The first time Sarah and I did a big de-cluttering of our home, we were kind of stunned with how empty our home felt. We had become accustomed to a certain level of clutter, and without the clutter, our living quarters felt relatively empty.
A few weeks later, we found ourselves at a furniture store where a friend was looking for a few items. Because of the newfound space in our home, we started looking at the furniture in a new light, recognizing that a particular overstuffed chair would now fit wonderfully in one corner of our living room.
Luckily, we talked ourselves out of the purchase, but the concern was still there. Because we suddenly had space for stuff, it was now a bit easier to talk ourselves into considering more purchases.
This is a mistake, one that leads right back to the clutter we worked so hard to get rid of.
The simplest rule to apply here is that you shouldn’t use “I have room for this item” as any sort of reason to buy an item. Just because you have some empty space does not mean that you need to quickly fill it.
Instead, focus on real reasons to buy an item.
Does it fulfill a real purpose in your life? Will it help you accomplish something that you’ll routinely need to accmplish? Will the item provide consistent and real value to you?
If you find yourself consistently having more space than you need for your stuff, the solution isn’t to buy more stuff. Instead, you should recognize that this is a clear sign that you have an excess of living space.
A lot of our living space is used to store our stuff. If you were to suddenly eliminate half of your possessions, you wouldn’t need nearly as much space to live as you do right now.
If an earnest de-cluttering results in a realization that you really don’t need as much space as you thought you did, then you might just be opening the door to a downsizing in your housing situation. That kind of downsizing has a lot of financial benefits, from lower rent or home payments, lower utilities, lower insurance, and lower property taxes. That money can instead be invested to benefit your future instead of going to the utility company, the mortgage lender, the insurance company, and to the local government.
Just because you have space for something doesn’t mean you should buy it. Save your purchases for things you actually need or have a genuine purpose for. Do that consistently and you might just find that you have an excess of living space, which could lead to the financial boon of moving into smaller living quarters.
This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.