There comes a point when you realize that less is more. Just because something is convenient, or cheap, or even free, it doesn’t mean you need that thing, and it doesn’t mean that owning that thing will make your life any better. Here are some things I’ve let go of, with no regrets to speak of. Hopefully this list is just the beginning!
1. Plastic bags and plastic wrap
I bring my lunch to work everyday, and because I tend to get hangry, I also bring a snack pretty much anytime I plan to be out of the house for more than a few hours. Because of this, I used to buy plastic bags for my snacks, as well as plastic wrap for storing leftovers in the fridge. This is just what I grew up doing, and for a long time, I never questioned it. However, when I moved into my first apartment after college, I invested in a set of reusable glass storage containers, and I’ve never looked back. These are great for storing any kind of food, either in the fridge or on the go, and I no longer have a need for single-use plastic food storage.
2. Reusable bags
This one might be a little more surprising, but I’ve also vowed to stop buying reusable bags. Not because I don’t use them, but because I don’t really need very many of them. Reusable cloth bags utilize far more resources to produce than the single-use variety. This means they are only sustainable if you actually use them over and over and over again, rather than constantly buying new ones. I remember when resuseable bags first became available at grocery stores, and I thought it was really cool and bought a few. Then a few weeks later, I forgot to bring my bags with me to the store, so I bought a few more. Later, I was given more cloth bags as freebies at events, or when I bought clothes at certain stores. Now, I have quite a collection of these bags, certainly more than I really need. I’ve also gotten a lot better at carrying them with me, so I have no need to buy these bags anymore.
Make-up remover wipes, hand sanitizing wipes, and cleaning wipes have all disappeared from my life. The only time I ever miss them is when I’m traveling, but I just remind myself that the ubiquity of these wipes is relatively recent, and people did just fine before they were around.
I recently visited the Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta, and I was shocked to see all the junk that people were buying at the overcrowded gift shop. People were literally paying money for Coca-Cola to advertise to them. Then it occurred to me that this is basically what most souvenirs are—an advertisement for the place you visited. I for one don’t need that in my life. I do appreciate small, thoughtful items like locally-made jewelry that I know I will wear and enjoy for years to come, but anything made of plastic that will just sit on a shelf or in a box is a definite no-no.
5. Clothes for special occasions
Whenever I had a wedding or other special occasion to attend, I used to feel compelled to buy a new outfit in preparation. Now, I’ve realized how silly it is to buy clothes you know you’ll only wear a handful of times. I can wear the same dress to every wedding, graduation, baptism, and party for years, and NO ONE CARES!
6. Paper towels
This is one of those things that I slowly weaned myself off of over a long period of time. It’s so easy to grab a paper towel to clean up a spill or wipe off your hands, and throw it in the trash when you done with it. However, it’s really not that much harder to avoid paper towels once you have a designated set of towels/rags/sponges to take their place. Over the past year or so, I went through only one roll of paper towels, so I’ve finally decided to stop buying them for good.
Okay, so technically, this isn’t something you buy, but I’m still going to count it because I think it’s a major milestone. It can be really hard to turn down free stuff. I think this is especially true for those of us who have struggled with money at some point in our lives. You quickly learn that if there’s a free thing, you better take that thing before it’s gone. The problem is when you don’t stop to think about whether you actually need the thing in the first place. Last month, when I was living by the theme of minimalism, I cleared a lot of clutter, and I found, among other things, a wine bottle koozie, a keyboard duster, several pairs of cheap plastic sunglasses, a baseball hat, a bobblehead, a stress ball, and many, many pens. Want to know what these things have in company? They were all emblazoned with a company logo, they were all given to me for free, and they all sat unused at the bottom of a drawer or closet. I finally decided that enough is enough. I will no longer accept freebies from conferences and events, unless it is something I am absolutely certain I will actually use.
Your turn: is there anything that you used to buy, but have given up? Are there things that you are struggling to let go of, even though you know you should?