• Kendra Bertsch

The Road to Conscious Shopping

I wanted to title this post “The Road to Minimalism” but, come on, “minimalism” is used way too much nowadays. I do not feel like a full-fledged minimalist. I am, however, transitioning some areas of my life by being more aware of my shopping habits and being more conscious of what I bring into my house.

After my grandmother’s funeral in May, I went back up a few weeks later with my dad to help him and the family clean out her apartment. I knew she had a lot of stuff after moving off the farm when my grandfather passed away, but it was still somewhat overwhelming to go through her things.

My grandma had stuff in every nook and cranny of each piece of furniture...and she had a lot of furniture. My aunt knew how much sentimental value was held in each item. My first task was to pull out the china and dishware from the handmade hutch. I would ask my aunt what to keep and what to add to the garage sale. It was overwhelming even to me. My dad kept saying he would start cleaning out their house as soon as he got back home...and my parents have a huge house, garage and two-car shop full of items.

Some of grandma’s stuff was just gifted from sisters or family friends who went abroad and came home with extra tchotchkes. Other items held a lot of sentimental value. I did not want anything because I wanted my dad, aunt and uncle to have the valuable items. However, I did come home with a tote full of items, including a good handful of grandma’s hand-embroidered dish clothes. I have tons of these in my kitchen and they are probably my most valuable asset in the kitchen.

After unpacking the tote full of items, and attempting to make room for all of it, I told myself that it was time to remove items in my home that no longer had a purpose or need to be recycled (you and I both have a drawer dedicated to old electronics or cables...don’t lie!).

Over the past year, I have dedicated a cardboard box for items to take to a consignment store or donation center. Once that box gets full, I take it to its appropriate location, get a new box, and start over. This box sits in my closet in my spare bedroom (also known as my work out room). I would use the cardboard box technique on and off but decided to take it more seriously after this year’s events.

No, I have not read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. I just started doing this practice and ask myself if I really want to keep an item when I pick it up during one of my “clean-out” days. I am determined to go through each cabinet, closet, and drawer this winter and keep or remove an item from each area.

What does this have to do with shopping, you ask? Well, I would go out shopping, spend money on a big haul for clothes or shoes, feel guilty about it afterwards, and refuse to return the item. It was the stupidest feeling in the world and I was spending way too much money at once, sometimes causing me to cut back on spending the rest of the week on groceries until my next pay day. I was establishing that shopping high that people talk about when they keep finding stuff they love in the store and blow their budget. I would get the items home and not like it as much as I did when I was in the store. Just dumb...

Now, I have established rules to tame the shopping beast and started cutting back on the amount of stuff I bring into my house:

  1. Online window shopping: I have been practicing this for about a year now. Anytime I feel like I need to buy something or I want something, I window shop online for the item. I add it to my cart if I really like it and walk away. After a few days or weeks, I may open up my saved shopping cart and look at the item again, realizing I really did not like the item that much or really did not need it. I generally have a similar item in my house already that I use, but my shopping cart would have it in a different color. If I cannot live without that item or I find myself coming back to it, I will order it or go to the store and buy it. Sometimes, if I see the item in the store, I may not even like it once I get it in my hands.

  2. Bring something in, take something out: You have heard it before, if you bring something into your house, take something out or remove the item you are replacing. I suck at this with clothing (I am getting better I promise). I buy clothes, put them in my already stuffed closet, but do not remove items. For some reason, clothing is hard for me to let go (my mom is the same way). I started doing this practice with books. Once I am done with a book, I ask myself if I would read it again. If yes, I add it to my shelf then purge a book I never picked up again. I make sure to donate to the public library once I get a good stack of old books. A way to save my budget and my bookcase is to borrow digital or physical books from the public library. I may purchase the book after reading it if I know I will read it again later.

  3. Treat Yo Self Days: Instead of buying an item right away that I really want, I save it for a “Treat Yo Self” day. Usually this is pay day or I reward myself upon completing or achieving a goal. Again, by the time I get to my established reward day, I no longer want that item and would rather order Chinese, go get a pedicure or go out for a drink.

Once you start putting these rules into practice, they are pretty easy to follow. I even decided this year to have a no gift holiday. I am not giving gifts nor am I asking for gifts (except for my dad to fix the treadmill that has been sitting broken in a corner of my home for over a year). I just don’t really want more stuff and I would rather have time with family and friends and good home cooked meals. Trying to make time for my family and friends gets harder and harder anymore due to schedule conflicts or distance. My time with them has more meaning and value than the material things that I am given or purchase.

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