Conscious shopping might be a term you’re already familiar with if you’re interested in sustainability and the three Rs; reduce, reuse & recycle. I started researching this the last couple of years as my interest in environmental issues grew stronger. In this post I’ll only be talking about the minimalist part of conscious shopping, which is mainly about reducing and reusing.
I try to live a minimalistic life as much as possible. Mostly because of the clarity and peace that comes with not owning too much stuff. A messy apartment filled with junk gives me so much anxiety that I can’t get things done. It brings down my mood. So the perfect solution would be to simply not buy anything, right? Well, sadly I’m also the kind of person who needs things to be sorted and finished right away. Getting rid of things is great, it actually brings me joy. But sometimes getting rid of things that are broken or worn out means you need to replace it at some point. And wanting to be more organised sometimes requires an item or solution you don’t have. And this, this feeling of not being completely finished with the spring cleaning or organisation is something I just can’t deal with. I’m impatient when it comes to my home. Which makes me buy things more often than I can afford. Which isn’t very minimalistic. Or economic.
Minimalism to me is not just owning what I need. Because let’s be honest here, I don’t actually NEED to have four pillows on the couch, a ton of plants and 12 identical coffee cups. These things however gives me more comfort, joy and enables me to invite all of my friends for coffee. The items themselves don’t have much value to me (except for the plants of course), but the things they represent are very important in my life (comfort, joy and friendships). Which is why the items are essential in my home.
But it’s difficult to find a balance and to establish the things that are important and the ones that aren’t. So here’s a quick list I use whenever I’m thinking of buying something and I want to make a conscious choice.
1. The purpose of the purchase
Have you thought about the item for a while, or is it just something you saw at a friend’s house, on Instagram or in the store you just happened to walk into? Is this something that will make your life easier, better or in some other way improve your situation? Is this something you WANT, something you NEED or both?
Sometimes when we need something, in my case an orginised home, we buy the cheapest, first thing we can find that does the job and gives us instant gratification. But after a while we realise it doesn’t give us any joy, and we ask ourselves why we didn’t think it through. Don’t just buy what you need. Wait until you find an item of need that you actually want.
2. Will I use this item? And if so, how often?
We’ve all been there. Buying something because you were having that themed party, because it was on sale or because you were having an anxiety attack over how unhealthy you are and how everything we eat is basically poison, so you just had to buy a juice mixer. And then you use it once, or never, and it just sits in the deepest corner of that cupboard in the kitchen that you never open. The best advice I’ve ever heard on this is to write down every time you find yourself needing this item. Keep track of how many times a month you’d wanna reach for it if you had it, and then ask yourself if it’s worth buying. This brings me to the next question.
3. Do I already have an item resembling this one, or an item I can use instead of this?
For example, I might want to get a sandwich grill. A sandwich grill might make it easier for me to make grilled sandwiches, but I might as well make them in my small oven or in a pan. Go back to (reasonable) basics and be creative! I currently use a flower pot for our washed cutlery. I made a hanging organizer for our cleaning closet with some scrap fabrics I found. And I reuse glass jars for grains, leftovers and sometimes for plants. Making something with my hands also gives me a break from worrying, it’s very therapeutic.
4. Is this something I can borrow?
A lot of sources tell you to buy things from thrift stores instead of buying them new, but what’s even better is not buying them at all. If this is something you’re only gonna use once or every once in a while, like a screwdriver, just ask someone you know if you can borrow theirs. I know this is difficult when you, like me, have issues asking for help. If this is the case, just look up rental services. Libraries don’t just hold books nowadays. Some have tools and even everyday clothes for rent. If you can’t find a local tool rental, think about asking the library or some local shop if this is something they might consider. There is a shop here in the south of Sweden that started a free tool pool, and it’s been very successful.
5. Am I really being honest with myself here?
Nobody wins if you lie to yourself. Let’s be real. If you’ve come this far and still think you need the item, ask yourself all of the questions above once more. I usually go through the questions like 10 times even if it’s just a pair of jeans I’m thinking of getting. Think of everything as an investment. Hopefully you’re gonna have this item for a very long time, will you still love it in 3 years?