I don’t want to get all preachy but these are just thoughts on how we see things and what works for us. So, this week I have had one of my purges on “stuff“. Most people will think this is crazy when we have so little but occasionally I get frustrated by having to carry things we don’t use regularly. There is a conflict for us between carrying things “out of season” and recycling them but having to purchasing again when the need arises.
Shorts, warm coat and boots are the best examples of this. The more time we spend on the move the more I have come to hate waste. This is partly due to living on a budget but it is also a mindset we have gradually slipped into. Will we take it too far and end up not as a ecologically aware travellers but misers? Time will tell.
What worked for us?
For us this time, it only took a few minutes to sort things that could be donated to the charity shop. While I am on the subject of charity shops, I should mention that I both donate and buy in them. Jonno is more sceptical about the buying part and would rather buy new. He doesn’t like a rummage like me and, he says himself, his shopping window of time is very limited. In, look, try and buy. If any of this takes longer than 5 minutes, he’s done. My view is that we and most of my friends and family donate clean, usable items so why wouldn’t the other items in the shop have come from similar places.
The process we use for deciding what to give away was similar to when we left our home after 20 years but obviously on a much smaller scale. Hold the item, think about it’s purpose, usefulness and then put it in the keep or donate pile. Don’t panic – you don’t have to be as radical as us and sell your home and get rid of all your possessions to achieve decluttering satisfaction and remember, if you are really unsure keep it and repeat the process again in a few weeks time. I would hate anyone to get rid of Aunt Mary’s cake stand only to regret it and never being able to replace it.
I think we accidentally adopted this way of streamlining what we owned/kept very early in our married lives. Having moved frequently when Jon was in the RAF, there was always a fixed timescale before it was time to sort and pack up home. Another accidental strategy was moving our 3 sons around from bedroom to bedroom. We only had a three bedroomed house and once they were old enough it seemed a good idea to rotate them around every 6 months so that they each got a turn having a room to themselves. So every 6 months together we sorted clothes, toys, books and only moved what they, and we, wanted to keep. Although not planned as a decluttering exercise, it worked so well and it was a sort out that would never have happened until there was 18 years or more of stuff x 3.
One other thing that helped us on our way to thinking about what we needed was redundancy. With three dependent children and all that involves and only my part time income and moderate redundancy payment, what would we do? Number one strategy was to keep the house, the car could go if necessary. I distinctly remember pay day each month and taking every penny out in cash plus a small proportion of the redundancy money and physically putting it in envelopes to pay the essentials. Budgeting in cash is somehow so much easier. When the envelope is empty it’s gone!
Need or Want?
Today, I think too many people are controlled by unnecessary material possessions. I understand that accumulating things brings happiness (sometimes short-term?) and are usually the reward for hard work but the striving for these things, in some cases, causes stress and anxiety. Also a financial burden for those who don’t have a handle on their finances, especially if items are bought to “keep up with the Jones” or impress others.
Maybe a plan would be to wait 24 hours and just think about the purchase – a sort of self imposed cooling off period. But it is so hard to ignore the pop up adverts that we are bombarded with online and somehow the pressure is greater if we are tempted to buy said item for someone else. Buying extras for a partner and especially children and grandchildren can be a bigger temptation than buying for yourself. I’m not talking birthday and Christmas gifts – although in my experience this can get easily out of hand.
Christmas has always been a special family time or us and I can’t count how many times we just needed a few more things to top up someones gift pile because it wasn’t equal. And don’t talk about Jonno and the Christmas stockings!! Would we change the way we did it? No, would be the answer but it will be interesting if and when we have grandchildren to see how we approach buying gifts or whether we totally abandon our current approach.
Filling a Void?
I am not trained in any sort of therapy in any way but I am sure that a lot of purchases are made to make you feel good or take your mind off something but that makes me ask. Does the feel good feeling last? In some cases I am sure it does but it has to be paid for and that can sometimes have the opposite effect or not solve things. But that is all I am going to say about that because this is a topic that, without an understanding of, I could put glib ill-considered thoughts.
To spend or not to spend?
For us, even on our limited budget we could spend more but choose not to. We could eat out or buy clothes more often but whilst JWalking we have chosen to live simply. I do have the occasional yearning for something “nice” to wear rather than always being practical but I know it will bring more hassle than pleasure. Why have a bag full of stuff I have absolutely no purpose for? That 24 hour rule applies here!
This purchasing strategy may change sometime in the future when we end up with a home again but by then keeping things simple will be a lifestyle- plus we will probably be poor pensioners! Before writing this I had a few bullet points and they included a couple of memorable things we have heard said by people we have met on our travels. These are not inspiration quotes in any shape or form just things that either we or others have said and always come to mind when talking about material possessions:
- From Lynette, Denver, USA “Apart from this year, I can’t remember one single thing my husband bought for my birthday and Christmas over the years but I do remember when he has taken me out for the day.” (He either buys rubbish presents or it proves that time together and experiences are more important than material possessions.)
- From Bruce, Twizel, NZ “I do not have wealth but my life is rich in so many other ways“. (Well said Bruce!)
- From Jonno, “Rich or poor, stuff or no stuff, real friends will always be friends” (We hope!)
- From me, “Be generous with your time not just your money“. (Oh and can I borrow a fiver?)