I want to check in, in the middle of our No-Buy September. If you’re doing the challenge with me, great! I want to know how it’s going. Even if you’re not doing the challenge, I hope you find this inspiring.
As I’m temporarily not buying things this month, I’ve found myself treating the things that I already own differently. Maybe with a little more gratitude. Maybe with a little more consideration. Maybe even a bit more love?
You may ask, isn’t it bad to love things? I thought minimalists valued everything else except things! In general, I think the whole idea of rejecting overconsumption of goods is great! However, as a result of having less stuff, minimalists often tend to value their things a lot more than the average person.
For example, if I have twenty pairs of boots, I may think I need them all. I may have genuinely liked them all when I bought them, and I may really want to keep them all. But I’m going to struggle to actually wear and maintain them all. In fact, getting dressed in the morning will take more effort because I’ll have to choose which pair of boots goes best with my outfit. This small, but daily decision could contribute to the overall mental fog known as decision fatigue. I may find I’m exhausted and overwhelmed….and the boot situation isn’t helping at all!
However, if I only have one pair of boots, I’m going to LOVE those boots to death. I’ll probably wear them everyday in the fall and winter seasons. I will clean and shine them when they need it. I will repair them when they break. If they get worn out beyond repair, I will recycle them and replace them with my next favorite pair of boots.
Remember that there is work (and sometimes cost) involved with maintaining things. It is irresponsible to buy more than you can actually handle taking care of. This means not biting off more than we can chew. Remember that things not only take up space in our homes, but also mental space on our to-do lists!
This means not letting boxes sitting in your basement sit so long they grow mold. Not leaving indoor toys outside where they will get rusty and ruined (kids can learn this too!) It’s more work, but that’s my point. I try to take care my things by doing regular maintenance on schedule and, when something breaks, handling repairs quickly. I believe it’s all part of being a good steward. If I’m not taking care of it, then maybe I have too much on my plate and I should pass it on.
During this no-buy challenge, I’ve already had two things break on me: my flip flops and my electric kettle. And, while my first inclination would be to rush out and replace them, I’ve found myself repairing them instead and making due. My electric kettle’s lid latch is broken, so it won’t open. But it still works fine. I discovered I can still fill it up through the spout instead of through the lid. So I’m going to continue to use it a bit longer, since it isn’t all the way used up yet.
My flip flops, I’ve just glued (I’ve saved many things with Gorilla Glue in the past) so we’ll see how they hold up. Even if they don’t survive much longer, I have enough other sandals to get me through the next month or so. And then it will be too cold to wear them anyway! Always ask yourself, “Even if I can’t fix the item, can I delay it? Can I live without it?”
Our brains aren’t naturally trained to think this way. Marketers don’t want us to be resourceful, they want us to buy things without thinking twice about it. We have to be re-wired in order to stop and question the impulse. Even things we’re “allowed” to buy, like replacements, can be questioned and postponed.
Replace It – If Necessary
Minimalism isn’t about suffering and making due with too little. It is about finding the right set point for your life and your family. When things break or wear out, we replace them. Replacing things that were loved to death is part of a minimalist’s life.
I can’t help but think of my husband’s closet. Because he has so few clothes, they wear out a bit faster than my clothes because he wears them on heavy repeat. This is fine! A lot of times we will buy things that are “gently used,” and then we will proceed to “heavily use” them until they are dead. And that is still better for the earth and for saving us money than buying new things when we’re bored of what we already have.
One important note about replacing things: replacing something because you’re bored of it isn’t a good enough reason.
I can think of countless times when I’ve had something of quality that was many years old and still going strong, but I was “over it.” It wasn’t “special” anymore. There were new versions on sale that I like better.
I encourage you not to give in! Discontentedness is at the core of overconsumption. If you have a great coat or blender or backpack or whatever – be grateful, and hang onto it! Good for you for getting something of quality that has lasted! If you’re bored with the item, maybe give it a good wash. Shine it up. Show it some love and appreciation for doing it’s job well for so long. Resist the urge to replace things based on boredom or aesthetics alone.
Just because something you own is old, doesn’t mean it can’t be re-imagined. Clothes can be re-styled. Furniture can be re-arranged. There is no reason to fill every hole in our lives with more new stuff. It is wasteful in more ways than one.
If you’re drooling over the thought of a new plant, why not prune and repot one you already own to give it new life?
If you’ve got your eye on a new pair of earrings, why not shine up the earrings you already have and wear them?
If you’re dreaming about your next fancy car, don’t forget to wash, tune-up, and vacuum the car that’s sitting in your driveway now.
Many of us dream of things we don’t have, while ignoring and forgetting to be grateful for the many things we already have. Minimalism slows us down and reminds us to practice gratitude daily.
I use the same coffee cup everyday. It was a $1.99 at Goodwill and it has little snowmen on it. And I’m still grateful for it every time I use it. Gratitude is about more than things. It is about more than money. But somehow, when I stop thinking about “the next big thing” I’m freed up to enjoy all the small little things that are right in front of me.
What about you? How is your no-buy going? Do you find it makes you grateful or longing for more? Any tips and ideas as we finish up the month?
Photo credit: Steve Tsang