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How Do Minimalists Shop?

Before I adopted minimalism, I had a pretty serious shopping habit. Like many women, shopping was something to do, often as an activity with girlfriends or female family members. It was a legitimate way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I tried not to spend too much during these outings, sticking mostly to the clearance aisles, scouring the store for the “deals.” However, even clearance shoes and $5 shirts eventually add up, and I cringe to think of the bills I must have racked up on my credit card in those days.

It’s probably not terribly surprising that I no longer shop like this. But what may surprise you is that I still like to shop. But I think about shopping much differently than I used to. Now I divide shopping into two separate categories:

Category 1: Shopping as activity
Category 2: Shopping as necessity
Shopping as Activity

The first type, shopping as activity, is the kind described in the first paragraph. It’s something to do. And it’s not necessarily bad. If I do shop this way–which, it may surprise you to know–I still occasionally do, it’s vital to keep the goal of the activity in mind. If you’re shopping as activity, the goal might be female bonding, not actually purchasing. I can “shop” all afternoon like this and purchase nothing more than a nice coffee and some lunch and still find the experience positive because it allowed me to spend time with people I love.  We could be shopping or we could be going for a nature walk or we could be playing volleyball. The end result is that we were together and that’s what matters.

However, as I’ve adopted a more minimalist mindset, I find shopping as activity less and less appealing. It can feel strange to spend a few hours in a mall and not buy something. It’s sort of like fasting at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Shopping as activity requires a certain kind of self-control. If you have a history of chronic shopping, shopping as activity is like a recovering alcoholic trying to just hang out and drink water at happy hour. It’s not gonna work. Know yourself, and know if you can handle this type of shopping or not.

Also, I’ve observed that women (myself included) tend to exert a subtle buying pressure on each other when shopping together. We say things like, “Ooh! That looks so great on you! You should get it.” I think our intentions are very admirable–we’re trying to encourage and build each other up. It’s the consumer equivalent of saying “Nice hit!” to someone who just knocked a line drive in baseball. But I think there are other, better ways to bond and support each other.

What would happen if you suggested a different type of bonding activity for your girl-time? Mani/pedis, facials, museum trips, kayaking, nature walks, kickball, and the like are all excellent ways to bond with those close to you.

Shopping As Necessity

Let’s face it. Unless you are planning to hand-weave your next cocktail dress on your own personal loom, there are times you are going to need to shop. Shopping as necessity is all about going in with a clear and specific purpose. This is the main type of shopping I do now. Shopping as necessity means that I don’t randomly browse a store looking for “clothes.” Instead, I have a specific goal in mind, such as “cream-colored tunic top” or “good quality black leggings.” I keep a running list on my phone of items I need to buy, which I refer to during these trips. (Bonus of keeping a list like this: when you do have the chance to go shopping as activity, you have a set list of items you can buy without feeling guilty!)

My favorite part of shopping as necessity is that frees me to move beyond the clearance rack. I used to think buying items on clearance meant I was finding “deals.” Actually, what I was finding was a bunch of ill-fitting, low-quality items that I didn’t need. I was the quintessential girl with a closet full of nothing to wear, mostly because I had not strategically planned what I wanted to buy. Now my closet has many more basics, which I can switch and swap to make a variety of outfits. This is much easier–and I look better dressed–than my old system.

A Word on Impulse Buys

Even though I try to only make planned purchases, I sometimes have the occasional impulse buy. If I go into a store looking for a specific item and happen to see a dress I love, I might just buy it. I think that’s okay. I’m not a robot and minimalism is not meant to be a restrictive lifestyle. And since I have a lot less clothes and follow a seasonal capsule wardrobe, I know exactly what is in my closet at all times. Thus, I know if that impulse buy will actually suit my wardrobe. And I have no qualms about returning or donating items quickly if I get them home and they aren’t as awesome as I thought they’d be.

I hope this post gives you some food for thought when it comes to shopping. Cheers to looking fabulous and shopping purposely!

To less stuff and more you!

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