I’m pretty sold on the concept of less is more. I’ve spent the last few years doing some major decluttering and realizing that having less stuff reduces my workload and more importantly, my anxiety. Minimalism also suits my introverted, highly sensitive nature. Less in my environment is soothing for my soul.
And so as a natural part of this journey, my trips to the shops have decreased. For many reasons, I’ve stopped using shopping as a crutch. Stopped using it to fill spaces in my day, fill spaces in my wardrobe and spaces in my house. In fact, coupled with my tendency to overthink and question myself, shopping has become a nightmare. Something I avoid if possible.
This journey to simplifying and minimizing my physical world has made me realize that stuff is never the answer. Despite the times we convince ourselves it is.
But now, after several years on this journey, which is really a journey of self-discovery, I’m also happy to add a disclaimer to my statement. A recognition that while stuff isn’t the answer 80ish percent of the time, sometimes stuff is the answer! Why? Because life isn’t black and white. Life is chockablock full of grey areas.
When stuff isn’t the solution.
Buying something ‘on trend’
Buying something because it’s the new trend and your friend just got it, is not the solution to your problem of trying to keep up with the Joneses, or your tendency to compare yourself, or even your low self-esteem.
When you buy the ‘on trend’ cinnamon colored velvet cushion, you don’t get relief from comparison or an injection of self-worth. You get a cinnamon colored velvet cushion. Something that may, or may not be in fashion next season.
Try instead: Ditch the comparison by taking Pinterest and Instagram break (or whatever social media space that feeds into comparison). Invest in other things that boost your self esteem instead. Try going to a local boot camp. Go to the hairdresser. Spend time with someone you know who loves you as you are.
Buying something to get the adrenaline rush
Buying something to get the rush of something new, is unlikely to be the solution to your curiosity and desire for new experiences. I’m so guilty of buying for the rush! But if I’m really honest with myself, it’s always the experience I’m after. When I get home with my new items of clothing, the rush is gone.
The adrenaline rush doesn’t last as long as the clothes do. Eventually, they just become extra things in my closet. Items that will likely make their way to goodwill faster than items brought more mindfully.
Try instead: Do something that fills your need for adventure. Go on a bush walk. Travel to a new city. Seek adventures to quell your curiosity instead of things.
Buying (or acquiring) something to fill a space
Buying things to fill empty spaces is not the solution to having a perfect home. When we renovated and found ourselves with huge areas of blank wall the temptation was to buy prints and frame photos to hang up. While I’ve hung some things up, most of the space is still blank. And I figured out that I like it. I love the white space with nothing there, it’s soothing and calming.
Try instead: Before you purchase items to decorate shelves or walls, try experimenting with space. Leave the wall or shelf empty for a while and see how it makes you feel.
So that’s three examples of situations where stuff isn’t the answer to your perceived problem.
But what about the times when more stuff is the answer? Times when stuff is essential and brings connection and joy.
When more stuff is the answer
When you need to replace worn out items
Stuff wears out, and we have to buy new stuff. It’s just the way life goes. Particularly these days when the economy is built on items that have a short lifespan. So to replace these items we need to shop. Pretty simple. In this case, more stuff is the solution! Your well worn jeans have holes in the wrong places? You replace them. But how you replace them is key. Try and choose quality items so that the cycle of life (and the consumer cycle) is longer. This might require patience to save up an extra $50 to purchase better quality jeans.
When an item would help bring connection
I’m all about experiences over things. But sometimes, particular items, invoke experiences that make the purchase of them incredibly valuable. You may not think a new dining room table is an experience. It’s a table. An item. But if you are anything like me, a dining room table is never just a dining room table. It’s an item that brings people together. A space to connect.
There are actually loads of items that help bring us to connect more with family and friends. Board games, outdoor sports equipment, and I think a coffee machine even fits into this category. Ok, it’s a stretch but i’m gonna make it!
The key about items that help bring us together is that we are purchasing them for this purpose. We are clear about the value that they will add. Intentionally choosing to purchase something that encourages connection.
When something would bring you joy
So what about the items you buy that simply make you happy? I recently made a very indulgent purchase. I brought a scented candle, something I’ve never brought before. But candles (particularly beautifully scented ones) have become special to me. A sort of self care ritual. I also knew that I was purchasing something that would bring me joy, not just a fleeting happiness.
This isn’t just about purchasing items either. For example, I chose to bring two peices of furniture from my Nana’s estate into our home because I absolutely loved them. They literally brought me joy and do every time I see them. And knowing they were made by my Grandad who I never met makes it even more special.
So more stuff isn’t ALWAYS the answer to our problems.
But sometimes it is. Sometimes the things we choose to bring into our lives can bring us great joy and help connect us to our fellow human beings. And that’s okay. It’s actually fantastic!
My hope is that by reading this you will be gently nudged to think through the things you bring into your home, and your life. Take some time to understand why you’ve collected, kept and purchased items.
And then make a choice. Choose to keep the status quo. Or choose to invite intentionality along for the ride.
Ditch comparison. Stop using shopping as an experience. Experiment with white space before filling it with more stuff.
Choose quality, and keep an open mind about things that will bring you joy and connection.
And above all, be kind to yourself. The road to simplifying our lives isn’t easy. But the journey and the desitnation can be incredibly rewarding when we take it one day at a time.