The value of waiting
For a lot of us (me included!), there is a lot of fun associated with looking for nice things. It’s an idle and mostly innocent past time, as long as we don’t actually act on it!
I don’t know about you, but my shelves, drawers and tables are already lined with what I need. I don’t need another drip tray for my soap. I have one for the kitchen and one in the bathroom. I have enough.
But still, I do enjoy looking at gorgeous soap dishes on Etsy once in a while, just because it brings me joy. But how do stop that feeling of “want!” when I see a gorgeous thing?
New thing energy is fickle
The first, and most important lesson for me was how fickle my joy from a new thing was. Apart from plants that we share new shoots of between friends and family, I don’t really get lasting joy from new things. There would be a burst when I found it, but once I actually had it in my home that burst would fade away into nothing pretty quickly.
A new cup may be pretty, but it is just a cup among all the other cups in my mismatched shelf. Unless there is a new function I desire, such as when we moved, husband wanted to reacquire a large cup, because all the free cups we had found online on pages like gumtree and craigslist were medium sized.
I bought more clip-top jars, because I want to one day grow, store and preserve most of the food we eat from our own land. Having enough jars for ferment in for all-year consumption is part of that plan.
Make a list
So instead, if I feel like I really want something in the moment, I write it down on a list. I write down everything I need to find it again if it was a specific thing from a specific store, and then I write the date I wanted it, and then I wait. I close all the tabs and visual reminders (often the hardest part!) and shift my focus to other things.
If I get to the end of the 72 hour minimum and I still remember the thing I wanted (often I do not), I sit down and I reflect on the consequences of wanting and maybe acquiring the item. Here are some of the questions I ask myself after the minimum wait period is up:
- Do I really, really need it, or is it just a shiny that will be forgotten in a week to gather dust?
- Does it have to be this specific thing? Or could a close-enough approximation be made from stuff we already have in the house?
- How often would I use it? Could I borrow it when I need it from a friend/neighbor or even an online lending service? Will I use it so much that it will be worth the cost of ownership, storage, and maintenance?
- Can it be sourced second hand?
- Are there ethical issues or conflicts related to the company who makes this thing? Am I being a conscious consumer, or would I be supporting oppression and questionable practices?
- Do I actually have space for it? And do I want to use my precious living space to store it?
- Is this a good use of resources, both my own, hard-earned monetary resources and global, limited material resources?
- Do I need it right now, or could I look it up on a price-watch list and wait for a good deal?
- Does it serve several purposes, or is it a one-trick only?
- Does it bring me joy? Will it most likely keep bringing me joy for years to come?
- Are there clear ways to get rid of it when I am done with it? Can the parts be recycled? Can it be repaired? Can it be upcycled? Does it have to go to a landfill? How long should I be able to reasonably expect it to work?
Often, I find that just by asking myself these questions, I am reminding myself of my own ethics. This is usually all I need to stay my hand if it is an impulse purchase I don’t really need.
Waiting time and priorities
Obviously, it doesn’t have to be exactly 72 hours, but I do recommend it as a minimum. Often things live on our household list for several months before we are reminded of it. If we no longer need it, we cross it out. Once one page is full, we move only the things we still consider worthwhile to get onto a fresh page. As we do so, we typically discuss things if our needs have changed, which items get priority over others, and why we still want the items.
Yes, there are some items on our list that we say we want, but that keeps getting moved down the priority list because other things take precedence. The big spend this month was upgrading our wifi system so that we have a good connection in the entire house. Meaning our small guest room now also serves its original dual purpose of being a shared office for both of us as well. This makes it easy for one of us to work without distraction while the other might want to wind down with a movie or music in the afternoon.
We’ve been meaning to do that for a while, but for the whole first year living here, we felt like we couldn’t justify the expense. Well suddenly having both of us work from home all day changed that tune awfully fast!
Take the time
By now, I feel that we have all our most immediate needs covered. Yes, we could actually use some new clothes as ours are starting to fall apart, but in terms of cozy living space, kitchen equipment, home exercise system, you name it. I am getting really picky about the things I chose to give a place in my home.
I am by no means a minimalist, but I do like to have space between my things and not have to feel like my stuff is suffocating me. Often, if one thing comes in, another goes to a second-hand shop or the trash.
Stay safe out there you all. And pause before you buy, and you’ll be amazed at the sort of money you can save for other ecofrugal ventures! ❤️
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