Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Trapped by your possessions

Do you feel like you buy too much stuff or that you are trapped by all of your belongings? I know I sometimes do.

Even if you aren't feeding into the standard commercialism of electronics and cars and clothing, it's easy to buy too many things to feed other, more sustainable hobbies.

Like gardening, sewing, knitting, home brewing, you name it. If it's a hobby and there's stuff to buy for it, the temptation is there.

It's easy to justify purchases to support self-sufficiency or homesteading or whatever you want to call it and feel like it's different than buying the latest mascara or hippest handbag. But it's not. It's still buying stuff you probably don't really need. In other words, you could probably make do with other things you already have or can share with others.

In the past I've run Buy Nothing Challenges where those that participated in the challenge pledged to not buy anything new beyond the essentials. It's a great lesson in being mindful of what's in your shopping cart. Before you head to the checkout, you run through a mental scan of "do I need this" for each item you're about to purchase. It's helpful to keep unneeded things out of your cart, but it's also easy to fall out of the habit.

I know I did. Or, at the very least, I managed to justify new purchases because it had some ulterior usage - a new compost bin here, a fancy gardening pot there. Stockpiling like a little squirrel.

In any case, even if you are mindful of your purchases and only buy things that are "useful" for your home or your projects or whatever, do you still feel like you are overwhelmed by stuff? Do you wish you could downsize and reduce the amount of material objects in your life?


lisa f said...

The worst is inheriting stuff. Especially when the one who left was a hoarder. Oh, sure, there was plenty of Good stuff. Most of it we got rid of--but the "gramma's old suchnsuch, my first lunch box, dad's old blahblahblah is the stuff that takes up the unnecessary space. Even worse is the I could fetch a Fortune for that on ebay or etsy. Sure, if the economy was such that anyone Had a fortune.

WE are working on downsizing our stuff. We have started with the kids. haha! Not getting rid of them, trying to convince folks not to give them presents. Give them something they can Experience instead. (Plus, you Know you will get some Crap every birthday if you don't do something to curtail it. We didn't really start with the kids. haha! I started getting rid of stuff so they could see that Not having stuff can also be good.

But dang, that Zero Waste family in Sunset Mag are hard core. And richer than me--did you See their fridge?? hahaha

Chris K. said...

I mostly feel overwhelmed by the KIDS' stuff! I swear it breeds in their toy boxes or something and then gets puked all over the house in a matter of minutes after it gets picked up! We declutter on a regular basis though and give a lot of stuff away on our local Freecycle group and at a Really, Really Free Market I started, so that helps!

Doyu Shonin said...

We used to have a free space at work and I would leave boots and dumbbells and things and take mystery novels in exchange; now I'm retired so mostly I just stare at my stuff until it goes poof.

TheSimplePoppy said...

I spent the whole past year in a purging frenzy. We've given away probably half of everything we had, and we never had that much to begin with, but once you go through it you realize you don't use it. I've completely embraced minimalist principles for 3 big reasons:
1) Less consumerism - I'm not adding as much crap to landfills now or down the road
2) Aesthetics - I like the spare look
3) My house is MUCH easier to clean

I loved the Zero Waste family and their blog. They are damned serious about waste!

Unknown said...

I'm ok on shopping--hate it with a passion--but the Take-it-or-leave-it at our town dump is a magnet. The trick is to come back with less than you brought. I've been reseating chairs with neckties so of course I need to collect some...then repair and refinish the chairs, then wash the ties. Then all my friends find some more for me...

Anna M said...

2.5 years ago we downsized from a 3600 square foot home with oversized two car garage to a 1400 square foot home with an attached barn and a garden shed. It felt good.

Now we are downsizing again from this home to hopefully a home with 1200 s.f., no barn and a garden shed.

If it wasn't for the fact that I run a business out of my home that does require a bit of space I would happily live in about 600 square feet.

Less to clean equals more time to make art. Less taxes to pay means less time I need to work so again more time to make art.

I keep shoveling out the house and it's very liberating.

Julia's Child said...

Living in Manhattan for 16 years really cured me of acquiring things. Every time I'm tempted to buy anything, I automatically picture my old 2x2 closet. That said, my husband and I both have weak spots. I have too much wool fleece, yarn, fabric. (I can't throw THAT scrap away! That might come in handy!) My husband has every textbook he ever touched. At least weakness is easy to dust.

Here's what's bothering me about commercial pile-up today: I was searching for some info about how central Tokyo had fared in the earthquake, and my email inbox was full of announcements like this one from Restoration Hardware. "Announcing the new Majorca collection for outdoor elegance." The world is ending, but you can still decorate it beautifully.

Adrienne said...

Living in a 500 sq foot apartment for five years really helped (and by helped I mean forced) me be more critical when it comes to buying stuff. Being on a tight budget "helps" too. Still, I feel I have too much stuff, and also, not enough time to deal with sorting it out and getting rid of it appropriately. I don't feel trapped, though. I just need to spend a bit of time here and there getting rid of stuff.

Segwyne said...

We've got 7 people living in a 1250 sq ft house, with a partially usable basement and a shed for bikes and such. I think that we could get better in control of our possessions if we had better storage abilities. One bedroom has no closet, for example, and the kitchen (12x13) has to serve as kitchen, dining room, and coatroom. I have frequently lamented over the clutter in the house, but when it comes down to getting rid of stuff, I can't find much that we don't actually use semi-regularly. When our baby is born, it shouldn't make too much of an impact, but when my mother moves in with us (timeline depends on the foreclosure), who knows what this place will look like. She loves to save things. She has probably 2000 books alone.

Yes, I often feel trapped by our possessions.

Able-Bodied Girl said...

Able-Bodied Boy is a PACK RAT. which is good in terms of not always needing to buy things cuz we can probably find a good solution somewhere in the house. but it drives me nuts to have lots of disorganized will-never-be-useful stuff too.

any tips on starting a sustainable hobby, sustainably?

today's word verification seems apt: ablerium. sound like a delirious me :)

Happy Friday!

Anonymous said...

Being 20 weeks pregnant means that soon we'll have five in our little 1300 sf home - only about 950 of that is livable right now. I've been doing a 20 week Organization Challenge to try to get some of our spaces in order.

I'd love to do the buy nothing challenge too, but I am afraid I'll fail miserably with a baby on the way. Also I usually get the nesting urge in the way of home remodel/construction. I know it's not always the greenest to replace stuff that works (even if it is more efficient), but it's the most motivated I usually ever am. LOL. Though I've learned in the last 7 years in this house (and especially in the last five months preparing for #3) to limit what comes in this place - no room for extras anymore. Our storage is fit to bursting!

I guess I'm saying I can't promise not to buy anything right now, but I can promise to purge until it fits!

Unknown said...

I'm really trying to curb any spending as; 1) I used to be REALLY bad with my money and am trying to reform and 2) I got tired of spending part of my time having to sift through things that didn't truly bring anything into my life.

I've noticed a real switch in my thinking since I had my daughter last year and now we have my father-in-law living with us and we're all trying to incorporate only items that truly matter.

Anyone else have that George Carlin skit running through their heads.

Billie said...

I try really hard to not bring stuff into the house. I have been completely successful except for fabric. I work in a fabric store so it can be a bit difficult to resist temptation although I am known for generally buying for a project vs my stash.

Recently, I bought three pairs of pants but three pairs of pants also left the house due to wearing out and weight loss. I try not to add to my clothing collection - it is generally just replacement only.

Kayleigh said...

I feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I have. Lately I've been trying to downsize by weeding out my sons toys that he doesn't play with much. I also raided our dressers and took out all the clothes that don't fit or that we don't wear. I still find myself buying entirely too much at the same time and have to cut myself off. It started with a few new fitted diapers to replace the too-small ones and that turned into a few diapers just because they're really cute. Then there was the Etsy-Easter-basket-shopping-spree of doom and the desire to learn how to needle felt. I'm cutting myself off for at least a month now after all of that though.

Anna Marie said...

I would say that we are more tired and stressed out by our stuff than trapped by it.

But, we are in a unique situation, because we moved in to my husband's late mom's house right out of college, so the majority of what is in this house is actually his mom's- which makes it extraordinarily hard to get rid of. Added to the grief of going through a loved one's belongings, is the fact that she rarely threw anything away, and had duplicates of many things (32 folding chairs, 9+ rolls of scotch tape, a washing machine from 1970, and old, broken stove, broken dishwasher, random pieces of paper, etc).

We are moving to another house, and are using the move as an opportunity to only bring along the most used and beloved objects. Everything else will be sold, given away, or thrown out, depending on it's worth. I am very much looking forward to leaving much behind.

April Alexander said...

We are the re-purposing king and queen here and still we have waaay too much stuff. Before I had kids I had more time to purge and I did it regularly and had zero clutter. Kids come with clutter it seems, so it's much more challenging to keep up with it. One of my friends plays a game where she and her husband each grab a box and have X amount of minutes to fill it with things they don't need. They hit different areas in the house: bedroom closet, kitchen, etc. If it's done on a regular basis I bet it would cut way down on the stuff. I'd love to hear your tips and suggestions on this topic!

brad said...

i thought we were doing good on downsizing and minimalizing, until i started reading what folks in this community do.

we are downsizing, gifting, garage sale-ing, reusing, and Good Willing. we also have a goal to just not really buy anything, maybe ever. a lot of our projects don't require new stuff and/or we're reusing things that would have been trash or recycling.

we have a goal to start taking longer road/camping trips in an old bus we are using as a camper. figuring out what we would really want and need for a several month road trip is interesting because you realize what you really need most of the rest of the time.

i was talking to some friends to see how we could start a 'mini' freecycle site that would be neighborhood based. we have about 150 homes in our immediate neighborhood of 3 streets and it would be great to share material with our physically closest neighbors instead of our zip code. we could also share equipment, tools, yardspace, and as Crunchy said, not everyone has to do everything. i would like to find a neighbor that might trade tomatoes for peppers, etc.

has anyone seen an online system or a wiki type system would could use to set this up? is anyone already doing this in a 'regular' neighborhood in suburbia?

Crunchy Chicken said...

risa - Those are some magical powers you have there.

nantuckettiechic - Not sure if you saw the dress I wore to the Mission: Sustainable premiere, but it was made from used neckties.

Segwyne - My husband is a book hoarder too. I'm still trying to unload his 20 year old textbooks.

Able-bodied girl - "any tips on starting a sustainable hobby, sustainably?" I think that requires a whole blog post to answer :)

Adventuresindinner - Which skit? The only thing running through my head is bad 80s songs.

Billie - You work in a fabric store? Oh, man, that is so good and so bad at the same time.

Brad - I haven't seen anything like you describe, but with your marketing skillz and my mad programming skillz maybe we should start our own :)