Mindfully Acquiring

Secondhand fountain pen (FPQuest - now gone), small business stickers (my sisters' at 3YearsApart!), small business planner (Sterling Ink), small business TN cover (ShopJot - now closed), secondhand secretary desk (nice lady on Nextdoor), lit by a thrifted lamp (ReStore).  

Confession: I bought a lot during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales. I attempted to make sure they were real sales (not from prices raised 3 months ago) and to try to get products from artists, local businesses, or even secondhand. The mass majority are gifts for loved ones. Luckily, most things are from peoples' wish lists, so I know they want it. 

But I still got stuff. Did you make many purchases this holiday season?

Honestly, I love the thrill of getting something new! The anticipation for the happy mail, the unboxing experience, the caressing of all my new favorite things. If we don't do it too often, it makes it all the sweeter, no?

I mean, on this blog, we're mainly focused on trying to use the stuff you already have and love, but what about gaining shiny new things? It's inevitable!

When it comes to acquiring something new for myself, I'm a tad stricter. Generally, I ask, "Do I really need this?" and if yes, proceed to consider two more criteria: environmental impact and financial impact.


This one is fairly straight forward. Mostly it's concerned with attempting to cause the least amount of environmental impact, while still getting what I want, at a financial cost that I'm comfortable with. 

- If I already have something that can serve the same purpose, use that. 

- If I don't have it, then get it secondhand, since extending the life of something that has already been produced is great. This is only if it's reasonable to get it secondhand in terms of safety or price.

- If I must buy new, consider more eco-friendly options. It's surprisingly difficult with stationery and art supplies (can be toxic and/or expire), mostly because manufacturing quality isn't quite there yet. Researching past the greenwashing can also be confusing. Still, we do our best.

Because the options for the last one are few, I try to stick with the first two as much as I can. But I'm not afraid of buying new, especially when supporting small businesses. 

Caveat: Although I do feel that everything we do has an effect, the power to affect real, substantial change lies with largest producers. Vote with your money!


I grew up in a household that didn't have money for a good number of years before things got a little better. I never felt like I was lacking in anything, but I did develop money mindsets that are unhealthy. One of my parents bought only discounted things and hoarded sale items whether we could feasibly use it all or not. It was a very scarcity-based mindset, which led to waste as perishables that weren't used were thrown away and other items could never be gotten rid of - “just in case.” These practices are good only up to a certain extent, and we were way past that point.

At the same time, my other parent attempted to beat what I later learned is commonly known as the Sam Vimes 'Boots' theory - usually by buying higher priced, high-quality goods that don't need to be replaced as often. But are we falling for the marketing of a brand name? Is it just a high price or is the quality really truly better? Whether or not things were actually of higher quality is debatable and could only be proven with use and time. This is also a losing strategy if you have to go into debt to do it.

Questions to consider:

- What do you already have? Take stock - it’s likely more than you think. I have more watercolor paints than I thought and likely more stickers than I could use in a lifetime. I need only to look at the full cart next to my desk whenever I'm tempted to buy more.

- Financial impact. Is it worth it? Is that "grail pen" really that much better than your other options? As my partner logically asked me during a pen sale, "What does this pen do that your other ones don't?"

- True Want vs Fear-based Marketing (limited time items, sales, etc.). Were you looking for this type of product before it was on sale? Will you have buyer's remorse?

- Quality vs Quantity depends on use case. Children scribbling in notebooks? Definitely quantity. For quality, remember the law of diminishing returns. You don't want to get bad paper for watercolor or fountain pen ink - it's too much of a pain to work with. But the highest quality is very expensive per sheet and can induce fear of wasting it. There's a middle ground there. So, what's the optimal level? 

- Think of environmental impact, but don’t feel guilty about what you already have.

- Don’t fret about what people give you. I recognize that the love language of many people is through the giving of gifts. We can encourage things one way or the other, but ultimately, people can give what they want. I think the only way to accept a gift is graciously, it is (usually) given with love, after all. So, feel the love! If it doesn't fit into your life, remove it afterwards.

- Consider secondhand. When thrifting online or in-person, first check quality for dealbreakers or obtain from a trusted source, but if someone is letting go of something that has served its purpose for them. Maybe it can have a second life with you? 

- Remember that there's value in supporting artists and local small businesses. There's a small local grocery store chain near me that's similar in value to Whole Foods. They're both fairly pricey. However, when necessary and given the opportunity between the two, I generally choose the smaller, local chain. They advertise in my town's tiny newspaper, donate to the library, and sponsor local events. In short, they give back to my community. I can only wish for Whole Foods' (aka Amazon's) philanthropic efforts (elsewhere) to be as good. And in terms of buying from artists, you're supporting someone's creative work. Their dream, even. As a co-owner in a small sticker business with my sisters, 3 Years Apart, I know how happy we get whenever an order comes in. Little happy dances are not uncommon!

- Take care of what you do have. Treat it with respect and make sure it does its job. (They’re all tools after all.) If you learn what you love and love what you have, then you’ll have a good idea of what you want to add, or if it’s enough.

- Finally, if you’re sure you’ll be acquiring something new, remember It’s okay to get rid of something old that you don’t love. Maybe, give it a second life with someone else. Make room for things you think you’ll cherish. 

Luckily, this list excludes most purchases pretty quickly. (Woo! Save money!) Personally, I'm still working on taking the above to heart myself. 

What do you think of before deciding to get something new?


With Love,