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I never meant for my stuff to last a lifetime. Much of my stuff was bought because it was conveniently cheap; a lunch pail from Costco, a little black dress from rue21, and more stationary than Staples.
The items were on a list with a litany of other things. Something to be consumed, quickly, and then move on to the next item on a never-ending list.
As the years waxed and waned, the stuff stuck around. When seams would fray, I would use my sewing kit to repair them instead of replace them. When stains appeared, I would give extra soap and attention to wash and maintain. If something broke, instead of heading to a real store requiring real pants, I would wait, delay, and see if I could make do with something else.
Before I knew it, I was turning short-term stuff into long-term heirlooms. Be careful what you buy for became my reality.
I’m a work in progress with fewer caution signs, construction, and warning lights.
There are times when my whims get away from me, I throw “be careful what you buy for” out with the compost and buy everything on and off the list. Costco and resale shops are a trigger. But wayward spending happens less frequently because I shop them less frequently. I know my weakness before I get past the card-carrying door.
When I get drunk on buying one too many stretchy pants or comfy green tops, I recoup my cost by going on a no-spending spree and locking down my wallet like Hotel California.
Plus, as a recovering perfectionist, I’m working on accepting mistakes. One mistake doesn’t turn all my budgeting and saving shenanigans into failure. For a brief moment, my human side escaped, and my emotions were carried away by whims instead of reality.
Perhaps it’s a reminder that even the best-laid plans can be thwarted by anyone, everyone, including myself.
If I don’t have to ask the question: is this something I love? Then I know, it’s love. Love is a feeling that springs instantly and makes me respond with an enthusiastic yes instead of muted maybe.
Maybe is where my dreams go to die.
I only have so much time, space, and money for things that bring enrichment and joy.
If I try to include it all, it all will be for nothing.
I do have time for intentional purchases where I will have to wait, save, and frequently remind myself why I’m waiting and saving. Would it be 1,000 times easier to just go to Walmart, do the thing, and buy something cheap and easy?
Of course! Then, like a flimsy backpack that works just enough to not be thrown into a raging dumpster fire of poor life choices, I would be stuck with it for years.
If it’s not an instant yes, it’s a no. If I have to think about the response, that is my response. Similar to anything scheduled after 9 pm, just say no.
Along with inviting love into my life, saying no funds moments when I want to say yes. Since I’m not buying things automatically and instantly, my accounts have a chance to build buffers. Since shopping is a rare event, I have to find other activities that I prefer to be defined by instead of how quickly I can pull out my credit card.
Leaving cheap stuff gives space for reading, writing, and pole dancing. Instead of buying cheap stuff that will haunt me until it dies, I can buy fond memories like the one time I drove 6 hours for a pole dancing lesson.
Be Careful What You Buy For
Similar to the rest of humanity, I’m not immune to the stuff problem.
Joshua Becker, over at Becoming Minimalist, has disturbingly insightful statistics, “The size of the average American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years and now contains about three hundred thousand items […] Due to our garage clutter, 25 percent of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside and another 32 percent have room for only one vehicle! And I haven’t even mentioned the 10% of us who rent offsite storage.”
Without trying, I invite short-term stuff into my life. Food containers, gas, and junk mail have a brief moment of glory before being discarded to a lifetime at the local landfill.
Short-term stuff does have a place in my world. Even if I feel conflicted about the harm I cause by existing, that isn’t an invitation to consume cheap on repeat.