I was the poster child for consumerism: I was the girl who manically rummaged through sale bins, disregarded my shopping addiction as retail therapy (everyone does it, right?), and shamelessly abused the “one-click” button while shopping online. I soon realized that my consumption habits were contributing to my general discontent. I took “treat yo’ self” to another level; the lack of balance in my life encouraged me to spend all of my money on things rather than experiences.
My “aha” moment served as the impetus to make a major change; I promised myself that I wouldn’t buy any new clothes, shoes, etc., for a year. Admittedly, a year-long retail moratorium was sobering, and I’m not ashamed to say that, at first, it was an uphill battle. I’d put an embarrassing number of items in my online shopping cart and would have to rip my fingers from the keyboard in order to avoid pressing the “checkout” button.
Soon enough, though, I realized that working towards the goal of leading a minimalist lifestyle was much more satisfying than the instant gratification of shopping. Instead of viewing my goal as a punitive measure, I shifted my focus to crafting an abundant life without ceaseless consumption. I read more, I practiced my ukulele, I socialized with friends and family and slowly, my compulsion to shop waned.
I’m happy to share that I succeeded in my venture of a year-long retail moratorium; however, this is not a feasible lifetime goal. I also recognize that one person’s consumption choices may not be able to change an entire industry, but I think acknowledging and embracing our noblesse oblige will foster positive change. Here are a few tips I incorporate into my current purchasing habits to ensure that I consume consciously:
- CHOOSE WELL – I’ve made a conscious decision to purchase quality over quantity. According to this Quartz article, “we likely have more than five times as many clothing items as we did in the first part of the 20th century. The move of clothing production overseas where labor costs are low has made it possible for us to have large quantities of items without paying much for them.” Hidden behind these discount prices, however, are labor violations, unsafe working conditions, and low-quality, environmentally harmful raw materials. Why do we need to consume so much? Even if I have a strict monthly budget, I now save/invest in one or two quality items at higher price points, rather than buying several, low-quality fast-fashion pieces that will quickly end up in the donation pile. Shopping for quality over quantity keeps my wardrobe culled, my conscience clean, and my sanity intact!
- SLEEP ON IT – Don’t spend money on “stuff” you don’t need! Easier said than done, right? Being constantly bombarded with marketing messaging from media doesn’t help. One way I curb the impulse to spend is by “sleeping on it.” A quick scribble on a post-it note, for example, allows me to really think about my impulse to purchase a new “thing”; is it a need or a want? Rationality for the win!
- REWARD YOURSELF – This tip may seem counterintuitive, especially in comparison to the other items on this list. For me, minimalism doesn’t have to be synonymous with lack. While I’ve drastically curtailed my spending habits, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a little indulgence every now and again. If I’ve accomplished a major task on my list or am celebrating a milestone, I make sure to reward myself. And if I’m supporting a company that shows commitment to fair labor practices, encourages environmentally sustainable production methods, and/or supports local, all the better!
- AVOID EMOTIONAL SHOPPING – Retail outlets are notorious for getting to our credit cards through our senses. Online retail does the same, with its never-ending sales and “one-click” buttons. I admit that I’ve been seduced by these tactics in the past. I don’t feel well? Shop. I feel great? Shop. Easy, right? Wrong. Instant gratification would turn into consistent dissatisfaction, only to start the cycle all over again. Whenever I feel an emotion now, I turn to writing, reading, exercising…anything other than shopping. It has turned out to be one of the best behavioral shifts I’ve made in years. Less stuff, more living!
- ONE IN, ONE OUT – This is my favorite tip on the list. Whenever I’m tempted to a purchase new item, be it clothes, shoes, makeup, or skincare, I ask myself if I’d be willing to part with something similar that I already own. Oftentimes, the answer is no. This “one in, one out” mentality has stopped me from purchasing frivolously in bulk (read: 7 types of lotion, when I only need 1). When I actually run out of an item, now, replacing that one item makes the act of shopping much more precious and memorable for me.