Buying Won't Solve Your Problems (but minimalism might)

You may know that Netflix is ending their DVD service at the end of this month.  My husband Jon and I have been subscribers for almost 20 years, and we've been content to have a couple of discs to watch every week.

But now if we want to continue to be able to watch a movie or a TV series on a free evening, we need to stream content.  And since our TV isn't a smart TV, we have to make a purchase.


Our first impulse

When we want to solve a problem or make some kind of change in our lives, we usually buy something.  For example:

  • We want to get organized, so we buy containers, folders, or a custom-designed closet system.
  • We want to lose weight, so we buy diet foods, an exercise machine, or a gym membership.
  • We want to help the environment, so we buy a stainless steel water bottle, metal straw, or reusable produce bags.
  • We want to save gas, so we buy a gas-efficient car, a hybrid, or an electric car (and then we buy a special charger to install in the garage).
  • We want to get out of debt, so we buy financial software, a Dave Ramsey book, or hire a financial planner.
  • We want to start a new hobby, so we buy materials, equipment, or take a class.
  • We want to make our house look better, so we buy paint, furniture, or a whole new kitchen.
  • We want to do almost anything, so we buy clothes (workout clothes, dressy clothes, tailored suits, steel-toed work boots, etc.).

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

We don't even stop to think before deciding that a purchase will solve our problem.  It's our default behavior.  It used to be mine, whether I could afford it or not.

In fact, we use the word "need," as in "I need to go to Target."  We make a lot of purchases we believe are perfectly justified by "need."  Of course we're not wasting money or resources.  Of course we're not creating clutter.

Sometimes that's true.  But not always.

Opportunity lost

Because buying something is our first impulse, we don't look for a different solution.  We automatically spend our time and money shopping – whether going to the mall, browsing websites, or looking at what others have and wishing we had the same.  We become less resourceful and innovative because we never practice those skills.

But creativity blossoms when we're confronted with a limitation.  Constraints force us to think harder and dig deeper to solve a problem.  And if you've been wanting to have more time or money (who doesn't?), maybe you should stop wasting both on unnecessary shopping.

Decide to buy less.  Stop yourself before running out to make a purchase, and figure out if you can solve your problem without buying something.  Maybe you already have something you can use or adapt.  Maybe you can borrow, trade, or barter for something that will work.  Or maybe the best answer is nothing.  Maybe you don't need any physical thing to accomplish what you want.

  • To get organized, declutter.  With less to arrange, you may find you already have plenty of storage solutions.
  • To lose weight, eat less.  Cut out junky snack foods, desserts, and high-priced fancy whipped-cream-topped coffee drinks.
  • To get in better shape, start walking, stretching, riding your bike, or doing body weight exercises in your living room or at the park.
  • To help the environment, consume less.
  • To save gas, drive less.  Combine errands, walk, ride your bike, or use public transportation.  Stay home a bit more.
  • To get out of debt, spend less.  Eat out less, buy fewer clothes, waste less gas, and use the savings to pay what you owe.
  • To start a new hobby, maybe you can sell or trade hobby supplies you don't want any more.  Don't buy all the things when you start something new – begin with a small project and borrow or rent equipment until you know your interest is lasting.
  • To improve your knowledge or skills, take advantage of all the free tutorials online.
  • To make your house look better, declutter.  Rearrange furniture and swap d├ęcor so your old stuff seems new and noticeable in different surroundings.

Sometimes we do need to buy something, but often we just want to buy something, as with new clothes or shoes.  Especially if it's something you won't wear often, see if you can borrow or trade, or perhaps buy used.  My son's friend is loaning me a beautiful silk kimono-style wrap to wear over my plain black dress for a concert I'm singing next month.  She bought it from a second-hand store and has only worn it twice, so she's glad to get a bit more use out of it.

When you do make a purchase, buy only as much as you need.  Ignore your first impulse to rush in and go all out.  The Roku streaming device we purchased will work very well for us.  Buying a new, perhaps larger smart TV would have been overkill.

My new Minimalist Basics series is perfect whether you're just starting on the minimalist path, you're on the way but feel the need of encouragement and reminders, or you have a loved one who's getting interested in the reasons why your life is so much more peaceful and fulfilling than it used to be.

The third book in the series is the centerpiece.  Minimalism A to Z: Strategies for a Simpler, Joyful Life, is available now.*  If you happen to have my original Minimalism A to Z (the first book I ever published), you should know that this book is not the same.  I reused perhaps 25% of that first book, but it's all been rewritten and expanded.  Most of the content is different.

Minimalism seeks the happy balance of enough – not too little and not too much. Minimalism A to Z contains practical strategies and thoughtful questions to help you get there.  Much more than tidying up, minimalism helps you find the life you want... with less to distract you from it.

This blog is reader-supported.  If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.


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