Last year, I challenged myself to buy nothing. Once you get used to buying nothing but food and the odd deodorant, your brain seems to re-wire into a state where it seems strange to buy things. I certainly felt this way, beating myself up for any slip-ups I made. Luckily I realised that feeling bad wasn’t the way to live through that year. Once I realised that, I began to thoroughly enjoy my challenge.
Almost 4 months into the following year, that feeling of guilt when buying still lingers a little. I don’t actively go out and look for things to buy, at all. But when I need something, I still feel that plummet in my stomach, that sinking feeling that I shouldn’t be buying this. I wait in the queue to the checkout as war and peace rages inside me.
The thing is, minimalism isn’t a way to deprive yourself through life. It’s not a way to punish yourself for overspending. Minimalism isn’t the fad diet of the consumerist world. So why do I still feel bad for spending on something I deemed as necessary?
Buying nothing is an extreme. The hangover from such a situation must be expected to have lasting effects, mostly ones I really quite enjoy, such as my new-found allergy to advertising, a much bigger world view, and more free cash to spend on experiences, trips and memories.
The thing with Minimalism, as with everything, is that any form of extreme is rarely productive.
The good news is that Minimalism isn’t an all-or-nothing approach.
Buying nothing for a year, twice, was a big, big learning curve. I decided to do it because half-measures tend not to suit me. I’ll wander around a subject for a while before deciding to commit to it. Once I wasn’t buying stuff, well, I wasn’t buying anything. For an entire year.
So coming out the other side, no wonder my gut was telling me that buying was wrong. But what does Minimalism tell me?
Minimalism doesn’t say that purchasing items is something to be frowned on. This may seem counter-intuitive, but what it’s really saying is that we can even celebrate purchases, as long as they’re necessary. As long as we’re not buying for buying’s sake. One item that brings your beauty, that brings you use, that is crafted well and will last you many years? What’s not to celebrate about that? Minimalism is a way to laser focus on what those items really are. On what things bring you joy and pleasure, rather than the distraction of fad fashion, of closets overflowing and shelves filled with junk.
Being a Minimalist doesn’t mean we should feel bad about buying something. Similar to a restricted diet where we fear just one single biscuit, that form of thinking and denial can only lead to a feeling of frustration, and that’s not the point of life. Living years feeling trapped and restricted? That is the exact opposite of how we are meant to live our lives. Once I realised this, the after-effects of buying nothing started to fade away.
Minimalism, on the contrary, gives us the freedom to make a decision for ourselves, to jettison clutter and baggage, emotional or physical, and streamline our lives to include all the best bits.
The creme de la creme.