Since the start of my shopping fast, I stopped purchasing unessential items. Mostly. I'll have more to share on the things I did purchase in my next monthly update, but in the meantime, I loved the concept of minimalist haul from Youtuber Cathy, which basically consists in listing what she almost bought but didn't, and why. So, here is my "minimalist haul" since the beginning of my shopping fast.
I find this concept to be quite a good way to understand my own shopping motivations and how I tend to operate. Below is a selection of examples from the last couple of months, with some learnings I hope you will find useful.
The BHV and Home/Table DecorationThe BHV (or le BHV Marais as it likes to call itself these days), born as Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville over a century ago, is a department store, probably one of the ancestors of department stores. It has some 8 floors and you can find anything - from screws and nails or light bulbs to clothing, beauty products, linen, stationary, books and CDs, electronics... Almost anything you need for your home or personal maintenance, you can get there.
|Source: BHV site|
And since it is only a few metro stations away, houses everything I need in one place, and has a high quality standard, I regularly go there for everyday maintenance needs (lately, a brown coloured thread to mend a hole in a brown coloured top for example). The last few times, I almost bought:
- Black & White tea cups
- Yet another notebook
- A set of coloured glasses
- Orange/Brown ceramic bowls
Why Did I almost Buy These: Because the BHV knows how to present their merchandise. That, and I'm probably at the heart of their marketing targets. The simple fact to enter the shop and see the alleys as I go to the escalators to reach my goal makes me want to buy half of the shop.
How Did I Stop Myself: The trick is simple - I come with a list in my hand. A list of essential needs, fast-authorized, which I identified previously, and for which the BHV is the most practical and qualitative option. The rule is: I stick to the list. Once the object is out of my sight, I usually forget I even considered buying it.
- Shop with a purpose: The worst scenario for me is to enter a shop (especially with high temptation potential) without a clear idea of what I am looking for. Then suddenly everything seems possible, and with the nice in-shop decorations and presentation, one can get swooned easily. Come with a list, or any other tool that works for you, but enter a shop with a clear objective.
- Don't Enter A Shop Otherwise: If your goal isn't to buy something precise, don't enter a shop "just to browse". We know what happens if we spot something we like. Let's avoid straining willpower when possible. I think this works for online shops too.
- Know Your Weaknesses: What kind of stores or brands are you the weakest to as a consumer? What kind of environments, decorations, but also moments of the day, are you most vulnerable? I never go to the BHV after work, I know what it does to me.
The Muji Flagship Store at the Châtelet
I discovered Muji in Birmingham, when I went to the UK to improve my English ten years ago. I instantly loved the concept - simple, clean lines, no apparent brand, earthy neutrals, high quality, I was conquered. In Japan, I made most of my everyday home & clothing purchases at Muji - as I found it was very affordable for the quality. Somehow in Japan, I found cheap items to be really cheap looking, and quality items are really expensive, as if the middle ground was kind of absent on the market. And Muji provided this middle ground I was looking for.
As you can read, I have developed a quite emotional relation to this brand, full of memories and stories to tell, so when I heard that they were opening their first European "flagship store" in Paris, I had to go check it out.
What Did I Almost Buy
- A brick/rust orange coloured cardigan
- A warm gray (like slate?) jumper
Why Did I Almost Buy These: Because I'm still receiving the Muji newsletters and I was informed that way of this shop's opening. Because it was neatly presented in a little Muji Lab corner. And because I'm a sucker for colours. When I look at my biggest purchase mistakes in terms of clothing, it was almost always because I was fond of the colour and overlooked the flaws in fit, fabric or quality.
How Did I stop Myself: By doing the "Five Outfits Level 2" exercise. It's a simple one: when you see a garment you like, you do:
- 1. Imagine wearing 5 different outfits with this garment, paired with only stuff you already own. Each outfit must be really different, not just swapping black denim for black skirt or chinos.
- 2. Level 2 addition - Verify, within what you already own, if there isn't something else from your closet that can complete these same 5 outfits in exactly the same way. Since we usually are attracted by what we like (colours, cuts...) chances are we already own an equivalent item.
And it worked! For the red/orange cardigan I remember one I bought in 2011 and is the exact same colour. Same for the gray jumper. So, back to the rack they went. I ended up getting a few Autumn/Winter scented candles, because these get depleted fairly quickly these days...
- Unsubscribe From Newsletters: I'm really happy to have learned about this Muji flagship store and to have visited it, but during a shopping fast and fall collections weren't the best moments for that. That shop isn't going away any time soon and even if I hadn't received that newsletter I eventually would have found out about it. Newsletter make you aware of things you end up wanting even though you previously didn't even know they existed...
- Set Up Easy Rules for On-Site Evaluation of Items: I like this "Five Outfits Level 2" exercise because it's easy, quick and fun. and it's actually quite accurate at predicting how much wear I might really get from the coveted purchase. I'm sure similar easy evaluations can be set for any item type - in what circumstances you will use it, how often do these circumstances occur and is there something you already own that can do the exact same job instead.
The Comptoir des Cotonniers Autumn Private SalesAs they do each mid-season, Comptoir des Cotonniers organized private sales last week, 30% off a selection of items from their collection, only for a few days. I was made aware of this through a newsletter (cf. learning above...), and clicked on the link to see what was reduced. Of course, once exposed to temptation, especially last week when I was sick and tired, therefore had no willpower anywhere to be seen, I had to get a certain top.
What Did I Almost Buy: A teal coloured basic top
Why Did I Almost Buy It: Because I saw the private sales and entered a Comptoir des Cotonniers shop. The gray top I initially wanted to get at 30% off finally wasn't cut quite right, but I stumbled upon their basic tees, which are cut exactly the way I like my tees to be cut (wide boat neck, lightweight comfortable fabric, short loose sleeves, overall draped shape). Their teal coloured one was perfect, so I decided to upgrade my Uniqlo teal tee with this one.
How Did I Stop Myself: Well, to be transparent with you, I was at the cashier with the credit card out for this one. Only, I found out this colour in particular wasn't 30% off when they scanned the barcode. Exactly what I previously said about how dangerous it is to have sales on only a selection of items - made to make you buy non-reduced items too. This made me snap out of my frenzy and I came out of the shop empty handed.
I actually couldn't believe I almost bought an item of clothing in the middle of a shopping fast, and to upgrade something I already owned, on top of everything - exactly what I'm advocating against in my "increasing the use part of the consumerist cycle". It shows the power of special sales and newsletters though, if the top had been reduced I probably would have purchased it. It also shows the influence of the mindset on our shopping behaviour - last week I was sick, tired and down the weather, and I needed immediate and easy distractions and compensations, which the consumerist society is happy to provide as new purchases.
After I came back home and cooled down, I reconnected with my bigger motivations for the shopping fast, and my commitment to a simple life as a whole, independently from this experiment. I ended up being thankful for this top not being on sale, and decided not to go shopping next time I'm down the weather.
- Find Ways to Reconnect With the Bigger Picture: One small purchase here and there seems quite harmless. And surely, most of the time, it might be. But putting these disparate purchases into one big picture can be scary - just like when I realized I'd spent enough in clothing over the first half of 2014 to pay for a week in Morocco, despite each singular purchase seeming quite reasonable. Since the beginning of my fast, I found the most effective way to help dissipate on-the-moment desires is to reconnect with this bigger picture. What could I do with this money if I added it to a savings fund instead? What is my motivation behind buying less in the first place? What are the benefits of living with less and what did I gain from this simplified life so far? It can be very helpful to actively remind yourself of your own objectives, motivations and bigger pitcure before going on a shopping trip.
That's it for my own "minimalist howl" list. After pondering about temptation, shopping trips and replacement activities these past months, I'm starting to focus more on the "how to shop better" part of the question. After all, I am entering the second half of my shopping fast period, and what I want to avoid most, is to end up "bingeing" on shopping in January 2015 when the fast will be over - especially since it will be a sales season too.
I hope you enjoyed this little exercise and that it can be useful to you as well. It isn't always easy to figure out how much I can share while still being relevant for you, so please let me know if that kind of more personal exercise still helps you. Is there anything you" almost bought" lately?