Last month, I explored the reasons for going shopping, and what to replace it with, when the real motivation really goes beyond acquiring a new needed item. This month, I've been pondering about what a "legitimate" purchase might be, and how a shopping fast shouldn't only be about (not) shopping.
As I made a half-way round up of what I did purchase these past four months and evaluated whether they were "legitimate" or breaking the fast, I started wondering what may be considered a reasonable purchase for a smart consumer, in order to prepare for my post-fast consumption habits.
I also realized I was spending quite a bit of time thinking about shopping, purchases, item collections and consumption within this shopping fast experiment - which is, indeed, its initial goal. But, as I spent as much, if not more, time pondering these subjects these pasts weeks, I started reminding myself: doesn't living with less also mean spending less time thinking about these things?
About "Smart Purchases"These past four months, I've experimented a shopping fast, or rather a "shopping recasting", as the list of my purchases, which I deemed necessary at the time, goes beyond bare necessities. Which made me wonder: what are the criteria that would differentiate an "unreasonable" purchase from a "legitimate" one, when we live in a society in which we already have all we need?
Of course, I have no definite answers, as this matter, just like numbers in minimalism, depends on personal needs, lifestyle and values. But I have explored the ideas below as I went through my purchase list:
- Well Prepared Purchases: One of the main characteristics of an "unreasonable" purchase, as far as I'm concerned, was the fact that they were unprepared, giving into a temptation of the moment, items I hadn't assessed a need nor a budget for. Like the early fast mistake for example. The first step of a reasonable purchase is to prepare for it, assess the need, characteristics, priorities, budget, quality, offerings - this diminishes the power of marketing, ads and targeting, as you have prepared along your own criteria. Personal example: Replacing depleted beauty products at Sephora, making a list, verifying stocks, and waiting for a reduction coupon to make the purchase.
- Making Everyday Life Easier: If not an absolute need, what else can justify adding an item to your collection? Since they are supposed to be tools for daily life, making it easier can be a reason for purchase - simplifying annoying tasks, helping with organization, allowing to practice an activity... Personal example: A yoga outfit, more loose and comfortable than my running gear.
- Using a Special Reduction or Occasion: To get what you otherwise couldn't afford, scale up in quality, or simply save up on something you would have bought anyway. That's a tricky one though, easy to get fooled by an attractive discount. Personal example: Getting a set of 18/10 inox pans following an introduction to Ayurvedic cuisine & further research on the matter, benefitting from a 40% discount as these are quite expensive.
- Optimizing the Overall Collection: One possible reason for a new purchase could be to increase the use of what you already own with this new purchase. Examples can be, a newer Blu-ray reader that make you watch films from your blu ray collection more often, or heat-tech underlayers to help you wear thinner knits longer through winter. Personal Example: Getting basic silver necklaces in 3 different lengths to wear my pendants with all kinds of top neckline.
I plan to explore these "reasons for purchase" further after the end of the shopping fast, as I'm not planning to go back to my previous shopping habits.
Thinking Less About ShoppingThis whole trail of thought made me realize that, despite the fact that I've been shopping much less since the beginning of the fast, I'm still thinking about items and consumption a lot. I'm more mindful of each time I'm tempted to go shopping and try to analyze why; I've also been focused on making the best use of what I currently own. But what if this shopping fast was also an opportunity to learn to think less about shopping and items and more about what really matters to me?
Ever since I started simplifying my life, I have spent a lot of time and energy editing my collection of items, "curating" my wardrobe, bookshelves and cupboards, looking for optimal purchases, organizing, thinking about my relation to my objects, consumption and shopping. If there is one down side of this whole simplicity journey, it is this: in the end, I spent more time thinking about objects than I used to before, as I just used to accumulate without much second thought.
I am quite an adept of organization and systems, so I have enjoyed this process - I find the psychological aspect of consumption quite fascinating, and I like updating my little wardrobe excel sheet. However, one of my objectives when I started editing my wardrobe for example, was to ultimately spend less time and energy on clothes, and just select them quickly in the morning and being at ease with my outfits. In other words, having objects fulfill their purpose in the backdrop while I enjoy my life.
In order to do this, I have decided, for these two last months of fast, to explore ways to think less about shopping, consumption and maintaining my collection of items. The first idea is to think about what is really important to me, what I really want to spend my time and energy on, and make time for it. I'm thinking that, since we only have 24 hours a day, if I start focusing on what matters, then naturally, the time spent on objects will shrink.
What about you? If you are simplifying your life, how do you feel about the time you spend on objects? How do you put what matters back at the center?