One Surprising Alternative to Buying More

How long does it take you to burnout on an item?  Maybe the thrill of the video game passes after just a few weeks.  Perhaps your new eye shadow isn’t quite the same shade as the one you just saw in a magazine.  Or maybe your home decor suddenly seems childish and unsophisticated compared to the house you saw on HGTV.

We are inherently subject to the law of diminishing returns.  As we seek to satisfy our desires for pleasure and fulfillment, we become more unsatisfied.  Overtime we desire more and greater things to satiate our ever-increasing need for more “stuff.”  There is one method to reduce or halt this burnout phenomenon – the discipline of contentment.  I will write more on contentment in the coming weeks; for now consider contentment not something to be received, but something to be cultivated.

The pursuit of simplicity and contentment go hand-in-hand.  One of the primary steps for either pursuit is the sloughing off or removal of nonessential “stuff” from our lives.  This may sound relatively easy, but many of us have found it to be a painful pruning process.  If it seems daunting, I suggest you consider another beginning step – stop accumulating more.  Rather than buying (or even trading) for “new” items, rediscover the ones you already have.  Living in a finite worlds means that you and I have limited time and attention.  As we accumulate more stuff, our attention to each item diminishes.  We quickly forget the items that once thrilled us.  We under-utilize perfectly fine items and opt instead for something new.  For example:  I recently had the idea that perhaps I should purchase a new lens for my camera.  It wouldn’t be difficult to make a case for the purchase or rationalize it to myself.  However, instead of shopping for lens, I asked myself a question:  Have I really maxed out the capabilities of my current camera?  The answer is no; I likely use around 50% of my camera’s capabilities, maybe.  My instinct is to look for a new tool, rather than maximize the one I already have.

I began to ask the same question of some of my other possessions.  The result was a list of items I under-utilize and the commitment to not make new purchases related to these items.  I hope this list catalyzes your own brainstorming.

  • Craft supplies – What supplies or craft tools have you used one or two times?  Revisit or master a previously attempted craft before moving on to a new one.
  • Magazines – Do you actually “consume” the magazines you already receive?
  • Cookbooks – Have you cooked even 50% of the recipes in the cookbooks you already own?  What about torn out pages from magazines?
  • Kitchen tools – What tools have gone unused for a year or multiple seasons?
  • Groceries/Freezer – Do you throw food in the trash each week because it spoils before you eat it?
  • Clothing – Choose a few unworn clothing items to include back in your circulation.
  • Makeup – Count the eye shadows, lipsticks and nail polishes you haven’t used in 6 months.  Do you still need more?
  • Children’s toys – Having forgotten or unused toys doesn’t mean your child needs new ones.
  • House accessories/decorations – Do the items displayed around your home add meaning or just clutter?
  • Tools – Do you want new tools because of the promise they bring or because you have broken ones requiring replacement?

What items do you under-utilize?  What items are you tempted to buy even though a true need is absent?


find new uses for old things


3 thoughts on “One Surprising Alternative to Buying More

  1. Pingback: 100 Items to Purge (or Reduce) In Your Home | start with broken

  2. I’d be interested in reading you post about simplifying relationships. I have gone through many muddy waters trying to figure this one out 🙂 I find that I am most satisfied when I am intentional about my friendships, intentional in my process of what I give/receive with my family, and don’t mark if I am a highly “likable” person according to the number of friendships I am juggling at the time…but rather the depth of the ones I am intentionally purusuing. If I start with the question, “what kind of friend am I being to others?” It usually sets my heart in the right space. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this!

    • This is great feedback and a great idea Meredith!! I am definitely going to write on this after I get back in town. Thanks so much for this idea. I will respond to your ideas too! You are right, it is a difficult topic.

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