Monday, November 12, 2007

Creature Comforts (Part 3): Paring down: SHOPPING

Photo Ryan Smith ©

Continued from Paring Down, an introduction:

In regards to shopping and material possessions, how do we pare down without denying the happiness that can come with abundance?

I’m not going to deny it; sometimes money can provide happiness. As much as I am proud of my frugality and aptness at paring down, buying new things does provide a certain satisfaction when it comes to embracing and expressing my identity. But it is the simple enjoyment of each item I acquire that allows me to be mindful of when I have enough and when I just have too much.

I know a lot of people who buy something just because it is on sale. This is an easy way to quickly attain too much. I try to go shopping with a list of things I need (and “need” is subjective isn’t it?) and only buy those things. If something is on sale, great! If not, I usually base the level of need on the price and either take it or leave it. I try to be a selective and mindful shopper; as I hear my products beeping across the scanner at checkout, I pretend I am a kid in a candy store, ogling at what I am able to buy.

Ultimately, balance is the goal here: my $300 pair of cowgirl boots from Austin, Texas is one of my most prized material possessions. But though they sit on a shelf to be admired, I wear them (and dance in them) several times a week and have them repaired and cleaned often. Lesson: splurge when the time is right, but cherish the heck out of the purchase and admire it daily. Once you stop admiring or wearing an item, which often happens, give it away. This will de-clutter your mind and your closet, providing a new perspective on the wonderful things you still hold dear.

Also, take the time to go through that overflowing attic or that spare room full of stuff you’ve been meaning to sort through. Donate or recycle anything you no longer wear frequently, or that no longer serves an aesthetic or emotional purpose in your home. You will hopefully find that paring down is even more rewarding than filling up your shopping cart. Don’t save it for a rainy day! There’s no better time than now to initiate positive change in your life.

P.S. This also applies to buying gifts. Give fewer, more meaningful gifts – be excessive with warm complements and good cheer!

What are your most prized possessions and in what ways do you cherish them? What are your shopping habits and how do you pare down in regards to material possessions?


Karl Staib and the pursuit of happiness said...

Hey Larissa,
My most prized possession would my cell phone. I love driving to work and staying connected to friends and family. I don't mind paying the monthly fee for such a glorious service.

My shopping habits are minimal. I usually buy something only after I've wanted it for a few weeks. It helps me keep my impulse buying to a minimum.

Keep the great thoughts coming,

hallie said...

one person's "trash" is another person's treasure! =)

Russell A. Spinney said...

I am a pack rat. My sister is a pack rat. My father is a pack rat. My mother IS not. Perhaps there is an insight here. Both our parents were born in 1941 on different sides of the planet. My father grew up in north central PA surrounded by a generation that was told it would never have to face "want" again and who had a sense of what want really was. My mother grew up under even more frugal conditions, but she does not have a fear of never having or wanting. Her ways are more simple and less bound to material objects. I am learning to pare down what I buy and what I save. I like to buy nice clothes now and then. I have been in the mode of reduce to the most minimal I need to travel and like you guys, treating those things well. I do not like the disposable approach; "cradle to cradle". I have been more conscious about the choices I make in what I purchase. GAP is not high on my list these days (see latest reports about factories in India kidnapping child labor). I am giving away lots and lots of stuff to Salvation Army, but I am also swinging back to the professional look (maybe I have been in Germany too long) and thinking about a nice jacket. Beyond clothes though, I have walls and walls of books (mmm...paper) and music and all sorts of knick knacks. I am going digital but I am old fashion and make about a set of shelves a year. I wish I had a shrine for a set of boots like that though. Damn.

Larissa said...

Thanks for sharing. Yes, cell phones are glorious in many ways. The fact that you don't take it for granted is what makes it even more enjoyable.

Larissa said...


You're so right. That's why Goodwill is so functional and important. Think about how many decades of clothes have been recycled by these kinds of stores.
Thanks for reading,

Larissa said...

Great insights about your parents' influence on your shopping habits. I think it's important to look at where you've come from and where you're going.
All the best to you in Germany!

Anonymous said...

totally made me think of you...


Larissa said...

Wow, Jamie, you know me so well!

Check this out:


Chloe said...

Hi Larissa,

My husband and I have just started "paring down" ourselves as we are planning a cross country move for the spring (home to NH from Las Vegas) and wanted to get a head start. It's amazing how much 'stuff' we've accumulated in the 4 years we've lived in Vegas. We did a good job and brought almost nothing with us when we moved here, but they say the amount of stuff one accumulates will expand to fill whatever space you have and that has been alarmingly true for us! It felt good to unload and donate to a local thrift store this past weekend. I find that I hold on to things for emotional reasons, mostly because people I love gave me the things in question. The thought of having that thing long after the giver is gone is comforting to me. This has made it hard to let go of a lot! I am trying to think of a nice way to ask family members to not buy me any more stuff...I was thinking of putting an environmental spin on this request, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.

My best for a great Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

haha! yeah I know your listography! I love it. you're so awesome.

happy turkey day, I'm stuffed.


Larissa said...

Hi Chloe,
Great to hear your thoughts. My husband and I have done a few cross-country moves ourselves and they were always great opportunities to pare down.

Gift giving is tricky. I think it might be hard for many family members to give up gift giving, since it is such an integral part of our society and a way for humans to feel benevolent. I find that when holidays and birthday roll around that I can usually think of a few things I would really like to receive because I don't shop for myself very often. In fact I try to save holidays as a chance to get a few things on my list. I try to tell people exactly what I want and give them several options so the surprise factor is still there. Inevitably, however, we all get gifts we don't want or need. Modeling conscious gift buying is thus also important. If we show others that buying just to buy just isn't as meaningful, others will hopefully get the hint as well. I don't think there's a solid answer to this one, so you basically need to find your own system.

Putting an environmental spin on gift giving is a great idea. If people must give you gifts, why not try an alternative gift registry where you can request only eco-friendly, fair trade items, or only the things you need? A few I've found are,, and Then just spread the word that everything you want is on that registry and people can buy through the website or on their own. My husband and I used Felicite for our wedding and were for the most part very pleased with the flexibility it brought to gift giving.

I hope this helps, Chloe. Good luck with preparing for your move, and thanks again for reading!

Chloe said...

Thanks for your thoughts Larissa! I was in such "de-clutter" mode that I did forget the joys of giving. In fact the gift-giving bug has bitten me over the past couple days and now I am making a list of what to get everyone I love this year. When it comes down to it, gifts are more than just material items, they reinforce the fact that you are thought of and loved by the giver. Take care!

Larissa said...

You're so right, Chloe. I'm glad you have rediscovered the true meanings of gift giving. I hope your holiday season is cheerful and bright!