Improvise don’t compromise

We received the following comment from Snosie in response to one of Cindy’s archived posts I republished over the Christmas break. This post gave great advice about thinking twice before buying. Snosie has just bought her first home and is in the process of moving out of her parent’s house. She now has the task of furnishing and equipping her new home with the things she needs. A daunting task in which one could really get carried away but not Snosie she has it all worked out. Here is her comment…

Great post Cindy – and a lot of what I’m saying to myself (without even realizing). I won’t buy something til I know it fits where I want to put it. I have a notebook/journal in my handbag with measurements I think I’ll need – it’s not easy to find a ‘skinny’ drying rack. But then I know I can just lay things on a tea towel for now… Or put them in the (currently) unused dishwasher to ‘drain’.

It doesn’t even frustrate me that my shopping missions seldom results in many purchases. At least I know when I buy something, it’s right for me, and my house.

See how Snosie is improvising with what she has rather than rushing out and settling for second best. Compromising usually leads to dissatisfaction later on and then next thing you know you will be out at the shops again trying to find the item that best suited your needs in the first place. Adding to supply and demand and clutter to your home.

Too often we rush into purchase things because we “need” them but either don’t give enough consideration to what that need is or whether we really even need them in the first place. There are very few non-consumable items in the home with the possible exception of a refrigerator, some cooking and eating utensils and somewhere to sleep that are essential. Just about everything else is a luxury and even those first few items could be borrowed or hired until we make an educated decision on what will best suit our needs. A home usually comes with the other three essentials, a stove, a toilet and bathing facilities.

There is no item too small or seemingly insignificant that this principle doesn’t apply to. With the endless variety of items on the market there are decisions to me made as to your requirements before you even approach the stores. Even potato peelers come in several different shapes, sizes and ergonomic design. Do you need one? No, a knife would do the job but if you use one as often as I do it might be considered essential to your minimum requirements. So why not take your time to get the one that best suits you. Improvise with the knife in the meantime.

Step one is to work out what your requirements are. For instance, say I use a toaster on a regular basis, enough to warrant its existence in my home. My toaster breaks down and I need a replacement. Perhaps I toast muffins and bagels as well as bread in my toaster so I will need one with wide slots. Perhaps I keep my muffins and bagels in the freezer so I will need a defrost option on my toaster. I would like a four popup toaster because I sometimes have guests but I would like it to have a power saving setting where it only heats two elements when I am only catering to myself. These are the requirement I need to be aware of before I even consider shopping for the replacement.

The second step is to investigate the choices out there in the market place. Believe it or not there are many other features on toasters that I haven’t mentioned which I may opt to include once I see what is out there but the replacement must have those first three features I mentioned or I will soon be disappointed.

Perhaps your third step should be to seek out some product reviews to make sure your short list of choices has a history of living up to what is expected of them. You can’t take the word of the manufacturer, the sales person trying to earn his store commission or advertising hype, that a product is a good one.

Of course this is not an exact science and there is still an inevitable failure rate to everything no matter how hard you try to get it right. But by at least putting careful thought into your choices, before rushing out there to enjoy the thrill of buying something new, you are increasing your chances of success. Improvise in the meantime and you never know you might realise you really don’t need the item after all.

Today’s Declutter Item

Here is an item I bought on a whim about five years ago. It’s one of those purchases I thought I would get good use out of but never did. I thought that if I had a convenient way to listen to my music I would listen to it more often. Wrong! Luckily my son gets great use out of iPods and when his died from excessive use he commandeered mine since I wasn’t using it. He later found out that there had been a recall for faulty batteries on his old one and he got it replaced and no longer uses mine. We sold it on ebay for with the case & charging cord for $76.00.

iPod bought on a whim

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. I’ve said this before. It drives my mother nuts that I haven’t put anything on the walls of my bedroom in the 3-1/2 years we have lived here. I told her that until I found what I wanted and could afford to buy/make it they were going to stay bare. The same thing came up with the area in my bathroom where the tub/shower was removed. This past weekend I finally found a cabinet for it. I got it free. ALl I need to do is paint it.

  2. That looks exactly like the iPod I very rarely use. I am contemplating putting it on Craigslist or eBay, along with the first Kindle I had. I bought myself a Kindle Fire when it came out (can you say rampant consumerism?), so no longer really have a need for the original. I thought it might be good if the kids need a book and forgot to bring it home (no excuse there anymore!), but really, how often does that happen?

    I am traveling to SC for a week to see my parents and am thinking I will use the iPod on the plane. If it turns out that I don’t, I think it will be a declutter item, along with the large dock that came with it.

    Thanks for the nudge, Colleen!


    • Let me know how the experiment went with the iPod Chelle. I often do such experiments with things I am not sure whether to keep of not. When you put your focus on the object it soon becomes apparent whether it is truly useful to you or not.

  3. Happy Australia Day, to Colleen and all our other Australian friends here!

    As for the subject of today’s post, I wish I had known thirty years ago what I now know about purchasing and decluttering. But – better late than never! Enough said 🙂

  4. I find that I have made some purchases without really figuring out what I wanted before I did. After living in our home, we realize the things we like and don’t like. We are keeping a list, so when we purchase a different home some day, we will know what we do and don’t like. I think it is a great idea to keep a list of what you need and like and are looking for so you will have it when you want to make a purchase and are not sure if it is what you really want. I usually never pay full price for any clothes. After Christmas, I found a 800 fill down light jacket that was exactly what I needed to put under my regular coat here in the winter since it gets really cold. My husband was with me, which happens very rarely, and he encouraged me to get it since it was exactly what I want and need to keep warm. I am so glad I did it. It will last me many years and is perfect. I wish I felt that way about all the things I have!

    • Spendwisemom, not being in a rush to make a purchase sure does pay off at times. I have a friend who I am sure finds my patient shopping style infuriating. But in the end I usually get exactly what I want/need. I like to get a bargain but even if I don’t at least I can be satisfied that I will get good value out of what I bought because I din’t settle for second best.

      As for knowing what you want in a home ~ Through years or experience renting I know exactly what I don’t want in a home that’s for sure.

  5. We’ve been improvising for 5+ years with a single bed/mattress and a single put-me-up kept together with our bed sheet. I can’t find what we need ( aplatform bed) on the open market for less than £400 so I am beginning to think of making us one.
    Freecycle etc not really an option as we want a ‘platform bed’ a mattress sits on,rather than a frame that contains a mattress ( and is therefore larger than a mattress) due to contraints of room size vs a mattress as large as possible.

    • Hi Katharine,
      do they not have ensemble bases in the UK or is that not to your liking. I used to have the kind of platform bed you speak of when I was a child I believe. Mine had drawers in it for storage. They always help dress fabrics as my mother was a dressmaker who worked privately from home. The fabrics were probably clutter really but we did utilise a beautiful guipure lace in my wedding dress. The old price tag stated she paid $13 for about a metre of it. At the time we used it, it would have cost about $100 a metre for a similar fabric. I suppose sometimes keeping clutter does pay off. Just don’t let that rumour get out.

      • I had to google ‘ensemble bases’ Colleen, to discover they are what we call Divan beds here in the UK.
        The trouble with a divan is that given the tight space we have, we need gaps between the legs to be able to walk round it properly , rather than infill. We already have independent drawers on wheels Ilove and finally, I have always found Divans skin crawlingly unattractive. Getting one would be a case of ‘settling’ rather than what I would love. It would also cost £100’s and I think I can make a bed with legs for £60 and then invest our budget in a better mattress.

        By platform bed, I mean an ordinary bed with legs, without header or footer boards, so the exact size of the mattress.

        Your secret about re keeping clutter sometimes paying off is safe with me 🙂

        • Katharine, I have alway found ensembles unattractive too. If you have one those you then need a bed ruffle to cover it up and I hate them, they are just fussy dust collectors.

          • We sing from the same hymn sheet Colleen:)

            • Here here Sister! 😆 It is funny because I always loved singing hymns you know Katharine. I don’t go to church these days but when I was a child I always preferred to go to the services that included hymns.

              • I play the flute at church and I prefer to play the old hymns rather than the modern stuff. They are much easier to play, have better more meaningful words IMHO…

                • My sister, one of my brothers and I used to sing hymns in the back of our car on long trips to our grandmothers when we were kids. Catholic school upbringing I guess. I love the flute by the way.

                  • I learnt in Year 4,5 and 6 at school, gave up in high school then took it up again about 6 months ago. I just had to freshen up my music sight reading skills, practice a lot and relearn a couple of finger placements I had forgotten…I can now basically play anything without practicing first now…when you learn young, you never forget it!

                    • That is what I loved about the compulsory music class my children had to take in year five in Washington State. My daughter continued for another three years and my son also did extra classes and taught himself to play guitar.

  6. This is so true. I keep telling myself I need a new desk (much of my work is done at home–prepping lessons and correcting papers) but I won’t settle for just ‘any desk’. It has to be exactly what I need if I’m going to replace my current, almost the right kind, desk.

  7. I’m glad I helped prompt a post. I did find the ‘right’ draining rack! The dishwasher still holds the BIG stuff…

    Happy Australia Day to you too!