I received a call from a loyal reader the other day. She asked if I could provide some tips for minimizing. That’s when it occurred to me that I’ve been rambling on aimlessly about the chaos of my own life, while providing very little value to you, my readers. I was thinking that, perhaps, you could gain some insights from my closet cleaning antics … but then I started thinking about how to really provide some clear guidance. Because the task of minimizing is daunting to many and insurmountable to others. So, I’ve been pondering how I got started …
Although I only discovered my Minimalist Hat a few months ago, I realize that my attitudes and beliefs about consumerism have been changing for several years. Partly because I live on an isolated island surrounded by water, which makes it difficult to stop by a major box store and shop on my way to work, for example. The only place I could spend money between my home and the office that I occasionally frequent is the coffee stand (which I no longer frequent), and the winery. I definitely do not stop at the winery every time I go to the office. Maybe on my way home, but that’s debatable.
So, I’ve been giving some thought to my current shopping habits vs. my previous shopping habits. When I was in college, the mall stood between my apartment and campus. I think it’s fair to say there were some days in college that I spent more time at the mall than in class. It was a good place to meet up with friends on blustery winter days. Go to a movie, grab something to eat, browse the sale racks. Spend, spend, spend. Other days, it was a welcome distraction from studying for a final or writing a paper. Shopping, back then, was a pass-time of avoidance. It was also crucial to have the trendiest dress for the upcoming formal, or most stylish boots to slosh across campus in the muck. And when we were actually on campus, we were given free T-shirts for signing up for credit cards. Really? A free T-shirt? That said VISA all over it? Who needs that? Apparently I thought I did. Because I ended up with drawers full of them. They were good for working out in. And did fabulous things for the credit score of an unemployed 18-year old college student, too.
In those days, shopping became a habit … a distraction … a quick “feel good” moment to keep me from stressing about the upcoming final in the class I hadn’t attended all quarter for lack of breaking away from the shopping mall. After I graduated, got a job, and bought a house, there was a whole new world of home decor catalogs to peruse. Furniture and wall decorations. Curtains, and a different duvet cover for every season of the year … soft velour for the winter, bright spring colors, white cotton in the summer, and a rusty-red in the fall. Which necessitated the appropriate room decor to change with the seasons as well … candle holders and picture frames … the list goes on. None of these items were vital to my survival. But they made my empty house feel like a cozy home. So, I shopped to fill a void.
Then I got married. We’ll reserve the cost of my wedding for another conversation entirely, but suddenly there were baby items to shop for … some of these items were necessary. A crib for my son to sleep in, and clothes for my children to wear. Those were essentials. But we probably could have done without the four-foot giraffe, and the life-sized tiger. Still, I would not say that my shopping habit was out of control … more like impulsive. I stayed within our means. In fact, my husband and I did not have one credit card between us for the first several years of our marriage. Not even for emergency purposes. Those were the good old days.
I’ve digressed far from the point here. The point is that before you can begin the journey of minimization, you have to change the pattern of maximization. Before your purging will make a difference, you have to stop shopping and bringing more “stuff” into your home. So, while you can certainly start filling up a bag or two for the local thrift shop, you also need to consider why you shop. I think shopping is very much like eating, or drinking, or any other vice that American’s find to fill a void … some people shop because they’re lonely, or because they just got in a fight with their spouse. Because they’re stressed, or bored. Some people shop to avoid chores, or finals, or housework. Some people shop to look cute or fit in with the latest fashion trends. Others shop because they’re not happy with their figures and are trying to find a way to hide …
I’m no psychologist. I’m just a psycho-babbler. But my point is that before you can successfully minimize your material goods, you will need to minimize your shopping habits. If your request is to learn how to minimize your “stuff,” you’ll have to dedicate yourself to a new attitude toward consumerism. Tune in again soon for my strategies for how to approach your maximized house.