“Minimalism is not a radical lifestyle, it’s a practical lifestyle.”
— Joshua Fields Millburn, of The Minimalists
Here’s the thing about minimalism: Decluttering your physical possessions is easy. Once you find the stamina to get yourself going, you’ll realize that it’s relatively effortless to get rid of all the things in your home that no longer add value to your life or serve a purpose. (You’ll find that it’s actually pretty fun, too.)
But simplifying your mindset and your habits? That’s the hard part.
I don’t know if it’s because I was born into middle-class suburbia and it’s considered normal to accumulate a lot of stuff, or because it’s expected when you’re a teenage girl to spend “quality” time with your loved ones in shopping malls. But let’s face it, we live in one big ol’ consumer-driven popularity contest.
We never think anything is wrong with us. It’s just something we do, something that was wired into our brains from day one. What we fail to realize is that we are just trying to pacify ourselves. Think about it. When you’re a baby, you start crying, your mom hands you a shiny toy, you shut up. Two minutes later, you’re bored with the toy, you drop it, you start crying, your mom hands you a new toy, you shut up again. The cycle never ends. (I guess you can’t really blame a baby for being the way it is; their brains haven’t really developed yet.)
The point is, we do the same thing. The toy makes us feel safe, secure, and content- all basic human needs. When we’re unhappy, feeling lonely, or just plain bored, we shop. We allow ourselves to step out of reality for a few hours and spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need. When we get home we say, that was a successful shopping trip, because that’s what success looks like to us. Then we put our shopping bags down and feelings of loneliness, boredom, and often regret cloud over us. The cycle never ends.
One day I realized it, and you can too. I’m not saying I’m perfect. You wouldn’t look at me initially and think she’s a minimalist. I slip up sometimes. Which brings me back to the quote at the beginning: minimalism is not a radical lifestyle, it’s practical. I still go to stores sometimes, but I’m more deliberate with why I go. I make a list of what I need, and I try to go straight to whatever aisle that thing is in when I get to the store. I admit it’s hard not to browse; I still find myself doing it all the time. But now I catch myself in the act. I ask myself those guiding questions before every purchase: Do I actually need this? Will this add value to my life? Will this distract me from the life I want to live?
I don’t find myself wanting the same things anymore. I don’t try an item on, think meh, it’s okay, and buy it. I have a much better grasp of what I like and what I don’t. When you continue to ask yourself those guiding questions, it becomes a habit. And then that habit becomes a feeling- let’s call it intuition. The best part is, I come home and feel content with my decisions. I don’t feel the insatiable itch to keep shopping.
As a former shopaholic, I can tell you that it’s possible to break the habit that is ingrained in all of us. You just have to replace it with better, more practical habits.
As Sarah Von Bargen’s financial advisor put,
“You can work more. You can save more. Or you can want less.”