How to Shop Like a Minimalist: 8 Things to Consider BEFORE You Buy That Thing!
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it...Henry David Thoreau
It all began with the fear and trepidation (insert scary music), I felt as I got ready to go LOOK at the most cluttered place in our home (The Loft) and make a plan to actually make it beautiful. As I stared in utter horror at the mounds of STUFF in front of me at the top of the stairs, and extending across the entire ceiling of our upper living area....I just wanted to cry.
I realized that OBVIOUSLY, if I had been thinking like a Minimalist BEFORE I bought all that "stuff," then I wouldn't be having to spend my precious time on this project now! Hence, the word: Shopping.
I figure that once I get my shopping habits really dialed in to intention, essentialism, and minimalism (and start shopping like a minimalist)---I won't have to deal with clutter ever again!
Decluttering is all the rage right now. And rightly so! We live in a time of massive clutter, consumerism, and waste. It seems everywhere I turn nowadays, there is more and more information about decluttering: How to declutter, why to declutter, simple step by step tips for decluttering, how to be a minimalist, how to simplify your life,...and the list goes ON.
As I started searching for advice on minimalism, I found that living a minimalist lifestyle is really only about one thing: Living with INTENTION. Practicing intentionality in everything you do. And that includes decluttering and SHOPPING. I figure if I can shop with intentionality, keeping these 8 helpful questions in mind, then I can work toward becoming a minimalist.
Part of my plan is to think like a minimalist so I can actually BE a minimalist! Therefore, from now on, BEFORE I buy anything, I'll be considering the following 8 questions to help me work toward having a Minimalist mindset and becoming a minimalist. I plan to really take a close look at my shopping habits, and I think that will save me lots of grief (and money) down the road, too!
How to Shop Like a Minimalist: Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Buy the Thing
NOTE: There may be affiliate links scattered throughout this article. If you click through and make any kind of purchase, I will receive a very small commission at no extra cost to you! I appreciate your help supporting Healing Harvest Homestead! Heidi
1) Do I Need It? REALLY?
Greg McKeown wrote an outstanding book called Essentialism. In it, he describes some different (for me, anyway) ways of looking at your life. He helps you nail down what activities, things, even people are TRULY essential in your life. This book actually changed my whole life these past 6 months!
At any rate, asking the question, "Do I need it?" is probably the very first question that I think should run through my head before making mindless purchase. And more important, even, than the question "Do I need it?" is the question "Is it ESSENTIAL?" Must I have this thing in order to survive? Will this thing make or break me? On a path to practicing minimalism, I think this question must rank first. I'm excited to start trying out this question on any future purchases!
2) Is It a Quality Item?
The "Misty" Principle:
I once had a very good friend, who I have since lost touch. Her name is Misty. Well, we were both very young (21 years old), newly married, and both of us had just had our first babies. We were young...and very very broke. We seriously both lived on shoestrings in our respective homes with our respective husbands.
So imagine my surprise when I was visiting her one day, and she had just purchased a top of the line BETA-Max machine! In case you are a youngster and don't know what that is, it was one of the very first movie playing machines--similar to a VHS. And if you don't know what a VHS is, then I really can't help you. I'm just an old lady. lol But that item was all the rage back then! I was in AWE!
But I had to ask: "Misty, why on earth would you spend that much money on that BETA Max machine when you could have gotten a different one for a lot less?"
I will never forget her response, because I have used this principle over the years probably hundreds or even thousands of times. She said to me, "If I'm going to spend a lot of money anyway, I'm going to buy the best quality I can afford because the thing will last forever."
Now, obviously, the BETA-Max machine didn't last forever, but her point was that she wouldn't have to run out and buy a new thing again. But this questions leads me to the next thought:
3) Is the Thing a Fad, a Fancy Electronic Device or a Trend of Some Type?
Beta-max machines are no longer around---albeit it has been over 30 years! And I know for a fact that she got years of use out of that machine!
But in our mass consumer society, things are just not meant to last any more. We are constantly bombarded and brainwashed to buy, buy, buy! Or, they are fads--here for just a blink of an eye! Take SMART phones, for example. You just barely purchase one, and a few months later, a better model than the one you bought is out on the market! There is a LOT of pressure to purchase new things that you already have that are perfectly useful.
Take the new Fidget Spinners that practically every child wants these days. Honestly. That's a complete fad/trend, and they will not last. They are touted as being "anti-anxiety" toys, and having taught special ed for several years, these kinds of things MAY work for children with ADHD.
However, I had typical students who just HAD to have several of them! They have become a "thing". And woe to the poor kid who's parents refused (or couldn't afford) to buy one. I really don't think they will be around in another year. And parents who buy these things for their kids are buying into the hype and current belief that you NEED things like this. And just think of the lesson the child is learning? Hmm?
Bottom line: You really need to examine if the item will be useful and used well just a few months from now, let alone years. Will it be as popular as ever? A pair of Levi 501 button downs are probably a good purchase when viewed through this lens...but the new style of wearing "dirty-look" jeans for $400? That's crazy, my friend!
I think minimalism is also about buying more classic items--things that will last for years!
4) What is the Opportunity Cost of Buying This Item?
Or, can I afford it?
Most people have a limited supply of money to spend. Also, in the Essentialism book, Greg McKeown discusses trade-offs. Every single time you spend any kind of resource (money, time, whatever), you are making a trade-off in that you can't spend that money, time, whatever on something else!
Besides the trade-off concept, there is the downfall of debt. I once had a different friend who admitted to me that she had lied about her credit card debt to her husband and was in for tens of thousands of dollars! I'm glad I wasn't there for THAT conversation!
You really need to consider if buying the thing is worth any kind of trade-off (how about savings?) or if, far worse, you are planning to go into debt to get it. Now my husband and I are not perfect here. That's why I'm putting this list together---it's for my own head!
5) Will I Forget About it Later if I Don't Buy it Now?
Gosh. How many things have I NOT purchased something over the years that I thought I really wanted, and then I just forgot all about it? Way too many to count! I think that just acknowledging that you want something, but that you're going to wait a little while to get it will do one of two things: 1) either you will not be able to get it off your mind and you will wish you had purchased it (in which case you should just--maybe--go get it), or 2) you won't remember it at all. Most of the time, these things fall into the number 2 category for me, and I suspect for most others, too.
6) How Useful is It? Truly?
I'm starting to get to the point where if something doesn't have multiple uses, then it's probably not worth bringing it into my house. Depending of course on whether or not it doesn't meet the "Do I really need it?" question.
Recently, I decided I am going to try to get a YouTube channel going, and there is something called a DIVA lamp that is supposed to magically erase wrinkles. HA! Yeah right! But the lady I was watching on Facebook did look fabulous, even at the ripe age of 45, and she showed us the difference in her face with and without this light. I was sold! BUT....the thing cost $300 or something crazy like that, and it therefore did not meet the affordability factor for me. Bummer!
But then my husband bought me a Phillips Sunlight Alarm Clock (I'll have to find out the real name), where the light mimics the sun rising, and birds chirp as you gently awaken to the "rising sun." You can brighten it or dim it too.
Guess what!? It now doubles as my DIVA light! At a fraction of the cost! Do I NEED this thing? Well, that's debatable, because who wants to look terrible in their videos? And I really love waking up to the sun!
The bottom line is that this light/alarm has more than one great use! And, it makes me happy. So even if I'm not going to die without it, it meets enough of the criteria that I'm good with that. I think most people who consider themselves minimalists probably try to have items that perform multiple tasks!
7) Have I Done My Research?
This one is pretty simple. I love getting on Amazon just to read reviews on things I want to buy but haven't yet. Reviews are pretty telling. If a person is going to take the time to write a positive review, then their satisfaction factor probably matches at least 20 other people's, if not more. It pays to look into the quality of an item before you make that purchase--especially expensive items.
8) Do I LOVE It? Like Really, Really Love It?
This question is for those things that don't make the "Do I really need it?" question. If it doesn't make the grade there, then it needs to be something that I KNOW will really make me happy when I see it or use it. And I have to say....not too many items match that description. You know what makes me happy to see in my house? The pottery my daughter made when she was in high school. Orchids. Things fermenting away in Mason jars on the counter. The American flags that flew in Iraq when my son was deployed. Pictures of my grand kids. The painting my mom did back in 1975--or my step-mom's gift of two pictures of our area we received last Christmas. Flowers in the yard. Those thoughtful things given to me by people I love. At this stage of my life, there is not a whole lot that I need to buy that really fits this question.
Is that to say that I should never ever buy something I like at the store? No. But I do think it needs to meet quite a lot of the other criteria here. Like my desk. I really needed a desk. The card table without drawers was just not cutting it any more. And--it was butt ugly. And very cluttered (due to its not having drawers). So my husband and I went looking for a desk. We found a good quality, reasonably priced desk that I LOVE because of its rustic look. It's definitely doing double duty in that it is lovely and useful. Plus, we paid cash, so it was affordable. But it took me awhile to find this desk---it was a process, that's for sure!
Final Thoughts on Thinking Like a Minimalist When I Shop...(So I Can Become a Minimalist)
Some of these thinking processes I am already pretty good at. Others, not so much. But these are all questions that I feel I need to ask before I make any kind of purchase (besides vegetables) any more. It's time to trim the fat, get rid of excess waste, and get that loft upstairs taken care of! Wish me luck! :-)
Where are you on the Minimalism or Essentialism scale? What are your thoughts on this matter? Are you good at shopping and buying only things that are necessary? How much pleasure do you get out of purchasing certain things? These are all interesting questions for me, and I'd sure love to know how you feel about this topic! Please comment! It's boring without you! :-)
If you want to learn more about becoming a minimalist (and what on earth one is), here are some articles I've read that are super helpful. This first one is from my friend, Danielle, over at the Rustic Elk, and she takes you from area to area with ideas: 32 Tips on Becoming a Minimalist; And these others are pretty good too: Our 21-Day Journey into Minimalism, How I Became a Minimalist, Start Big. Start Small. Start Somewhere.
Also, if you are interested in other homestead/survival life topics, check out How I Found My Joy, and What MUST a Gal Have in Her Get Home Bag? And if you are interested in preparedness, you might want to read about getting your emergency food storage started!
Hugs & Self-Reliance,
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