On Using My Own Stuff, Like Seriously

On Using My Own Stuff, Like Seriously

As a consequence of my Estonian Designer Project*, the trip to Australia and some very unfortunate and unforeseeable expenses/lack of planned revenue, my financial situation is worse than it has been for years. It’s rather embarrassing, really, I’m no longer a teenager and should plan my finances better, being bankrupt doesn’t quite have the same boho glamour now as it did when I was a student. Fortunately, I do have a family and a job (although technically I will not have one for two weeks), so this too shall pass and it’s not what I wanted to talk about anyway. The money-problem just lends some urgency to the thing I wanted to talk about.

I’m not one of those people who put their beautiful new party dress/nice china/lovely bed linen away to await some worthy occasion that inevitably never arrives. I open my stuff before I get home from the shop. I wear my silk dress to bed. I always use my best skincare first. But the thing is that I have a lot of stuff and I forget what I own, I get distracted by shiny new things and therefore have perfumes I haven’t worn for two years or earrings I’d completely forgotten existed.

Now, I am painfully aware that this is such a First World Problem to have. I know that even here, in the wealthy heart of Europe, there are people who don’t have enough to eat or have no home. “Oh, I’ve got so many unburnt Cire Trudon candles around the house!” doesn’t really qualify as a problem in that context, obviously. Still, I think the fact that we (I cannot be alone in this, can I?) get pleasure from acquiring things rather than using them is worrying on many levels** – it’s clearly bad news for our psyche, for the environment and our societies’ value system in general.

Anyway, whatever you think of my problem, this is the problem I’ve got. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time and have slowly started to deal with the issue. The blog doesn’t help, as it motivates one to get new things all the time. That said, I cannot only blame the blog, as I have the same tendencies in areas that aren’t affected by blogging (or at least not much). Plus I can always blog differently, it doesn’t have to be about new stuff all the time.

This is where my current bankruptcy starts to look like providence. I was planning to cut down new buys and shop my own stash in the new year anyway, but there’s nothing like actual absence of funds to turn this plan into a reality. I don’t need anything at the moment. I’ve got enough clothes, books, skincare, makeup, perfume and interesting condiments to last me months, if not years.*** The challenge is to get excited about that stuff again.

I don’t buy things because I’m a hoarder or seriously think I need all of this to be a worthy member of the society. I acquire things because they offer new possibilities – a new look, a new story, a new flavour. I’m enthusiastic and I’m creative and physical objects are stimulating, especially if they are beautiful and/or interesting. I’m also fickle and impatient and often get tired of things/ideas/looks quickly. But there are ways to be excited without buying new stuff all the time (no shit, Sherlock), it just requires more effort than getting a new thingy-bob.

So I’m coming up with little projects to motivate myself and keep things interesting. I will wear a different perfume every day for a month. I will find new ways to style my clothes. I will put all my foundations to the test to find out which ones I like best. I will read the books I already own. I will sort and declutter and give stuff away (I really, really enjoy organising, if I have time).

I will also document some of it here or on Instagram and maybe on Twitter, too (haven’t been there for ages, but for some reason feel an urge now). If you have helpful suggestions or just want to tell me I’m a privileged bitch, please don’t hold back.

*This is something I didn’t really cover on the blog, as it was directly work-related. In a nutshell, I wore only Estonian designers when chairing press conferences during the Estonian Presidency of the EU.
**There is of course the question whether we should get pleasure from things at all, but this is a whole philosophical issue in itself that I have no space nor the intellectual capacity to tackle here. My own answer tends to be something like: yes, it’s fine, as long as you don’t get too carried away.
***I might need a warm scarf (I lost mine when travelling) if the weather stays as it is, but this is pretty much it.


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  1. 1

    I live that pic though. Seductive clutter goals AF (and yes; seductive clutter is a known concept although I cannot remember roght now where I read about, point is, it is not something I made up).

    • 2

      It could be a concept even if you made it up. I like the sound of it. I just have enough of seductive clutter already, don’t need to invest in it for the moment 🙂

  2. 5

    What a great image to complement the post – I can see your reflection on one of the items. You cast yourself on your stuff as they do on you. Selfie and selfishness and shelf-life and what not… 🙂

  3. 7

    Spending too much money buying stuff while already having too much stuff – yep, this has been a concern of mine for a while, and I’m becoming deeply embarrassed for reasons of waste/ privilege/ environment/ cashflow. I also wonder what hobbies (seriously! it takes up hours) I had before I began to spend quite so much of my free time browsing, and then shopping. I will be very interested to see how you get on – I find it so easy to buy things, because I love the newness, but why do I have to own them? Can’t looking be enough? So, how about some thoughts on not buying things you thought you wanted, from this perspective? Or any perspective really. As brusque or as philosophical as you like!

    P.S. about the Tom Fords – have tried them all again since, and I swear it was something in the bread that make the perfume smell so good…

    • 8

      I think some reflection on how I’m getting on without buying (that many) things is in order in any case – whether I’m successful or not. And yes, all that browsing… I can always justify it with “doing research for the blog”, but I could and should cut back, without losing much in terms of being informed. I’ll also be phoneless for two weeks, so this is a good time to put some Internet rules in place, too. The only reason my Internet-surfing habit isn’t too bad is that I know that this is time I could spend reading. That disciplines me a lot.

      PS Hahahahaa! Well, one thing less to buy, right? Small mercies.

  4. 9

    While I agree with everything you said, I wish your financial hurdles go away soon – and then you’ll be able to practice the restraint in buying new stuff because you decided it was right and not because you cannot afford it (though not buying things when you cannot afford them is a difficult concept to many people with access to credit – so I’ll applaud your success even based on necessity).
    I’m currently trying to figure out how to wear more of my favorite perfumes: I already stopped testing or wearing perfumes from samples during the work week several years ago but with my current job I have to be mindful of which perfumes and in which doses I can wear to the office – so all of my beloved Amouages and other “full-body” perfumes that I tend to buy do not get much wear. And since I still want to keep buying new perfumes at least once in a while, I need to find more occasions to wear those that I have already more.

    • 10

      Of course, the idea is not to be more discipined only because/when I’m broke, sorry if that didn’t come across in the post. I would have done it anyway (and already have, in some areas),it’s just that not having the money readily available not only makes it more inevitable, but also gives me an additional “kick” and focuses the mind. I know campaigns can be dangerous, what we need is lasting change, but I have found that this project-based approach can work very well for me. I will not sustain it forever, but it helps to break old habits and create new ones and change perspective. Btw, do you wear perfume to bed? I didn’t for years, and then discovered I liked it. I don’t always remember to do it, but it can double the number of perfumes you wear with very little effort.

      • 11

        No-no, you were clear in your intentions, what I meant is that, in my opinion, you’ll feel better accomplishing your goal when you know that you do not HAVE to do it but do it because you WANT to.
        I have the whole category “sleep scents” among perfumes I have (usually, decants or bigger samples – I don’t buy perfumes that I do not plan to wear during the day), but I do not always go with one of them. In general, I enjoy smelling the perfume I wore earlier when I go to bed or wake up during the night/in the morning. But since I usually spend my evenings just testing perfumes (on my wrists), I do not re-apply my day time perfume and do not wear anything else – unless I had a night out and actually wore perfume. I need to look into wearing more perfumes to bed – thank you for the reminder!

        • 12

          Yes, absolutely, I would like to attribute it all to my mental dicipline, iron will and moral/environmental values!

  5. 13

    Great post. 🦄 I feel similarly about wanting to enjoy what I have rather than constantly seeking out more. I admire both your resolve and your honesty, and I’m eager to join you in some of these little projects. I love the idea of wearing a different perfume each day and finding new ways to style the clothes I already have. I’m looking forward to hearing more from you about how it feels going forward and what new insights emerge. 🦄🌟

    • 14

      Thank you! If you’d like to follow my #30daysofperfume, then you can do it on Twitter: I’m @lifecoldclimate. Would be great fun if you joined me in this little scented adventure.

  6. 15

    This resonated hugely! January sends all of us into a state of enforced frugality , and we should perhaps choose to see this as a blessing rather than a curse. I am definitely on board with your suggestion of shopping my own ( bulging) perfume closet – whilst finding nice new loving homes for the bottles gathering dust at the back…. Changing topic slightly, I just discovered the podcast Fat Mascara and am enjoying it hugely. Wondered if you had come across it? I recommend. If we can’t buy anything from the beauty world, at least we can listen to lively discussion of it!

    • 16

      It is of course no fun if you are seriously in financial difficulties or a single mom raising three kids. But my pain is all self-inflicted and some frugality can only do me good. The perfume project will be in Twitter, so join me if you like!

      I have not listenedd to Fat Mascara, but someone else just mentind it favourably, so clearly something is in the air. Have followed them on Instagram now 🙂

  7. 17

    Excellent and timely post, Ykkina. I faced my spending habit because of temporarily straitened circumstances after paying for a new car and realising that both the savings and current accounts were, ummm, thin. In fact, skeletal, and if they were to be replenished, I had to change my little ways. So, common sense made me stop buying, and actually, I’ve found it curiously liberating because I thought something up that is working for me, at least thus far. So, the thing is, I know I’m deeply shallow and a flibbertigibbert, and I know my total no-buy won’t last. I’m not even convinced it should. I’m old enough (65) that I dread looking like a nana, so at work I want to be, not fashionable, but a bit stylish. A bit different. I don’t live to shop, but I do enjoy my things, especially the new things that let me find novelty in the old things. I’m trying a system: by agreement with myself (my husband doesn’t care what I do with money) I can freely frivol 10% of my net salary. That covers perfumes, non-essential clothes (??? I don’t even know what I mean by that), jewellery (I’d have to save up for anything decent) and makeup. Skincare doesn’t count as a frivol. It’s as essential as cat care or petrol or food, and comes out of the current account.

    Goodness knows if this will work long term, but maybe. In the last month I’ve shown myself that I can do a complete no-buy, so I should be able to live within these new boundaries easily. There’s a philosophical component to my new regime, for sure, but it would be untrue to claim that my new “way” is primarily about being a better person. Truthfully, it’s mainly pragmatic, but I’m not going to think too hard about it. I will just be very interested to see if it works.

    • 18

      I can tell you right now that I a total buying-ban would not last in my case either, epecially if it covers all “frivolous” categories (although like you, I know a month-long no-buy is not a problem). I will probably buy a couple of things even this month, there are always situations one cannot foresee. I will always buy books and clothes and skincare and perfume, I’m just looking for more reasonable strategies. Yours actually sounds very reasonable to me. I’m also completely with you on enjoying life/things and looking they way you want to look. I will always want to play with clothes and invent new looks. But I will try to find more ways to do so that don’t require buying new stuff.

      • 19

        Yes, my system sounds reasonable, but it comes with its own tiny but exercising dilemmas. For instance, do tickets to the ballet count as frivols, or should they be exempt the frivol label because they are “high culture”? Should a bistro-and-movie night with my team be a frivol because the movie is only a blockbuster and won’t improve my mind, or, in fact, is not anything sociable a necessity? And in the makeup area, If I’m replacing a lipstick that I’ve used right down to the rim, and totally love and cannot seem to manage without, must it be a frivol? Isn’t it actually a necessity?

        You can see from these questions (and there are gazillions of other examples) that I am defining the terms of the 10% “rule” in a somewhat elastic manner. On the other hand, it has already had the merit of making me stop and ask how much I really want something if it’s going to burn through my frivol money in one hit. Just today I turned away from the prettiest jacket by a favourite designer, $90 off the full price, because I want something else even more. Before the rule I would certainly have bought both.

        It’s all silly, really, but it’s fun, and it keeps me in dialogue with myself. I think the dialogue is the important thing.

        • 20

          Oooh, so many questions! In general, I think things that you feel you’re not doing enough of (in my case for example theatre and proper cinema), should not be restricted. And things you need to be more disciplined about (for whatever reason) could be covered by the 10%.

  8. 21

    I have noticed that the more money I earn, the less i want to give it away (well, easily at least!). And I especially-especially don’t want to spend it on cheap stuff, that I know won’t last me very long (clothing and shoes). Borderline penny-pincher, I guess 🙂 But I’m honestly tired of clothing items, that are pretty much ready to be thrown away after 2 washes or shoes that fall apart merely by mention of chance of rain on the forecast.

    The work situation has made me postpone my need for decluttering for about a year now, but I have, too, started up with the heavy task drawer by drawer and shelf by shelf. With a short vacation soon ahead I’m looking forward to turning my house upside down and get rid of everything I haven’t laid my hands upon for more than a year. Clutter needs to go! Eventhough sometimes it hurts just a little bit.

    • 22

      Hah, I also find that I get frustrated with stuff that is not good quality or is badly designed. Being very demanding when planning my acquisitions is in fact one of my best strategies to stay disciplined with my spending🙂 I generally don’t enjoy cleaning or tidying up, but big decluttering projects are satisfying.

  9. 23

    You got me with CT lipsticks… I just feel you. How can they be resisted? The vintage selection…(out of this world). Promised to limit my purchases, but hard to keep it. Maybe I need to use the same strategy as I did couple of years ago, when I promised not to buy any clothes for a year. My closets were (still are and even more) full of so many good quality pretty dresses (clearly to a level of obsession). But I knew I couldnt manage without quick relapse, so to make myself accountable I told about my challenge to two of my best friends. We made an agreement that when I wanted to buy something I had to get a licence from both of them. It ended up a very effective strategy. I bought only one coat and two pairs of sneakers the entire year. Tho they had let me buy only one needs-based pair, so I got punished for the additional nice-to-have pair. As a punishment they ordered me a pair of sweatpants that I really hated and made me wear them on a business dinner… yikes. Luckily it was quite an informal dinner, but no more misconduct the rest of the year :-D. Now that made me thinking, maybe I should consider repeating…

    • 24

      Hahahahaa, what an amazing strategy. And clearly incredibly effective, I would never be able to stick with as few purchases as you did. I’d just wear those sweatpants with pride…Which CT lipsticks are your favourites?

      • 25

        I just love love love the Confession from the Archive collection. I would say that it is my all time favorite. Just so utterly gorgeous. I hope CT would add this to the regular line. I definitely would want to keep using that. Also the other ones in the collection are pretty and suit my skin tone, but not even close to the Confession. English Beauty comes quite close, but Confession has this miraculous feature that tho being a nude it just brightens my face and even without wearing any makeup. The other one I adore and use very often is Very Victoria, taupe matte nude, which looks very sophisticated. As you may have gathered by now… nudes are my thing, but the perfect ones are not easy to find, but all the CT nudes I have ordered without prior testing are all wearable. I have been long eyeing on the dark ones, but cannot choose as everything outside nudes are out of my comfort zone. Any suggestions?

        • 26

          Have just googled them all and they look lovely – I have in fact been contemplating Very Victoria for a while. If you want to branch out, but don’t want to go very deep or dark, I ADORE Amazing Grace. It’s one of those in-between shades, like a rosy coral. I think it works on many people and creates impact without being too loud. I love it for work, but it’s great for something fancier as well. And Red Carpet Red is a beautiful classic red. It’s very red, though🙂

  10. 27

    I personally find going through old stuff exciting! True enough, there is a thrill in waiting for the delivery of new skincare, but there is a different one to appreciating the things that you already have, like a re-discovered treasure. You just need to live through your heritage for a little while- even if it is not that old. It might be silly, but when I go through ”using my own stuff” phase, I think I just try to channel my inner lady Mary Crawley and say: “Your lot buys it, my lot inherits it.” So I stick with my ”inherited” stuff and the thin months pass.

    But seriously now, I found an old pre-war sewing machine in the basement and it is one of the most striking objects in my bedroom. The amount of cast iron used for the legs alone, the intricacy of the ornaments, the decorative painting on the wooden covers bring me much more joy than any new one would. And it still works – what a slap to the face of consummerist culture!

    • 28

      I do find going through my own stuff exciting as well – I mean, there was a reason why I bought it and in most cases, that reason is still valid. Often, in fact, the stuff I already own IS BETTER than whatever I’m considering buying. So for the moment, I’m quite happy with my “old” things. And I absolutely agree, old sewing machines are beautiful, my grandmother had one as well.

  11. 29

    I am very late in commenting, but I enjoyed this post and the discussion following it very much. I know it sounds strange to say one enjoys reading about another’s struggles, and I hope things get better for you on all fronts very soon! But it’s just that similarities (and even differences) of thoughts on this same subject are stimulating, reassuring and a little bit inspirational/aspirational too.
    Best of luck! I know a very stylish lady who picks a capsule or a set of things for a month, then another set, etc. She has quite a bit of fun picking out the ‘capsules’ (and it reads almost like she’s planning for a vacation and what to take with her). And she also keeps it fun for herself by doing a mini photo-shoot of the best of each capsule.
    For myself, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the whole ‘communist/socialist attitude’ to things and the ‘modern consumerist capitalist’ attitude to things, since I have transitioned from one extreme to the other in my life. Somehow they each (as well as the transition) brought their own joys and their own pains, and I feel like I haven’t quite figured out a good balance. I yearn for the days when I fixed things instead of replacing them, yet I also hunger for the creature comforts of ‘now I actually have a really good coat’, if that makes sense.

    • 30

      Thank you for such a lovely, insightful comment! And one can never be late here, it’s not a news outlet, all thoughts are very welcome, no matter when they arrive. I also agree with reading about “struggles”, sometimes it can be more useful and interesting than reading about the perfect wardrobe or the ultimate organisation system. Partly, I guess, because it feels more real and also because I find it fascinating when people are trying to figure things out, to see what works for them.

      Your comment on the socialist/consumerist attitude really resonated with me. I grew up during the soviet times and remember it enough and maybe that’s why I’m still suspicious of things/consumption to a certain extent, while also yearning for things and experiences (travelling especially) I didn’t have as a child and teenager. Then again, I guess part of it is also generational, it’s not just a soviet thing that peoole made do with less and had to mend and reuse and not waste stuff. In my case, I think it’s also my personality that for some reason goes from excess to austrity at regular intervals and it’s something I’m learning to manage better.

      Where are you from, if you don’t mind me asking?

  12. 31

    That is a very good point – it is a generational thing as well. And we, I feel, straddle two generations with very different attitudes to consumption, etc.

    I lived till about the age of ten in the USSR, then moved to Singapore (I’m tigerprawn on IG). Talk about a complete change of perspective 🙂 I think the whole expetinece of completely one’s roots behind, abandoning things also had something to do with how I cling to some possessions now. We’ll see how I change as I ‘grow up’ (ha! never admitting to adulthood if I can help it).

    • 32

      Sorry for such a late reply, I’ve been down with a virus and therefore neglecting the blog and social media. It must have been a massive change indeed, to move to Singapore. Where are you from, originally, if you don’t mind me asking? I guess we are all products of the big structural forces and our oun circumstances (and temperaments and character, of course), it’s interesting to see how these things play out

      And thank you for putting two and two together for me, it can be quite weird on social media when you don’t really know who you’re talking to. In some cases, it turns out I know people in real life, but could not tell from their user name or account it was them…

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