Shopping is not something that we were taught at school. Growing up, we probably accompanied our parents to the store, watched them put things in a shopping cart, watched them swipe a card or hand over a few dollar bills, and walk out the door with the goods. Eventually, we deduced that things could be acquired from stores. Somewhere along the way, we learned how to “want” things.
On my minimalist journey, shopping has been one of my worst habits to break. Growing up in Midwestern suburbia where there is not a whole lot to explore but a new strip mall that just opened up, I developed a love for shopping. I found great pleasure in browsing racks of clothes, imagining how they would look on me, trying out different outfits, and dreaming about the increase in life satisfaction I would get by having it. This habit followed me into adulthood and well into my 20’s.
You do not have to be a fast fashion shopper to have a shopping addiction. You could shop at thrift stores, luxury retailers, online retailers, eBay, convenience stores, or even grocery stores. There are a lot of reasons that people go shopping, but the reasons below have been some of my triggers that kick in the shopping habit.
- A big sale at my favorite store
- Just want to look at what’s in-store
- To “get out of the house”
- For “fun”
- Have nothing else to do
- Trying to kill time
- Feeling depressed
We go shopping because of a need, a perceived need, or a want. Note that I did not specify that the need/want is necessarily a physical item – generally, addictions and obsessive behaviors are a symptom of a void or perceived void of something in life, so we shop because we feel that a thing or buying a thing will fill that void. In some cases, that void could be a growling stomach or empty toilet paper roll. In other cases, it could be an unhealthy relationship or a mountain of debt. We balance out the lack in one area of life by overfilling another area – through shopping, alcoholism, and other addictions. After all, if we were already truly satisfied in life, why would we feel the “need” to acquire more stuff? It doesn’t help that marketers are great at exploiting human psychology and concoct all sorts of made-up “needs” on our behalf to get us to buy their products. Fortunately, we have the power to resist – most of us recognize when something we buy is not a true need and is a waste of money.
Society likes the idea of a magic pill – just look at the entire supplements industry – but in life, our problems are not solved with more stuff. That fancy new treadmill, fitness watch, or expensive pair of running shoes will not get you in shape – dedication, laser-focus, and unfailing work ethic will. None of that can be bought at the store, but summoned from within.
Minimalists don’t go “shopping.” They do shop, yes – when they recognize that there is a need for something, making sure they are getting the best deal they can, and buying things that will increase productivity, save them time, or enable them to reach our goals more quickly. The difference is that when buying time comes around, minimalists already know or have very high confidence that what they buy will deliver on what it promises to do. Minimalists know what they want, know how to get it, and don’t have qualms about buying it – and, unless it is an emergency, take their time and only buy it when it is most convenient. Minimalists don’t get distracted by other things because they’ve done their research. By the time a minimalist purchases the item, he or she has a very good idea of what s/he is getting into.