By Emily McColeman
Another shopping bag, another swipe of my bankcard and another day of not thinking about the origin of the items I purchased or the companies I was supporting. To make matters worse, the only thing stopping me from buying more was the price - not whether or not I actually needed it. It is said that advertising has polluted our culture and has created a sense of auto-craving within us and I believe this to be true. Economist and sociologist Juliet Schor states, “We are too materialistic in the everyday sense of the word, and we are not at all materialistic enough in the true sense of the word. We need to be true materialists, like really care about the materiality of goods. Instead we are in a world in which material goods are so important for their symbolic meaning and what they do to position us in the status system based on what advertising or marketing says they are about”. This concept of being a true materialist got me hooked on the idea of intentional shopping and minimalism. As I continued to do my research and analyze my own habits, I discovered freedom that can come from living more deliberately with less. I started thinking about how easy it is to accumulate more “stuff” when it is cheap and accessible. I began recognizing what happens when I compare my belongings to those of people around me. I imagine that many people can relate to the negative cycle of this type of comparison. Just to be clear, I have not fully adapted to the minimalist lifestyle and I doubt I ever truly will. However, now I think differently and apply some of the concepts and ideas behind minimalism to my life. Here are a few tips that I find help me to stay on track.
Embracing a Different Kind of Shopping
Becoming familiar with ethical shopping companies is an effective way to be more intentional with what you buy. There are many great companies dedicated to providing ethical, sustainable products. Owners of these companies go out of their way to educate the consumer about the products they offer. Shopping through these companies is preferable to buying at big box stores. Consumers can take comfort in the fact they are intentionally buying a product that reflects their values.
Quality Over Quantity
Investing in good quality, long-lasting items is a great way to reduce the number of items you buy and stow away. Instead of trying to get as many items as you can with $50 at a bargain store, perhaps try to buy one quality item you love from a higher end retailer. It might be hard to convince yourself it’s a good idea at first, but once you wrap your head around “more is not always best”, its much easier.
It is a wonderful practice to sort through your belongings and bag whatever is only taking up space. Though it can be hard to convince yourself you will never need certain items again, odds are you won’t miss them. Once they are dropped off at a donation centre, they likely won’t cross your mind again. Plus, it allows others to re-use the items instead of buying them new.
Speaking of re-using, try to challenge yourself to re-use as many things in your day-to-day life as possible. This strategy reduces your need to buy new and helps you remain conscious of waste. For example, re-use grocery bags or use them in place of garbage bags. Buy glass containers that you can re-use instead of disposable plastic ones. Get creative!
Instead of accepting the fate of a product when a screen is cracked or a hem is torn, take it in to get repaired or fix it yourself. Repairing items seems to be less and less popular as time goes on, as it requires a bit more work than simply throwing them out. However, it is another helpful strategy to reduce the amount of goods you buy. On top of that, it helps reduce the amount of garbage thrown into landfills, which is a great bonus!
Forgiving Myself and Keep Trying
Changing your life-long shopping habits can be really challenging. It is no easy task when everywhere you look you see the newest trendy thing being marketed to you. Just remember that you are a step ahead in the first place by starting to introduce minimalism into your life. If you catch yourself falling back into old habits, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just keep trying to implement the shift you want to see in your every-day life one step at a time. Eventually you’ll see and feel the positive impact that intentionality can bring.