Blog, Minimalism

Shopping for Comfort


Shopping for Comfort

It’s hard to quit that shopping thing. To walk out, willingly, and detach ourselves from the main principle underlying our society, rejecting the status quo and creating a new normal for ourselves. It sounds far-fetched, even radical. Is this what we’re doing when we start to embrace minimalism? To an extent, I believe it is. And I’m OK with that.

The hardest thing I find is closing my eyes, ears and mind to the relentless barrage of advertising that pervades our world. I haven’t spent a single day where I haven’t seen a logo of some kind – badges on cars labels on my clothes, posters on the train. Even when I turn my back on TV, step away from glossy magazines, advertising is there. We are exposed to up to 5000 adverts per day. That new normality, sneering at those ‘radicals’ that dare try to take a step outside.I feel like the least radical person out there. By embracing a simpler lifestyle, I was looking for peace, for a sense of self, for a life with more meaning. I didn’t want to change the world. But the more I embraced minimalism, the more I realised the consumer world had already changed me.

That advertising habit, that purchase cycle is so hard to break. When I gave up buying for a year in 2012 and 2015, I felt like an addict, having to detox from that purchase high. I still feel that now, even though I hardly ever buy new and get most items from charity or thrift stores. It’s so ingrained, so deep in our psyche, that even though I buy a fraction of what I previously bought – that second-hand purchase still excites that very same part of my brain. It comforts me. It makes me feel good. And I wonder, has being a minimalist really broken any consumer habit at all? What was my aim, especially when I started this journey?

I don’t buy a lot. I don’t buy what I don’t need. I don’t generally buy brand new. But I still get that purchase excitement, that thrill of ownership, when I get a ‘new to me’ item. So, on a lower level – I’m still right in that consumer loop. But how far do we need to take minimalism? Does it need to be about breaking that feeling? For me, does minimalism serve the purpose I want and need it to? Am I using that tool in the right way?

If I bought an item and felt nothing – no comfort, no joy – if I bought that item and it didn’t spark any feeling? I think I’d find it a sad world. Do we need to be comforted by our purchases? Or should we just view them in a wholly utilitarian light? Even buying less and re-using things – are we still the end product of an advertiser’s plan?

I feel, for me, I’m happy with how I can use minimalism to help me focus on the more meaningful parts of my life. I think and over-analyse, and I’m still not too sure that I’ve really ‘removed’ myself from anything – rather just cut down the frequency  of that purchase and inevitable reward. But I’m happy with my life right now. Yes, a small part of it is still spent in the consumer loop. But a larger and larger percentage is not – and that’s the part that brings me joy, growth and inspiration, every single day.

3 thoughts on “Shopping for Comfort

  1. I’m with you here, Sal. My teenager loves to buy new things; we have to shop for her, as her body is still changing and things wear out or no longer fit properly. It’s hard not to be tempted by something lovely that you might see for yourself and there’s nothing wrong in having stuff (as The Minimalists would say!). Rather, it’s about focussing on your ‘why’ and not chasing after stuff for its own sake. I’d say you’ve got that pretty well sewn up. A very Happy New Year to you!

  2. Being bombarded with advertisements and commercials constantly… matter how hard I try to avoid them……enrages me at times. But advertising does serve a purpose. I would never have known there was such a thing as a Tens device if it weren’t for Shaq and Icy hot commercials. And the device I purchased because I saw the commercial has helped ease my near constant back pain considerably. My daughter would not have found a wonderful mattress at a fifth of the price of one she’d have found in town if it hadn’t been for advertisements online for Leesa mattresses. On the other hand, if I never see another prescription medication commercial ever again for as long as I live, it will still be too soon!

    Buying stuff? I have stepped away from shopping as a hobby, as a pastime. Doesn’t mean that I don’t buy things. I do. But I strive to be intentional about my buying. I enjoy the things that I buy. Life is too short. Enjoy the things you bring into your home after careful thought and deliberation. Then again, sometimes careful thought and deliberation are overrated. There have been times that I was out and about and spied a thing that just spoke to me. And with no thinking or deliberation whatsoever, bought it and took it home. Those items still give me a tremendous amount of pleasure. Things like that require that you shut down the thinking mode and listen to your feelings. Does it instantly spark feelings of joy, delight, contentment? I’ll buy it. Life is short.

  3. It is a bit of a conundrum.
    For the most part, I don’t really register ads any more. If I watch TV I will have taped something and skip the ads. Online I couldn’t tell you if a site I go onto has ads or not if they don’t pop up and need clicking away, and even then I’m just not interested. I don’t “see” them if I read a magazine. The only ones I can think of offhand are the posters I pass at the station advertising days out – but I’ve never reacted to one! I think I’ve trained myself to just ignore the visual clutter to a great extent.
    I do find other countries seem to have a lot more visual clutter – unnecessary signs and warnings of all kinds (not just ads) and it really irritates me! I no longer enjoy going to England because of it, it drives us crazy :o. And there’s a German word for the many, many signposts there: “Schilderwald” (forest of signs)…

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