A year ago, I was a shopaholic. With every paycheque, I would find myself wandering around shops and malls in search of a “miracle product” to save me from my acne and other insecurities. My obsession was browsing on Amazon or going on Sephora to pick up the newest advertised face mask or a cleanser that looked like it would make my skin better. I would buy clothing and beauty products without even thinking, with the click of a button or a tap on my debit card. Sometimes, I would even dip into my savings if I believed the purchase was urgent.
Not only did my habits leave me with a drained bank account, but they also left me with increasingly less living space and the crushing sensation of buyers’ remorse.
The first time I heard about minimalism, it was through a friend who told me about doing her first declutter. The word “declutter” sent shivers down my spine, I couldn’t even imagine myself getting rid of some of my possessions, like my books or the three piles of CDs I kept for display. I had tried and failed to declutter in the past, but it felt like the more items I gave up, the more space was created for new possessions.
It wasn’t until three months ago that I started to get serious about minimalism.
Minimalism for me is about making conscious decisions before I purchase things. Minimalism can mean different things to different people. Some minimalists choose to only have a certain number of possessions. Some live out of a suitcase and travel the world. Others like myself have no desire to do such things but still practice a minimalist lifestyle.
Minimalism is a philosophy, not a science. That being said there are three areas that minimalism may help you in your day to day life and it involves priorities.
In the Physical sphere, prioritize which material items you need and will bring value to your life. In the Time sphere, prioritize what goes on your schedule so that you don’t end up being overwhelmed, and in the Financial sphere, prioritize what you choose to spend your money on.
I do, however, have to make a disclaimer: I am a Canadian citizen who comes from a place of privilege. I don’t have children, and I have few bills to pay on top of my university tuition, so I cannot claim that minimalism can help everyone in every situation with their finances. I come from a country where consumerist society is rampant, and so while minimalism may help me with my personal finances, I cannot guarantee that it will help everyone.
I did not become minimalist to fit into an aesthetic, I became minimalist because I was easily convinced by advertisement, and in turn, my spending habits were out of control. My life had gotten to a point where I had so many belongings that I could not keep my room organized. I felt overwhelmed every time I walked into my room because of the number of belongings that I could not find places for.
My first step in my transition to minimalism was to do a formal declutter of my wardrobe.
I created four guidelines before my first declutter that I will continue to follow:
- Rather than throwing my belongings in the trash, I donated my high-quality clothing to thrift stores and recycled all of the product containers that I could.
- I upcycled old clothing that couldn’t be donated or repaired into bags or cloths.
- Buying strictly ethical clothing brands isn’t something that is in my budget, but I have decided to cut down on my fast fashion consumption. Fast fashion is one of the biggest polluters on the planet, and the treatment of workers in the fast fashion industry is unethical. I normally shop at thrift stores for my clothes anyway, but I have also made an effort to repair my clothes instead of throwing them away and shopping at local stores for clothes when I can.
- Instead of collecting hoards of books/CDs, I have decided to utilize public libraries more often. Half of the books I use to collect I never had the time to read.
Some of these guidelines came second nature to me from growing up low income. During my childhood, we used to upcycle containers and clothing often. The difficult guideline for me to follow was not buying into fast fashion items, as the super cheap prices are usually a selling factor for me. However, I have noticed since decluttering my wardrobe, I don’t actually need a lot of clothes. and half the clothes I used to impulse buy were never worn.
Before every purchase I make I think it through and ask myself three questions:
1.) Do I need this item, what do I need it for?
2.) Can I afford this item, what is the cost of me buying it?
3.) Do I have something like this item at home that could serve the same function?
Incorporating a minimalist approach into my day-to-day life has encouraged me to kick my shopping addiction. Over the last month, I have made better financial decisions than I would have if I’d ignored my consumption habits.
If you would like to see the results from my first wardrobe declutter feel free to click here.
If you are interested in knowing more about clutter and consumerism in North American society, watch A Cluttered Life: Middle-Class Abundance.
If you would like to know more about the impact of fast fashion on the environment and workers, start with this CBC documentary.
Features Image Via tu tu on Unsplash