“Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:25-26
Part of adopting a minimalist approach to life is living only with those things that are necessary and bring you joy. However, our tendency to shop recreationally counteracts that end, as we fill our homes with more and more things we don’t really need . . . or want. As a beginner on this journey, I have found five strategies to help me stop impulse spending in its tracks.
1. Flee Temptation. Which store sucks you into its vortex until you wander out in a breathless daze, having spent $100 or more that you didn’t intend, budget for, or need to spend? Is it Target, Crate & Barrel, IKEA, Banana Republic, Pier 1, Walmart, Goodwill, Marshall’s? Avoid the stores that lure you in with their siren call LIKE THE PLAGUE!
One way to do this is to schedule your time so that you are only able to purchase necessities, make your donations, or complete returns with no extra time for browsing, which almost always leads to buying. For me, as I declutter and discard those items in my home that I no longer need or love, it means a trip to Goodwill.
Since I’m there anyway, it’s so easy to just stop inside for a few minutes, under the guise of looking for a pair of shoes for one of my children or a particular kitchen gadget I think I need. The next thing I know, I’ve spent $20 at Goodwill on mini-staplers, Star Wars figurines, another board game, file folders, stationary, etc. There are no returns on this merchandise either, so I am left to suck it up and live with my impulse purchases, until they too end up in the discard pile a few weeks later.
Last week, when I had my van packed full of items to donate, I intentionally left myself only thirty minutes to complete my errands before picking up my boys from school. I stopped at Goodwill and another local resale shop with my donations and ran into ShopKo (it’s similar to Target, without the groceries) to process a return, without buying one thing. There was no time to shop, or I would have, trust me. This plan proves both efficient and frugal.
2. Look Around. Before heading out, take a closer look at your home. Do you like what you see? Or, are you crazed at the sight of all the chaos around you? The overflowing laundry baskets, the dust-coated knick-knacks, the sink full of dishes, the pile of unread magazines, the double-stacked bookcase full of books you “intend” to read someday. How about the overstuffed dresser drawers, junk drawers, utensil drawers, and linen closet? Is there always something that needs to be picked up or put away?
Do you really need to buy something else to add to the clutter? And if you are thinking, Yes, I just need to buy more containers to get organized, or another bookcase for those extra books, or another shirt because I have nothing to wear, think again. Do not try to organize or containerize the excess- get rid of it! As FlyLady says, “You cannot organize chaos.”
When we are finally able to part with those things that don’t truly add value to our lives or that fail to bring us joy, what remains becomes beautiful, necessary and enough.
3. Examine the Why. The more I release, the more I want to release. And, I’m not just talking about “stuff.” I’m talking about the why behind the why we buy, the external and internal baggage that holds us captive to our things. We experience guilt when we consider discarding a gift from a loved one. We feel beholden to the deceased when we decide to part with their belongings; indebted to family when we are ready to part with that piece of furniture or item of clothing they passed on to us; frustrated with ourselves for having spent so much on that item we never wore or used. We wish we could recoup the loss, and instead choose to keep it and live with the loss of regret every day we look at it.
4. Give Thanks. It is okay to let “things” go. You are not throwing away people or memories when you discard your things. Marie Kondo in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, encourages people to express gratitude to the items we are discarding, thanking them for their service or the lessons they taught us. In doing so, we experience a deeper level of release, in addition to that of simply releasing the item.
Another thing to be thankful for is what you already have. Take one more look around you. You have all you need to live. We are so incredibly rich in resources here in America. We have so very much to be thankful for.
We don’t have to spend the better part of our day fetching water for our families from miles away on foot. We have clean, running water in at least two rooms of our home.
We don’t have to eat bug-infested, excrement-laden food from the landfill, where we make our home. We have fresh produce, meat, and bakery items in our very own refrigerators. We live in homes of brick and mortar that shield us from the elements.
We don’t have to sit on a dirt floor and cook our food over a fire (unless we’re camping for fun). We have plush chairs and couches to lounge in before a crackling fire in the hearth.
Our teeth are not rotting out of our mouths from malnutrition or lack of dental care. In the bathroom drawer, we have all we need to keep our teeth strong and healthy each day.
We are so blessed! And yet, we think we need more, more, more. Where’s my special coffee drink, my cute new blouse, my age-defying makeup, my 100th pair of shoes? We need to stop thinking of what we want all the time and choose to be happy with what we have. Because it is a choice. Whether you stay home and relax on the couch with a glass of water and one of the plethora of books on your bookshelf or whether you hop in your minivan and drive to the nearest Barnes & Noble for another new book and a Starbucks latte is up to you.
Which will you choose, gratitude or greed?
5. Repeat. This is a process, not a one-time deal. Learning to live with less and love it doesn’t happen overnight. We have to train our bodies not to run out the door every time we see a sale ad in the paper. We have to train our eyes to see the excess in our own homes and do the hard but necessary work to get rid of it. We have to train our hearts to love those who truly are in need and look for ways to meet that need. We need to train our minds to be thankful each day for what we have, and not wish for more.
What is one way that you can stop the crazy cycle of compulsive shopping?