I read an interesting post the other day called “Free Stuff is Still Stuff.” It was written by Courtney Carver over at Be More with Less. It’s a great post and hits on a great topic, and I want to share some of my own experience.
Free Becomes Clutter
As we worked through the house during our Big Purge, we came across a number of items we had received for free. We had free pens from businesses and trade shows. I had a big match collection from a number of years ago when bars, restaurants, and hotels gave out free matches. We had items received as gifts. Things like lotions and soaps. My daughter had cheap little toys and knick knacks that she had gotten free with a happy meal or received as gifts. Most were good for a few minutes of fun, but soon became clutter.
All this stuff was junking up our house. We kept it because it was free. Not because we needed it. Not because it was good quality. Not because it was useful. It wasn’t any of these things. It was just free and it was junk.
How often have you gotten a free pen and preferred the quality to a purchased pen. I can buy a pen for a couple of dollars, and the ink in that pen will flow smoothly, write nicely, and won’t get all over my left hand as I drag it across the words on the page. Or I can use a free pen, constantly shake it when the ink doesn’t flow, scribble with it to get the ink rolling around the cheap ball point, get it all over my hand as it drags across the page. It wasn’t long ago that mostly relied on free pens. Then one day I was out and about, and I needed to jot down some ideas. (I usually carry a pen and small notepad with me to jot down ideas as they come up.) On this occasion I didn’t have a pen or paper, so I bought a two pack of pens (it’s hard to find a single pen) and a small pad of paper. These new pens worked great! I had never given it much thought before, but these purchased pens were actually a pleasure to use.
During our Big Purge we trashed all the freebie pens and replaced them with a few of the purchased pens we had.
We also tossed the big bag of matches, since we always use a lighter to light our candles. The matches had stuck around for years, just in case our lighters ran out of fuel. How dumb is that? They sat around taking up space and adding to our cluttered pantry.
Free Decks of Cards
We had a few decks of cards in one of our drawers. These were obtained for free as gifts. We never play cards. It wasn’t just one deck either, you know, just in case we decided to play cards. We had four decks of cards. Four! They all went in the trash. Even though they were free, we didn’t use them.
A couple of weeks after the purge, I attended a Christmas luncheon at work. Guess what they were giving away? Yeah, company themed decks of cards. The funny thing was the sign in sheet. It didn’t simply say, “Sign in for the luncheon.” It said, “Sign in to get your free deck of cards.” I asked the host if I still needed to sign in since I didn’t want the deck of cards. He looked a little puzzled. Apparently, of the hundred or so people in attendance, I was the only one that didn’t want a free deck of cards cluttering up my life. I signed in anyway, but left the cards in the basket.
Free Clutter from Family (Gee Thanks)
Now I’m going to drag my parents into another story. I’ve mentioned before, they are packrats. They aren’t quite hoarders, but they are getting close. They have a basket of 500 free pens. That number is just a guess, but it is a big wicker basket, and it is completely full of pens. They have a hard time getting rid of things. They think it’s wasteful and they think they might need to use an item after it’s thrown out. Their one saving grace is that they will give an item away if someone else could use it. It would be better if they employed this tactic more, and if the recipient of that stuff wasn’t me, but it keeps does cut down on their clutter ever so slightly.
Did you catch that I am the recipient of these items they cannot throw out? Every time they come to visit, they usually bring an item or two to give to me, Dream, or Faith. Every once in a while it’s actually something I can use, like a couple pairs of old shorts for doing yard work in. Most of the time it’s junk they don’t want anymore, but they can’t take it to Goodwill themselves.
They actually had half a bag of clothing that they wanted to bring to our garage sale instead of taking it to Goodwill. They ended up not being able to make it to our sale, so they did finally take it to Goodwill. But that’s how it goes. I recognize their trouble, so I usually take the stuff and take it to Goodwill myself. Although on a recent visit to their house, they gave us a bag of romance novels before we left, which neither Dream nor I like to read. I knew I didn’t have any time to donate them, and I didn’t want them cluttering up the house, so I dumped them in the trash as soon as we got home. (I know, I should have at least recycled them, but I didn’t, they went in the trash.)
Discounts, Sales, Buy One Get One Free
The allure of free can very easily clutter our lives if we let it. Discount isn’t far behind. My parents are the king and queen of discount shopping, but that’s a story for another time. Free and discounted usually aren’t the bargain they seem to be, especially if you don’t need the item in the first place.
One more thing and then I’ll wrap up this post. The Buy One Get One Free. The buy one get one free is a trick to get you to buy more stuff. Typically (although not always) you can simply get half off one items instead of buying two. Even if it is a true buy one get one, where you can’t just get half off of one, you need to ask yourself if you really need two of this item. Maybe you think you’ll use it later. We have two bottles of bleach at home because of this, and we don’t use bleach very often. It’s just taking up space and adding to the visual clutter. Maybe you think you’ll give it away to someone else that could use it. Will you? I thought that when I cleaned out the pantry two boxes of buy one get one free noodles. They are still sitting in the pantry, and have not been given away.
Be wary of the buy one get one, and most times, just say no. The check-out clerk will be dumbfounded, but that’s ok, we’ll know our reasons.