If nothing else the last few years of trying to reduce what I own has caused me to think long and hard before I buy anything. Impulse takes over from time to time of course, but for the most part I try to really consider a few things to decide if something is worth buying or not. I have a few questions I ask about an item – a yes across the board is a very good sign. A “no” to any of them isn’t a deal breaker in and of itself, but it helps put that purchase in perspective. So this is what I ask:
1. Was this designed/made by someone who gave a shit about it?
This is a relatively newer concern, thought in hindsight I’ve always appreciated things that fell into this category without really being conscious of why I liked them. You can just feel when something was created by someone who actually cared about it. The difference between something that was created for the purpose of creating something and something that was created because someone was passionate about it obvious. As I look around at the stuff I end up with, the things that would get a ‘yes’ here are the ones I have a strong connection to, and the things I want to keep.
2. Assuming I don’t lose this, will I still be able to use this in 10 years?
Is it durable or is it a piece of crap. That’s what this boils down to, and it applies to everything from clothing to electronics. I’m totally over single use products and want something to stand the test of time. I’ll happily pay more for something that is quality and will last a very long time. I have a jacket that I’ve owned for 12 years that I still wear. I have a pair of fingernail scissors that I’ve had for over 20 years and they are just as functional as the first time I used them. A few years ago I lost a pocket knife that I’d carried almost every day for over 10 years. I have a multitool on my keychain that is nearing it’s 10 year mark. Those were all solid purchases.
3. Is this thing compatible with other things I already have?
This applies to technology as well as fashion. I’m not going to buy some proprietary POS that requires me to get a whole bunch of stuff just to work with it. I’m not going to buy some item that won’t go with anything else in my closet. Things need to be as modular as possible. That’s one of my travel tricks – everything works with everything else, so I can pack fewer things because everything can be used in a variety of ways over several days.
4. Do I already have something that does the same thing this thing does? If so, does this do it better?
I’m not opposed to upgrading, in fact I might even have a problem with it. But this is something I try to ask and try to wrestle with the answers. If something works just as well as something I already have, then the motivation for buying it is pretty suspect.
5. If I decide this thing isn’t for me, can I resell it for the same price I paid for it? Or more?
This is actually my longest running question, I asked this long before I knew I was asking it. Reason being I’ve never had a wealth of expendable income. I don’t care much about money which means I don’t tend to have a lot laying around. When I need it for something I’m pretty good at getting it, but I don’t collect money. If that makes sense. So, back to the point here – when I decide I want to buy something it’s always been important to me that I not be losing that money – rather I’m converting it into goods that are of equal value. And ideally they will retain that value. If I’m convinced that I can easily get the money back that I spend on it sometime down the line, the decision to buy something is pretty simple. If I know it’s going to depreciate in value the minute I walk out of the store, that also makes the decision pretty simple.
As I said, these aren’t “all or nothing” rules, but they are questions that give me pause and help me consider if something is a smart buy or not. As I progress through this world, I want the things around me to be very specifically chosen, and I want less throw away random stuff taking up space.
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