April Empties & Bye-Bye Bin

It’s been a bit since I last had a look at my empties and I’ve been making some progress in using up my stuff. I realise I hadn’t included an update here for March, so you get a two-fer this month:

All the empty tea pouches are from topping up the tins I have, while the empty tin is from finishing off a tea entirely (pardon the extra text on the first picture, I had to pull it from my instagram stories – this is a one-person blogging team). For the soaps, I finished the last of my bar soap that I used for travelling last month, the lip balm was finished a few days ago after fighting to get the last of it out from the bottom of the tube – and the liquid soap was emptied within around a month (which I include to answer my own question from my last post).

For the bye-bye bin, there’s not as much this month (only 3 items), though I suspect that number will be much higher as I swap in my spring/summer stuff and set aside the long-sleeved and bulkier items.

The French phrases book has been sitting on my reference shelf for about 3 years, and I’ve never once used it as a reference for students in tutoring – I’d either explain the answer to their question, or the student would look it up. The yellow tin is ready to find a new home, as I know if I have more tins, I’ll find a reason to fill it with yet another tea (also, I’m back to an even number of tins, so there’s that too). The dress acting as the background to the flat lay was an impulse purchase last year from an online thrift store that just doesn’t fit right.

While there’s still nothing on my wishlist, I do want to bring it up for the sake of sharing a change in how I’m thinking: there isn’t anything yet on the list since I genuinely don’t need anything, so I’m going to treat it more like a restock “limbo,” where I keep an eye on the stuff I’ve emptied and see whether I actually need more. There aren’t any categories that I’ve emptied out entirely yet, so it will likely be a few months before I have anything to add to the list.

Later this week, I will be looking over my April goals, though for the next few weeks (to May 19th or so), I’ll be aiming for one post a week while I’m leading a budgeting and financial literacy course with students in a local school. Thanks for reading!

February in Review

I’m in awe of how quickly February has come and gone compared to January. We’re done 1/6 of the year, and I’ve had another successful month of not buying anything, the only things that came in new this month was groceries and a birthday gift for a friend. This month has also been quite busy, so it being over now is a relief.

Clothing:

I was able to throw together a few outfit combinations I’d never tried before, and I’m fairly pleased with the results. During the busiest points, I would make an effort to plan my clothing out the night before so I at least had an idea of what to wear the next day – though there were two outfits that I’d never worn before. For the one on the left, this can easily find its way back into the rotation, though the baby pink suit was brought out for Valentine’s Day (so I’m not sure how often I’ll have the chance to wear it).

Books:

I hit a roadblock that I didn’t know was possible: my library chose to not renew its subscription for one of the books on my list. Things also got super busy in the first half of the month, so my reading came to a halt while I was working overtime to finish a project that got delegated to me. I’ve finished both the linguistics textbook and the Monet book, and in the meantime, I’ve been listening to audiobooks through Hoopla, “I Left my Homework in the Hamptons,” by Blythe Grossberg (finished) and “The Season” by Kristen Richardson (10% done).

Using what I’ve Got:

Despite how busy I’ve been with work, I’m giving myself time to crochet to help unwind from the day – and I’m trying my hand at getting ahead in holiday gifts (I’m also the kind of person who would have started Christmas shopping for the following year on Boxing Day, so this is on brand for me). For planner stickers, I’ve been more intentional of using up ones that I would have passed over and written something out by hand instead, which has also contributed to my “make it fun” goal, as my planner is both fun to decorate and fun to look at. Regarding tea, I’ve had a solid 2-3 cups per day on average on days I do drink tea, and then 3-4 days of nothing. I wasn’t focused on drinking X amount of tea by the end of the month, which made it easier to just have some when I thought of it – rather than meeting some arbitrary quota that would stress me out if I didn’t meet it.

What didn’t work:

Expecting a goal that I set at the beginning of the month to still fit the changes I couldn’t predict is not fair to myself. I want to actively be more flexible in how I approach adjusting goals, rather than keeping myself to, say, 30 minutes of reading per day, but I’m getting to bed at 2 am – meaning I’m barely awake but forcing myself to do something for the sake of doing it rather than enjoying it when I’m rested and alert.

What I’ll keep doing:

The undercurrent of “fun” (without it being toxic positivity) made it easier for me to find ways to inject some colour into high-stress days, or step back and be intentional about finding a different – less ennui-filled – approach to some of my more mundane tasks. This could be as simple as having my upbeat music on while doing my least favourite chores, drinking my favourite tea while going through emails, or having on fuzzy socks while sitting through a(nother) virtual meeting. I like to think I usually bring an element of fun into what I’m doing, though February is usually when that takes a dip, so it was nice to have that thought-out pick-me-up in my back pocket.

Overall, I’m pleased with how things have gone this month, especially with the handful of curveballs thrown into the mix. Later this week, I’ll have my March goals laid out – and we’re going in a slightly different direction this time, so stay tuned! Thanks for reading 🙂

Empties & The Rest of the Inventory

What I’m currently finishing up of consumables:

As much as I love dinosaurs, I don’t like my skin to be scaley. Winter in Canada is rough on the skin normally, so that majority of the products I use from November to April are all about keeping my skin from painfully chapping or my lips cracking and bleeding. First, I’m focused on finishing off the lipsmackers lip balm that I’ve been working on for most of 2021 – that I got in winter 2018/2019, as a stocking stuffer – which I genuinely thought there was none left, but then opened it today to take photos, and somehow a usable amount has emerged. I do have a second lip balm on the go (also from the same year), which seems to be unending, as I’ve been using it regularly and I still have a few months’ worth of use in it. For hand cream, I’m 2-3 uses away from done with the shea squeeze tube, and likely about a month from done with the body butter. The hand cream is better for warmer months (i.e., when the “Feels Like -37” line is long gone from my weather app), and the body butter is my best friend for now.

What my other categories are:

As I’d mentioned in my No Buy rules post, I have many categories that need to be used up before I bring in more. I wanted to switch it up for the remaining categories and give you visuals instead of numbers this time around, so you can see just how much I’m working with. I just talked about how much yarn I have left, so I’ll continue with the craft supplies theme:

Pens and other writing utensils:

I’ve whittled this collection down over the years, but this is what I have in my stock pile – meaning what’s not currently in my pencil case for planning or what I use at work. I do have a mix of artsy-er pens as well as a fountain pen mixed in with dollar store highlighters (some of which have been in the pencil case since I bought it, in 2012), so some of these will take longer to use. That’s my issue, though, is that I like to have something to use, but then if it’s too nice, I won’t.

Planner stickers:

I’ve kept every agenda or planner that I’ve had since grade 6/2006, since they tend to function more like a memory book than just a to do list for me (and I’ve never been much of a diary writer). Over time, I figured out highly detailed colour-coding and highlighting systems that I would use to stay on track of my academics, work/volunteering, and personal stuff in between through to the end of my undergrad thesis. Once I was off the shoestring student budget, I was drawn to planner stickers (I also liked stickers as a kid) to bring my weekly planner spreads to life. A lot were bought, and I limited myself to the size of a photobox from Michael’s of how many booklets I could have. I have decluttered a few booklets as well as pulled out sheets that I wouldn’t use at all (the quote-heavy ones, mainly) – and the irony of having three separate sticker books about budgeting is not lost on me.

Greeting cards:

This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise with how much effort I put into other “pen and paper” stuff, but I have over 120 blank greeting cards. Some were gifts, but most were a mix of restocking what I’d used, sales while at the mall, and impulse buys from Michael’s (I’m sensing a pattern here). I used to write to friends and family for the fun of it after moving to a different province for work, but that has slowed down significantly with moving more to video calls for the sake of being able to see each other. I do have some ideas of what I can use these for, but that’s in some time from now.

Tea:

I got into DavidsTea in 2013, and the amount of money I’ve spent could have paid for a trip to Iceland. The amount of tea that I have now is less than half of what I had at my peak around 2016, and the stock pile of specific blends has to do with not wanting to order frequently (reducing emissions from transportation) and not buying outside of the semi-annual sale. Note that the tins aren’t all full – most are half full or less – but I’m not switching the contents of a tin until it’s fully empty and been washed. Also worth noting, about 1/6th of this is from gifts.

Body products:

Some of these have been on my shelf, unopened, for longer than others – most notably, the Maui shampoo, conditioner and mask sets, which were purchased in January 2020 (on sale). I haven’t been able to finish them yet since I cut off about half of my hair (it was to the small of my back, and now just over my shoulders), so I don’t go through shampoo and conditioner half as quickly as I used to, and the fact that I had another four sets of shampoo and conditioner – bottles and soap bars – to get through before reaching these. Some other stockpiles – the toothpaste, deodorant (medium tins), and body butters – are based on what I know I use regularly and need to have at a moment’s notice when I run out. I do have a pharmacy in walking distance, but I prefer to reduce my number of trips out of the house as much as possible (and I don’t have a car). The bar soaps that are all the same were bought in 2021, and I liked the scent because it smelt like one of my toy sets from my early childhood. Nostalgia as a driving force for consumption? Never heard of that before! I say that jokingly, however, as that wasn’t the intent behind the scent blend that the shop owner made. The rest of it? They’re remnants of gifts kits, sales, or shop displays doing their job. If nothing else has highlighted the excess of the body products stock pile, know that I bought a 3-shelf organiser from Ikea to store all of it.

Later this week, I’ll be talking about what my shopping habits have been like (which will definitely be a series unto itself), and today’s post works as a snapshot of where I’m at right now. Thanks for reading!

My No Buy Plan for 2022

What is a No Buy?

The purpose of a No Buy or Low Buy is to reduce how much you are purchasing new things. You set parameters for yourself of what you are limiting (whether entirely or capping), and for how long. You make the rules for yourself according to what your needs are (i.e., it would be incredibly difficult to purchase nothing an entire year if you included essential categories like food and rent), as well as what exceptions you have for your rules – or what you are indeed allowed to spend money on that may not be considered to be essential by others.

My Categories

I chose my categories based on where I spend the most money: clothing, accessories, shoes, crafting supplies, tea, and body care products. Books are also on the list, but are being treated a bit differently. For clothing, I have more than enough seasonal wear, and I know what colours and styles I like to wear most – and I know that I don’t need more. Accessories – earrings, other jewellery, bags, scrunchies – are just as plentiful as clothing. Shoes are a bit different in that I have a lot, for different events/purposes, but many of those events are not currently taking place, so they are not in use. Crafting supplies is likely the broadest category with stationary, writing tools, stickers, yarn, washi tape, scrapbooking paper, and about par for clothing in sheer volume of materials. For tea, I like(d) to buy in bulk with DavidsTea having moved to being almost an entirely online store, so I have around 1.5 kilos of tea, and I certainly don’t need more. For body care products, I amassed so much of everything from shopping sales, buying in bulk, or thinking that I would need more than I reasonably use. A single person doesn’t need five tubes of toothpaste, but that’s what I got from Costco six months ago. For books, I have a healthy To Be Read stack that I want to complete without rushing myself. Books are a bit different, then, as I’ll still be going to the local library, but I won’t be buying new books.

What will be tough about the goal

Avoiding sources of temptation will likely be my biggest struggle over the course of the year. Certain stores, like Michaels, DavidsTea, and Simon’s are full of stuff that I like (and that can stay out of my shopping cart), and avoiding them as a whole is my best bet. In 2021, I went to Michael’s twice, once with spending nothing (but I’d already been shopping at thrift stores that day), and the second time with buying more than I intended once I found something that would make a cute gift. I don’t need to say much about tea (see the 1.5 kilos remark above), and Simon’s is a catch all for cute clothing and home goods, and probably my number 1 targeted ad on instagram. I find that thrifting without a physical list has also led to buying more than I intended, and the rush from shopping for new items is the same as it is for thrifted items, with the additional layer of it being an unexpected find. To help prevent these temptations, I’ve already unsubscribed from all emails from these stores (and others) and I don’t follow them on social media anymore.

My philosophy

When it comes to what I’m going to do when faced with decisions of whether or not to purchase something, I want to have a much more intentional and slowed-down approach than I used to. I want to know what I have and what I need (which likely won’t be anything, at least for a few months) and be able to consider what it is that I’m taking into my home. If I don’t want to be in a space where I’m shopping, whether online or in person, I will need to be intentional about how I’m spending my time and what I do in a day. I want the time otherwise lost from online or in-person shopping to be spent on activities that are more meaningful to me, and I want my living space to not be bursting at the seams with stuff. I will be going into this year’s challenge with the mindset that the decisions I make are my own, and that there is no luck involved in the process; if I am tempted by an item, and choose to make a purchase, that is my decision. However, I also recognize that I do make mistakes, stuff happens, and what matters more is what I learn from my decisions and what I choose to do next.

What’s coming up this week:

I’ll be doing a paper-based inventory of my clothing (so I can keep track of number of wears per item), flipping my hangers over, and picking out the two books I’m aiming to read for the month beyond the remaining library book I have on loan.