s done mindfully – when you know what you want and you don’t buy anything that’s not on your list (mental or otherwise – I always have a mental list of things I need, and sometimes write a specific one for that particular shopping excursion).  If you deviate from the list, you’re probably collecting clutter.

Do you know of any other sneaky clutter-enablers?