At the start of the year I set myself a challenge: buy nothing new, except for essentials, for four whole months.
That’s right, I have decided to join the minimalist revolution and have enforced a buying ban on myself.
There are many ways to minimise in your life. You can cut back on activities, you can curb your spending, you can reduce commuting time and stop overcommitting to events. But one of the easiest ways to declutter your life is to have less stuff.
Stuff is so easy to quickly accumulate, but it’s much harder to get rid of it. So, if you don’t buy stuff in the first place then there is less to worry about. Simple, right?
Well, I’m in the process of putting it to the test. From January until May 7 (the date I embark on a round-the-world trip for eight weeks), I’m on a strict shopping ban.
But this isn’t my first “no buying” rodeo. In 2014, I went on a charity challenge with a group of people cycling through Cambodia. While there I saw how people could live so simply, with so little, and be quite content.
When I returned to my home in Melbourne and looked at all my belongings in my room, I felt physically sick. I was planning to move back to Sydney in the coming weeks and I could feel the weight of all that stuff pushing down on my shoulders.
In that moment, I realised that whenever I had travelled I managed to fit everything into a 20kg bag and live like that for months at a time, so why did I need all this stuff?
That’s when I decided I would buy nothing new for the rest of the year – no new clothing, no travel souvenirs, no decorations for my house.
At times it was hard, but after breaking the habit initially and sticking to my guns, I felt such relief and freedom. It’s upon reflection of this valuable experience that I’ve decided to do it again this year.
Here are some things I learned from the experience, if you’re looking to impose a shopping ban on yourself.
Set a time frame
Saying “I will not buy anything ever again” is unrealistic. Start with 30 days or three months. You could use a holiday, moving house or another big occasion in the future as a deadline or goal. Be realistic and set yourself up for success.
No gifts rule
Gifts are a huge contributor to our “stuff problem”. Coming off the back of Christmas, I know many people are feeling the weight of these new items that they have to find space for in their homes.
The solution? Politely inform your friends and family that you will not be accepting gifts at this time.
You don’t need to be The Grinch about it. Use it as a way to reconnect with loved ones. Kindly ask if family and friends could share an experience with you, in lieu of a physical gift. Perhaps lunch at your favourite restaurant, theatre tickets or a picnic date would be suitable.
Make a list of essentials or ‘exceptions’
There are certain things you need day-to-day. I made an exception for joggers, gym wear, work uniform or necessary household appliances (e.g. kettle, toaster). I could replace these essential items if they’re worn through or broken.
Don’t confuse this for an excuse to buy three new pairs of shoes, though. The exceptions list will help you to prioritise what you need and what you use. Underwear is essential – a new bikini, perhaps not.
Impose a buying ban when travelling
During my buying ban, I travelled for four months around the world. I had no need to go into souvenir shops to buy mementos, and I didn’t wander into boutiques to buy clothing that completely clashed with my wardrobe back home. You know, the “it was a good idea at the time” buy.
I enjoyed the company of new friends, seeing the sights and taking in the culture and atmosphere of a destination, rather than buying mementos. My photos and my memories are my souvenirs.
One in, one out
If you do need to purchase anything from your essentials list, then an old item has to go. “One in, one out” is a strict but highly beneficial policy for reducing clutter.
This is also a great way to assess those items you don’t have use for anymore, yet you hang on to them for sentimental reasons. If you haven’t used something in the past six or 12 months, then out it goes.
Be kind to yourself
This is not an easy challenge and you will find moments where it is tough. But if you slip up, it’s okay. Just get back on track as soon as you can.
I guarantee at the end of your buying ban you will feel lighter, you will feel freer and you will have a lot less stuff to worry about.
Have you done a shopping ban? What did you learn? Share your story in the comments section below.