3 Best Purchases of 2016

The way I pursue minimalism, I’m not trying to get down to “x” number of possessions or going on any shopping bans. I honestly never had much of a problem with overspending. I lean stingy, so part of my personal growth journey has been about learning how to enjoy life more by not being such a penny hoarder. (My excellent husband, who has, to an extent, needed to learn the opposite lesson, has taught me a lot in this respect. We work well together.)

With that said, here are my three favorite purchases that I made in 2016. These are things I’m truly glad I bought and have not had an ounce of regret about trading cash for.

  1. A New Vacuum Cleaner. I sort of learned how to “keep house” in 2016. I never had a cleaning routine before and, actually, not wanting my space to be such a disaster is a large part of what got me into minimalism in the first place. A real source of housekeeping grief in my current home, however, had nothing to do with clutter: it was our carpeted dining room. Off-white carpet + a sloppy toddler + a long-haired, black cat makes frequent vacuuming an imperative if keeping that room non-disgusting is going to be on my priorities list, and I decided it very much is. My old vacuum cleaner did not have much suction power, but—in the spirit of frugality and minimalism—I was determined to make it work. So every Saturday I crawled around the dining room on my hands and knees trying to suck up as much cat hair and food mess as I could with the cleaner’s hose and upholstery brush. It was time-consuming but manageable—until the upholstery brush broke. After that—I cried. And then I did some research and bought a new vacuum. The new one is nowhere near perfect, but I LOVE it because it’s made my Saturday cleaning regimen so much shorter. No more hands-and-knees vacuuming! (Unless it’s carpeted stairs day.) I am a much happier lady.
  2. $21 Thrift Store Chair. We had a sectional couch in our living room that was made of bonded leather, which I now know is a terrible material for a couch to be made out of, especially if you’ve got cats and toddlers scurrying about. We’d only had the thing for 3 years, but it was already very badly molting. We considered buying a new couch, but we didn’t really have money we could justify spending in that arena, so after a few weeks of brainstorming I realized we could do a furniture shuffle so that the couch that was in the room we don’t use very much is now our living room couch. After that I found this very serviceable chair on sale at the thrift store, and I bought it to add some more seating where the other half of the sectional used to be. I love this chair (pictured above) more and more everyday.
  3. Little Black Dress. I got this dress to wear to a friend’s wedding last July, and it’s been a wardrobe staple ever since. Now that I’m 6 months pregnant, it lays funny in the back, but a long sweater takes care of that problem—and also, I’m pregnant. And it still fits. There’s definitely something to be said for that. My favorite part about it is the sleeves; they make it 100% work and church appropriate. I’m fairly certain I’ve worn it once a week (at least) since I bought it. At that rate, it’s at about $2 per wear.

What 2016 purchases are still making you happy?

Skip the Stockings

We did most of our Christmas decorating (and decluttering) last week, but when I got to the bottom of our Xmas decoration box, our stockings were still sitting there, waiting to be hung. The empty curtain rod hangers that I’d hung them from last year have since been replaced by, well, a curtain rod and curtains, so I wasn’t sure where to put them and left them crumpled in the box, to think about later.

Then I read Joshua Becker’s post about holiday expectations and realized that there was absolutely no reason why I had had to hang up stockings. In fact, if I DID hang up stockings, I would inevitably feel the need to fill them each with something—or many somethings—even though I’ve already maxed out my Christmas budget. I realized that hanging stockings would add a burden to my heart instead of increasing the joy in my heart.

So the stockings are hanging out in the decoration box down in the basement this year, until mid-January when we bring the box back upstairs to put all the other decorations away.

I thought about getting rid of the stockings entirely, but they’re personalized, and my grandmother actually knitted my stocking for me when I was a baby. So that one, especially, has got some sentimental value, and I wasn’t quite ready to make the decision to part with any of them yet. But I think that’s all right—they don’t take up very much space.

(Photo by Ben Askew © 2007)

Frequenting the Thrift Store

Lately I’ve been reading Myquillyn Smith’s book and blog, and one of her recommendations for hitting gold at the thrift store is to actually go on a regular basis.

With the holidays approaching, I thought it might be good to see what low-cost treasures I could find, and since I’ve been working on decluttering my garage, I thought making a weekly trip to drop off a box (or five) of goods and then scour the store for some new ones might be a good experiment.

The ladies who work at the store have teased me for leaving with new stuff when I just dropped off a box or two of old stuff. And I admit: It might seem counter-intuitive to talk about thrift store shopping on a blog about minimalism—but even though there’s a lot of stuff I aim to get rid of, there are some things I want to acquire and replace too. And searching for those items in the thrift store is one of (at least I think) the most ethical ways to go about doing that.

Anyway, I’ve been really happy with some of the stuff I’ve found, including:

  • baskets for holiday gift baskets
  • cloth napkins (I’d been wanting more of these for months!)
  • bathroom scale (our old one broke, and this “new”—very old school—one doesn’t require batteries)
  • clothes for my ever-growing toddler
  • chalk (for our chalkboard fridge; we were mostly down to chalk nubs)
  • prenatal yoga DVD (I’d been considering taking a $20/session class, but then found this DVD for about $1—win!)
  • classical music CDs (something I’ve been wanting for YEARS)

Another good thing about going to the thrift store frequently is that you start to get a sense of what they carry. I’ve learned that there is no reason I should ever buy a brand new vase or woven basket again because the thrift store has an abundance of these items. I went to another thrift store near my house yesterday and discovered they even carry fabric remnants—cool! But I never would have guessed it.

What are some lucky, unexpected finds you’ve had while thrift store-shopping?