I walked into a client’s home a while back and the first thing out of their mouth was, “So tell me what I need to buy.” Nope, not the way I work. “There is no way to know what might be needed until we’ve gone through things, until we can see what we’re really dealing with, and even then there might be items already here that can fulfill the needs we find.” Ironically, by the time we finished working together, I had recommended one purchase, at which point, they decided to just throw away the items.
There are so many organizational products available with all these variations. We see a neat item on sale that seems to meet our needs, and we take three of them home. It is tempting to think that buying some organizational products will solve the mess around us. Unfortunately, these items do not fill themselves, removing the disorganization for us and often just contribute to the situation.
I mostly use three criteria to judge when to make purchases, and they can apply to virtually everything you might find yourself spending money on. It stays at the store until I know it will fit, where I will put it, and I actually need it. I heard a saying once that has stuck with me, “Let the store – store it for you.” Cute yes, but true.
- Starting with finding out if it fits. This can apply from furniture to clothes to organizational bins. Furniture is the most obvious, and not many people buy items before knowing if it can fit in the space available. Even furniture comes with a variety of features though and if it fails to fit the things we need or want it for, then it does not actually fit. Clothes are often frustrating to take the time to try on in the store, so we guess and take them home, thinking it is easy to keep the receipt and return them later if they do not fit. This just makes more work for us, easily falling into the “I’ll do it another day” category; meanwhile we have excess stuff around. The nifty bins and boxes many stores sell might fit anywhere, but they too can become clutter around us.
- Next, do you know where you will put it? It might be pretty or useful, but before you buy it, think about where precisely you are going to put it and how you will use it, if applicable. I have a penchant for decorative boxes, but started considering where I would put it as well as what I would put inside it before getting it. I contented myself with admiring it in the store and then walking away. If you know where it would go, but do not actually have room in that place, are you willing to get rid of something else to make room for the new item? If your pajama drawer is overflowing, are you going to get rid of one or two to make room for a new one? You can ask yourself, “What are you willing to give up in order to make room for the new item?” If you buy something because it is pretty when you don’t have a place to put it, it just ends to adding clutter and defeats the point of getting it.
- Maybe in some ways the hardest question, do you actually need it? Now I think this is worth asking, though the literal meaning of need is not my intent. I probably do not need another book, yet I also know that I am willing to sacrifice many things to make room for books. I once had a couple of makeshift shelves at the bottom of my closet, and eagerly purged my shoe collection to make space. Nevertheless, thinking in terms of whether it is needed can help filter out some of the temptations of that item. Despite not being much a cook, I find myself drawn to gadgets to make cooking easier, yet they end up being deemed “not needed.”
Other questions can help you determine when to pass up a new item in the store. If you start thinking about the things that tempt you, the ways you catch yourself, and what helps you walk away, you can find questions that fit you. You can then use those to test the importance of getting something right then.
Some other questions that can be helpful:
- How many do you already have of that type of item? How many black sweaters do you need, even if this other has a different twist? How many rings are you reasonably going to wear over the year? How many bins do you need and will you use?
- Do you love the item, or is it just good enough? There is no need to clutter our space with things that we do not deeply appreciate and make us happy.It is important to keep in mind that until you have gone through what you already have, you cannot know what exactly you need. Even if you know precisely what you have, deciding to buy something still needs to be approached with care. Some organizers believe in the idea of if you bring one thing into your home, you need to take one thing out. Although I view this as too extreme, the idea can remind us to be cautious in bringing more stuff into our home.
The things that stores offer us are supposed to benefit us, so it is up to us to be mindful of the choices and purchases we make. When we get the items that serve our needs and wants without creating clutter, we rarely have regrets about wasted money or time. We reinforce the idea that the stores and items can benefit us, yet do not, and cannot, dictate what will match our needs. When our money is not lost on indiscriminate items, we have the money to get what we need, when we need it. By approaching all shopping with the mentality that all purchases have to meet our specific needs, we have the truest form of purchasing power.