Who doesn’t love a freebie? I used to happily download every freebie I could, but you know what? I wound up with a computer full of stuff I never used. This makes me feel bad, because I feel like I wasted that individual’s time and internet bandwidth.
After all – it is not really “free,” is it? Someone pays for those downloads.
Eventually, I came to a point in my life where I realized, if I do not have “skin in the game,” (a financial or emotional investment in the product) or a specific and immediate need that the product fills, it will just sit there, taking up space. The end result of which was a home and computer cluttered with unnecessary things.
What does this mean?
Well, for starters, it does not mean that I never, ever take a freebie – I do. It simply means I have become selective about what I will download or take home as a freebie; and if I cannot say, “I am considering purchasing the full version of this product, and the freebie will help me decide,” or, “THIS is what I have been looking for to solve/fill this need,” I skip it.
It means that I must be intentional about everything that comes into my life.
Sometimes being intentional is hard, because that thing is so undeniably cool; but when I take a second to think, I know it does not serve a purpose, so I leave it for someone else. The truth is if I take something I do not need, I am wasting valuable time and energy. I could be spending that same time & energy on something of real value to me, or to my family.
Being intentional sets a positive example
And there it is – we all want to be a positive role model to our children. What better way to do that than by being intentional in what we allow into our lives? You want your children to live a good life, full of the things that make them happiest. While setting a good example isn’t a guarantee, it certainly gives them a better chance to decide on their priorities.
I like to fill my life with things that bring me joy – my family, music, writing, kids, pets, etc. – if I take a freebie, it must be something that will help improve those areas in some way. If not, it takes time and mental real estate that should have been spent elsewhere. (Side note, this is why I have never filled Learning Tangent with ads – I am willing to pay for a good product, but feel bamboozled when that product is filled with ads or other fluff that doesn’t inspire or inform me.)
Our recent move brought the need to be intentional about everything we do into extreme focus. We had to make many difficult decisions, and realized that the reason was often that we had not said, “No,” in the first place. Now, as we replace some of the things we decided to not move because of the cost, we realize that our actual needs are far fewer than we once believed, and an uncluttered home is really nice.
Some freebies are good…
I had already begun to apply this idea to my internet activities – after all, I used to download every homeschool freebie I could find, because I might use it someday. Now, I limit those downloads to things that I know will give us an immediate benefit – whether it helps us decide on a larger purchase, or it fills a need. Not only that, if I can find a way to fill that need by making even a small purchase from a small business owner, then it helps both families – theirs and mine. My family gets a great product or activity that improves our lives, and their family gets to eat. It’s a win-win.
Right now, money is tight because moving is expensive, and it takes time to recover. I also have a teaching practice to partially rebuild (online violin lessons, anyone?), so that has also put a dent in our finances. So some freebies right now are big helps; but other things have to wait for someone else to take them home.
Have I become a minimalist? Not hardly – I cannot even conceive of the idea of ditching some of my dragons, or books, or musical instruments…even though I don’t use them all the time. I am just more careful about what we keep. This move was an opportunity to become less cluttered, and more organized – and I am taking it.