The typical purchase process looks something like this: Walk into the store for one thing, come home with ten things. Those other nine things weren’t on your list or part of the plan, but they were on sale, or you thought you deserved something extra, or it was too cute, revolutionary, cool or delicious to pass up. Maybe you used cash, or maybe it was easier to throw it on a credit card. Fast forward 6-12 weeks or months and the stuff that lifted you up for a moment is now just part of your clutter or debt struggle. You don’t remember why you bought it.
Simplicity isn’t just about the outgoing stuff. The incoming is just as important. If you are working towards a clutter-free home, you want more outgoing than incoming and when you are maintaining a clutter-free home, the incoming should at least match the outgoing.
I’m assuming that you have what you need, and probably more in your home. There may be other new, shiny things that you think could make your life better, easier, or more glamorous. Or maybe things that you think could make you better or more glamorous. Advertisers are working hard everyday to make sure you think you need more.
- Cultivate a museum mentality. Living more simply doesn’t mean you don’t want more. The desire for more dissipates but in my experience, it doesn’t go away completely. Instead of finding gratification in the owning, find it in appreciation for the item. For instance, when you walk through a museum you can fully appreciate the art without owning it. The same goes for new clothing, gadgets and other things. When you desire, admire. Don’t acquire.
- Wait and see. That thing you must own will still be available next month. Wait 30 days for any purchase and see if is still as necessary or appealing.
- Spend it on paper. Carry a small notebook with you and whenever you think about buying something, write down what it is and how much it costs. Do this for 30 days and see how much money you’ve saved. If you want to take this a step further, set the cash aside for every purchase you don’t make. At the end of 30 days, you’ll have a good contribution to put towards debt or an emergency fund.
- Make your purchase matter. Try to purchase when it pays back in the way of supporting local artists and causes. Also consider the pass along factor. Can you pass on your purchase when you are done with it? For instance, if you buy a glue gun, but only need it once, will you pass it on to someone who needs it instead of storing it with all of the other things you thought you might need someday?
- Establish gift policies. Talk to your friends and family and come up with a way to reduce gift purchasing. Some people will be relieved to stop the gift exchange and others may be completely closed to the idea. For the most part, people will fall in the middle with the interest of preserving tradition. They may consider a new twist like gifting experiences over stuff or spending money on a dinner or weekend getaway in lieu of gifts. If you are ready to call gift giving off, be gentle with people who aren’t there yet, but hold your ground.
- Declare a shopping fast. Let everyone around you know that you won’t be shopping for 3 months for anything besides food and essentials. It’s easier to recognize behaviors and patterns when you break away from them for awhile.
- Remove your emotional expectations. Your stuff does not have the power to change your life. Nothing you buy will make you a better person.
- Unsubscribe. You are bombed with unsolicited advertising messages all day so you might as well control what you can. Unsubscribe from digital updates from your favorite retailers. Opt out of catalog mailings and stop reading the sales flyers if you haven’t already. You won’t miss what you don’t know about.
- The buddy system. If you have shopaholic tendencies, team up with a friend or family member that likes to shop too. Whenever you are about to make an impulse purchase, call your friend and talk through it. Do you need it? Do you need it today? Ask questions and be supported and supportive. We all need a little help sometimes.
- Challenge Yourself. When you take on The 100 Thing Challenge or Project 333, shopping less is not part of the rules, but it is a pleasant side effect of living with less. A challenge will bring more intention to your desire to simplify your life.
I need to buy a new pair of shoes. My shoes are literally falling apart, but I am resisting the mall as long as I can. I remember when going to buy a pair of shoes was a day long event including several pairs of shoes and bags of other things I found along the way. Now I can think of a million things I would rather do than shop for shoes.
When you encourage simplicity, you discover how you really want to spend your time. Afternoons at Target and weekends at the mall become chores instead of outings. Shopping loses its appeal, or at least it did for me. That doesn’t mean you’ll never want or buy things again, but when you redefine your purchase process, you can buy what you want or need without compulsion, greed or guilt.
When you stop buying to feel something, you can recognize what you really need.