Want to reduce clutter permanently? Stop buying so much.
We all know that, right? So why is it so hard to do?
Maybe it's difficult because it sounds like taking a step backward in life. In a culture where success is often measured in terms of material possessions, buying less sounds boring, old-fashioned, and destined for ridicule.
And since we're all exposed to hundreds of ads every day, in every possible space and format, we're constantly aware of the world of products available for our consumption. Even if we tune out most of the details, our cultural atmosphere is permeated with the message "buy, buy, buy!"
I own a lot less than I used to. I have more time and money available to me than ever before. Because I own fewer things, I spend less energy cleaning, managing, and organizing. I spend less time shopping. I have more opportunity to pursue my greatest passions in life, however I decide to define them.
But there are some areas where I still struggle with spending too much. I can't pass up a bookstore, and my husband and I eat way too often in restaurants.
My weaknesses may be different from yours, but maybe there are some strategies that can help all of us.
8 Ways to Stop Buying So Much
- Track your spending. Many people make this suggestion, and I've tried it several times, only to become bogged down and give it up after a few weeks. What finally made it a useful strategy was to track spending in one problem area (for us it was eating out). Seeing in black and white how often we ate out (five or more times every week at the beginning) and how much we spent (over $1,000 the first month) gave us a ton of motivation to practice some self control.
- Don't look for ways to save money on items you don't really need to buy in the first place. When I get a coupon for 25% off any item at my favorite book store, I suddenly feel a compulsion to buy, even if I don't have a particular book in mind. Buy-one-get-one posters try to lure me in. Instead of looking for deals, rewards, or other ways to "save," just don't shop until you need to. Stick with the couch you already have, the clothes you already own, and the car you just paid off.
- Eliminate shopping triggers. Unsubscribe from store emails. Unlike brands on Facebook. Change your route home if you drive by a store or restaurant you tend to visit. You get the idea. Out of sight, out of mind. By not having the visual reminder, you can change your routine and break your habit.
- Start with a fixed amount of cash each week. Pay bills online or with a check. The cash is for groceries and other food, gas, and incidentals. Challenge yourself to make it last.
- Don't carry a credit card. This is a corollary to #4. Keep your credit card at home where it can't be whipped out on impulse (I seal mine in an envelope and file it with my credit card statements). You can always retrieve it for a true emergency.
- Plan ahead. My husband and I eat out less if I have dinner planned and ingredients ready to go. You might curb spending on clothes if you take time before each new season to look at what you already own and plan to purchase only what you need to fill in gaps.
- Use the "seven day rule." Impulse buying will not only blow your budget, it will fill your house with clutter. Notice what you see and want to buy ("Ooooh, that's cute!"), and tell yourself that if you still want it in seven days you can come back and buy it guilt-free. Do you even remember it a week later? Or does your sudden "need" dissipate during that time?
- Redirect the time you spend shopping. Minimalism isn't just about having less or buying less. It's also about having more time to do things that add value to your life. So instead of spending time shopping, take the time to learn something new, to connect with a friend, to get more exercise, or to pursue a hobby. Spend time riding your motorcycle rather than buying accessories for it. Spend time creating art rather than shopping for the latest décor.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash