Almost everyone has memories of going shopping as a child. Your parents dragged you into J. C. Penney, Target, Walmart, and a wide range of other stores to pick out back to school clothes each year. Then, you went back for winter coats. Then spring t-shirts. Then summer swimwear. And the cycle repeats.
While it makes sense that a growing child would need new clothes each season, we don’t have to keep shopping in that pattern as we grow older. Eventually we stop growing. And at that point, we’re stuffing our closets full of clothes we don’t need. What’s worse is that our consumeristic society continues to fight minimalism by influencing people to buy, and keep buying. This way, you never feel bad about buying that shirt when you own four just like it.
I found myself faced with this challenge very quickly when I made the decision to be a minimalist. Every month seemed like the perfect time to go shopping for new clothes. If it’s getting cold out, why not go buy a new winter coat? And when it gets below freezing, it’s obviously time to buy another. Eventually, all this clothing was ending up in the back of the closet, hardly worn and completely forgotten about.
As my closet grew, I wondered why I even needed so much clothing when I barely used what I had to begin with.
One of the best steps to take in unconditioning yourself from constantly buying clothes, food, or whatever else you waste money on is to consciously ask yourself the Who, What, and Why. Who are you really buying it for? What are you buying it for? And most importantly, why are you buying it? To narrow down these questions, ask yourself these questions. Am I buying this item for myself or society? Am I buying this item because my previous one broke, or because I just want another? What is the real purpose that buying this item will serve me?
I bought clothing because I needed a sense of freshness in my life. I felt dry and boring when I wore the same clothes every day. To combat that, I constantly bought new clothing to feel original and on-trend. Realistically, nobody cares what you put on your body unless you’re an Instagram influencer with 157.5k followers. Needless to say, I am not one of those people.
Constantly reminding yourself that you do not need to spend money on things you only think you need can greatly help you in your path through minimalism. However, for some, this isn’t going to stop you from buying things. We are conditioned to making excuses for things we know deep down are not good for us. Another tip I found worked well for me when the previous didn’t was redirecting my energy.
Allowing myself to spend countless hours scrolling through the websites of H&M or Forever 21 didn’t result in anything but wasted time and money. As I felt the urge to spend money again, I redirected that energy towards positive things. When I’d find myself feeling that desire to go out and spend or shop online, I’d take out a journal or go into my Notes app and write for a while. You could do this with music, art, just about any hobby that exists. Substituting unhealthy behaviors with good can combat a number of problems you might be facing. You could apply this to just about any bad habit.
If all else fails, there is one last thing you can try. Say “No.” You’ve made it to the store and you’re trying on clothes. As you put them on the hangers, you decide which ones to keep and which ones to put back. Instead of buying anything at all, tell yourself “I do not need any of these, and I will put them all back.” This has helped me tremendously when I find myself back in the store and something catches my eye. If you didn’t specifically walk into that store for that exact item, you probably don’t need it and should tell yourself “No.”
These are my tips and tricks for unconditioning yourself to the lifestyle our consumeristic society has endorsed for decades. Next time you feel the urge to buy something you don’t need, give these things a try. Let me know in the comments below how they work for you!
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Marnie is the sole writer and editor for “With Love, Marnie,” a storytelling publication about making the most out of life through minimalism and positive living. Marnie is the author of “a black and white rainbow,” a poetry book about love, loss, and coming out. Purchase Marnie’s book here and follow her on twitter here.