How to Shop Like a Minimalist

The movement toward less and away from mindless consumption has been a freeing one to say the least. When I packed up my car (and a few others) to move back to Dallas after college, I was exhausted and disgusted by all the stuff.  I had accumulated so many thing I didn’t need or even want. The process of editing began as soon as I started unpacking. Carloads of stuff had to go.

Once I got rid of the clutter and I could see the things that I really loved, I realized there were some staples that I was missing. I also had some gaps in furniture and appliances that had previously been filled by roommates. But before I started shopping, I needed to establish clear criteria for determining what made something a good purchase. How do I decide what to buy? How do I know I won’t regret it?

Before I make a purchase, I always ask myself these questions…

Does This Thing Add Value? 
You may have read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which frequently instructs its readers to ask themselves does this inspire joy? That’s a great place to start, but it doesn’t necessarily put things in the kind of concrete terms that will provide clarity for everyone. I think the more important thing is whether or not that item adds value to your life. If you’ll frequently enjoy using that item and it serves a purpose, I’d say it adds value.

What is its Longevity?
If you’ve just gotten rid of bags and bags full of clothes and trinkets that you didn’t need, it’s pretty important to make sure the new things you bring into your life are there for the long haul. The two things I keep in mind are style and quality. Is the style classic or basic enough that I will feel good keeping it for a long time? And, if I feel good about keeping it for along time, will it actually last? Take a little time to do your research on this one. One exception that I make here is for trendy items. This mostly applies to fashion, and I only pick two or three items per season, if that (Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter). If you find a trend you love, that’s great! But knowing that since it’s a trend, it will be on its way out soon, this is where you want to be thrifty.

Can I Afford This?
Okay this sounds obvious, but 93% of Americans are in some kind of debt (myself included, thanks student loans), so apparently not. If you can’t afford something, don’t buy it. The whole point of this minimalism thing is to make room for the things that matter. If you have to put it on the credit card (which I would recommend you cut up immediately), you don’t need it. If you technically have the money in your bank account, but know the rest of your month will be really tight, you also don’t need it. Another thing we don’t think about is time and space… Can you afford the time it takes to use or maintain that thing? Can you afford space for this item? Does it have a place to go?

Does it Fit? 
Again, this may seem obvious, but I’m not just talking about the way a jacket fits. Does this item fit you physically? Does it fit in with your style so that it will blend in seamlessly with the rest of what you own? Does this item fit in with your lifestyle? Will it physically fit where you need it to go? This is an area where people are often tempted to compromise when something is on sale — don’t do it. These things are important because if the answer is no to any of these questions, I promise that will be a purchase you regret.

Does it Align with my Values?
I’m of the opinion that every decision we make is a vote. We vote with our dollars, we vote with our time — where we spend our time and money is validating something. If you have convictions about products being vegan, or made in the USA, or sourced from local vendors, or if you have convictions about the way a particular company conducts business, please, please, please, let your spending habits reflect that! It’s the only way the market will ever shift in favor of whatever values you hold dear, so use your time and your money to vote for them.

Did it Make The List?
Every time I’ve decided that I want something, and it has passed all of the above tests, that item gets added to The List – a list of all the things I’ve seriously considered buying and would like to keep an eye out for. Before almost every purchase I make, I wait a month or longer between the time I thought I want that and purchasing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a $5 book or a $600 bed — if I buy something, that item is something that I decided I wanted a while ago and would be on the look out for until I found the right one. This gives me a enough distance from the impulse that I can make a purchase decision with a clear head and ensures that I will end up with something that I’ll use and love for a very long time. Today, I live with less, I have much better, curated style, and I’m surrounded by things I truly enjoy.

Have your own minimalist tips for shopping? Let me know + comment below! I’d love to hear from you! xx, C


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