Thanks to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and everything that book inspired, many of our homes and lives are more organized, indeed tidier, than they’ve ever been.
We’re throwing out old clothes, organizing our rooms, and saying toodles to mountains of junk that have been weighing down our lives. It’s great to be tidy and live with less than what we used to have.
However, I think our quest for less can lead us down some unwanted paths. When we’re all about the Life of Less we can fall into the trap of spending less money at all costs. We may start by spending less money on individual items, but actually end up spending more over time to replace that junk we’ve just spent less money on.
I believe the focus on “less” is a good one, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of “better.” There’s room for us to remove unwanted things from our lives and also include the best we can get. The best things, the best emotions, the best experiences. We can pursue less and better at the same time.
The spending pendulum swings one way...
Unless you come from money or have amassed great sums of cash, then you’re probably always looking for ways to save as many of your hard-earned bucks as possible. It can be good advice—why in the world would you spend what you can’t afford? I think being frugal is a good way to keep your head above financial water.
And let’s face it, people with massive stacks of cash may not be reading this blog anyway. I’m assuming they’re swimming through the countless gold coins in their imposing money vault.
Sometimes you can pinch a penny so hard that it breaks. You’re then stuck with a broken penny and are now looking for more money to finance your spending.
Figuratively speaking, of course.
Say you’re looking to purchase a new blender, for example. You head on over to your local store that sells blenders and are met with two choices:
- A plastic-y looking thing, made by... What? Shmack & Recker? And it only has two speed settings: Whisper and Incinerate? But it’s $18.99. That’s a good deal, right?
- A sturdy looking behemoth of a blender by Ninja that has multiple speeds and is actually dishwasher safe. And it looks good to boot. It’s a much steeper $99 and causes you to tense up at the thought of purchasing it.
Yeah, blender 1 is much cheaper, but is it a better deal in the long run? With blender 2, you can rest pretty easy knowing that it’s not going to break in a week or start a fire in your kitchen.
Still, though, $99 is a whole lot of money and you’d really like to have a blender. Blender 1 is under 20 bucks, so you can afford to purchase another one if you have to, right?
...And then the pendulum swings the other way
Spend any time on a minimalism-themed website or forum and you’re bound to come across many, many discussions about the best and only things you should ever get for a particular task.
You’ll see lots of stuff like, why keep spending $10 on cheap chef’s knives that are only going to chip to pieces when you can spend $700 on a fancy-pants thing made out of laser-honed German steel and a handle fashioned from a single block of pure, sustainably-farmed agarwood?
You’ll also find too many discussions about how a particular living room set isn’t minimalist enough or how the Swedes are really the only people who should ever have any say in interior styling. Everybody else is just fooling themselves.
It’s not my intention to badmouth the minimalism movement, at least not too much. Take one look at my living space and you’ll see that I make an effort to live a fairly minimalist life. However, like with anything, a movement can go a little overboard, even if it does start with the best of intentions.
Thankfully, it can also be fairly easy to dial it down and find your way back to a good balance between “affordable” and “better.”
Let’s find a happy medium
I’m always on the lookout for a great deal, but that doesn’t mean I’m always looking to spend money on things. In fact, I’m usually looking for ways to get rid of stuff. When my workspace and my home becomes filled with clutter, I start to feel anxious. The best way for me to ease that feeling is by cleaning up and getting rid of things I don’t really need anymore.
I know that I feel at my best and work better when I have less around me. I want to be able to move freely and keep distracting items out of my sight. That means removing things.
I also know that it’s not possible to make it through life without spending money. We need clothes to protect us from the environment and give us confidence, we need appliances and airtight containers to cook and store our food, and we need tools to help us accomplish our work well and efficiently.
Spending money is an unavoidable part of modern life.
However, spending money doesn’t need to be done carelessly. We can approach parting with our money in a mindful way, so that we don’t end up regretting our purchases after we’ve made them.
What does this mean for us?
We need to go into a shopping experience knowing that there are usually at least two options for us when purchasing a thing: a cheap option and a more expensive, but usually more reliable option. Sometimes we’ll luck out and the cheap option will also be the better option. It’s unfortunate that this isn’t always the case.
This also means we need to be patient. Sometimes the best option for you isn’t going to be in your budget right away. We all like immediate gratification (who out there doesn’t?), but if you have to choose between getting something you want right now and not having enough money for food, then food needs to be your first choice. Sometimes you’ll just need to save up for what you want.
Lastly, this means building the understanding that we shouldn’t be accumulating junk. Just because blender 1 is a great deal doesn’t mean that we should be getting it. You’re probably going to end up spending more money over time to replace it repeatedly when it breaks than you would spend on blender 2 once.
A good deal isn’t always a good reason to buy. The best reason to buy is when you’re able to get an item that will bring value to your life, will hold up over time, and is just plain better than any other option.
Money is a frequent topic in the pursuit of less. We should spend less so that we can have more. That way, when we really do need money for important things, we’re not left in the direst of straits.
However, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that spending less money on junk is going to save us money in the long term. Spending more money for a better item that you know is going to last you forever is the way to go. In this way, we’re bringing better things into our lives.
Bring less into your life, yes, but when you do have to get something, make sure it’s better than all the other junk you could have gotten.
Let’s all be better, cats.