School Supply Sales: Buying what we need, not what’s on sale.

Dozens of pencilsIt’s that time of year with all the stores featuring loss lead school supplies.  Walking into our Fred Meyers I was immediately surrounded by shelves and bins of cheap school supplies; $.19 spiral college rule notepads, $.15 folders, and $1.99 two dozen Ticonderoga pencils.  Three ring binders were buy 1, get 1 free.

My heart skips for joy.  I love a sale.  I NEED school supplies.  I love the feel of a brand new eraser.  Wouldn’t it be great to have dozens of pencils that were not sharpened to the nub.  And three ring binders with matching covers. The crazy excitement kept building.  The prices were really great, if only for the first three or five items.

I fingered school supplies.  My mind raced for what I wanted . . . needed . . . wanted.

Zap!  I don’t know what popped in my head, but all the minimalist work of a year had vanished as I walked in the door.  I had no intentions of buying school supplies when I entered the store.  I pushed my cart past the display and headed to the dairy section to buy the sour cream and yogurt I needed for a recipe.  Away from the display I thought about what I NEEDED for next year.  I had worked so hard to declutter for this past year, and I love the feel of the supply closet.  We do NEED a few items, but not twenty dollars of items we won’t use.

Away from the temptation, I wrote down five items we needed.  We do NEED college rule spiral notebooks. We NEED more pencils, we don’t need erasers.  We NEED folders.  We NEED index cards.  And we NEED school calendar-organizer.

That was it.

I came up with a few rules, on the spot:

  • Any additional purchases would need to replace an item in the house.  One item in, one item out.
  • No duplicates.  We already have enough scissors and rulers.  One for each kid.  More just becomes clutter.
  • No adding onto supplies like additional colored pencils.  We have enough.  Less is more.
  • Big items need consideration; I can walk away and return tomorrow after accessing NEEDS vs. WANTS.

After a year of decluttering, I know all of the reasons I don’t NEED all these supplies that are set out to tempt the shopper.

  • We save money by only buying what we need.
  • Our home feels more organized and we have more time to do schooling or to be family, because it takes less time to clean.
  • It is better to reuse, reduce and recycle, than to buy new and trash last year’s items.

Staring at the bins and shelves of supplies, I tried a new technique.  I focused on William Morris’ quote, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Standing there, I envisioned our school room and the craft closet.  The image of a year ago and the image of what I would return home to see.  Looking at the “stuff” in bins, and my shopping cart, “which items would help me to create that Useful and Beautiful schoolroom?”.

I kept my five groups of items, turned and left the rest behind.  I’ve worked too hard to go back to the clutter.


  • Jerilyn

    July 22, 2014 at 5:53 pm Reply

    Just found your site and I love this!

    All we need are new pencils!

  • Anne

    March 22, 2015 at 11:54 am Reply

    This was not spam . . . so I don’t know why the website screened it out. We just sharpened all our pencils and are donating the smaller stubs to library help desk.

Please take a moment to share your minimalist homeschooling ventures.

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