I first started on the road to minimalism back in 2007. I’ve had many bumps in the road since then, and my journey hasn’t been an easy one, as I come from a family whose main interest sometimes seems to be shopping.
I don’t recall what prompted me to begin this journey, but I do remember thinking, “What will I do if I can’t shop?” and feeling a vague sense of panic wash over me.
Shopping was such a huge part of my life. I’d spend my lunch breaks hitting the town, planning my next purchase, comparing items, justifying the spend.
Quite often I’d look the thing over I was planning to buy again and again, day after day, going back again, building up the excitement (yes, I know, this sounds lame in retrospect), then I’d make the hit and buy what I wanted.
But you know, it somehow never seemed so exciting once I had finally bought what I coveted. The magic ended the moment the item was in a bag, in my hand.
I believed that shopping could fix me, and I wouldn’t be broken any more.
You see, in my mind I’d planned that the whatever-it-was I was intending to buy would make my life just right. It would make my look complete. I’d be fixed. I wouldn’t be “a broken me” any more. Whatever I bought would fix me.
Products are just stuff…that’s all
No item, no amount of stuff can fix a person. No matter what we buy, we’re still the same person inside. Products are just stuff, that’s all. Not medicines, not cure-alls. Just stuff.
Somehow I realised this, and my love affair with shopping ended abruptly. Maybe reading Your Money Or Your Life helped too. I don’t know. I think it did. But stopping my shopping addiction left a huge hole in my life.
Suddenly my lunch hours were free. I’d eat my lunch, and I had time for a walk. But I still felt aimless, without a focus, for a long time.
Other minimimalists talk about the freedom, but I don’t think many talk about the emptiness and confusion that happens at first.
Leaving the cage behind
It took me a few weeks to adjust. Now I’m completely over shopping-as-a-hobby, and I don’t really know what to do when confronted with a strip mall. Do people really spend hours in these places. Did I?
Changing any habit can be scary. In our society, shopping is a huge habit, especially for women. I come from a family who upsize and replace items that don’t need to be upsized or replaced.
That’s the behaviour I learned, and many other people in my generation are the same.
Take a look around you at this world we’ve come to know, does it seem to be much more than a crazy circus show…
We all have flat screen TVs, not because there was anything wrong with the old box ones, but because we’ve been sold the belief that we had to have a flat screen TV. We have Blue Ray DVD players for the same reason.
We have the latest fashions for the same reason too. I can’t tell the difference between one iPhone and the next (can anyone tell at a glance? Really?), but you can be sure that when one of my friends upgrades, she’ll tell us all about it on Facebook.
We send perfectly serviceable items to the rubbish tip just because we want something new.
I was scared when I stopped shopping as a hobby. I didn’t know what to do. I felt lost. And I was worried.
- Would my friends laugh at me? (No.)
- Would they see me as weird? (Not any more than they already do!)
- Would they criticise me? (No – in fact some seemed vaguely guilty at their own big spending habits.)
- Would my parents understand it? (No, but then, my parents never got me at all anyway.)
- Would I still fit in with my friends? (Yes, because I still dress nicely. In fact, I dress better than I did before – I just own fewer clothes and waste less money on mistakes.)
- Would any of my friends follow my example? (Yes, several have become minimalists too, and some are doing a better job of it than I am.)
Maybe there’s no such thing as perfection.
- I still buy things I regret.
- I still make mistakes.
- I’m still learning.
Certainly I know now that there is no such thing as any item I can buy that will “fix” me, or mend my broken bits inside.
The only way to heal myself within is to strip away the clutter, and to openly, honestly accept who I am.
With all my flaws.
All my humanity.
All my weakness.
All my chocolate binges that I will probably never cure.
I am me, broken, weak at times, imperfect, cracked a little.
But don’t they say it’s the cracks that let the light shine through? I like to think so.