I, Mrs. Moneyaire, used to work retail jobs at Target and Michael’s Arts and Crafts during college. Working retail is a tough job with low pay and, sometimes, cranky customers. It’s also tough because of the temptation to purchase items you see everyday during a shift, just calling out to you, especially as you see them go on sale and clearance.
I would buy things when they came on sale. I bought things that were pretty or something I thought would be super useful in the kitchen or around the house. I started to accumulate a lot of stuff.
After graduation, my husband and I got our first professional jobs and with that we bought more things, including a 1 bedroom 1 bath condo (at the height of the housing boom). We started accumulating even more stuff, especially to decorate our new home together. We realized fairly quickly that all this stuff was taking up valuable space in our small apartment and that these items were physical representations of our hard earned money, much like how food in the pantry and fridge represent the spent capital.
We decided we had to make a rule to govern the things we would buy for our new home. If we were to buy anything for our place it had to be two of three things: beautiful, useful or memorable. Going forward, we would discuss purchases through this lens.
This criteria means that the items we purchase have to be aesthetically pleasing to us and/or be made of a high quality.
This criteria meant our items had to have a memory attached to them–a true memory, not something like I went to TJ Max and got this great deal and this item is a way to remember that moment. It has to trigger a memorable life moment and the item had to be from that place and time.
This criteria means that the item had to be useful; the more uses an item had, the better it was. For example when we purchased our coffee table it not only was a beautiful piece of furniture but its surface area could expand when we would entertain to hold more food or drinks. It also doubled as storage for us; something we needed in our small condo.
We had to be honest with ourselves too and say that a use wasn’t something making us “happy” or helping to feel more “status” etc. There had to be a real physical benefit.
For example, when we bought our toaster, our inclination was to purchase the cheapest toaster we could find. But then we thought about it and thought about purchasing one that wasn’t only useful but beautiful as well. Instead of going with a $12 plastic encased toaster, we opted for a $26 metal encased one that fit the aesthetic of our kitchen. Sure it did cost more and the more expensive toaster performed the same function as the cheaper one, but this one looked better and was a better quality product.
When we go on trips, we refrain from getting typical tourist souvenirs and hold out for items that really will remind us of the place we traveled to and be either beautiful or useful. We bought a hand blown water pitcher in Barcelona, Spain when we went there on a trip. When we use it and have guests over, they’ll comment on how pretty it is and we’re happy to explain that this water pitcher isn’t just any vessel–we got it from Barcelona. It became our goal to have the things that decorate our home come with a story.
We don’t think we’re minimalists but we do err on the side of having fewer higher quality things than many things. Limiting the amount of stuff we have means our home doesn’t feel cramped with stuff, and the stuff that’s there really has a significance. Long term it means we’ll stave off a move to a bigger home to fit all our stuff.
In the meantime, our house has items that are beautiful, useful and memorable!