Want Not Waste Not

I know the old saying is waste not want not, which basically means ~ Do not waste anything and you will always have enough. Unfortunately that can also mean ~ Save every little scrap so that you can use it in the future. This is how we end up with a house full of “I might be able to use that one day” kind of clutter.

What I am suggesting instead is don’t want for anything you don’t really need and you won’t be wasting your hard earned money which would be better spent on something else. That something else could be the mortgage that Cindy was talking about yesterday. When I think of some of the things I wasted my money on, that I later sold on ebay, I am reminded that instead of paying that little bit of money off the mortgage I could have paid the larger amount that I wasted on the item in the first place.

This may not seem necessary if you can easily meet your mortgage repayments but I can attest to the fact that not wanting for stuff is the best side effect I have discovered as a result of my decluttering mission. And why pay more interest on your mortgage than you really need to. That is just throwing money away.

You might be amazed at how much money you can save on a mortgage just buy paying half your monthly repayment every two weeks rather than paying monthly. In effect you end up paying one extra monthly payment a year which makes a big difference over the thirty year loan. Now imagine if instead of leaving enough in the coffers for buying stuff you don’t really need you set those bimonthly payment to be even slightly larger still.

Mortgages aside, I just want to say again that it really is possible to wean yourself off from the want of stuff. That isn’t to say you will never encounter again the desire to buy things or that you won’t buy the odd thing that you want but it is entirely possible to loose the desire for recreational shopping. It is also possible to strengthen your ability to make better decisions on the things you do consider purchasing.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter some eWaste. I have a compact fluorescent light globe, some used batteries ~ including some AAs, a D, a motorcycle battery and one from a laptop computer ~ and a DVD player that no longer works. I looked up my local government web site to find where to drop all these items off. They have very detailed information as to where all sorts of waste can be recycled that should not go to landfill. I will be taking care of that this week.

Eco Tip for the Day

Don’t leave tasks linger for so long that you have to redo them such as drying the washing or folding it. This can cause you to have to waste more electricity rewashing and ironing. Need I also mention your wasted time and wear and tear on your appliances.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

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

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  • Getting the stuff out of your home It has come to my attention, both through comments on my blog and through real life experience, that one of the issues people have with their clutter, once they finally decide to be rid of […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Marvelous reminders, Colleen! I am weaned. Every time I think I need something, I consider where it’s going to go, how I am going to maintain it and what ultimately will become of it. Then I put it back on the shelf and go play guitar. Meeting adjourned.

    • Hi CJ, I use the same thought pattern myself. That and just not look in the first place.

      • You mean to say that you too play the guitar? Just kidding. Thanks for you reply, Colleen;)

        • Ha ha CJ. 😆 Music ability seemed to slip by me which is odd because I have perfectly good fine motor skills and I’m not tone deaf. I think it actually has something to do with my very average reading skills. See and do is one thing, read and do at the same time is certainly not one of my strength.

          • You are in excellent company, as you know. Reading music may be the most difficult things I ever had to learn. And guitar music is dreadful with all those damn notes squeezed onto one staff. At least with the piano, they had the sense to split the notes up amongst two staves. And all the other useful skills in the world seem to have “slipped by me!” 😉

          • That all sounds like a foreign language to me CJ. But I do feel better because I have lots of those “useful skills” you mentioned. I could even install a windshield into my car if necessary. Not too many girls to claim that handy skill. I think though some of my other skill may come in more handy than that one.

  2. Colleen, when I think of all the money I put into scrapbook supplies that I later gave away I cringe. Yet, the money I would have received for those supplies waw not worth the time it would take to try to sell them. Unused supplies sell for pennies on the dollar once they are taken out of the store. Everyone thinks they should get something for nothing. Oh I wish I had used that money for other things–like savings or paying down the mortgage on the condo we had then. Now I know that I won’t be buying something unless I am going to use it right then or long term. There are very few things that I need. I have what I need and only when something wears out or can no longer be repared will I buy a replacement.

    • Hi Deb J, I also spent a lot of money on craft supplies that I have been slowing selling or giving away. Fortunately for me I bought at discounted US prices but are selling at Australian prices so not such a bad exchange. I have however also given a lot away for free which is a lot less bother. I don’t beat myself up over it but I have sure learned something from it and it won’t happen again.

    • Don’t beat yourself up Deb J 💙💙 . How could we be at this enlightened time in our lives without a few hiccups along the way.

  3. You know, I think I’ve actually gotten to the point where I don’t want to buy stuff. It’s not that I never do… sometimes you need things. But in general It makes me tired to think about. I think I’ve finally figured out that while buying things might be kinda fun, owning things is usually a huge pain in the gluteus booteus! You have to find a place for it, you have to clean it, you have to learn how to use it, you have to deal with it when it doesn’t function properly, and then eventually you have to figure out what to do with the darned thing when you don’t want or need it anymore… oy vay!

    And speaking of the mortgage thing… I’ve got 5 more months to go and I’ll be mortgage free! Woo Hoo! I have my payments automatically deducted from my bank account and my company let me set it up so extra principal was automatically paid each month. I made some big lump sum principal payments too (my parents have been giving me mortgage money in lieu of gifts for years.) I’m SOOOOOO excited! It almost feels as exciting as when I quit my job to work at home. It’s like a whole new level of freedom awaits!

    • Hi EcoCatLady, I so agree with your first paragraph and I congratulate you on your second. Both for finding a way to work from home and for paying off your mortgage early. I particularly love that you were clever enough and your parents willing to have them give you money for the mortgage in lieu of gifts. Brilliant.

      I am pleased to say that using the strategies I mentioned in the blog we owe nothing on the home we own. We may decide to go for a third time around and maybe even live in the next one. Who knows.

      • Thanks for the vote of confidence. I think that mortgage payments instead of gifts was one of the best things I’ve ever come up with. It just solved soooo many problems at once. No more useless gifts that I didn’t really want or need but have to politely accept, and my parents get the joy of giving me something that I really, REALLY do want!

    • Can I borrow one of your incontinent cats for my daughter’s room please Eco Cat Lady? I think that her floordrobe would be gone very quickly 😜.
      I often joke with Colleen about how a dog or cat would be something that would test our children’s housekeeping skills. I know it tests mine!!

      • Ha! Well, you can borrow him if you’re willing to pay his vet bills and cram pills down his throat several times a day! 🙂 Actually, he just finished a round of a new kind of antibiotic and hasn’t peed outside of the box in 4 days! Woo Hoo!

        Seriously though, it’s been a real lesson in the psychology of personal change. Picking things up and putting them away is something I’ve struggled with for years, but the change was remarkably easy once I had the proper motivation. Sorta like how I struggled with various eating issues for years until I got diagnosed with food allergies. Suddenly the penalty for eating the wrong thing was not just fear that I might not be able to fit into my skinny jeans, but the very real threat that my throat could close and I could die. Ahhhh, perspective!

        • 💛 My daughter is heading to America in August for a holiday . They are doing a bit of a road trip across the US and the touristy stuff of course. I will tell her to collect the feline while she is there 😜.

    • EcoCatLady – well done, congratulations! Roll on November!

      • Thanks so much! 2014 is shaping up to be a year of financial freedom for me. With the combination of the mortgage disappearing and our new healthcare law taking effect, my expenses should drop by about 30%. Here’s hoping nothing unforeseen happens! (knock on formica!)

  4. Colleen, yes, yes, yes! I finally have this through my thick skull. I don’t “go shopping” anymore unless I need something for someone else. I rarely “need” anything myself. When I need something – like the sneakers I just bought because I blew them out walking five miles a day – I get in, get out, and enjoy the fact that I will be using the item I purchased. Otherwise, I don’t buy it! It’s such a light and lovely feeling! Thank you for continuing to keep us honest!

    • Good for you Tammy R, you are more proof that it is possible. We are so conditioned to shop these days. Not only do I enjoy the fact that I don’t care to shop, I love that I am bucking the system that is trying to jam it down our throats 24/7.

  5. I completely agree with all the above comments.

    I am also a quilter, and make a lot, 95% for charity, but I hardly buy fabric now. Once in a blue moon I will buy a sheet from an op shop for backings or a couple of shirts (best deal ever!). Although I have far less fabric than any of my quilting friends, I’m sure I will be able to make at least ten more quilts! I do have to buy batting but get the cheapest. Also I do get given some by our club as I make so much for the community.

    I have completely gone off “browsing” in the shops, no enjoyment there at all!

    • Good for you Janetta, how lovely to combine a hobby you enjoy and giving generously to charity. I do that on a smaller scale by repairing the broken jewellery that comes into the thrift shop where I volunteer but I could also implement this in other ways. My husband suggested as much last night. I will give it some serious thought.

    • Hi Janetta! Just wanted to say I probably could have written your comment myself. I started quilting about 4 years ago, rather quickly I realized that although quilts are lovely, I have no need for dozens of quilts in my house and I have no children or grandchildren to make them for. Just started making quilts for charity and now enjoy the hobby much more. I’m also receiving lots of donated fabric, which is great – except that I have to store it before it gets used. I can see I need to come up with a better storage system 🙂

    • Congratulations Janetta! There was a woman I used to work with who was really into knitting and weaving. She was an “empty nester” – her children were grown and it was just her. So when she told me that she was selling her house and moving, I assumed that she was downsizing. But no! It turned out that she was buying a BIGGER house because she needed more room to store her massive collection of yarn, looms, wool, etc! Oy Vay! I mean there was no way she could possibly use all the yarn that she currently owned, let alone more! It just made me so sad.

  6. Hi Colleen! In the last 2 years I made big buys that did not lighten up my money troubles. However as it was needed things, that will make all the difference in the future. So I am in a transitional phase: I have stopped buying things and have been accessing carefully every little thing I buy. And I have seen that debts are decreasing. I have juts to be patient (not one of my qualities 😀 ) and in a couple of years things will be under control and our savings will enable us to pay less interest.

    • Hi Andréia, sometimes big purchases are unavoidable and that often seems to happen when you least can afford it. When hubby and I embarked on our first home load experience, at a whopping 17% interest rate after the last WWF in ’89, we kept having car trouble. We certainly didn’t need that at the time as I had quit working to have a baby with no intention to return. We struggled on, as you say that requires patients, but we got their in the end. We paid off the thirty year loan in about fifteen years and then bought another investment property. So it certainly is possible. I am sure you can do it to as you are a very smart lady.

  7. Loved this post Colleen. In the past year of so I have completely lost interest in shopping, and I used to be a major recreational shopper! One of the biggest reasons I no longer enjoy shopping is because I now realize what a pain it is to get rid of items when I no longer want/need them. I’ve been on a big purging spree the last 12 months – as others have stated, I sometimes sell things, often donate them and on occassion have to jump through hoops to get rid of things in an ecologically sound way. Things like flourescent bulbs, old paint, batteries etc. All this takes a significant amount of time (oh yeah, also having to work around hubby’s protests to some of the things I want to clear out). Now, I look at every single item I consider buying with a very critical eye – is the small amount of pleasure in purchasing the item going to make up for how hard it will be to dispose of at a later date? Most of the time the answer is no!

    • Hi Barbara, great comment. I read it too late to add to this week’s favourite but I will set it aside for next week for sure. I am so pleased for you that you no longer are a recreational shopper. I wondered, do you miss it at all or are you completely reformed. I not only don’t miss it but rejoice in the freedom from it and wonder why I ever did it in the first place. I have probably replaced it with going out with friends for coffee more often but give me a social event over clutter any day.

      • Colleen, I don’t miss shopping at all, I do my best to avoid malls, department stores, and the like. I enjoy meeting friends for coffee or lunch, and, I get a lot of satisfaction out of volunteer work.

      • I was only saying to my friend the other day how little we buy compared to a lot of our friends. We are both crafters and when we go to craft show we only buy what we really need and know that we will use a lot. this is because of the above reason that Barbara gave you know that at some point you will have to get rid of it and we like her like to do it Greenly.

        • Hi Denise, I have bought many a thing at craft shows that I wanted and did use a lot but later still became clutter. Even the best laid plans can go awry. I also bought things on impulse that were hardly ever used and I guess that is what you are managing to avoid. Good for you.

  8. Absolutely spot on! It’s definitely a mind set. Last year I gave up buying anything that we didn’t actually need for Lent. It was a painful experience and I didn’t enjoy it. Now I know why. Now we have had a full and ongoing declutter and I have been appalled by the stuff on which we have wasted time, energy and money. Seeing it all there in one place (it took up a whole room, a very large room) was a sobering moment. That was what I needed to break my habit of buying stuff I didn’t need. Like the dieter who drops 3 dress sizes and says never again will I let myself go I looked at that stuff and said never again will I let anything into my house unless we need and/or love it’s beauty.

    I spent a whole day wandering round Glasgow revisiting old haunts and bought precisely one pair of second hand (and unworn) green suede shoes to replace my black suede shoes that have fallen apart. They cost me £15 (I’m guessing original price around £300) and they gave me the wooden shoe trees with the shoes. I enjoyed going in and out of the shops and looking at lovely things from pans to dresses. But I didn’t want to take them home with me. It was a bit like going to a museum!

    • Gillie, you’ve hit the nail on the head. I’ve spent the last few years, telling myself that all shops are just like museums. I can go in and admire the designs and the colours. I can imagine the item in my home. I can really have the feelings of enjoying the item but I don’t buy it ( saving money) and I don’t take it home ( saving space). When I do conciously choose to be something from need, it is a really satisfying experience that lasts much longer than what feels like the “grab and go” culture. There’s a department store near where I work and if I’m feeling a bit jaded, I go in for a wallow in colour and shape and don’t buy anything. Maybe I should give them a entry fee donation just so they stay in business!

    • Hi Gillie, don’t you just love it when those ah ha moments arise that shock you into doing something that you should have had enough common sense to do in the first place. I have to admit that it wasn’t only my decluttering that inspired me to stop shopping it was the high prices I had to pay for things here in Australia compared to when we lived in the US. Funny thing is though that since Australia has fared so well during the world financial crisis our prices have dropped considerably here and sales discounts have increased. Nevertheless they aren’t going to lure me in because I like not shopping so much that I am never going back to that behaviour.

      And Like you and Sally, I can also wander through the shops and enjoy the spectacle, the beauty and design of things without having the desire to take them home. Sometimes I think antique shops ought to charge me an admission fee. 😆

    • Hi Gillie, I got all excited there at the mention of Glasgow and thought there might be a fellow 365er nearby, then when I read your blog I realised you’re a bit further away, nice blog btw, and we share a few interests too – I’m off on a permaculture design course next week 🙂

      • Hi Fruitcake, I many be visiting Glasgow myself this September. I am not sure, I know we are going Edinburgh. I will find out from my husband. He is organising the whole trip and I am going along for the ride. 😉

  9. That waste not want not mantra was driven into me as a child.
    As an adult that has chosen to try to live with less consumption, the mantra has a whole new meaning. Instead of hanging onto every bit or piece, it means giving a useful thing to someone that can actually use it NOW so it isn’t wasting it’s potential. And the IDEAL way to reduce waste is to bring less into my life in the first place.
    Less square footage wastes less energy for heat and maintenance.
    Less driving wastes less fuel.
    Less shopping wastes less resources on every level.
    Buying used (or borrowing when possible) also wastes less resources.

  10. I so agree with you Colleen. I look at nearly everything I buy with the view “will I have to declutter this later”? Meaning, do I really, really want and need this item. If the answer is “yes” that’s fine, but most of the time it’s “nah, not really.”

  11. I like your play on the words of the original expression. Very creative.

    I want very little now. I use money as a trade for time off from chasing dollars. the more I cut back save, the less I have to work. Last term I cut back to four days a week, and this term I am down to three. It means I have more time to spend at home with my love, helping her to pursue her dreams and me to pursue mine.