Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The financial side of this de-cluttering thing

It's interesting to me to read some of the comments and suggestions that folks make about living green, reducing clutter, stuff like that. I read so much that presumes (I suppose correctly for most people) that the default state of behaving is to have this focus on Buying Things.

Now before I even talk about how we don't Buy Things, let me be upfront about what we do buy: We buy stuff for fixing up the house, even stuff that we end up not using to fix up the house for months or more. We buy tools (well, ok, I buy tools, tool slut that I am) for which we don't have a significant or immediate need. And I have been known to treat myself to an occasional kitchen doo-dad (ranging from spoons to a kitchenaid stand mixer) or cookbook (always used). And we have a small Woot addiction but that's under control. No, really. Ok, so we are expecting the screaming Woot monkeys to arrive any day, but we can stop any time. Seriously.

But beyond that? We just don't spend money on things if we can use what we have or get it free. It's easier for me to describe what we DON'T buy:
  • Clothes beyond absolute necessities. I finally forced Partner into buying a couple of pair of jeans recently, plus got us each about a dozen deeply discounted and much needed underpants at the Jockey outlet. We each generally buy two pairs of work shoes each year, but our on-our-feet jobs and my bad feet make those necessities. The concept of recreational clothes shopping is completely foreign to both of us, though if word got out about me I could seriously lose my Femme license. It's the law.
  • New fancy electronics. To give you some perspective, all of our TVs require adapters to hook up a DVD. I did buy a low-end stereo/surround sound/whatever they call them now thingy last year when our amplifier, CD player and DVD player all crapped out on us at around the same time.
  • Movies, music, not even books other than the occasional cookbook I mentioned already.
  • Furniture - pretty much everything we have is old, second-hand, or from freecycle.
  • Anything for the kids that's not absolutely necessary - again, with BabyGrand especially, freecycle has been our friend.
We're just both so much in the habit these days of not spending money for Things unless we really need to, that it's almost foreign to me to read these lists of what not to buy in order to economize and keep Unnecessary Things to a minimum.

But with that being the case, how the hell do we HAVE so many things?!?
  1. Freecycle. Hey, gotta grab that toddler play kitchen and the big box of size 4T clothes while we can, even though she was only 20 months/16 months at the time we got those things. .
  2. Stuff we've had forever. And can't (yet) give away.
  3. Stuff with too much sentimental value or guilt associated with them. The four boxes in the attic of my mother's really boring china, for example.
  4. Stuff we're sure we'll be able to use again, like those three boxes of computer crap that I need to sort through in the attic.
  5. Stuff we're sure we'll be able to sell. If we just get around to taking pictures, and getting it listed. Which we're going to do, next week, honest.
  6. Antique tzochkes. I can't resist, especially kitchen junk antiques that folks give me.
  7. Stuff we have lots of because of we can't find something so we have to buy another one.
Believe it or not this does directly tie into being a Slowcavore (not that anyone is going to bother reading this far to know this!). See, I'm one of these people who was kept away from local and natural/organic foods because of my perception that they were much more expensive. It's only been through the things that I've done to educate myself that I finally understand the real costs of eating Hell-Mart's cheapest as the mainstay of our food. I looked at our discretionary income and looked at how little we were spending for food, and knew that we had to make this a priority. We're baby boomers who aren't getting any younger, and our health problems are creeping up on us. Partner just recently quit smoking after 40 years; I'm significantly overweight and have genetically-based very high cholesterol (high even at age 19 as a very physically active and thin college student who ate mostly co-op foods). We need to start taking what we use to fuel out bodies and minds a lot more seriously than we have in the past. We need to set an example for our grandchildren, or at least for BabyGrand who hasn't yet been indoctrinated into her sister and mother's worship at the Holy Drive Through Window. We need to take our food's production process seriously in hopes that there will be food and a livable environment around for our granddaughters and their own kids and grands.

We're still moving slow, but as I learn more, as the CSA season kicks into high gear, as I force myself to diversify in my garden and reconnect with peeling root veggies and dissecting my own chickens instead of reaching for bags of frozen kernels and frozen "tenders" for convenience, I believe that things will accelerate.

1 comment:

Chile said...

You make some good points, Leslie. Many of our possessions also came from gifts, friends, or freecycle. But, acquisition is acquisition whether it's cheap or free. No matter how it got there, it's still important to decide whether it should stay.

In our case, we passed along the family heirloom stuff (like china and crystal) on to siblings. Why? We have no children and they do. For it to continue being passed down the family line, it couldn't stay with us. And, quite frankly, I'm not a china-kinda girl!

It sounds like you know what you need to get rid of but have been lacking the motivation to actually move it on out. Get with it. You'll be amazed at how much energy - physical, emotional, and mental - it frees up once it's gone.