22nd Apr, 2019

Buying Things

We all buy a lot of stuff. Small things, big things, expensive things and cheap things, things we need and things we don’t need, but think we need. I think it is safe to assume that I buy something every day. Now, most of the time, this might just be food. But there is also a fair share of things I buy that are not consumables.

Ever since I started to learn about minimalism, I try to be mindful about what I buy. It is hard do identify things that you don’t need anymore and get rid of them. It is work. You need to do the mental work of letting that thing go. Then, if you don’t want to throw it to the trash, you need to deal with getting rid of it. More often than not, that means dealing with people on online sales places. Those people have a tendency to stress me out. All of this is added to the the actual cost of owning a thing. I feel like even letting go of a thing is not as free as I like to imagine at times.

There is a simple way of avoiding the whole process of letting things go and getting rid of them, of course. It is not to get the thing you don’t really need in the first place. This is something that I introduced to my life over the past year or so and it is helping me a lot. If you know me in person, you will probably catch me talking about this thing and that thing that I’d really like to buy. I like to talk about that a lot (which is a whole different thing that I should improve on), but I won’t buy the things all that often.

I tend to categorise things I buy. I don’t have these categories written out anywhere (well, until now, I guess) and I am not too picky about the definition. But those categories are somewhat like the following:

  • Things I need to survive or for everyday life. This is food, obviously, and things like cleaning utensils for the apartment. Toilet paper. Shower gel. There is no real need to think too much about wether I need that can of beans or not. Yes, I need it. Otherwise I will die. I do not think about wether I should buy those things or not.
  • Things that directly benefit my well being. For example, I love riding my road bike. The weather got warmer, and since I started the hobby in autumn, I only had long clothes. In order to be able to keep riding my bike, I needed short clothes. I just bought them, as they did directly benefit my happiness in allowing me to continue to exercise in my preferred way. Books are another example. I do not think too much about buying these things.
  • Things that I think I need at the moment, but may not need at all. These are things that I see and really want to have. Like a new cellphone, or an Apple Watch or a new couch. Those are things where I cannot trust myself in the moment. I think I really need it and it will make my life just so much better. But it might as well not. I tend to think a lot about these things and also have a system to make sure that I actually need those things.

The system is taken from (I think) an episode of The Minimalists Podacst and adapted for my needs.
When ever I get this feeling that I need a thing, I write it down in my ToDo-List and set a reminder for 30 Days. I cannot buy it before that timespan has passed. Once it has, I get reminded of the thing and I can then take a closer look of how the last 30 days without this thing went. Did I miss it at all? Would it actually have made my life better? Most of the time, the answer is no.
If it is yes though, I give myself permission to buy it. It is no longer an impulsive purchase and I know that this will most likely enhance my life in some way. If it is not too expensive and I can afford it, I might buy it right away. Otherwise, I save up the money and buy it when I can.

This might sound like a lot of control, and it probably is. However, I feel in a society where you are encouraged to buy, buy, buy every day, it is a good idea to reflect on wether this is something you want, or something that society wants you to want.

© 2024 Chris Jarling