Changing a consumerist mindset
The consumerist mindset is a funny one, I think people have misconceived perceptions of what their shopping habits are actually like and they like to pretend like they don’t really go to the shops every weekend. Now, I’m not saying going shopping in all its entirety is bad, but consistent purchases of useless stuff is. You go to somewhere like Primark for instance to get those jeans, or you need a top in that colour or something, once you step into the shop, it’s a battlefield for the mind and eye. You see bargains and sales and reduced items and for whatever reason, you can’t help but pick it up and put it in your trolley or basket. Trust me, I know the feeling, the snack isle of Tesco is especially dangerous if I’m hungry when doing the food shop. You think to yourself, it’s reduced so I’m saving x amount, and you go round the store doing this with every bargain and sale item you find.
Here’s a fact for you: even if the item is on sale, if you did not need it in the first place, you are not saving money. I’ll let you digest that for a moment, but I’ll explain why. If you have a list of things that you absolutely need, say at a food store and you go and the list is: milk, bread, cereal, fruit, veg and burgers (or something along those lines) which might cost you say £20, you then go down the bakery isle and see the doughnuts are on sale, get 2 boxes of doughnuts for £1, get these choccy-chip biscuits for £1 down from £1.50, you then explore the toiletries isle and pick up this nice smelling shampoo for £3, even though you have 7 unopened bottles at home. You’ve now just spent £5 more than you needed to because you got the “sale” items, it was only a sale if you absolutely needed to get them, and now that’s £5 out of your holiday fund, or wedding fund, or fund for getting that new camera you’ve been wanting. See where I’m going with this? Primark sales, sales on cosmetics, sales on anything, are only saving you money if you needed to get them in the first place. This is the consumerist mindset that you need to change. Let’s go back to our original shopping list, and let’s say the cereal is £2 instead of £4.50 and the burgers are £3 down from £5. You will be saving yourself £4.50, and you are actually saving because you needed those items. Buying what you ACTUALLY need, especially if it’s on sale, will save you money. Look at what you already have, and be very strict with yourself not to be tempted by deals and sales that may try and convince you that you need something when you actually don’t.
One method that is the most effective of all, in my experience, is just not going to the shops constantly. I used to go to town out of boredom when mum was at work when I was a kid, or I would go into Cardiff as entertainment with my boyfriend. Just being near the shops was temptation enough, going in the shops was fairly devastating to my bank account. I wouldn’t buy masses of stuff, but I was still buying stuff that I didn’t need. As a minimalist on YouTube once said, not buying stuff you don’t need now, saves you from having to declutter it later.
Within minimalism, you are still allowed to buy things; one of the biggest things that scares people away from minimalism I think is that they assume they’re never allowed to buy anything ever again. This is completely untrue. In fact, minimalism doesn’t just come in one form, there are so many people in the community with so many different outlooks on what minimalism looks like, it is pretty inspiring. Some people live with more things than you might think they do, the reason being is that all the things they have serve some kind of purpose in their life. Many minimalists may not have a lot of “stuff” per say, such as clothes, makeup, cooking utensils etc., but they might decide to bring in lots of house plants because having a lot of greenery inside helps to lower their negative thoughts perhaps.
For myself, I like to purchase books, not just any books though, they have to have something to do with natural history and mostly wildlife at that. They can be field guides/ID books or textbooks about conservation or ecology or even stories about people’s lives such as David Attenborough or Ben Fogle. No, my bookshelf doesn’t look very minimalist to an outsider, but I curate it with books that bring me a lot of happiness. Being somewhat of a nerd and loving to learn about wildlife, having lots of different books to read and flick through is important to me. However, this is really the only section of my house that is allowed to expand. I hardly ever buy new clothes and if I do it’s usually because I’ve managed to wear out something and need to replace it, or I’ve thought about it for weeks before purchasing the new item to see if I would actually have a use for it. I don’t buy makeup anymore as I haven’t worn it in years, and if I do need some, I don’t need a lot; my makeup routine is limited to foundation, concealer, eyeshadow and mascara if I were to wear any at all. I used to have so much makeup that I would never have been able to use up with how often I wore it, so no wonder most of it was out of date by the time I came to clear it out.
When setting purchase allowances for yourself, I would suggest identifying the things that really bring you joy that you would struggle to live without. I’m not saying it has to be something you use on a daily basis, but maybe you love looking through wildlife books quite often, or you love art so you need sketchbooks and pencils or maybe you love having a new outfit every so often. Allow yourself these purchases, but be mindful about how often they happen, and also with clothes and makeup, be mindful about where they come from to try and lessen your impact on the environment.
Minimalism doesn’t have to be restrictive in anyway but can be used as a tool to help you make better purchasing decisions. As well as being mindful of what you purchase and bring into your home, remember the goals that you have set for yourself (refer to the second blog in the minimalism mini-series). Always remember that something you don’t purchase now, saves you from having to declutter it later.