How I shop as a minimalist

With minimalism, a lot of things change in our lives, but the most significant change is the perception of material stuff.

Suddenly we realise that things won’t make us happy, even though we still appreciate that they can make our life easier, more comfortable and enjoyable.

And because of that, our shopping habits can become completely different. I already talked about mindful shopping, which you can check out here.

But I always wondered how other people shop and what goes in their mind when they’re making decisions, so I thought I would share my approach to shopping in different areas of my life.

1. FASHION

I used to buy a lot of stuff — a lot. I don’t ever remember going to a shopping centre without bringing home a bag or two (at least).

I also don’t remember having a clear idea of why I was going shopping in the first place. And if I think about it now – most of the time me saying “I need XYZ” was just an excuse to go shopping and buy whatever catches my eye.

Now, I approach shopping a little bit differently.

First, I have a wishlist.

I write down both very specific items, like a white tailored denim jacket with at least 1% elastane, and things that are more general, like a colourful summer dress.

When I’m filling out the list, I focus on gaps in my closet, so I don’t end up buying something I don’t need.

And if I do see any trends or pieces that I like on someone else, I always ask myself how that would translate to my style and my wardrobe, to decide if it would be a great addition or not.

By having guidelines, most of my purchases are spot on even though I often come home empty handed which brings me to the next point.

Now, I’m really patient.

In the beginning, I felt like my shopping trip wasn’t successful if I didn’t find anything that I liked. I felt disappointed and I missed the feeling you have when you buy something new.

But when you shop with a list, you have to get used to not finding things right away. That doesn’t mean we’ll search for them forever, but sometimes we just have to be patient.

When I returned a pair of my distressed jeans, I needed a whole year to find a new pair that I liked. And that white denim jacket I mentioned earlier, I’ve been looking for it since last spring, and I still haven’t found it. 

But that’s okay. I know that rushing will only lead me to buy something that is not a perfect match, which means I’ll continue looking for the same thing even though I already bought it until I find the right piece and replace it for the inferior one.

That happened to me before, so now I don’t mind waiting to find what I’m looking for.

And yet, I’m still spontaneous (but with rules, haha)

Sometimes we might see something, like it and be kind of caught off guard.

I used to be very rigid when I came upon a piece that wasn’t on my wishlist. It was a no, no matter what.

But I have to admit – I regretted not getting certain things that caught my eye unexpectedly.

So instead of dismissing the item right away, I ask myself three questions to make sure it will be a great buy:

  • Does this piece fill up a spot in my closet? One thing I want to avoid is buying duplicates. I don’t want to add the 7th winter dress or the 15th sweater. So I quickly go through how many items of this kind I already own to decide if it’s a good purchase or not.
  • Can I see myself wearing it all the time? Even though we don’t want to wear the same thing over and over again, this helps us answer how much use we’ll get out of it. I find this question especially useful when I find a unique design, that is not the most versatile – if I see myself wearing it a lot, then it doesn’t matter that is very memorable and special.
  • Are the colours the right fit for my closet? If we see something beautiful, but the colours or the patterns are so different that it doesn’t go with the majority of my closet, then it’s a no. There are so many beautiful pieces out there anyway, so why buy something that I’ll wear only once in a while?

2. COSMETICS

When it comes to beauty products, I shifted my focus from always trying out new things and following with latest beauty trends, to having a more curated routine that I change up when and if I feel like it.

I want my beauty routines to be full products I love so much that I rebuy them when I run out.

And that is how I shop for cosmetics – I search for ‘holy grails’.

If I have a product that I’m not quite satisfied with, I acknowledge that I want to upgrade it and then I do my best to find an effective, but a more natural version that I’ll love.

Granted, unlike with our clothing, we have to buy something to test it out and see if it works for us and our skin.

That is why I’m prepared for this:

  • If the new product is not a ten but still works okay, I keep using it and I buy the next product only once I run out.
  • But if the product doesn’t agree with my skin and I dislike using it, I repurpose it and use it up in a different way. If you want to learn more about this, click here.

I use a similar approach with makeup, with the exception of giving it away if it doesn’t work for me.

Another thing that is worth noting is that I only keep one version of a particular product – I don’t have two different night face creams or three exfoliators. I keep one product at the time, which means getting ready is easy, packing for travelling is effortless and my bathroom cabinet never gets overfilled.

I let go of the illusions

Of course, I wouldn’t come this far if I also didn’t reframe my views on skincare.

With time I learned that our skin doesn’t magically improve because of one special product – I’m not saying it’s not possible, but it’s very unlikely.

So whenever I see an advertisement promoting skincare I always remind myself their number one goal is to sell.

Then I remind myself that the best way to take of my skin is by taking care of my health by getting enough sleep, drinking enough water and eating food that is nutritious and good.

I see cosmetics as a cherry on the top: they can make our skin softer and healthier, but only if we take proper care of our health first.

This also helped me to let go of various products.

You probably noticed that advertisement keeps changing and adding different steps to our beauty routines – we are told we need more and more products, like special neck cream, day and night eye cream, serum before the moisturizer, then the face oil and a moisturising mist. And then we also have special creams for zits and so on. 

I find this so confusing! But most importantly, I don’t agree with it. At all!

When I adopted a simpler skincare routine I discovered my skin felt better, the routines became more enjoyable and my wallet was thankful too.

So I encourage you to find steps that work for you and your skin, without the noise of trends and ads.

Do I still experiment with the new products even after I found my staples?

Yes, I do. When I’ve been using something for a long time, I might notice that it could be a little bit moisturising or less oily or whatever the case may be.

And sometimes I just get a little bit bored and I want to try something new.

3. FOOD

Minimalism can definitely affect how we shop for food as well.

Even though this area changed the least, one thing that has happened is that I stopped buying things I wish I would eat, but then never do.

I stay true to what I like and I don’t experiment with a lot of new stuff unless I’m consciously upgrading my diet to make it more nutritious.

Because of that, there is less food waste, grocery shopping is easier and my mind is clearer.

But other than that, this is it.

4. OTHER THINGS

When I’m about to buy something new, like electronics, planners, towels etc., I focus on practicality and usefulness before anything else.

Unlike clothing and cosmetics, which I usually buy right then and there, I can give myself a lot of time to think about them.

And the bigger the purchase, the longer I wait.

Even If I just want to add two new towels, I wait a week or two, or even a month, so I can play with that idea in my head to see if it’s a good point or just an impulsive thought.

If I’m buying new electronics, I wait even more – I usually wait from two to three months. I found that to be enough time to think things through and make the right decision. Of course, I also do my research and read the reviews to make sure I make the best purchase for my needs.

And it may sound weird that I’m waiting so long for even the simplest things, but let me tell you – most things that I thought I would need, I don’t end up buying.

Nowadays, it’s so easy to feel like we need something – we can see a commercial, a youtube tutorial or a friend telling us what they purchased and that can make us feel like we need this new thing as well.

But more often than not, we don’t really care about it, and the delay allows us to do precisely that – we can realise this for ourselves.

And that is different than forbidding something.

That usually leads to obsession over that particular thing, we feel deprived and so then we just want to have it for the sake of having it.

That is why I never forbid myself anything – I can buy whatever I want as long as I ask myself important questions that make me realise why I truly want it.

And that is the beauty of awareness – we become free.

By reading this you probably think shopping is a huge mental process and that I spend a lot of my energy making the simplest decisions. But when you create good habits, all of these questions arise naturally.

Yes, I had to remind myself to ask them in the early stages of minimalism, but now, they’re effortless. So keep that in mind if you’re trying to improve your shopping habits as well.

Let’s stay in touch…

Which shopping habits do you want to improve? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or write me an email 😉

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