Quality, Not Quantity

When I got my first job out of college, I went a little haywire with shopping. I had more clothes, shoes and bags than I knew what to do with. I did not, at that time, have a mortgage, so financially my mall habits weren’t that big of a deal. Emotionally, however, I was trying to feed some hunger that had existed for years. Adulthood suddenly meant the power to shop with abandon. I no longer had to worry about my babysitting money stretching far enough at Target for a new outfit.
Thankfully, in the last few years I’ve slowly changed my habits and learned to appreciate how much nicer it is to have fewer things you love, rather than gobs that are just okay. (I’ve also happily returned to buying adorable clothes at Target.) My closet today is regularly purged of items that aren’t being worn with any frequency. I no longer buy fabric on sale just because it is a deal. Same goes for yarn, shoes, pots and pans, food, etc. I have to love, need and have the money in hand to make the purchase.
This new attitude has simplified my living in wonderful ways. Not only do I own less, but I appreciate the things I have more. With this in mind, the other day I purchased a few yards of fabric from SewMamaSew and combined them with canvas and some cotton prints I already had to create these September birthday gifts.

carribean bag
pink hippie bag
orange marmelade bag

Details: Amy Butler Swing bag pattern, altered just a bit to make the straps longer.

I am tickled with the result and so please I splurged on fancy fabrics I loved. Are you interested in simplifying your life or routine? If so, what do you do to make life easier?


35 Replies to “Quality, Not Quantity”

  1. The bags are simply beautiful, especially the orange one! About the shopping fever, it comes and go, maybe I tend to buy more when I’m a little depressed or sad. It’s something to work on, I guess…..

  2. I was just thinking about that over the weekend – I was at the mall for the first time in FOREVER and thought, “what was the attraction?” I’m much happier now with my mortage and less stuff – although I still have more stuff than I know what to do with. 😉

  3. Me too – the orange bag rocks!

    I do the same thing as you – I purge stuff regularly. I HATE junk. In fact, I am sitting here scowling at all this stupid plastic swag from the Susan G. Komen Foundation. What a waste!

  4. Ditto the love for the orange bag – a work of art.

    I too am noticing a shift towards having less items of better quality. It started a couple of years ago with shoes, and my feet are much happier, even if my wallet is a little lighter. It’s hard to fight the “it’s a good price, I should buy it” mentality. But I’m trying to be more mindful about my purchases, in general. As I’ve been packing to move, I notice things I have that I haven’t looked at, thought about, used, in so long. Why did I rush to buy it? I want to do better in my new space. I want each item to have a history, a purpose, or just be loved. I want to stop the mindless consumption.

  5. Gorgeous bags – love the orange one!

    Simplify – I have been trying to do a lot of that lately. Cleaning and organizing are constant, but the biggest changes I am working on right now are simplifying my routine and my diet. More good stuff (natural, unrefined, local), less bad stuff (trying to give up soda). It may be a long road, but it is worth the try!

  6. I’m a friend of Shelley’s and enjoy reading your blog from time to time. I had to write a comment now, because I just love that orange bag. I want one! In fact, Shelley and I have sort of talked about buying sewing machines! 🙂

  7. I’m totally with you on not buying crap because it’s cheap, only for me this requires not even darkening the door of Wal-Mart or Ikea because the temptation is too great. We now buy even essentials like laundry soap at a smaller store like Walgreens.

    But my problem is what to do with all the things I already have. Perfectly good clothes that still fit (and I still wear, once or twice a year), party supplies, gardening equipment, seasonal decorations… And the T-shirts! Millions of T-shirts! I just dropped a box of things off at Goodwill this morning, but it didn’t even make a dent.

    I struggle with wanting to simplify and have no excess but at the same time really enjoying already having on hand everything I need to throw an impromptu Valentine’s Day party, say, or hostess gifts or wrapping paper or flower vases.

    And I definitely agree with quality over quantity…but on the occasions I upgrade it doesn’t sit right with me to get rid of something low quality that is still mostly functional. That’s wasteful too, right? And here I am, with a garage full of stuff. *sigh*

  8. First of all–the bags? Fabulous!! Especially the orange one, not that you asked, but they’re all so cute. Good use of your resources, Sister.

    Trying to pare down has been a years long process, but it’s becoming more comfortable. Learning to turn loose of my possessions–whether it be by passing them along to friends/family, donating, selling, whatever–has helped immensely. That, and I simply don’t go shopping all that often. Made a HUGE difference.

  9. I agree with Sue. I love that orange bag. Those fabrics are wonderful!

    And as for getting rid of stuff, I try to repurpose everything I can (I’m making a quilt out of band t-shirts for my teenage daughter), and the rest I take to a local thrift store run by a women’s shelter.

  10. I love, love, love the orange bag. What terrific patterns and colors. You do such fun, creative things and I am so glad you share them with us.

    As far as simplifying, well, I am continuing to purge my house. My craft supplies are 1/2 of what they were this time last year and my intention is to get them down to 1/2 again less.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful pictures and ideas.

  11. The bags are wonderful, Kelli!

    I applaud your well-worded post today but don’t have any easy answer to your question. I keep trying to simplify but when I look around my house, I feel overwhelmed by all I should do as well as haven’t done. My thinking is that the whole concept begins first and foremost with an individual’s mindset. If I can find a comfortable balance in my own mind, then I think that the process of purging the excess and being mindful of what I do have will be much more attainable.

    This is something I’ve been working on for a long time and I’ve not really reached the place I want to be. So maybe it’s time for me to quit theorizing about the process and just do it–so I shall begin right now. I’m going to quickly make three bags of donations this very minute.

    Thank you for reminding me.

  12. I love the bags…especially the third bag…love love love that one.
    I would love to simplify my life just not sure where to start.

  13. I’m all for simplifying, but it does take time and for a packrat like me, lots of effort. Our church had a rummage sale this past summer, so we hired a sitter for the kids and spent an entire Saturday cleaning the garage. It felt so great to just get rid all the stuff, and know that it was going to a good cause. And we had a fun time, me and the hubs, hanging out together.

    I love the bags you made. Lucky, lucky friends!

  14. I totally hear you on the simplifying. I did some ruthless purging before our recent move and continued it while unpacking. The clothes are the hardest, but I got rid of everything I hadn’t worn in a year, or that no longer fit, OR that no longer flattered, OR that fit but really just wasn’t *me* anymore. Tough but it feels so great to look at fewer things in your closet and know you really love them and will feel great wearing any of them.

    One incentive: we have a lot less closet space now. E and I share one closet about 3′ across (there are two racks). That’s it. If I can’t fit my clothes in there & and in my one dresser, then I’ve got too much.

    But I still get to shop, because as I purge I realize I’m missing some real basic things!

    Which brings me to another point. (Pardon my rambling comment, Kelli, but I think you may be interested in this.) I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where my clothes come from. Thinking about that will curb your Target/Wal-Mart/Old Navy shopping pretty quickly — how do you think they are able to charge 6.99 for a top? I’ve recently decided I’m only going to buy clothes from places that meet fair labor standards (BR/Gap aren’t on that list, but H&M is, hooray!), or buy clothes on Ebay, or at the strangely posh Goodwill two blocks from our new house. It’s a challenge, but I’m surprised I don’t hear more people talking about this issue.

  15. I don’t know if it really counts as simplifying, but it definitely counts as using what you have… I’m going to implement Junie’s rule of you have to make at least 3 projects from every craft book you buy… looks like I have lots of projects lined up!

    Love the bags, the fabrics are so happy together!

  16. The bags are gorgeous and I think the orange one is calling my name. 🙂

    I know we have too much stuff even with bi-monthly dropoffs to local charities. We are trying to institute some rules and for me personally, I signed up for Wardrobe Refashion but at present it is just me. I get the kids things from the local thrift stores and limit trips to Wal-Mart and Target. Sometimes my biggest thing is limiting the grandparents from adding to our stuff.

  17. P.S. simplifying: Trying really hard to do the same as you, buy quality things and not a lot of cheap things. I also have to try really hard to care for the quality things I own, like cleaning the leather, polishing the wood, scrubbing the copper, so they stay quality for longer.

    I make very many trips to the Goodwill shop during the year. I always have a bag in my closet for when I decide something – anything, like a book, pair of shoes, ornamental item, or clothing item isn’t needed. It immediately goes in the bag. When the bag is full, it immediately goes in the trunk of the car. And when I’m in the Goodwill area of town the next time, I drop it off.

  18. Flylady.net–made a big difference when I moved cross country a few years ago. Her philosophy is “if you don’t love it, if it doesn’t make you smile, or if you have more than one–get rid of it.” I also joined our local freecycle website and some of my “stuff” are now in good homes. Even if it’s functional, you don’t have to clutter your environment with it. Someone else is looking for just that very item, and would be delighted to have it.
    I was able to downsize from a 2000 sf home with a double garage and two storage sheds to a 1500sf home with only the garage. It could get cluttered again, but if I bring something home, something else has to go, and that keeps things manageable.

  19. Love that orange bag. Simply life? me? no – I make it as crazy and as complicated as I possibly can. Not consciously but it happens. I still “have” to have something, and if I don’t have the cash it goes on credit card. Having said that, I did have my credit limit lowered so the balance never gets out of hand. I dont carry the debt I used to. I did at least learn that.

  20. I love the orange bag too!

    For a few years I had multiple magazine subscriptions and I found that it stressed me out. There were so many good ideas and tips, places to visit, and cute things to buy! Plus, I wouldn’t have time to read them all and the stacks of magazines became a visual “to do”. I’ve limited myself to one subscription per year. Sometimes I head to the library to read something different, but usually I’m satisfied with one magazine a month.

    I’m so glad Stephanie mentioned freecycle. I joined last year and I love it. It’s a great concept and especially good for swapping kids toys. I even got a baby swing for my daughter’s daycare center through freecycle!

  21. I cooked for 3-4 hours on Sunday evening and make all of our lunches for the week. I freeze them individually in ziplock bag and they’re ready to go each morning.

    So far my lunches consisted of:
    – Rice with shrimp/veggies in tomato sauce
    – Pasta or rice with sausage/veggies
    – Rice with “pain √† la viande” (ground beef, egg, veggies cooked in the oven, shape of a bread)
    – Veggie lasagna
    – Paprika french fries with sweet (butter? Indian?) chicken
    РPâté chinois (potatoes/corn/ground beef)
    – Rice with Chili

    I’m usually able to cook 2 kind of meat at the same time, and then add different kind of sauce to it after it’s cooked. Then I cook a huge batch of rice or pasta. When it’s relatively cold, I create the individual lunch bags and put them in the freezer. Easy!

    Another thing I do that simplify my life, have my breakfast food at work. I leave a bag of frozen fruit in the office’s freezer and a box of cereal at my desk. I just need to add milk and I have a healthy meal to start the day.

    One last thing, I leave 1-2 pair of work shoes and 1-2 pair of pants at work in a secret bag in their closet. I don’t have to carry a heavy bag during my morning bike ride to work, most of my clothe is already at work. I just need to carry a bra and a top. So much lighter on my back!

    That’s it for today I guess, ahaha!

  22. very smart, I wonder why we naturally tend to have more when we don’t need more to be happy. The bags are awesome, but my favorite one is the orange one, amazing colors, amazing fabric and design!

  23. i appreciate these thoughts so much kelli… this month’s resolution in fact is “austerity” which means that we are trying to buy nothing that is unnecessary. ideally this would mean that we are only buying food for the month but with a wedding to go to this weekend, bridesmaid shoes made the cut as well 🙂
    i have also had a similar experience with working… my first paychecks getting spent on all kinds of crazy stuff… then realizing that i had way way more than i needed (and a lot of crap as opposed to less in quantity, but nicer things).

  24. I am sure that you realize how much I love that orange swing bag – nicely nicely done!

    And yes, I too have found a little sanity (and closet space) by doing the “Do I love this or would I rather have something more fabulous?” purge regularly.

    Goes for everything including food. If I take a bite of a dessert or something else that is not mandatory and don’t immediately go “WOW! That is awesome!” I have to decide whether it’s really worth it.

    Treats should be treats – not just blah masquerading as a treat.

  25. I know this has been said about a dozen times, already, but WOW on that orange bag–it is to die for! 🙂

    And the clutter purge is something I am getting better at this year, but still have my struggles with. Thanks for the inspiration!

  26. Oh, orange. Oh my. Ohhhhh. Simplifying my life? I make myself do one thing at a time. I have to force myself. I decided I wasn’t a gardener I am a quilter. I don’t knit, I quilt. I specialise, that’s what I do. It doesn’t always work of course……

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