“Ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them.” - Walter Benjamin
I’ve being thinking a lot recently about “stuff”. Not “stuff” as in life and death and relationships and work and health and friends and family. “Stuff” as in “things”. Items, objects, possessions…just, STUFF. I imagine most, if not all, of you reading this have stuff. A lot of stuff. Probably too much stuff. I know I do and I’m religious about clearing things out I no longer need or wear, donating clothes to charity, books to charity, unused products to family and friends, magazines and newspapers and papers and bills (unread, of course) into the recycling…I do it all.
I don’t like clutter. I don’t mind a bit of organised mess, but I feel a little bit panicky at the thought of having mountains of possessions cluttering up my home for years. I like to know what I’ve got and I like to use and enjoy all of it.
Anyway, when I read the above quote, it got me thinking (in that irritatingly Carrie Bradshaw-esque way) about my things and my relationship with them (bear with me, I’m trying not to go too hippie shizz on you, just having a bit of a ramble). Since the beginning of the year, I haven’t bought any make up*. It’s been a conscious decision, partly fuelled by financial reasons, and partly because just before Christmas I counted all my eyeshadows and lipsticks. I don’t actually have that many (if the context is other bloggers) but I worked out that, at the rate I go through things, it will take me around five years to completely use up all the cosmetics I own. Five years. FIVE. YEARS. HALF A DECADE.
And then I thought: that is completely and utterly ridiculous. Just stupid. Madness. Idiocy. I don’t know any other material item (as in something that isn’t intended to last forever) that I would buy five years’ worth of. I wouldn’t buy five years’ worth of toothpaste or toilet paper or bleach or hand wash or pens or pants or cotton wool so why have I done it with make up?
Blogging, is the short and simple answer. Before I started this blog I had a small, well-loved make up collection that I had curated over the years. I knew what I liked, I knew what suited me and I used everything I owned. Then I discovered beauty blogs and suddenly there was this whole world of like-minded people who could tell the difference between 56 difference taupe eyeshadows and absolutely needed those 18 different coral lipsticks because they were all special in their own way. As well as the people, I discovered the products they so lovingly wrote about. My eyes and shopping basket were busted open and stuffed to the brim in a very short space of time and I started buying make up on a very regular, and very bulk, basis.
Little over a year later, the one Muji box I had that was less than a third full was overspilling into make up bags, baskets, drawers and cupboards and I just couldn’t keep track of what I had. I’d started buying things because I knew they were hard to get hold of, or because everyone raved about them , or because it was a Wednesday. I used to be a savvy shopper and I had become, instead, a grabby shopper. I did not like it.
So, blog sales ensued, and anything I didn’t sell I gifted to friends and family (as long as they were in perfect condition). That downsized my stash by a considerable amount. Then I dug out the oldest or most used-up items and got to work on finishing those. At the beginning of 2011 I started an ‘Empties’ series which I found really satisfying, and I’m continuing it this year. Of course, the vast majority of items I use up are skincare and haircare but gradually, my colour cosmetics are working their way in there too. I rotate the products I use on a weekly basis, going through my stash and picking out random items and using those exclusively for the week. This way I keep on top of what I’ve got but also it means everything it getting chipped away at and used. USED UP!
Finally, as I said, I’ve stopped buying make up. Almost. I did buy a new liquid liner last week, and I’ll continue to buy mascara (but only when I’ve completely run out), and I’ll buy clear brow gel. But other than that, I won’t be buying anything for most of this year because I won’t need anything. If I get sent any PR samples, that’s fine (and lovely), and I’ll be making a MASSIVE birthday/Christmas wishlist throughout the year of things I see but won’t buy. I’ll then edit it down before issuing it (yes, it’s that formal) in December. I hope that way I’ll only pick things that I’ve been wanting all year and so will be of definite use to me.
So what has this got to do with that quote? Well, I suppose I just reached a point where I was feeling like I’d stopped buying make up for the love of it and had started buying it without thinking. Blogging is so great and I love it but it’s extremely hard to not go overboard and buy myriad products every week. I read so many blogs and interact with so many other beauty lovers, I inevitably hear about all sorts of delicious goodies, but that doesn’t mean I need to own them all. The last part of the quote “…it is he who lives in them” is kind of what I aspire to with my beauty collection. I want each item to be something I truly love, something that suits me, and something that I will use often. Realistically, I’m never going to wear neon pink nail polish or turquoise eyeshadow or wear false lashes (obviously all of the above come in extremely useful at 80’s fancy dress parties) so no matter how beautiful they look on other people, I need to get out of the mindset that I will look beautiful in them too, and that they will in some way enhance my life. Because they won’t. I wear browns and taupes and red lips and nude nails (for the most part), so that’s what I should own. And I do. Five years’ worth. I think I’m done for now, no?
I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on this. In no way is this meant to be a preachy post about how to spend your money: it’s absolutely your choice. I just am at a crossroads where I need to save money and want to save space and love what I have.
*Not strictly true, as evidenced by the admission of the liquid liner purchase.