Thoughts on Minimalism
You may recall that way back in July I took a 90 day hiatus from material shopping (as well as sleeping pills which I’m proud to say I still do not take – yay). This shopping spree/retail therapy hiatus meant I would not buy any fashion-related items including clothes, shoes, jewelry, hats, purses, you name it. I also chose not to make any new household purchases like purely decorative items or new sheets for my bed or a coffee cup on sale. Pretty much I only allowed myself to buy things I “needed”. Groceries, toilet paper, alcohol (yes, that’s a need sometimes), physical experiences like renting a kayak for the day or attending a concert, and I believe I purchased a book or two.
Being that it’s been a little over 3 months since I successfully completed my consumerism 90-day “break”, I thought it was time to catch you all up on the status of this little experiment and reading this post the other night on the Minimalists’ blog, reminded me of my aspirations in this area. There are a few things I learned from this that I think are worth sharing.
Everyone should try this at least once.
“Why?” you ask. Because it completely and utterly changed the way that I look at purchases and needs vs. wants. Going 90 days without buying a single piece of clothing was empowering in a way that I didn’t quite expect. To ease my temptation, I deleted email subscriptions to my favorite stores and I avoided shopping centers at all costs (which for me meant not going near a Target – my weak spot).
Whenever I actually thought I needed something (like new sneakers because my feet were hurting me when I worked out), I allowed myself at least two weeks to think about it. During this time I outweighed the pros and cons, and made a rational decision on whether I really needed this item. I decided in the case of the sneakers, that I did, and it wasn’t a frivolous purchase but something that would help keep me healthy and happy. I’ve continued this “sleep on it” process and it’s amazing the things you think you need, but quickly forget about once you leave the store.
Once I completed the 90 day test, I thought that I would feel the need to run to the mall and stock up on some of the season’s newest trends (this was now October so all the cute winter items were popping up everywhere). However, to my surprise, I felt the exact opposite. I started naturally evaluating whether another cute blazer was really worth $60 or not.
And you know what? It usually wasn’t.
A couple weeks after the hiatus I visited my favorite clothing store, tried on numerous outfits, and easily decided I didn’t really need anything that I was looking at, even if I loved it and it fit perfectly. In the past, I felt like if it looked good on me and I loved the item – I had to buy it. Throw in a good sale and there was no way I could leave without that item, it would simply be irresponsible of me!
It’s all about baby steps.
Sure, I dream of this extreme minimalist life where every counter is clear of clutter and I have just exactly what I need or use on a regular basis. But that’s a long way from where I’m at now – and to be quite honest, I’m not sure if I’ll ever get there or if it’s actually what would make me happy – but right now I am taking it one day at a time.
Actually it’s more like one decision at a time.
I think differently about every purchase I make. Which means I actually think about every purchase I make. It’s this shift in my thinking that makes all the difference in what makes it into the shopping cart. This has even lead to better and healthier purchasing decisions at the grocery store. It’s amazing how one step in the right direction can lead to a path of change.
You don’t have to take it to the extreme.
On the same note as taking baby steps, it’s important for me to remember that I can strive for a more minimalist life yet still sometimes buy frivolous things just because. It doesn’t make me a hypocrite or a failure. It just means I’m human. I still buy a new scarf just because it’s pretty – even though I live in Florida and already own 12 scarves. Sometimes, in my opinion, you just have to go with your gut and if wearing that new pretty scarf will make you smile, then damnit who cares – go for it.
It’s all about moderation.
Now I feel as though I’m on the next phase of this journey, which involves eliminating some of the excess in my life that’s built up over the years. I’m starting to clean out closets and purge unused items (more than the usual spring cleaning). It’s tough because many of these things cost money and far too many have never even been used, but it feels good to donate it to a worthy cause or even try to make a few bucks back by selling it at a garage sale or on craigslist, whichever makes the most sense for that item.
If you have any interest in eliminating excess from your life – in the form of bad habits or material things – I suggest you start small. Try the hiatus and see how it goes. You don’t have to punish yourself if you slip up but I think you’ll see the true effects of it if you stick to it pretty strictly. This could also go for kicking a bad habit. Maybe telling yourself you’re only going to prove that you can quit for 30 days, will help get you over the hump and lead you toward a more permanent change.
Anyone else feeling the need to lighten your load or the desire to eliminate some of the wasteful consumption? It’s something that’s been building in me but has really hit me in recent months and I’m curious to hear what your take is on the minimalist lifestyle. Drop a comment below and let me know if you can relate.