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I've noticed a trend in friends' houses

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 
It seems that my frugal friends, who hate to throw anything potentially useful away, and also my environmentally conscious friends, who hate to throw anything at all away, have messy/cluttered houses.

And my friends who spend money more freely, who feel no guilt in throwing things away and who give themselves permission to buy something again if they get rid of it and then need it again, have tidy, uncluttery houses. Also, admittedly, these friends seem to buy more new matching things and organizer things and replace perfectly good things for a neater look. Now, in general these friends still have a frugal bent, but they definitely spend money more freely than I do (or can).

I am frugal, by necessity and ideal. I am environmentally conscious and I definitely try not to throw things away. And I try hard not to buy new nonconsumable things like organizers, new dishes, etc. I also try hard to acquire what I need used (free or cheap).

But darnit, I want a tidy, matching, uncluttery house, too! And I don't want to give up my ideals, my frugal tendencies, my distaste for adding to landfills. I wonder if I can ever really have a tidy, uncluttery home. I work hard at it and it's more or less decluttered, but I feel like I'm constantly hold back the tide.

One of my friends has a "rule" for her family - throw away anything that can no longer be used. I can see how this keeps their house tidy. I pick something up and really struggle with trying to decide if it can be used again or not, and how, and should I keep it for later use, or try to recycle it, or donate it so someone else can use it? I just HATE throwing things in the trash. But it seems to help keep her house tidy. I am struggling with my ideals, I guess.

Any thoughts?
post #2 of 36
I SO hear you. I have a hard time getting rid of things...and my husband has an even harder time...out of frugality and environmentalism. What I am trying to grasp is that frugal doesn't have to mean I keep and repurpose everything I have. Frugal can mean going without. So...I have less of a difficult time freecycling and thriftstoring some of my items (we throw out very little). I figure that if the Lord blessed me with it once, I can get it again if I need it. I figure being a slave to my belongings is as "bad" as throwing it in the trash. (We got some cute, nicer-than-we-normally-would-have-paid-for furniture off of Craigslist last week. It can be done!) And, for me, the reality is that when I have too much clutter, I don't remember or can't find that little piece of whatever that I saved 5 years ago in case I needed it...when I need it!
post #3 of 36
well, i like to think of myself as frugal, but i definitely do not have a tidy house. i know where everything is, but it's not....model showhome ready.

my parents though, are among the most frugal people i know (immigrants). And the most generous ( with time, belongings, and esp. money). But their home is very very very tidy. Closets are neat.
The key for them, I really think, is to minimize household inflow.
Their example is such that I know that my frugality is not really... "ultimate," like theirs. I still buy stuff, which is why I have stuff.

Clutter doesn't just walk into my house.
It's brought in by a human being.
post #4 of 36
I understand this dilemma all too well. However, I've made tremendous strides toward improving this behavior. We are a well-educated middle class family, with a very large house and "just enough" money to get what we need, and it's cluttered - because I have the mentality of "never want to get rid of something we might wish we had later". My mother is exactly the same, but SHE has a lot of money, and they are extremely organized, neat, and have a fabulous home. And, they recycle everything and donate a lot to charity! My in-laws are the throw-away type, and their house isn't exactly messy, but it's certainly not anything I would aspire to - it's cluttered with **junk**. She's a shop-a-holic, and she doesn't recycle, and she doesn't care.

I think that it makes me the most upset at how casually people can "throw away" anything just because they don't have the creativity to imagine a way for it to benefit themselves or someone else. "oh, this shirt has a stain on it - gotta throw it away" God forbid, they recycle something or buy LESS of something!

So, what to do? I aspire to have a clean house, but maybe that won't ever happen. In the meanwhile, I do think that it's my responsibility to teach my children that sometimes it's not so great to keep EVERYTHING! We have gotten very involved with freecycle, charity, resale shops, and ebay (not much luck with craigslist) - and we also buy LESS and recycle MORE. I think that's the biggest key to less clutter. We also have less trash because we buy fewer new things (hence less packaging).

Unfortunately, it's not "easy" - and that's what "conventional" people are looking for. They are trapped in the notion of convenience and all the trappings that are associated with it. And, for some reason that completely escapes me, they have NO GUILT about it. What's up with that?

I'll come down off my soap box now.
post #5 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrabbit View Post
And, for some reason that completely escapes me, they have NO GUILT about it. What's up with that?
Yes, that's why I feel like giving up sometimes. They are outnumbering us, and buying new and dumping stuff at an amazing rate. So, why should I struggle with being environmentally friendly, and have lots of old stuff that I spend time on repairing, when I could just throw it away and buy new, matching stuff? :
post #6 of 36
DH and I struggle with this too - especially me. He sometimes gets fed up with the clutter and throws everything into the back of the car and makes a dump run. For example, along with a lot of non-reusable or recyclable construction/demoliton debris in the garage, he threw out 2 perfectly good carseats I had planned to use in a year when the kids were bigger and an extra custom miniblind we had that fit our kitchen window, and now 6 months later the cord on the one that's hanging broke and I could use that extra. That stuff makes me nuts.

For me, what it boils down to is likelihood of actually using what I'm holding onto. With the carseat and the miniblind, I knew I would use them eventually and they are expensive to replace. Other stuff, like kitchen gadgets or whatever, are cheap and readily available and I have no problem donating that stuff. Other people will use it.

I recycle EVERYTHING that I possibly can that can't be reused, but since that involves sorting through things, I still have a lot to go through. I will not just dump stuff into the garbage. And yes, I have a seriously cluttered house. But I'm working on it.

I'm trying to take the perspective that well, either it piles up in my house, or it piles up in a landfill, where it will end up eventually anyway - even moreso if someone else less recycling conscious cleans it up vs me. Either way, it ain't pretty. I take steps to minimize what comes into my house now. But the stuff that's already here, not much I can do about it. What's done is done.

My neighbor, on the other hand, is the type you mention above, who gives herself permission to improve her surroundings regularly by buying nicer stuff, hiring a sitter so she can maintain her level of organization, and getting rid of stuff they no longer like or need. She is what I would consider only moderatly environmentally conscious and she'll donate stuff when convenient for her, if not it goes into the trash. I refuse to do that. I need to be sure that there is no other option for what I'm putting in the garbage.

This neighbor readily admits that it's a double edged sword because she cannot stop tidying up her house, to the point of being obsessive about it - we've been over for playdates and she is up tidying stuff the whole time. Her house has NOTHING out of place, even her kids' toys are always put away when not being used - even to the point of hindering their play, IMO, because they have to stop to tidy up.

It seems like the middle ground is hard to find - I have no examples in my life of someone who isn't constantly "on it" whose house is tidy.

(Sorry if this was all a bit disjointed, but I've been interrupted by the kids several times while writing it out.)
post #7 of 36
As a pp mentioned, it is all about the intake for us. I have a very uncluttered house. Any clutter drives me batty and makes me think I am turning into my mom (the scariest thought EVER). And my house is usually neat and "clean enough" at any given time. Not because I am a great housekeeper or have a lot of time to do it, but because a 100% deep clean only takes about one hour. And that is due to having no clutter and a small, easy-to-clean house. I also have the environmental bent so I do feel guilt when tossing anything. But I rarely toss. In fact, it takes us an entire month to fill up one standard size garbage bag. We only bring into the house what we absolutely need. Many times that item is used or borrowed. I am willing to wait for almost anything I think I need or want until I can get it without snapping up a brand new china-made environmental disaster. I will at least try to get a second use out of someone else's disaster I do not buy organizers. If I find myself going down that path of thinking, I take a look at what I am "organizing". More often than not, it is something I either do not need, can organize with something I already have or can be obtained for free, or should be put somewhere more permanent after I oust some other little-used object.

I have donated or given away or thrown out things I later needed. Chances are good that if I donated it, someone else has too and I can pick it up again for free/cheap. Even if I donated it to Goodwill and I go back to buy another used one at Goodwill for $5. I consider that $5 for storing my thing for the three years I had no use for it. A bargain IMO.
post #8 of 36
I guess I’m in the middle. We don’t buy much for the house, (we have all we need) but I have things I have no guilt getting rid of to give me some sanity. Everything I get rid of I try to do it responsibly: Giving away, Freecycle, we have a charity that come by 3x a year, recycling electronic items responsibly, and so on even if it takes more work than just tossing a broken waffle iron in the trash.

Whatever we get for the house, we make sure that its worth it regardless if its $2000 or free off Craigslist.

We don’t really have friends who buy and toss so I don’t know what to say about that. They range from getting everything thrift or free due to budget or responsibility to buying brand-new high end. Regardless, they are not the wasteful type and if they want to get rid of it, they will sell or give it away to friends or strangers.

The thrift store/Freecycle types homes are not tidy though. They are pretty cluttered and space has nothing to do with it.
post #9 of 36
I think, though, that there may be an over-focus on what goes to the dump. There are a lot of other environmental issues, beyond what is thrown away by households.

For example: Do the people with the frugal lifestyle have to have bigger houses due to the clutter?

A house is also a resource, and it's a resource that has environmental impact. A bigger house to build, heat, cool, paint, roof, etc., etc., is a load on the environment. So if a person throws out more stuff, but lives in a smaller house because of less clutter, it seems to me that it's possible that they're doing a _better_ job for the environment. (Sure, usually the bigger house already exists, but the idea is that it's then occupied by a bigger family with less wasted space.)

Similarly if people go out in the car for entertainment because the house is too cluttered to entertain or have guests, that's an environmental load.

If people buy more processed and packaged food because they have less time to cook due to clutter, or because it's harder to cook in a cluttered kitchen, that's an environmental load. Even if the packaging is recyclable, it still costs energy and resources to manufacture and transport it, and the food it contains. Recycling doesn't make the damage of using packaged products go away.

And the "less time due to the clutter" thing keeps on going:

Is there no time to go to the local farmer's market, so that they have to instead do all their shopping at the grocery, where products are likely to be shipped from a distance?

Is there less time to clean, so that when there is time to clean, the job requires more powerful and more toxic products?

Is there less time to walk for shopping or entertainment, resulting in more car trips?

Are the kids unhappy in the cluttered house, and unable to bring their friends there, so that they go out in motorized transport of one kind or the other?

I don't know how all these factors work out. I just dislike the idea that someone who has a tidy house and sometimes throws things out to get it, is automatically a bigger load on the environment. The amount of stuff in the trash can is far from the whole picture.

Crayfish
post #10 of 36
Good points Crayfish!

We have less stuff because we have less space and cluttering up our space would drive me up the wall.

Our house is not big, but it is two of us with two small bedrooms and two small refinished offices. More than what a lot of people with bigger families have.

-We use the extra bedroom to hang clothes indoors in the winter for example (in addition to having a reading area).

-We are able to entertain a lot at home instead of having to go out all the time.

-The extra bedroom also has my spinning bike. There is also enough space to have my hand weights, yoga mat, etc. I don’t belong to a gym (no driving and gyms use a lot of AC, etc)

-The plus rooms (offices) allow DP to work from home instead of having to rent a separate office space.

-Having a space where we have washer and dryer at home saves gas and energy.

-We have a back yard that allows us to hang 4-5 loads of clothes, sheets and towells a week.

I can go on...


I wonder how all of that balances out.
post #11 of 36
My house is pretty tidy and uncluttered... I find that I buy less but I buy high quality and that reduces my wanting to get rid of it or having the need to find something that needs to replace something. When I buy used or something that is a "deal" half the time I found myself buying something that I did not really like - and it was a waste because that was bound to not be needed or not liked. Anyway I find that I rather spend money on something that I truly love than on something that is a deal if I do not like it. If I can find an item that is a deal and I love then by all means I buy it but only if I truly love it and need it. Some of my green friends buy it simply because it is recycled, a good deal and to them that = frugal. That to me is not frugal at all - I guess we have different definitions
post #12 of 36

I don't think it has to be either/or

but maybe it's just because we've been doing some major decluttering here

Okay, now I'll be the first to admit that our house is far from matchy-matchy BUT it's getting pretty clutter free and with a little work, it can be rather nicely decorated.

The biggest thing for us has been to let things go, even things that are "good". If we can't use them, there's no use in keeping them.

I've been rearraning furniture and I've been brutal about getting rid of anything that isn't working, even family "heirlooms"

If something isn't working in a room, I give up trying to make it work.

Since I get most of the furniture at Goodwill, I don't feel too bad about buying something new (to us) to replace what isn't working.

Same with clothes. No matter how "good", if no one wears it, it's gone. Even if that means having to buy a few pieces once in a while.
post #13 of 36
We are preparing to sell our house and live on the road in an RV trailer/truck. Getting rid of the excess has been extremely cathartic for me - I just needed "permission" to not keep everything! We're by no means done, but we've gotten rid of TONS. If it's not critical, valuable, or extremely sentimental, it's gone!

We are mainly giving things away on freecycle, but some things have $ value, so I have sold on ebay or in resale shops. I pick & choose what is unique or sentimental enough to me to justify finding the "right" person to give/sell it to. I have no desire to have a garage sale, so that has made it easier to just "bless the world" with the things we don't want anymore. Also, I would prefer to give the weird things to someone who actually WANTS it instead of burdening a charity with something that may just get tossed because nobody knows what to do with it. That, of course, is easier to do in a big city like Houston

I don't think that all messy people are packrats or that all clutterbugs are messy. My parents are the perfect example of people who do both - but they also started a family with Nothing in the 70's and literally worked their way up from rags to riches - so they have an inherent appreciation for being thrifty. I tend to be more scattered than my mother, so my house is not exactly tidy - but I usually do know exactly where things are when I've saved them for a rainy day. I'm the person who can produce 15 baby food jars at a moments' notice, I know where the Christmas ribbon is in the middle of the summer, I can usually make banana bread from scratch on a whim, and I always have extra craft supplies. But I'm not caught up on laundry, we often have to run to the hardware store for light bulbs or screws (which I **know** are here somewhere), and my cars are never parked in the garage, and my wedding pictures are lost somewhere in my storage unit that hasn't been unpacked in 5 years.

It's about priorities, I suppose. If my clutter were to become an environmental burden, I would have more incentive to do something about it. That's the biggest difference I see: for ME, it's worse to be so detached that you don't really care that you've lost the toilet paper = just go out and buy more ... and while you're there, you'll buy MORE of everything, which you'll lose when you need IT ... and the cycle becomes exponentially more wasteful. Alas, for me, I tend to get so wrapped up and obsessed by the idea that "it" could be useful some day to some one ... that I never do anything with "it" and then I can't throw it away but I can't keep it and it will keep me awake!


~~ moderation ~~
post #14 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrsSurplus View Post
I SO hear you. I have a hard time getting rid of things...and my husband has an even harder time...out of frugality and environmentalism.
:
post #15 of 36
my rule is if we don't use it then we don't need it.

then i donate it or sell if possible. holding onto things just in case just creates clutter and thenyou can't find it or don't even know you have it and it gives vaule to material things just because they're material. if we ever do need something we don't have first we try to come up with something else and often we can come up with great ideas-some even work better. and if not then we think do we really need ____ /what else will we use it for/where will it go/ is there anyone we can borrow it from. and sometime you just have to admit you made a mistake and wasted $ but lesson learned right
post #16 of 36
We are a thrift store/freecycle/craigslist free/side of the street shopper family and we have no problem redonating things that we aren't using anymore. We are actually really good, 13 gallon trash out every three or four days, lots of recycling and compost and then there's the donation pile in my craft closet. I am neat and tidy, as much as summer will allow, but I have no problem with there being a flow of things in and out of my house since I am only buying secondhand and they are going right back out secondhand when they are done here.
post #17 of 36
I found myself buying something used at a thrift or yard-sale or having it give to me for free that 'will work' but not really what I really wanted... it's useful and it's serving a purpose, but not really what I would of chosen 1st if my frugality and environmentality didn't stand in the way...

Perfect example is the small hot pink plastic crate in the bathroom, I have no idea where it really came from, I know I didn't buy it new... it has held so many different things over the years from kitchen stuff, office stuff, sewing stuff... now it's holding my hair scrunchies... do I really want a hot pink piece of plastic in my bathroom? No, Did I want that hot pink piece of plastic in the kitchen, or the office or my sewing space? No, that's the reason it's not still in any of those places... Why do I keep it? well, it's a nice little rectangular crate that can hold a bunch of different small items all in one spot... useful, but.....
post #18 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by marybethorama View Post

The biggest thing for us has been to let things go, even things that are "good". If we can't use them, there's no use in keeping them.
I have found that for most things there is a very small "window" in which to rehome something "good" before it becomes useless to anyone. I used to hang on to things because they were "good". But have found that "good" things that are useless to me now will always be useless. If I give them up, they become useful for someone rather than useless to anyone tucked away in my attic/basement/closet/whatever..... This is especially true with clothing. Styles change so quickly. If I do not re-purpose something while it is still in style, it will just be landfilled. If those jeans so not fit, they are not going to fit until they are WAY out of style (if ever) so I might as well give them to someone who will wear them NOW.
post #19 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Barcino View Post
My house is pretty tidy and uncluttered... I find that I buy less but I buy high quality and that reduces my wanting to get rid of it or having the need to find something that needs to replace something. When I buy used or something that is a "deal" half the time I found myself buying something that I did not really like - and it was a waste because that was bound to not be needed or not liked. Anyway I find that I rather spend money on something that I truly love than on something that is a deal if I do not like it. If I can find an item that is a deal and I love then by all means I buy it but only if I truly love it and need it. Some of my green friends buy it simply because it is recycled, a good deal and to them that = frugal. That to me is not frugal at all - I guess we have different definitions
:

Plus...If and when the time comes that I no longer need one of these "high quality" somethings, it is very easy to give it to a family member or friend, donate it to charity, or sell it for a fair price. Therefore, my household rarely contributes to landfill. And, we recycle most of our "garbage."

Most of our furniture is comprised of antique pieces that my parents picked up for us in England. The pieces that we have purchased here have consisted of multi-purpose type of things (a slipcovered sofa bed couch from Pottery Barn and a convertible crib from Crate & Barrel).

We are working to eliminate all disposable personal and household supplies...except for tp!
post #20 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruthie's momma View Post
:

We are working to eliminate all disposable personal and household supplies...except for tp!
:
can you give some examples of how that's going?? I want to do that.. I've started with cloth napkins, and dark rags for kitchen wipe-ups. I still have paper naps and paper towels for issues that I'm not ready to rag (cat vomit, a dead bug, etc..), but they're tucked in a cabinet where it's not convenient to grab. I also got some terry rags and a spray bottle to cut back on baby wipes for ds, but they're just sitting there.. it's too easy to grab a wipe!!
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