11 September 2011

I Buy Too Many Bags

I buy too many bags, backpacks, messenger bags, purses, waist pouches, computer bags. I always think the next one is going to be the perfect combination of weight, comfort, storage capacity, and organization options.

Francine Jay, also known as Miss Minimalist, has an idea I think is finally going to get me off that treadmill: One in, one out.  She's written several books, and the one I got my hands Kindle on is called Inspiration to Downsize, Declutter, and Simplify.

Her suggestion for managing the accumulation of stuff is that if you're going to buy something, it actually has to replace something that's already in the house, and that will leave the house when the new one comes in.

In other words: Is the bag I want to purchase superior to something I already own?  Is there a bag in the house that I'm willing to get rid of, if this new item I'm contemplating purchasing comes home?

It doesn't sound particularly revolutionary, but in fact it's a whole different way of thinking about stuff. We tend to think in terms of constant addition and accumulation, with the idea that we'll always just keep getting more stuff (and then a bigger house or a bigger storage facility so we have room to keep it all).  Capitalist economy and culture depend on constant new purchases.

Miss Minimalist suggests, though, that we assume that we can own only a finite--and relatively limited--amount, and purchases need to replace things we already own.

The idea has served me well this week.  I own two pairs of shoes that are old, beat up, and uncomfortable, but I've kept them around for way too long with the idea that I might want to wear them some day.  Some day came, and now I have sore feet.  So I've just bought a new pair of shoes, and not one but both are now on their way to the recycle bin.*

Still need to work on the bag problem, though.

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*Yes, the recycle bin.  On Sundays, you can take your old clothes, towels, shoes, sheets, and other textiles over to the Greenmarket at Tompkins Square Park.  Other Greenmarkets in New York City** also accept textiles. If the items can still be used, they'll be sold; if not, they're recycled for rags, car seat padding, or insulation.   
**Don't live in New York? Check your area for clothing donation bins and keep your unused clothing and shoes out of the landfull.