Although I have always got things organised in my home, I must confess there was a time in my life when I owned more than what I own today. But becoming a mother and 2 years later deciding to leave the corporate world so I could work from home while taking care of my son drove me to make space in my home for all the baby paraphernalia and a home office.
Even though the decision to purge came out of my desire to keep things organised in our home, I quickly realised that owning less also made my life easier. Letting go of about 30% of my wardrobe meant that I was no longer agonising over what to wear in the morning. Letting go of the books I hadn’t enjoyed meant I had no longer to pretend I was someone I was not.
And so, for the last 15 years, I have been on a decluttering / simplification journey. Some people tell me I’m a minimalist, but I prefer to say I’m someone who lives with intention. I mainly bring in my home things that serve a purpose or that make me happy. Not only I do save time by not having to take care of things I realise now I didn’t really care about, but I also save money and make a tiny contribution towards saving the earth.
Here’s a list of things I no longer buy, or at least things I avoid buying or replacing.
Free stuff. Although they come free, I decline things I’m offered when making a purchase unless I’m 100% sure I or someone I know will be using them. I’d rather pay for things that meet my exact needs and preferences than compromising on something I might not fully make use of and eventually discard.
Sales items. In the same vein, I don’t buy things in sales unless they are on my shopping list. Most of the mistakes I’ve made in my wardrobe are the clothes I bought in sales. At the end of the day, you don’t save money by buying something you didn’t need in the first place, you just spend money, right?
Things I have not used up yet. Pretty notebooks, books, and make-up are some of the things that used to call to me in the shops and that I used to accumulate to some extent. Today I buy 1 notebook and 3 books ahead of time and replace my rather streamlined make-up products when mine are about to expire. As the adage goes, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
Doubles of the same item. In the past, if I came across an item of clothing or shoes I really liked, I might have bought them in 2 different colours or patterns. But the reality is that I always had a favourite among the two and ended up wearing one more than the other. So, today I make it a point to settle for my favourite in the shop. Most of the time, the need to buy its double goes away when I take stock of what I have in my closets. And if I still want to buy the item in other colours or patterns, at least I’ll know which one would be a good addition to my wardrobe.
Things that serve only one purpose. Think kitchen gadgets, cleaning products, or toiletries. There’s a lot you can do with a knife and a chopping board, with an all-purpose cleaner or with white vinegar and baking soda, or with some coconut or argan oil.
Things used for special occasions. I try to borrow or rent things I use for special occasions or even do completely without them. I’d rather have more space in my cupboards for things that I use regularly so I can access them easily.
And of course, plastic and single-use items.
So, more specifically, what are those things I avoid buying?
Wardrobe things I avoid buying.
Fast Fashion brands, labour exploitation and poor quality being the main drivers here. I’d rather buy one item of clothing of good quality even if it ends up being three times more expensive as I know it will last me much longer. Also, with fewer items in my wardrobe, each item of clothing has more space and doesn’t get easily crumpled and I can invest the time in taking great care of my clothes.
Cocktail dress. It’s not often these days that I get to attend a wedding ceremony or fancy event, and it’s been many years since I’ve owned a proper cocktail dress. Instead of buying one that I’m unlikely to wear often, I rented the dress and clutch below from Rentadella to attend a good friend’s wedding last year.
Clothes that I can’t mix and match with other items of clothing in my wardrobe. A few years ago, I went through a clothes shopping ban and used this time to learn about colour palette and mixing and matching. This has helped me create more outfits with the clothes I owned and be more mindful of buying standalone pieces I couldn’t wear with anything else in my wardrobe. I found out that with about 20 tops and 20 bottoms, I could create about 180 outfits, which means I would only wear the same outfit twice a year. And that was without counting the jewellery, scarves, handbags, and shoes to accessorise the outfit in a different manner. That was a real eye-opener to me!
Uncomfortable shoes I can’t walk in. Ok, maybe age and a foot injury have played a great part in making this decision, but no regret whatsoever…
Bathroom things I avoid buying.
Night skincare products. I use my day skincare products at night on top of a layer of argan oil for extra moisture – I’m a big fan of Ayelli argan oil. I sometimes skip the day skincare products and use the Argan oil only when I’m too tired. In fact, if I were not living in such a humid country as Singapore, I would probably switch to Argan oil only as my day and night skincare, not only for my face but also for my body.
Mouthwash. I invested in a tongue cleaner and made sure to brush my teeth very thoroughly. Nobody has complained about my breath since then 😉
Shaving cream. I use a good layer of soap instead. Alternatively, you could use some conditioner or some oil.
Disposable make-up remover cloths. I’ve switched to washable ones for make-up removal but still use disposable ones for nail polish removal.
Products that come in bottles. Body wash and shower gel were easy to replace with soap bars. However, I’m struggling to find shampoo and conditioner bars that don’t leave my hair feeling either itchy or not clean enough.
Kitchen things I avoid buying.
Special occasion kitchenware. I have one set of kitchenware that I use every day and when I have guests. It saves a lot of space and I get to enjoy them every day.
Kitchen utensils and appliances I have occasional use for. As I said above, there’s a lot you can do with a knife and a chopping board. With all that said, I gave in to my son insistence’s and bought a slow-juicer two years ago. He used it almost daily for 2 months, then gradually stopped. I moved it from the kitchen’s countertop onto one of the cupboards, but it made reaching out to other items more difficult. We eventually agreed to sell it.
Bottles of water. We bought a water purifier that’s fixed onto the tap. Each of us has a couple of water bottles. We also bought a sparkling water maker. Not only it helps save this Earth, but we also no longer have to carry heavy bottles.
Plastic containers. Ok, glass containers are heavier than plastic and easily breakable, but they are generally safer. Plus, they don’t keep the food smell as plastic does.
Cling wrap. I recently found reusable stretchable lids made of silicone to store food in the fridge. Unlike beeswax food wraps that I used for a while, those are transparent so I can see the contents of the container.
Entertainment things I avoid buying.
CDs and DVDs. With so much media content available online through the internet or apps such as Netflix or Spotify, this was a no-brainer. A few years ago, I sold all our CDs and DVDs through Cash Converters and traded our CD’s / DVD’s / radio players for a good sound system.
Physical books. Although I’ve put this habit on hold since covid, I typically borrow books from the library (a trip to the library is an enjoyable moment for me) and buy the ones that are not available there, especially those in French, through my Kindle. The exceptions are business and self-help books that I prefer to buy on paper as I tend to refer to them many times and I find it easier to find the information I need that way. We are still gifted physical books, especially at Christmas, but I like to pass them on after we’ve read them, and I have great pleasure thinking about who in my network might enjoy them.
Recipe books. With so many recipes available online, including video tutorials, I haven’t bought a recipe book for more than 10 years. In parallel, I’ve let go of the recipe books where I was using less than 5 recipes, after scanning those 5 recipes and putting them in my recipe’s binder. Maybe I should challenge my rule further by setting the minimum to 10 recipes and see whether I can let go of more books?
Planner. For more than a decade, I used the same paper planner but the appeal of being able to create recurrent activities and meetings and to colour code various areas of my life and work made me switch to a digital version 8 years ago. I’ve since then been using Microsoft Outlook as my planner and to-do list and synchronise my computer and phone so that the information is always available at my fingertips.
Décor things I avoid buying.
Holiday decorations. Except for Christmas, I’ve always been reluctant to buy and keep decorations that are used once a year only. Our artificial Christmas tree is 20 years old and is still going strong. I would have loved to have a bigger one but the storage space in the flats we’ve rented over the years never allowed for it. When my son was a child, we would indulge every Christmas in a new ornament. Since becoming a teenager, he has lost interest in this tradition, so I stopped buying new decorations and downsized our ornaments from two containers to one two years ago.
Souvenirs. I must confess that I’ve never been too inclined to buy souvenirs from vacations in case they’d look out of the place in my home. With all that’s said, I got a few paintings in Japan and Laos that I still love 20 years down the road. Experiences and photos that I make the effort to print and put into photo albums are a better way for me to create souvenirs, but of course, that’s a very personal choice.
I hadn’t imagined when I started writing this post that I would be able to list so many things here. However, this list is not a benchmark nor meant to make you feel guilty. In fact, I’m sure I could do better in plenty of other areas. But at the end of the day, it’s not about being perfect, but about making progress. And I feel I have been making progress. So, I hope my list can inspire you to give up or replace some of the things in your home but will also encourage you to share more ideas with me. Please let me know in the comments section below which other things you avoid buying. I’d love to know!