Things I Stopped Buying When I Embraced Minimalism
2022 has been a Buy Nothing Year for me.
Now, that doesn't mean I literally buy nothing at all. I'm alive, so I have to consume. I buy
- personal care items
- items for maintenance and repair (such as thread, buttons, glue, duct tape, etc.)
- chiropractic adjustments and therapeutic massage
- other medical care as needed
- hobby supplies (only when I've used up what I already have for the three hobbies I practice)
- clothes, but only for replacement as things wear out
- wedding or baby gifts as needed
- birthday and Christmas gifts for my grandsons
By placing limits and questioning whether I'm "allowed" to buy something, I've gone even further down the road of living with less.
Of course, this process didn't start in January. It's been a long process of many years. But I've gradually stopped shopping for a lot of things that used to waste my money, time, and energy. I discovered little by little that I was buying things that didn't serve a good purpose in my life, and I began to discover the things I could live without.
After a lot of trial and error, I started asking myself some questions:
- What purpose will this item serve?
- Am I making this purchase intentionally, or am I buying on impulse?
- Am I trying to impress or "keep up" with someone by making this purchase?
- If I don't buy this item, can I meet my need with something I already have? Could I be more creative if I didn't assume shopping was my only option?
I don't claim that asking yourself these questions is some sort of magic bullet to prevent needless shopping, but taking the time to ask and answer them honestly may lead to some important life changes.
Meanwhile, here's a list of things I've stopped buying over time.
Related article: Happier Without
27 Things I No Longer Shop For
1. Bottled water
This has become a big no-no for me, although at one time I drank at least one bottle of water every day. Now I drink tap water. If I know I'm going to be out for a long time (say on a car trip to San Francisco) I bring a refillable water bottle.
I used to buy all kinds of different supplements. Now I take a multi-vitamin formulated for people over 50. Unless a doctor prescribes something, I don't take anything else.
I didn't stop buying makeup completely, but I only use a bit of mascara and tinted lip balm for every day. I use a few more products if I'm going to perform onstage, but since COVID that has become much rarer.
4. Hair products
I use shampoo every second or third day, and my hair is less dry and more manageable than ever. I like a short cut, so a spritz of water lets me style it the way I want, and it dries quickly. I'm also going naturally gray.
I won't say I'll never again purchase a physical book, because I know they'll publish a beautiful hardcover edition of some classic that I love, and I might just want it enough to buy it and declutter something else from my bookshelf. I have a monthly budget for e-books which I read on my phone with Amazon's free Kindle app. At some point I may purchase a Kindle.*
* This blog is reader-supported. If you purchase through my links, I may earn a small commission.
6. Home décor
For a long time home décor was my Waterloo. I was constantly defeated in my resolutions to buy less.
I'll admit, one major factor that keeps me from going overboard in this area is that my husband and I live in a rented apartment. Not only are we not responsible for maintenance, but there's no need for me to paint, wallpaper, change the flooring or light fixtures, add a fireplace or a French door, install granite countertops, etc.
I've made it homey with our favorite things. I occasionally need to replace towels or sheets, or I might buy some flowers or a nice picture frame. Recently I replaced a wall clock that stopped working.
When I was a kid I collected coins and Holly Hobbie items such as figurines, plates, pictures, dolls, etc. Later I collected antique quilts, limited edition plates, china teacups, Willow Tree figures, and more. All of it has been sold or given away except for some blue and white teapots and pitchers I use as vases.
There are entire books about decorating your home with collectibles, but aside from the large amounts of money you might spend acquiring them, there's also the cost of insuring and displaying the items. They're no fun to pack up and move, and you'll be dusting them forever.
I prefer the freedom of not owning. I enjoy visiting museums, but I don't want to live in one.
My high-quality couch is almost 30 years old (it's been reupholstered three times). Most of my other furniture is at least 10 years old, and my husband and I use my parent's maple dresser which they bought from Ethan Allen in 1967.
I used to have a desk, but spent more time working at the dining table, which has a view of trees and grass. Jon and I set up our laptops there, and put them and any other materials we're working with away before dinner every evening. Since my desk used to stay covered with stuff, selling it made my living area much less cluttered.
Except for plants and candles, I haven't purchased seasonal décor in more than a decade, and I've decluttered most of what I used to have.
10. Cable television
We have a Netflix subscription and that seems to be plenty. Occasionally we watch something with our kids on their Disney+ subscription.
11. CDs and DVDs
I find that I'd rather listen to classical radio than hear my same CDs over and over. I've kept some DVD sets that we already owned, but with Netflix I don't think I'll buy more. Jon and I recently rented a favorite older movie from Amazon since Netflix didn't have it. We watched it on my computer, which worked just fine.
I used to wear earrings but don't anymore, and I've decluttered all I owned. I have one necklace I wear most days, and one fancy "glittery" necklace for when I'm on stage. I don't wear a watch because I use my phone to check the time. The one piece I'm never without is my wedding ring.
My hair is short, so I don't need hair accessories. I used to wear scarves, but no longer. This is an area where I've gone with the idea of "just one." I have one black leather belt and one black leather purse. This is my preference – other people like to accessorize to increase variety in their minimalist wardrobe, and that's great. It just doesn't suit me.
14. Clothes I don't need
I keep a simple capsule wardrobe (my favorite 4x4 for each season), and I replace things only when necessary. It's so easy to mix and match and feel put together each day.
15. Shoes I don't need
I went through a period of time where I bought a lot of shoes, but they are no longer a temptation. I usually have two or three pairs in rotation, with one "dressy" pair for performances.
My allergies are so much better when I don't use perfume and, truthfully, I don't like to be around people who wear a noticeable scent. I buy unscented laundry detergent too.
18. Skincare regimens
I use one cleanser and one moisturizer for my face, and as a "woman of a certain age," I get regular compliments on my skin. Years ago, an aesthetician told me to "do less," and she has been proven right.
I use baking soda, vinegar, water, and essential oils to clean almost everything. I have one commercially-formulated antibacterial product that I use occasionally.
20. Excess dishes and silverware
I have six place settings which is more than enough for Jon and I on a daily basis, but provides what I need if our kids are over for a meal. I have a few plastic dishes for the grandsons (the oldest is six).
I used to be tempted by all the pretty seasonal tableware, but now I can admire it and let it stay in the store.
21. Kitchen appliances and gadgets
This is also on a "replace as needed" basis, but I have everything I need for my everyday cooking. I'm not enticed by clever new one-job gadgets or the latest trendy color in coffee makers.
22. Extra pots and pans
Same policy applies here. My omelet pan might need to be replaced soon – the Teflon has a scratch. I think I'll go with ceramic when I buy new.
23. Magazines and newspapers
I can't remember the last time I bought a paper magazine. I usually glance at a couple of newspapers online. Since I started writing every day, I find that I do much less "browse" reading. I don't have time for it, so my reading is very intentional.
24. The newest phone
Constantly upgrading your phone is seriously expensive and wasteful. My iPhone is 4 (or maybe 5?) years old and still works perfectly (I replaced the battery and decluttered apps). When I do need to replace it, my son will help me locate a quality refurbished phone. I don't buy multiple cases and accessories either. I have one case that protects my phone and that's plenty.
I used to feel that I hadn't "gone out" for dinner unless I had at least one glass of wine, a margarita at a Mexican place, or maybe an Irish coffee after the meal. Nowadays I'm usually fine with water or coffee, though on a special occasion I'll still have a glass of wine. I've never been a daily alcohol drinker, so this doesn't feel like a big loss.
I used to use gift-giving as an excuse to shop, and I would often have a closet full of gifts that "might be just right" for someone at some point. It was if I maintained my own mini gift shop.
I do like to give gifts to friends and family on special occasions, but that often means taking them out for coffee or lunch, to a museum or an art show, or maybe treating them to a massage. When a family member or colleague gets married or has a baby, I'll buy a gift from their registry.
My grandsons receive one book and one experience (like a visit with us to the zoo or the train museum) for their birthdays and Christmas, unless their parents mention some other wish. Sometimes I buy a new toy for them to keep and play with at my house.
Here's the biggie.
27. Things I can't afford.
I stopped buying things I can't actually pay for.
As a society, we live beyond our means. Debt is a fixture of most of our lives. If we see something and we want it, or we convince ourselves we need it (because it's the latest, our friends have it, it goes with something else we have, or whatever) – we buy it, even if we have no plan to pay for it. Banks, credit card companies, and retailers conspire with us to fund a lifestyle we can't afford.
I changed that by becoming conscious and intentional about meeting my real needs. I don't buy nothing, but I buy a lot less, and that's going to continue beyond 2022.
Related article: How to Live Well
What about you? What are some things you've stopped buying as you've become interested in minimalism?