This is a post by Rebecca Criddle, mom of one and 8/9 and lover of wood toys.
Last year I was living with my husband, 4-year-old, nine months pregnant with my second child in a 25’ by 8’ 1954 vintage travel trailer. Many factors influenced our decision to live tiny. I think the biggest was our search for simplicity. Among many reasons the tiny house movement has gained such momentum has been a response to a culture of consumerism which seems to pervade our society and is often focused on obtaining and owning MORE. I think many people have discovered a freedom with minimalism that cut the shackles of debt and a seemingly insatiable need to buy and own more. In living small for over a year and a half I realized limitations that I had previously not experienced. I would have to consider every purchase I made carefully; if I bought a $10 shirt I will have to get rid of a shirt I already owned because there was literally no room for it.
All these experiences made me evaluate my personal shopping habits and the impact of those choices long term. As I walk through stores and leave without all the extras that used to find my way into my cart I feel empowered. I am living for tomorrow and working toward goals to eradicate debt and spend money on experiences that my family will remember and grow from. Living simply has shifted my thinking and consumer habits so dramatically, I have not only changed how much but WHAT and WHERE I buy things. Before, I would buy products that were low priced and low quality. Living tiny is not for everyone, but I believe everyone can benefit from taking the time to simplify and make more informed and deliberate choices for you and your family.
Being a mom, I totally get looking for cheap solutions. But I have realized that buying low-quality items just means you will buying another down the line and another one after that. I think as Americans we have come to accept and expect low quality because we have bought into the idea that more is better. I am realizing the opposite, less really is more and quality really is better than quantity. For instance, my daughter had accumulated so many toys from birthdays etc that when we moved into the trailer we got rid of around 80% of them. You would think that a 4-year-old would have missed some of those items. She didn’t and doesn’t. Removing all her flashy and cheap toys have made playing what it should be, IMAGINATIVE and CREATIVE! She spends more time outside, colors and pretends more, and builds beautiful block towers. I cannot say enough how focusing on quality over quantity has changed that way we live and even helped my daughter developmentally and socially. She appreciates what she has when we walk through a store she doesn’t ask me to buy anything and everything. Allow me to tell you about how I focus on quality over quantity.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Generally, I avoid shopping at big box stores. I didn’t shop there much before but this has taken my shopping from limited to almost non-existent. I realized that there is nothing there that I want or need because it seems that almost everything there is almost designed to not last very long. It’s a perfect business model for THEM, sell something for cheap and people will have to buy it again and again. Focusing on quality over quantity may have a higher price tag up front, but you can afford quality because you are saving so much money by avoiding all those impulse buys at the store. Avoiding a $10 shirt every time you shop will save you money in the long run so you can purchase that $60 shirt that is well made and classic and will look great for years.
Sometimes finding quality items can take planning and researching, but isn’t that good? If I want anything now I spend time researching and reading reviews about the product and company. Also, one note is quality doesn’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with cost. There are plenty of products that are expensive but may not be high quality or made well. I have found that most of the time the products that have the best reviews for quality and durability are often made by small companies that are specialized and focused on producing a smaller line of products very well. I also believe in supporting companies who make socially and ecologically sustainable business practices, but that is a whole other blog in and of itself.
There are so many reasons for supporting small businesses in addition to many producing high quality and long lasting products. Literally, you put your money where your mouth is. Meaning that you support an economy close to you which strengthens our overall economy, not sending support overseas to support foreign economies. Who doesn’t want a strong economy? To me, it’s just common sense to keep our money here in the USA or in companies that produce value in our economy and our workers.
Small businesses are built on sweat, dedication, and long hours that often provide the entire team incentives to provide exceptional customer service and quality. Often consumers overlook the value of exceptional customer service, but small businesses often don’t make it unless they take care of their customers often exceeding your expectations.
HOW TO SHOP SMALL
It’s never been easier to shop small and make informed choices. Going to a local farmers market for freshly picked produce, getting your coffee at a local brewery rather than Starbucks, you get the idea! Also, the internet provides endless opportunities to find and support small companies who make quality items that will enhance your quality of life.
Encouraging people to shop small and quality can extend to gifting as well. It’s amazing how much those birthday and Christmas presents by well-meaning people add up and most ended up donated, broken, or not played within no time! Now, I try to ask for people giving me or my children regular gifts to look at items from certain companies, send wish lists, or ask them to invest in experiences where they can spend time with me or my kids like a day out somewhere fun or educational. I find that family and friends really enjoy having direction about what kinds of gifts my family and I are looking for and they enjoy seeing my kids playing with their gift for a long time.
I can honestly say that changes my family and I have been making have been difficult at times but the benefits of those changes are going to have a lasting impact. We are reducing our debt, living consciously and deliberately, and experiencing increased fulfillment. I am living my new American dream and I have to say it is so good I may never want to wake up!