Sunday, March 14, 2021

Cleaning House Postscript: Waste and Wishlists

 Hey friends! Thank you to everyone who stayed with me for the whole Cleaning House series. It's been really fun. That said, I'm excited to get back to bookish content next weekend, but there's just a couple things I want to share before we're quite done. There are two subjects I wanted to talk about in the series, but couldn't find a good way to fold them into any of the three parts. 

The first and biggest topic is Waste. I got rid of a lot of things on this little journey, and it naturally forced me to think a lot about waste: my own wastefulness, and waste in general. The second topic I want to hit is how I'm handling wants and needs as they arise now, in light of what I've been learning--using a Wishlist Hunger Games system in conjunction with my budget. 


Let me ask you a question: if you buy an item and then, at some later point, you throw it away before using it up or wearing it out, when was the waste committed? Was it A. When you threw it out or B. When you didn't use it before you threw it out or C. When you bought it. 

Throwing away things I paid for, when I know I've not gotten my money's worth out of them, hurts. That's something I feel pretty keenly, yet at the same time, I've been pretty vicious about getting rid of stuff that's just clogging and cluttering my house and life. How can I reconcile those two things?

Easily, and here's why. The answer is never A. Not unless you're throwing away something you consistently use that's not worn out that you will just have to buy over again. Which would be really silly. Not-rich people don't do that. No, you did not waste the thing when you threw it away, you threw it away because it was already wasted. 

The answer is B. or C., and it's usually not B. It's only B. if you bought something with an expiration date and then, even though you could have and would have used it,  you just didn't. Like when I buy special dairy-free cheese and then, in an attempt to savor it, use it so slowly that the last couple slices mold. That is stupid, and I need to stop doing that. Or you bought something for a purpose, but then something changed in your life like you moved to a place with no lawn and don't need your lawnmower anymore. 

Situations in which the waste is happening at point B. often require attention and thought and perhaps a giant spreadsheet like the one I made to deal with my grocery problem that I talked about last week, but ultimately they shouldn't be hard to fix...unless they're secretly situations where the waste is happening at point A., the point of purchase, when you buy and bring home something you have no business thinking you're going to use, at least not in that quantity. 

I could buy veggies from Costco and "save money" on the unit price, but Jon and I are only two people, one of whom is out of the house and unable to take food with him 50% of the time. If I buy a flat of tomatoes, I won't have avoidable waste happening between A. and C. I will have waste that was guaranteed from the moment of purchase.

And that is the case with most things we waste that aren't food and don't expire. When I buy clothing that doesn't fit quite right or doesn't match anything else in my closet or doesn't match my personality or doesn't match my actual lifestyle, that's a guaranteed waste from the moment of purchase. I probably don't know that at the time. I never buy something thinking: I'm going to throw this away in three months, but if, at point C. I take note of why the waste is happening and take note of the lesson, then I can start to avoid point A. completely. 

And when I do make mistakes, it's best if I admit it right away, instead of letting stuff sit and get old and dusty. The sooner I admit my error, the sooner I can donate it and add value to someone else's life who will be able to help the item fulfill its purpose. 

If you catch yourself saying things like: I know I never use this, but I just don't want to waste it, stop. You have wasted it! You've already wasted it. It's wasted. You're not going to fix that by keeping it around longer continually wasting not just it, but also your space. Let it go. Let the guilt of it go out of your life, and hopefully, someone somewhere will pick it up from the thrift shop you donated it to and give it a whole new life. They can unwaste it. You can't. Forgive yourself and move on. 


We all know impulse buying leads to waste: of both money and a majority of the things we impulse buy. This is not a secret. The commonly-given advice on the subject is to never buy an item you didn't already know you wanted walking into that store. 

"I've been wanting this," or "I've been looking for one of these," was my most common excuses for not-impulse-buying something. But then I'd get home and realize at some later point that, while I had been wanting that item, I had been wanting or needing something else more that I just didn't think about in the moment. This is a common problem for me in stores: all the visual input, combined with audio elements and all the humans around, compounded by the dampening effect of mask-wearing, creates confusion and overwhelm that commonly leads me to purchasing mistakes.  

So here's what I've found works for me: 
First, at the beginning of the month, I budget a certain amount to use for books, a certain amount to use for clothes, and a certain amount to use for other things. The budgeted amounts aren't the same every month, and sometimes I budget zero for clothes or books, it just depends.
Separately from my budget, I keep wishlists in each category: books, clothes, and other. 

Then I play Wishlist Hunger Games. 
Actually, I'm always playing Wishlist Hunger Games whether or not I have budget that month for that category. Here's how it goes: if I think of something I want, I put it on the list. And then I check the list frequently. I measure each thing against the other things on the list, and when I have a bit of money to spend on that list, only the things I want most or need most make the cut. 

So that works well in the way that you'd expect, but something else happens too, especially when I'm checking, updating, and evaluating my list often: things just naturally fall off or change. When I'm measuring several wants and needs against each other, each really comes into perspective. After not making the cut once or twice, sometimes I realize I don't really want that item after all. Or I want something similar but different that will add more value or serve more functions. 

This method is working really well for me. I know I'm pretty weird, so who knows if it would work for you, but if you try it, let me know! Or, if you have a different method, I'd love to hear about that too.

And that's it! Leave a comment on Waste or Wishlists or literally anything. I love to hear from you all. Up next: 

[TBD #] Books that Intimidate Me and Why

See you then!


  1. Wishlist Hunger Games that's brilliant. I've gotten better at only buying things I really like and use/ need. Took a long time to get to that point though.

    1. haha thanks. And wow! That's huge. I'm still trying to get there.