Monday, November 10, 2008

Part 2: The Shopping Problem

So with all that destashing, you'd think I'd have tons of wide open space. And I did. The problem was it never stayed wide open for very long. Very soon, things came along to fill those spaces and clutter them up. Where were those things COMING FROM? And besides, WHY was my credit card bill creeping higher and higher every month?

I consider myself pretty smart but it took a while for these two concepts, in addition to the thrift shop lady's comment, to merge into one idea in my mind. I was my own worst enemy. I was continually purging and destashing, but at the same time I was continually shopping and creating both more clutter and more bills.

When I thought about it, I realized that I had been shopping unconsciously for some time. When I'd hear about a party or something the first thing I'd think about was buying a new dress. I loved cleaning out Maggie's dresser because then I'd go shopping and buy her all new clothes. I'd be lying on the couch admiring my pretty pink vase from Carrie and I'd immediately wonder if I should buy another one since I enjoyed this one so much.

My first impulse for nearly any stimulus was to go out and try to buy a solution.

And my house was littered with attempts at these solutions, and my credit card bills were coming out of my savings account every month and depleting my savings.

I realized I had to put a new set of rules in place, and quickly. I'll examine each one in upcoming posts!

Yes! I made it...in under a year!

Um, I'm guessing that's a pretty lousy record. :-P

There is hope, however. I am going to be writing in here more often as I am working on a personal goal regarding my consumption habits. So this blog will be not only about knitting, crocheting, and general crafting, but also about learning to break the ingrained shopping habit that many of us in the US are subject to.

The Destash Project

So, a few years ago, when I was pregnant with my Maggie, I wanted to clear a room in my house to be all hers. Unfortunately, in our 3 bedroom house, I had BOTH spare bedrooms loaded with stuff! My challenge: I needed to turn our larger spare bedroom into a combination craft room and guest room, and leave the smaller spare bedroom completely EMPTY. It was a challenge for sure, but once I got going I found that it was easier as I went along. The first thing I did was get rid of a lot of things. I had developed a bad habit of acquiring too many things from the local thrift store because it was cheap! Many of these things I was probably never going to use, so I chalked it up to a thrift store donation and sent the stuff back. Other stuff was rehomed to my online friends, local buddies, and used in the making of gifts. I succeeded, and I felt WONDERFUL! My house felt so clean and so awesome. I had a whole room totally empty, and I had gotten rid of some pieces of furniture in my spare room so that it was a bit roomier in there.

After Maggie arrived, a whole bunch of stuff arrived with her, and so I ended up doing a second purge and destash about a year after the first one. I used each diaper box that came in and filled with things for "sharing"; outgrown clothing (both hers and mine!), knicknaks that took up too much room, games we didn't play anymore, and some of the many dish sets I didn't use and didn't really love.

One day as I was dropping things off at the thrift shop, I commented to the lady who was accepting my donation that I seemed to have an entire box to donate every week, and yet my house still seemed full. She smiled and said "You must shop a lot!"

Such an innocent comment yet it gave me pause. I didn't think I shopped a lot. Sure, we made biweekly runs to the Babies R Us and the Target for formula, diapers, and suckies. And I had to rebuild my wardrobe a bit, as I had nothing to wear. And none of my shoes fit so I had to get new shoes. And heck, when I didn't have anything else to do I'd pop Maggie in a cart and just walk around the Target. I justified it as exercise. Sure, a few things hopped into the basket every time, but just incidentals.

My friends, incidentals add up. They add up to the point that every week I was donating a box of goods to the thrift shop AND throwing away two huge bags of garbage. And with a baby in the house, incidentals...well, they kinda suck. :-) The more clutter you have, the harder it is to keep your house at even a crappy standard of clean. And when you have a grand total of 5 minutes in which to keep the house from looking like a bomb had just gone off, you need to do whatever you can to keep things put away.

The chief thing, I have found, is that everything needs its own place. I used to keep the things I didn't use in my storage places, and the things I did use sat out. That was no longer desireable, and I realized it was pretty stupid. I removed all of those "don't use" things and reassigned them---either the garage, the basement, or the giveaway box. Now the things I use are right there in cabinets and storage spots so that I can get to them, and they're very easy to put away.

The next thing is to avoid collecting, unless it's a true collection that you love and that gives you joy. I used to buy cookbooks by the ton. What if I wanted to make French stuff one day? Buy the two volume set of Mastering the Art of French Cooking! How about Indian? Oooh, Easy Indian Cooking, Traditional Indian Cooking, Inspired Indian Cooking! You never know what you might want to make. The problem is, the more cookbooks I amassed, the less I actually enjoyed them. Some of them I looked through, and some of them I used, but really not many. Meanwhile my bookcase was FULL and I was always adding "just one more". One day I finally went through and made a few piles--the ones I actually used, the ones that I truly loved to page through and drool at, and the ones that I didn't really use. Guess which pile was the biggest? And guess what netted me a $75 trade in credit at the local used bookstore? And guess who has 2 empty shelves on the bookshelf! Me!

Which brings me to the subset of that point--realize when a collection (or object) used to bring you joy, but simply doesn't anymore. I used to love browsing through vintage cookbooks because I could lose myself in a fog of "the good old days". It was an escape. It was fun. But I no longer feel the need to escape into the good old days--these days I'm more about living in the now! And I needed that space (and the credit to buy gifts and movies for Maggie!) more than I needed those books.