Last week, a good friend came to visit, and she brought a huge bag full of clothes that her son had outgrown. Many of them were hand-me-downs for her, and she’s passing on the love. She knows that I only buy clothes used anyway, and hand-me-downs fit right in for our family.
But these days, I want less stuff, not more.
In the past, when someone gave me stuff like that, I would stash it all away, thrilled with the thought of free stuff. But now, my first thought is to consider whether we really need the stuff in the first place. My friend mentioned that she knew there was a ton of stuff in the bag and that we should just keep whatever we wanted and donate the rest. Good advice, but not something I would have been likely to do in the past.
These days, I would rather have our son’s closet neat, organized, and not too full than have it overflowing with clothes. And there is no possible scenario in which he needs eight sets of pajamas. He usually wears the same pajamas several nights in a row, and I wash laundry several times a week. So I kept a couple sets of non-flame resistant pajamas, and put the rest in a box to donate. I did the same with shirts, shorts, and shoes. Our son already has enough clothing, and just because I could add to his stash for free doesn’t mean that I should. In addition to donating a lot of the hand-me-downs, I also donated some of his current clothing and replaced it with nice hand-me-downs from my friend… nothing wrong with a little change of pace!
I know that I have often accepted anything offered for free (stuff set out at the curb, listed nearby on Craigslist, given by a friend, etc.) just because it was free. And because I might need it someday. But that leads to a cluttered house and the accumulation of a bunch of things we don’t need. I no longer browse the Craigslist free section. If there’s something we need for a project we’re working on, I’ll search specifically for that item. But looking at a list of free things without any particular needs in mind is a good way to increase clutter and waste time.
Being frugal is great, but acquiring things just because they’re a bargain or free is a bit counter-productive. We spend time gathering, sorting, cleaning, organizing… all for stuff that we really don’t need in the first place. I’d much rather have just enough than too much, regardless of how great a deal something is.