Why I buy stuff

By Tara Tracy
Guest blogger

Just before Christmas we found our dream house—a fire sale on a lovely old-fashioned home with a wood stove, wrap-around porch, lofty pines and landscaped gardens, just steps from the river, parks and the bike path. We didn’t buy it. The place was too small.

Maybe I should have titled this blog post “why I don’t buy stuff”. These two questions keep getting jumbled together in my head, but I digress.

We rationalized that the house, at under 1000 square feet would need an addition soon if we were to expand our family, and we weren’t keen on a big reno.

Yet something about our decision nagged at me—the house had felt so right, so calm, and so …simple. So, I start to experience something resembling regret. That house had every single element we needed—and it was beautiful. Was it just that we had wanted something more?    


Determined to wiki my way to internal resolution I start in on some research.

I learn that the average size of a family home is 900 square feet—in the 1950s. Turns out, in today’s world this is about the size of a three-car garage. I think about how that extra garage space is probably used for storing equipment and other stuff… Ugh. I start to feel a little more sick in the gut. Then I read about this lady and her very happy life in her house of 84 square feet. I call back the agent.

“Yes, the house has definitely sold.”

He signs me up for e-notices of house sales. But all I get are postings for big, modern places in the suburbs—some of which are still in the floor plan stages. …And I’m left with a big fat question about how I make my decisions about any/all the stuff I buy.

I keep coming across this quote by financial guy David Ramsey:

“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t really like.”

Hmm, sorta harsh. But it’s true that the few times in the past month that I’ve found myself wanting to go shopping (not even for anything specific) had more to do with my mental state than a need for anything in particular. And when I think back to times in my life when I was really into shopping, I realize that it was in those teen and early university years when I wasn’t so sure of myself and more concerned about fitting in and what others thought. I think I measured myself a little by what I owned—sometimes throwing money away on objects to give myself a boost. It seems I shopped alot out of stress, anxiety or boredom …buying things instead of doing things.

But even now, knowing all this, it can be hard. And I’m a bit worried that since I’ve started this ‘buy nothing new’ year, I’ve had so many people (mostly women) tell me, “Oh I could NEVER do THAT!” The shopping we’re talking about—the extras, the indulgences, the things we either have already or don’t need in the first place—should be easy to walk away from. But why isn’t it?

Maybe because we live in a culture where shopping is sold as a means of self expression, and where having it all—even if you don’t have room for it all—is a pretty big measure of success.

I find this quote more inspiring,

“Own nothing that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” -artist William Morris

And I realize that overall it has been a freeing experience to NOT spend money. I am outside alot and really enjoying swapping mall walks for river walks.


And in my closet and in my home and in my life I’m realizing that less really IS more—that it’s way more fun focusing on being and doing than having and wanting. I love all my new found free time! Free money!

So maybe it is time to buy that small beauty of a house and stop shopping.



About Mymulligans

I'm just a regular person, you know one of those, "a daughter, a wife, a sister, a friend, a new mom"--types. But lately I've been putting more thought into my life decisions and one thing I've decided is that I HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF. And I need to appreciate, use, fix up, give away and wear out what I have before I get a single other thing NEW. In 2011 I'm going to blog about this. I'm calling these notes, "My Mulligans."
This entry was posted in blog, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Why I buy stuff

  1. Louise Martin says:

    Tara, you are right on!! You have expressed beautifully what I have been saying for a very long time. Good luck with the house hunt.

  2. Adrienne Annan says:

    Love the blog, Tara! You are a really talented writer. Are you looking to buy here in Ottawa? If so, I’ll keep my eyes open for you…

  3. Leah says:

    Love it. I’ve been thinking of your project (and our budget) and working toward the same kinds of conclusions. Akka does need snowpants though. Off to Value Village…

  4. Shari Hodgins says:

    Well said Tara. I am so sick of everyone spending money they don’t have, living phony lives to keep up with ‘The Jones’s’, who, by the way, are living waaaaay beyond THEIR means as well, and thinking that STUFF is gonna make them happy. To me, experiences and memories are more valuable than things…especially things I can’t afford in the first place, causing that short-lived illusion of happiness to quickly turn into guilt, remorse and anxiety. Hey man, I like a little self-indulgence every now and again, don’t get me wrong, but I like to think that when I “go for it”, it’s because I’ve worked hard and earned it.

    It’s time to GET REAL people!

    xoxo S.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s