Monday, April 22, 2013

To Buy or Not to Buy, That Is the Question

Whether 'tis nobler to suffer the abundance of conspicuous consumption or to take up arms against it in minimalist extremism....

See, Shakespeare has a quotation for everything. (By the way, tomorrow is the 397th anniversary of the Bard's death. Lift your goblet of wine to his memory and mutter, "Out, damned spot! out, I say!" Some people will think you're crazy, but the rest of us will get it.)

Back to Hamlet. I'm not the indecisive Dane (well, at least I'm not a Dane), but my answer to the question of to buy or not to buy is moving back toward the middle.

When I CASEd Laura Bassen's card, I commented that I needed the Uniko set she used. Reader Karen asked this very legitimate question:

"I LOVE the card you made, yet I am curious why you think you need the flower set when you made do with what you already had. In your quest to simplify and purge unused sets, it makes me wonder."

Good question, Karen.

I rarely buy sets based on what other stampers use, and I never buy with the intent to directly copy someone else's design work...though there is nothing wrong with doing so as long as the copyist isn't making money off of someone else's creative idea and acknowledges the source publicly if necessary.

In this case, however, I had never seen the Uniko set before and really liked it, not just because Laura used it brilliantly but for its own sake. I love the lightness of the outline flowers and the size variations, and really believe they will enhance my smaller collection nicely.

Besides, I need some new stamps. After two years of austerity and purging, I'm feeling the need for...refreshment. Yes, that's the word. Refreshment.

Basically, I'm bored. Here's why.

My whittled-down stamp collection is lovely and manageable and--most importantly--used. Every stamp I own has seen ink and been used enough to justify its cost. There's still a little dead weight that needs to go, mostly sets I bought because I felt that I should like them...Papertrey's Simply Jane, for instance. I still used these sets (every single blessed stamp!), but I didn't enjoy the experience. A few other stamps need to go because they were trendy at the time but look less appealing to me now, although most of these have already been ditched. 

But by far my biggest issue with my current collection is over-use. Some of my older stamps (Papertrey's Beautiful Blooms and Green Thumb come immediately to mind) are still wonderful, but I've used them to death. Used. Them. To. Death. Last time I pulled out Beautiful Blooms, I thought, "Oh, man. Really? I have to use it again?" I've definitely gotten my money's worth out of them, but it's also definitely time to try some new flowers.


Finding balance between the burden of conspicuous consumption (when you have so much stuff you don't know what to do with it) and minimalist boredom (when you don't have enough to interest you) is tough. Our culture encourages spending, and those darn stamp companies keep puttin' out cool stuff that is soooooo tempting!

Several years ago, I found myself with way too much stuff and it was stifling creativity. I spent more time organizing and shopping than stamping. I reined in the conspicuous consumption and severely limited purchases for over two years while at the same time purging a whole bunch of stuff.

I'm a whole lot happier and more creative now with less, and can't see myself letting things get out of control again. In fact, I've limited storage in ways that make it pretty much impossible for me to go all pathological hoarder again.

The set point for each person, however, is different. Some of you would come to my new and improved stamp space and say, "This is all you've got?" Others would say, "Wow, how'd you get so much stuff?"

The challenge is finding your own balance and maintaining it for your own mental and fiscal health.

That's what I think.

Now it's your turn. Please share your thoughts on "to buy or not to buy" and how you maintain balance or don't.


  1. I definately buy - I have so many stamps as yet to see ink which is bad - but I do know I WILL use them, eventually. I have no space left to store what I buy - I have a big box, sitting on my husband's "visiting my craft room chair" which means he can't sit so doesn't visit which is sad so I will get my storage organised very soon. What I can't do is purge - I look at stuff I've not used and think oh you obviously don't like it or it's just not "on trend" so sell it/sling it but I just can't bring myself to do it cos I fear I'll want it again in the future. So if someone could find me a tardis - I'll be happy - STUFF makes me happy - lack of space to put it makes me sad :-(

  2. I know exactly what you mean about so much stuff hampering my creativity. I'm currently away from home for 2 months while my husband has his cancer treatments. We're living in a small apartment close to the hospital. I shipped one small box of craft tools and supplies and only have half of a 3x3 table to craft on. And I have to tell you I've had more fun crafting lately - trying to figure out how to make something really cute with just a few supplies. All the excess in my craft room at home - while wonderful in the way of being an adult candy land adventures - really overwhelms me sometimes which in turn shuts down my creative juices. So when we get home next month I plan on doing a big purge or maybe just a relocation of all the excess. The plan is to leave only tools and a small basic paper supply in the craft room. And then only bring back in what truly inspires me. The rest will find a home somewhere else. Thanks for all the interesting thoughts and questions you raise. Love, love, love your blog.

  3. Maybe it is partly due to financial reason, before I buy any craft items I always ask myself "Do you really NEED it or you just WANT it?" There is a huge difference between NEED and WANT. Comparing to lots of people, my stamp collection may not be that big, but they already filled 3 big boxes. If I can use my creation to re-create the card in another way, I will give that a go. It's a challenge which I like! ^_^

  4. As a SU demo, I always feel there is an expectation to purchase things that customers want to see - irregardless of my personal preferences or needs. However, I have discovered in my tiny craft room (9x10, which includes my home office) that this thinking simply won't work. Also, I think it is unfortunate when I read a blog that says "I didn't like this set but I forced myself to be creative with it...". For me, I only buy what I absolutely adore, which creates a balance in and of itself. Also, I found that once I focus 99% of my efforts, attention and money on one company, I no longer own items that don't match or coordinate with each other. I couldn't possibly recommend this exclusivity to everyone, but it works fabulously for me!

    On another note, I know I don't say it often enough, but I am so inspired by your creations and I really appreciate that you share them with all of us. Thank you!

  5. I've only just acquired PPI's Beautiful Blooms set so would love to see some of your past creations. Thanks for all your inspiration.

  6. Since I don't stamp as much as I used to I buy mostly consumables, now. 3 months ago, I did buy some new PTI stuff, though, and was very glad I did and have used the new stuff more than anything else I have.

  7. I have the luxury of an LSS that has an annual garage sale that I participate in so I can purge my supplies. Then I treat myself to some of my "wish list" items with the money I made.

  8. Susan, I am in SERIOUS need of purging guidance!! There are so many sets that I have because I thought I "should" like them you mentioned. I have a few people that have purchased stamp sets from me, but struggle how to get rid of embellishments, designer paper, etc. What did you do with all of your items that you no longer wanted?

    Thank you for your help and for all the fabulous inspiration!! And the giggles!! ;o)

  9. I had a good laugh when you said "Oh man this set again?" Too funny. I am of the belief that if I don't mind storing it and I like it then I get it. I unmounted hundreds of stamps last year and now 90 percent of them are totally organized. I have a lot in binders and will just sit with a
    binder and browse through them. Some are old friends. I keep a good inventory of them in my mind this way too. People collect postage stamps and looking at them gives them pleasure. My stamps do that for me. I have culled over the years, stamps I bought when first starting, impulse buying.
    I would guess I have about 1500 stamps collected over a 20 year period. Clear and cling mount that come in sets and take very little room and are reasonably priced for how many stamps you get have added greatly to the numbers.
    Those are my thoughts on the matter.

  10. Hi Susan,
    Well now you've gone and done it, you've managed to make me really "THINK"--that is such a strain for me sometimes :)
    Thank you so much as this is a lesson I truly needed and it's time now to go purge and donate!! Hugs to you--

  11. What a great question and thought provoking post, Susan. My card making stash would probably be described as minimalist ... my wish list, on the other hand is not ... though that's what it remains, for now! When I do get something, it's for (as you so aptly put it) refreshment ... and I've got to really need it! Anita :)

  12. My problem is not the stamps but the amount of dsp I have hoarded over my 4 year stamping life. I bought some of it to make only one card, probably seen in a magazine, and don't have a clue what to do with the rest of it, or I've bought a set that I thought would last me a month. I liked it then and I still like it now but it's taking me FOREVER to use it up. I hope I'm not utterly sick of the sight of it (and that my blog readers aren't either!) before I get to the end of it.

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  14. He he love your use of 'out damn spot!' I use it all the time much to the amusement of my boyfriend!
    Thanks for this post Susan it has made me realise that maybe the reason my mojo has uped and left is because I have too much stash and I don't know what to do with it. Recently I've been over spending in a hope that new goodies will have some mojo attached to it but alas none has been found. Ive started a day counter on my phone that tells me how long since my last stash splurge (10 days in going strong) and with your wisdom I hope I can rain my spending in!
    Thank you!!

  15. My 2013 resolution is to 'scrap my stash'--which includes card making. I have severely limited my spending and have only HAD to purchase white card stock. The want part comes without warning, but have managed to curtail most of those impulses. I have gotten a few things, but not nearly as much as I would have last year. I have, seriously, a 16 drawer paper tower with 15 of the drawers being full. There really is no need for me to buy paper. I've only really been card making for about 3 years, and had minimal sets, so feel somewhat justified to get more stamps. I don't buy right away, though. I think about the stamps and how many different ways I could use them. If the stamp set is versatile, I get it. If not, I hold off. It's been really fun using up the stash. You've helped with the brad ideas, and so it's been even more fun. I'm sticking with my stash for the year, and maybe more. Except when I have a girls shopping day...then I'm giving myself an exemption. But I'm still not buying paper! Bev

  16. your thoughts gave me an idea...
    what about a stamp set swap? you swap a set of stamps with a fellow scrapper for a while and each get a "new" set to work with for a while without spending any money except the postage to mail the set back & forth

    something like Netflix for stamps!

  17. Well, I got up to 20 sets and just gave away 5 and a bunch of paper (some of which was gifted to me). I'm pretty much allergic to a big stash now. However, that has not stopped me from wanting new things. I also struggle with buying the wrong sets -- thinking I will use them a lot and then just sit and stare at them.

    So I understand! Good luck figuring it out.

  18. I am in the process of purging. I have boxes of stamps and stamp sets that are ready for gifting and/or selling. I have some sets that
    I am contemplating keeping because I like just one stamp in the set, or one sentiment in the set. I'm on the fence about whether or not to break up a set - on the one hand I paid for the stamps and should be entitled to keep what I like, on the other hand, a set with one or more stamps missing is not marketable. Any thoughts?

    What is working for me regarding purchasing is for every NEW set I buy, I make myself immediately gift or sell 3 sets. So far, so good - I like the system.

  19. I have been shopping online a lot since the last LSS closed. But I no longer pad my order to get free shipping (I know, I wasn't 'saving' any $$) since it isn't offered to Canada anymore.

    I try to wait a few weeks at least before moving items from my wish list to my shopping cart. After the buzz about a new release is over, I usually realize that I often don't want anything.

    My weakness is Memory Box dies. And also the compulsion to buy complete sets, for example, Distress Inks, Distress Markers, Distress Stains, and Hero Arts shadow inks, etc. But I don't use Copics. I'm too afraid to start collecting them.

  20. I'm in the same position as a lot of people who have commented. I've got too much stuff. I joined "Use every stamp 2013" and my personal challenge is "Use 'em or Lose 'em". At the end of 2013 I'm going to get rid of what stamps/sets I haven't used. Here's hoping, because I'm definitely "out of balance" (and out of room) LOL I also need to purge other supplies (like brads LOL). I'll be interested to hear your responses to some of the questions you've been asked here!

  21. Limited space definitely helps keep me in check! Wheni start running out of space....first I resume unmounting some more, then I try reorganizing...then I start purging. I have to watch myself as i read through my favorite bloggers...too easy to think I really THAT set to create a beautiful card.....

  22. I frequently see items i 'must have' during releases, but have found this desire fades with time. I never buy straight away, but wait a few weeks & go back to it to see if the lust is still there! I'm sure this has saved me a fortune. Jenny

  23. I have a funny system. I have a decorative CD/DVD stand in my living room. It will hold 100 DVD cases. A couple of years ago, I bought metal tins. Now in order to have anything new, I have to purge a tin to make room. My sister is LOVING this arrangement since I often gift her sets. (College students love free hobby supplies.)

    I am slowly do this for all my supplies. I bought two sets "Useful Boxes" of small boxes and have been challenging myself to get all my embellishments neatly in the 40 spaces. It's slowly working.

    I have one CM box with handles that I am working on getting all my solid colours into. I have only one paper package that still doesn't fit.

    I allow myself only 1 shoebox of cards. If it doesn't fit, it goes to charity.

    I love being able to fit everything in one space rather than having it spread out over the house. I am using everything more. I do wish I was better at purging though. I can use things up but I can't seem to just let it go.

  24. Love your blog, love your cards, love your sense of humor. I am trying not to buy. I need to do a big purge as I prepare for another PCS. My hope is to have less and be more organized so I can do a few challenges every week.

  25. Couldn't have said it better myself : )May you enjoy what you have and enjoy what you buy!

  26. I really appreciated your comments on consumption: they were perfectly said. I have had a "retail rest" since the first of the year and have had a great sense of satisfaction in USING what I have. But there is also that fine line that you described about being so minimalist that we lose touch with the joy of new experiences and fresh ideas. Lets find a balance!

  27. I do struggle for balance. However, my current approach is to think longer about what I really want to accomplish before I buy a new stamp set. I can always buy it later, right? I need to keep things fresh and trendy, but I don't want to be a slave to trends, so there are a few I have chosen to live without, i.e Ikat. Beautiful stuff, but I can truly make interesting cards without it. (I resisted Simply Jane and haven't been sorry one second) Chevrons, however, are so stimulating to my creativity, I have assembled quite a collection of washi tape, designer paper, and various stamps. Love them all and actually use them. Where I get into trouble is with the pull toward vintage and shabby chic. "I NEED to expand my style range", right? I enjoy looking at what others create, but that look simply doesn't work for me. Part of my struggle is getting comfortable with my own style.

  28. Well isn't this the question of the day -- by the response you got I would say definitely!

    All I know is I love walking into my stamp room -- too much stuff? Probably but you know what? That's okay with me. To me, part of the fun of this hobby is the collecting :)

  29. I have a big advantage of a local craft store with a "Re-Create" section. It's a consignment area for craft supplies. They price them and when they sell, the store keeps half. It's been a great way to move out some of the less used stamp sets. However, I still have too much stuff and feel stifled sometimes.

  30. Great answer, Susan! I like your 'refreshed' point of view. Recently, my focus has been on other crafts, but I still find myself wanting to purchase new stamp sets. I will only buy them if I can't make do with what I have, thus my question to you. It has to be something that I don't have in my giant, hoarded collection, and not just another tree or flower set. Maybe if I used my stamps every day, I would feel differently and would need a little refreshment. : )

  31. I am an impulse buyer but recently I have wised up and make a written list of wants on the new items. As many have said, a month later the urge is gone. I have too much of everything. However my niece sells our stamps and her mother's on Ebay and then the proceeds pay for our annual trip to the Stampaway Show in Cincinnati. Our husbands' comments were that we sell for $1 what we paid $10. We say that's ok, at least we got something.

  32. I know I have too much "stuff". But, I like most of it so for now I'm keeping it. Sad to say, but most of the time these days I enjoy the shopping more than I enjoy the process of making a card. I know my biggest problem is that I read too many blogs and see too much of what is out there tempting all of us crafters. I know I don't need it all and I constantly tell myself that I have to remember that the ladies on most of the blogs I read are on at least one design team (some are on multiple design teams) so they are getting boxes of free products sent to them every time the company they represent has a new release. Otherwise they probably wouldn't have all the stuff they have either. So, I realize I need to be content with what I can afford and for the most part I am. I see TONS of stuff I would buy if money was no object, but it is. And even though I will admit to buying more than I should at times, I do have one rule for my crafting that I have followed so far and that is that I never pay full price for any of my supplies. I would love to order from some of the online stamp companies that I've become aware of lately, but I've never seen them have a sale. Last year over the Black Friday weekend I finally saw some of them have a sale so I picked one company that I had been drooling over for quite a while and placed a small order. It will be Black Friday again sooner than I think so I will keep my eyes open and if it's in the budget when the time rolls around, maybe I'll get to try another company.

    One thing I have to throw in as well, is that it doesn't help when one's husband is an enabler. I don't drive, so he either takes me shopping or even sometimes does some craft shopping for me if he's out and about on business and has time to stop at a craft store while he's out. Just this morning he told me he had an appointment across town on Thursday so I could think about whether or not I wanted him to pick up anything while he was out. I said that I did want him to check to see if Michaels had one small item that I wanted and I'd have a coupon ready for him to take with him. Well, a while back he had run into a friend in Joann's who had told him about the new Martha Stewart circle edge punch system and that he should tell me about it. I guess originally it was only available on HSN, but we saw a couple of weeks ago that Michaes now carries it, so he said if there's a 50% off coupon he should get that for me. After he first told me about it I had looked it up online and watched a video and I told him I didn't think it was something I needed or wanted. But, he hasn't gotten that message and keeps talking about it every time we're in Michaels. He just pushed me a few months back to buy the new Fiskars AdvantEdge punch system. I do really like that one and I got the base and several cartridges for more than 50% off, but if he had not been pushing it, I know I would not have bought as many cartridges as I did. So, not only do I have to keep my shopping urges under control, I also have to keep my husband from over doing it.

  33. Balance?? What the Dickens is that?? Lol

    Absolutely brilliant post and comments, I can relate to so many of them.....
    "to purge or not to purge..." is my dilemma :)

  34. I have been a "collector" for many years now, and know I love the thrill of just buying..sometimes never to use the things i buy..well..I have just lost my job, and now it's time to change..I am a christian, and believe the Lord is teaching me some lessons and one of them is "the fullness of bread" the world teaches us to have more, get bigger and better, it's better to be rich than poor...this is not what the Bible says..I have gotten closer to my God and am enjoying the lessons he is teaching me, and my over the top spending on anything as well as craft supplies is over..I am having so much fun "using " my supplies and finding hidden treasures!! God is good! Oh I love your cards!!!!!

  35. Boundaries.
    That is my answer to the question. I have a budget, which is my financial boundary. I have a craft area, which is my physical boundary. If there is an overflow, I go through my supplies and purge.
    I constantly remind myself that
    1. I want to have enough supplies to play with;
    2. I want to have enough space to enjoy the hobby;
    3. I want to have a happy face when I see my credit card statement.
    So, I do buy new, fun supplies when they are within my budget and within my craft area boundary. Over the years the boundary has changed due to changing circumstances but this rule helps me!

  36. I see that we are all in basically the same boat. LOL We have been paying off our debt during this economic depression in the USA. That has helped me tremendously in my spending. So, sometimes I have to wait for birthday money or holiday money. It's very hard for me to pass on things that are on sale. I finally quit buying the $1.00 stamps so I could invest in larger better quality sets. But I do back slide now and then for a cute $1.00 set. I have won quite a few things and some of those don't have ink on them yet. I have a ton of stuff, not to mention that I'm a die-0-holic too! I'm not very happy with AccuCut who sent me some inferior dies 2 Christmas' ago and replaced them with inferior dies, so I probably won't be shopping with them any time soon. I was just at Hobby Lobby a few days ago and I'm not sure what Sizzix has going on, but their new flip dies are running a close second to Accucuts inferior dies with mismatched blades or the blade isn't curved where it should be, so much so that you can look right into the package and see the poor quality that I passed on them with cash burning a hole in my pocketbook. What in the world are these die companies doing? Has the economy brought them to this sad state of poor die construction. My poor little craft stores barely carry the new stuff and some of its garbage. I don't understand how quality has taken such a dive after years of good product that I'm used to and expect?? I've had to invest in some storage items to put it all into. I get upset when I have to spend money on storage. LOL I'd rather buy something crafty. I'm committed to a SU class every month, but almost every SU stamp set I own is retired, which dismays me to no end. And, I try really hard not to buy sets that are similar to something else I have. I also try to buy things that will do double duty, meaning it can be used for different occasions or be flipped for masculine or feminine. I use this rule more for dies than stamps though. I get emails on all the companies I love and get coupons for those that give one, so I can get things as cheap as possible, allowing to buy more, which make a whole lotta sense. Muahahahahaaa!!! Love your cards!!

  37. Well, I am from India and getting these supplies are difficult, expensive and deals with a lot of requesting-friends-family-nicely who travel to India. Shipping costs are enormous too.
    So given all this, I tend to hoard them all. I can't think of buying it again if I need it - coz I don't think I can again.

    But this year, I've decided and have stuck to buying only card stock and inks. No stamps, no digital images I think I will use (duh!) .. no other supplies.
    Thankfully it has worked for me. So far only card stocks (Do u know the one decent stock we get here in India - papers you can stamp and card made - are Fabriano Elle Erre? They pretty good though)

    But - I've just begun to wonder how it would be to quilt!! Another expensive journey? Time will tell :)

    And thanks Susan for being this 'giving' :) Bless you

  38. Not all stamps are created equal. If a stamp set keeps me thinking and wondering, dreaming,'s a BUY. After all, we stampers need to keep our creativity stimulated. Only a very special stamp can do so. Thankfully not too many stamps make me feel that way, or I will go broke! Replenish is what I do.

  39. I'm reading old posts and enjoyed this on and its comments very much. I am constantly purging and constantly acquiring, so I am probably breaking even although I would rather have more purge. I craft in my living room and in the past several months have been on a kick to get the place to look more like a living room than a mish mosh of stuff. By that I mean I am changing out storage to nicer, matching bins instead of whatever looks nice or catches my eye. I'm also purging in the process. I gave up enough stamps that I could put my embellishments in drawers by color (inspired by you!). I put long white strips of paper inside each of my drawers so it looks like a nicer bin. In the past I bought photo boxes to hold things and bought whatever design caught my eye that day. I am slowly replacing them out with all black ones as it looks nicer. I am purging in this process. My latest purge is cards. I have boxes, bags, baskets, bins, and piles of cards. I do use my cards but apparently I make way more than I use. I am always making more to put on my blog. Plus I saved almost every homemade card I've received. No more! I am purging them mostly by passing on cards to organizations who can use them. All this is slow going because I took a college class this spring and most of my free time was consumed with it. I'm done now so yippeee!

    The thing that really got me in the comments was the SU demo who said she felt obligated to buy sets because she thought her customers would like to see them. That's me to a T, only with A Muse Studio. I have bought so many sets that I wouldn't normally have gotten so I can showcase them and get others to buy them. To make it worse... no one is buying these things! Ugh! No more of that!


Thank you so much for taking time to comment!