Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Under or Over?

Photo by Annie Spratt via Unsplash
In her book, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin explores the question of overbuying vs. underbuying. Underbuyers try to get by on as little as possible, often to the point of running out of things. Overbuyers, on the other hand, like to stock up.

When it comes to organizational supplies, I'm a recovering overbuyer. I buy organizers that interest me, even if I don't quite know what I'll use them for and I often buy things I like in multiples. Consequently, I have my own little stash of goodies in the basement. I "shop" there quite often when I'm re-working an area of my house, hoping to find that I already have something on hand that will solve whichever organizational problem I'm working on.

If I'm to be honest, though, I have much too much. Part of this is due to the fact that, back when I was teaching organizational skills to elementary school students, I used to buy containers and folders to supply the monthly organizer giveaways I ran for the kids. When I retired, I still had a stash of those things in my office closet and, not knowing for sure where my organizational advice path would lead, I took them with me. Many have been put to use, but some are still stacked, one inside the other, on shelves in my basement.

Whether you're naturally an overbuyer or an underbuyer, I think the trick is to find the middle ground. When you find an organizer that works for you, it's not a bad idea to buy an extra to keep on hand for future use. But, unless you're stocking up for a remodel or giveaways of your own, buying too much of a good thing only serves to create a new organizational issue: organizing the organizers.

Similarly, being an underbuyer isn't necessarily a bad thing, but, when it comes to organizing, it might be worth considering why this is your behavior of choice. Are all of your things organized just as you like, so you have no need to buy anything? Are you struggling to solve an organizational issue, but still on the lookout for tools that fit your styles? Do you think that good organizers need to cost a lot of money?

If you answered yes to the third question, let me assure you that the majority of the things in my basement stash cost $5 or less. (When you're buying five to seven of one organizer so that there's a winner in every classroom, you tend to go cheap). In addition, depending on what you're storing, re- purposed shoe boxes, jars and egg cartons can work just as well as more expensive shoe racks, desktop organizers and drawer dividers.

Although I love that Gretchen got me thinking about the underbuyer/overbuyer conundrum, in the end, I think whether someone is an underbuyer or an overbuyer is less important than whether or not the buying habit works. Chances are, each of us is an overbuyer in some respects (for me, it's storage, stationery and toilet paper) and an underbuyer in others.

Where's your happy medium?


  1. It proves that although I am an overbuyer, I am not really "I love stuff" in that I don't much care about the looks of my containers as long as they fit the thing they're supposed to contain :)
    Also, I'm definitely an overbuyer for office supplies, spices and pantry items. (And TP. I have 2 12-packs plus a 20-pack I just opened. Only 4 people live in my house.)

  2. I am also an office supply overbuyer. Had to impose a moratorium on Post-it Notes and notebooks a year or so ago. Still have plenty left. And toilet paper? NO ONE wants to run out of that!!

    I do care about the looks of my containers, though I'm not sure I have the "I love stuff" personal style. I just find that when I make a space look not just clear, but pretty, I'm more motivated to keep it that way. That said, one of my the organizers on my desk is a repurposed boutique tissue box in a fun black and white print. I added some Washi tape to cover seams and add accents. :-)

  3. A GREAT post! By nature I am an underbuyer - but - the need to be very frugal and stock up on things when they are on sale, combined with the fact that I share a car and often do not have control over when I have transportation, makes the stocking up style necessary. This can be a struggle for me, and I find that the Holy Spirit often nudges me to buy the exact thing off the clearance rack that I need for an unanticipated gift days later (and yes, sometimes I try to put it back before I get to the register!!). God is so good to us!

  4. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Eva! It is quite the challenge to balance just enough frugal with too much stuff! I love that your shopping is Spirit-led!