Tis the season for wrap-ups, and I'd like to start with purchasing habits. One year after the end of the Levelled up shopping fast and almost five years after I started simplifying my life, what kind of consumer has simplicity lead me to be, and what is there to learn from my ongoing journey?
Still a consumerAs the title of the post suggests, the first lesson remains the fact that I'm still a consumer. I remember this discussion with a running buddy who was telling me that one of his friends is "not a consumer" because he doesn't care about brands and only buys the cheapest stuff. He is still a consumer though, I answered, the one looking for bargains.
Ditto for simplicity and minimalism, it isn't about stopping any and all purchases. Unless you are a self sufficient farmer living in a family house and capable to grow, mine, transform and manufacture every single item you use, you need to buy stuff.
Believing that any purchase is a "misstep" of simpliciy can only lead to insatisfaction, impossible standards, and perhaps giving up on it all. It's like wanting to eat healthy and considering any meal at all is a misstep. One can't survive very long without eating.
I guess my point is that even when leading a simple life, you are still a consumer. The question is to know how your consumption habits have changed and what sort of consumer you can become.
A change in consumption habitsThe second lesson from this year of "levelled up simplicity", is this: I am a different consumer. Many things changed, including how I make purchases, where, from whom, and (first and foremost) why.
I don't think there are "good" and "bad" purchases in itself. Like Epicurus said, it is about priorities, and a few "natural but unessential" needs can be met with a few adequate items, even if it's a little luxury here and there, even if it's a nice brand or a bit more expensive than usual.
I guess my point here is that there are no "forbidden items" within simplicity, it is only a matter of why buy these items. For example, I have mostly given up on fast fashion for ethical reasons, but it doesn't mean, in my opinion, that any and all fast fashion items should be banned from a simple life. Same for "masstige" (mass prestige) luxury items which are much more expensive than their quality is worth.
In the end, it is about choosing your own rules, depending on your budget, lifestyle, values and priorities. For me, the change in consumption habits is simple: I now purchase according to my own criteria, and not according to society's trends and must-haves.
Of course, I am influenced by the aesethtics I'm surrounded with, and I do take various inspirations around me, this is not about being 100% original or avoiding trends on purpose. It is about finding out what is adequate for you, what are your ethics and values, your taste and preferences, what you can find locally where you live.
In other words, simplicity has changed my purchasing habits by turning my criteria from external ones — you should buy this and that to be X (a proper woman, from a certain social class, elegant...) — to internal ones (I want to make ethical purchases, this is the style that I like, this is the kind of shop or craftsman I want to give my money to, etc.)
In my own experience, simplicity made me leave the Joneses where they are with their fancy it-bags and Rolex watches, and do things the way I really like them myself.
A means to an endFinally, the third most important lesson simplicity taught me about acquiring new items, is that it's a mean to an end, and not a goal in itself.
If I want to purchase a knit, it's for the purpose to feel warm while retaining the elegance I'd like to maintain for myself. If I get a souvenir from holidays, it is to get some memories of past experiences in my home to cherish and share (and not to show off the cool places I've been to for example). Sometimes, it's just for the pleasure of the moment, like the scented candle I light when I take a bath.
What I mean here, is that buying things isn't the point, using them, and the moments I will be able to enjoy thanks to them, is. Items are no more than what they are: items. They are not a surrogate for my identity or belonging to a certain social class, they are not a way to feel accepted by a group or loved.
And when you realize that, you also realize there are way more interesting things to do in life than making wishlists, browsing e-shops and going shopping. In 2015, I have continued violin and started the piano again, written a sci-fi novel and a few short stories, met some new friends, joined a book reviewer's club and many more things that are so much more fun than buying things.
Find your own rulesI guess the keyword here is moderation. As it is for many things in my own life. Simplicity is not about living in a single room with no possessions at all. Nor it is about listening to the sweet marketing of minimalism and using this as a justification to buy items you don't really need.
It is a middle ground. It is about knowing yourself really: what are your needs, values, constraints and priorities? What do you really want to purchase for yourself? Is that urge hiding something deeper? In that case, perhaps buying things isn't an answer.
This is a long way, and I admit I am still journeying with you guys, but I feel like this simplicity path has made me more critical about items, brands, communication stunts and all, and made me more focused about what I want for myself.
Among my shopping rules: making sure that I really want an item and not something else (comfort, love...) ; favoring small creators, crasftsmen and shops whenever possible ; never spend too much time looking for stuff and wait for the good occasion to show up, and many more.
What are your shopping rules? Do you have any? How did simplicity change you as a consumer?