Originally published in 2015.
Last week, I was filling out a set of interview questions (the emailed sort, which are my favorite. So much easier to answer written questions than ones asked on the fly!).
One question wondered what financial mistakes I see Americans making, and my initial thought was that we just buy too much stuff.
It seems like a lot of us are spending money to buy more stuff than we can possibly love and use, and this makes me feel a little sad.
It’s one thing to spend money on an item that brings you a lot of joy and quite another to be suffocated by possessions that aren’t even making you happy.
But on the other hand, I’m not exactly a minimalist, and I don’t really think we all need to become minimalists.
As I was putting my thoughts together for the interview, I realized that what I feel really strongly about is what you might call right-size buying.
(I don’t think that’s an official term. I sort of just made it up. Bloggers’ prerogative and all that. 😉 )
Basically, I believe we should think harder about what’s right for our needs and that we should buy/own whatever is the right size/amount for our needs.
For the vast majority of Americans, that probably means a reduction in buying, but it doesn’t necessarily mean owning only 100 items or anything like that.
Two years ago, I wrote about how to figure out how much stuff you need. I realize now that post really was about right-size buying.
If you have more clothes than you can regularly wear, you should probably stop buying so many.
If your kids have more toys than they can possibly play with, you’re probably buying too many.
If some kitchen items are covered in dust, you probably have too many.
If you haven’t used the stuff in your storage unit for years, maybe you have too much.
I really, really don’t think that a journey to right-size buying/living needs to be about deprivation.
Rather, owning the right number of items has the potential to make you happier.
(Unused, unneeded stuff doesn’t tend to bring happiness, after all!).
You’re not going to be sad if your closet stops being full of unworn clothes, right?
You’re not going to miss unplayed-with toys.
You’re not going to cry when your kitchen cabinets hold only your regularly used items.
Wouldn’t it be better to get rid of what you don’t use, stop buying stuff you’re not going to use, and have a life filled with only the things you really want/need?
Editing out the unused stuff (and avoiding bringing more of it in) makes for a much more pleasant space.
3 Questions to Ask Before You Buy
To help me be a right-size buyer, here are a few things I ask myself when I’m considering a purchase.
(These questions also work pretty well for decluttering purposes!)
1) Will I really love this?
If I’m feeling meh about it, I try not to buy it. If I only buy stuff I really love, I’m less prone to buying more than I need.
I think that’s because stuff I love is more satisfying.
2) Is this going to last?
Stuff that wears out quickly is a waste of money and contributes to overbuying/clutter.
Better to buy two good t-shirts that last than 10 that shrink/twist. Better to buy a few pots that last than a big cheap set that warps.
(Kind of like asking “Could this be an heirloom someday?“)
Related: If it’s a toy, ask if the fun will last. A unitasker toy will become unused clutter faster than a bin of building blocks.
3) Will I use it/wear it/read it/ regularly? If not, could I rent/borrow this instead of owning it?
I can stream movies, read a library book, borrow a wheelbarrow, or rent a tool to save money and home space.
On the other hand, I’m perfectly happy to own my expensive camera because I use it every day. It’s all about figuring out what you will and won’t use regularly.
My house, while huge compared to what much of the rest of the world lives in, is on the smallish side of average for an American home* and I am way, way happier when it just holds things we regularly use.
(*We don’t have oodles of extra space, which probably means it’s the right size house for us!)
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. How do you figure out what right-size buying looks like for you? And what questions do you ask yourself before you buy?