Ask These 5 Questions Before Buying Anything New

If you’ve ever found yourself describing your home as “cluttered,” struggling to find where you placed a new purchase or item that you need to return to the store, or surprised when you check your account balance, shopping may be dangerous territory for you! Whether you are planning a quick trip to the store (or opening an app or browser) with the aim of purchasing something you know you need right away, or are just having a browse, consider the following questions before adding anything to your cart.

Did I know I needed this before I began my shopping trip?

Try not to head out (or head to that website) without an actual written list of the things you need. Use this list as physical evidence that you know you weren’t planning to buy that item and don’t let your mind play tricks on you! If it’s food, will you eat it this week? If it’s decor, do you have a clean and open spot awaiting it, and will you put it out when you get home? If it’s clothing, can you list 5 places that you would wear it and make 5 outfits incorporating that piece? If it’s a gift, is the occasion arriving soon and will you remember to give it? Be honest with yourself!

Am I experiencing FOMO?

Maybe the sale is only on until tomorrow! Maybe it’s the last one! Maybe it’s limited edition!

That little fear of missing out (or scarcity mindset) might be subtly influencing you to make a purchase you might not otherwise make. Is it reasonable to assume that the item would go on sale again or that the item or a similar item will be restocked next week or next month? Maybe that unique/seasonal/limited edition item is not really that special after all. Don’t feel like you need to buy something just in case some else gets there first. After all, if you put off your shopping trip until tomorrow and the item was sold out before you got there, would you even know?

Will it contribute to my well-being?

Items both big and small require cleaning, tidying, upkeep, and maintenance, and taking care of the things we own takes our time and energy. The more surfaces we have, the more surfaces to dust. Add some decorative objects and you’ll have to dust those too! We collect books and magazines that nag at us to be read, fancy ingredients that demand a worthwhile recipe, and essential oils and candles making us feel guilty about not using them. These things are the extras in life, and may be taking more from you than you realize.

Feel free to leave behind any item that you know to be bad for your body or for your mind!

What about the environment?

Did you know that it was once possible to compost your dryer lint? This is no longer a recommended practice due to the quantity of plastic particulates from synthetic fabrics that are now found in your dryer lint! If avoiding products that contribute to the environmental and bodily micro-plastic burden (yikes!) are important to you, then that cute faux fur throw or those fancy tea bags (double yikes!) might not be for you.

Though often more expensive, items made from natural materials like wood, stone, glass, ceramic, wool, cotton, etc. add a feeling of class and quality and are much more likely to stand the test of time and stay out of the landfill than plastic alternatives anyway!

Will I still love it and use it in 5 or 10 years?

Of course, not every item is made to last for 10 years, but for non-consumable items both your wallet and the environment will thank you for choosing long-lasting over disposable. Consider the quality of the materials and workmanship that went into making the item. Is it, for example, beautiful and high quality decor that you will be proud to own and display in your home for years to come? Or a holiday item that you will bring out year after year with a smile as you think of memories of holidays past? Is that garment a classic and well-made style that will flex easily into your wardrobe throughout the ebb and flow of the seasons?


Consider that the item you’re deliberating over might have given you an idea for something you actually do need and now you have the opportunity to do some research and find something well-reviewed and more tailored to your needs. You may even need to wait until a more quality version fits your budget and that’s okay too!

Discovering Your Own Personal Pitfalls

If everyone purchased the exact same items, stores would only carry one of everything and life would be a sea of sameness. But this is not the case and we all have our own quirky shopping habits and weaknesses we should be mindful of before we hit the stores. You may know your personal pitfalls already, but it may be helpful to evaluate areas of your home that feel cluttered and reflect on how you came to own so many under-used items. It is also a great idea to do a conscious audit when replacing, discarding, donating items that are no longer of use to you (as you know for sure that these items are no longer serving you). Consider the following questions when analyzing past purchases:

  • How long have you owned the item and how many times have you used it?
  • Did you use it until the end of it’s life? Was the life of the item as long as you expected it would be?
  • Did you get your money’s worth out of it?
  • Why did you buy it? Could you have borrowed something like it instead?
  • Do you often find yourself gravitating to this type of item? Why do you think that might be?

It can be a great feeling to snag a good deal, come home with what we need, and generally to live life without feeling burdened by having to make sacrifices, but overabundance can become its own burden and clutter can overwhelm our ability to enjoy our lives to the fullest. Many of our homes have more items than we could use in a year and entire rooms full of dusty and unloved items. Sometimes we receive items for free or as gifts, or we hang on to things on behalf of our loved ones, but most items that became clutter in a home began as an item on a shelf that we chose to purchase!

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