Mindful living is often associated with “less”. Less stuff, less burden, and less consumption. Get rid of your things, buy less – and your life will be fulfilled. This is a misinterpretation. A simple decline in consumption – without the proper attitude – will not improve your life in the long run. The nuance lies in intentional consumption.
Intentionality focuses on the reasons behind a certain consumer decision. When talking about mindful living, many people highlight the sustainability argument – live mindfully to reduce your ecological footprint. All well and good, but this is not my point.
You might see minimalism as a way to save the polar bear, to improve your finances, or to resist trends. At the end of the day, reasons can be manifold. The main goal is to cultivate minimalist values and to align them with your personal consumption habits.
Consequently, your why is important. In the spirit of mindful living, it doesn’t matter what you buy, it matters why you buy it.
8 minimalist consumer habits to live mindfully
On this basis, here are 8 minimalist consumer habits to help you develop a personal set of values.
Make lists for different categories of goods
Ever heard the phrase: “don’t shop while you’re hungry“?
Nutrition experts often underline the negative effects of an empty stomach inside a supermarket. In this vein, hungry people tend to buy a lot of excess food. Their purchases are driven by emotions – in essence: food cravings – not reason.
The same applies to other areas. If you wander into a tech store dreaming about the new iPhone XYZ, you’ll be inclined to purchase the item without thinking straight. This is where shopping lists come to fruition.
Let’s cite the example of clothes. Most people don’t know how many t-shirts, pants, shirts, and shoes they truly need. To counter this uncertainty, a “fashion inventory” list – containing a fixed number of different types of clothes – will keep your shopping impulses at bay.
After reaching your self-defined number in a specific category, implement a “one in – one out” mentality. It might be hard at first, but once you start living more mindfully, your purchasing caps will become self-evident.
No matter the goods, immutable lists will clearly separate your genuine needs and your unnecessary excesses when it comes to shopping plans.
Delay every major purchase
Living mindfully certainly includes taking the time to analyze products properly. Before you start lamenting your daily busyness, I am not talking about coke cans here.
The delay argument refers to more expensive, non-everyday purchases. For instance, if you think about buying a new television today, you might change your mind tomorrow – for better or worse. Whilst it’s true that spontaneous deals can be great investments, the majority aren’t.
Even if you sometimes make a mistake by waiting, you will have made qualified decisions. On this basis, delaying major purchases will further your general mindfulness and improve the mechanics of your decision. It might not always turn out to be the best decision – but it will certainly be an informed one.
What does that mean in concrete terms? As a rule of thumbs, always delaying 100$+ purchases for at least one week is a good benchmark.
Don’t copy other people
Keeping up with the Joneses is a major consumption trap. You might see your friends wearing the newest sneakers and driving the latest space-age car. Guess what: their priorities might differ from yours.
Intentional consumption is about finding your own style and pursuing your minimalist habits. As an example, your neighbors may be massive gearheads and change their cars every two years. You, on the other hand, could find more joy in traveling the world on a regular basis.
Once you grasp the importance of personal spending decisions, you’ll stop worrying about what other people have and start embracing your own wishes.
Use up your supplies of everyday goods
Before I understood the efficacy of everyday minimalist consumer habits, I hoarded certain everyday goods simply because I could. I used to buy five different types of rice, four brands of soap, three sets of perfumes, and lots of different face and beard products.
Even though I still use these products, I stopped buying them in bulk. I also started to transfer them into label-free containers. Removing the labels purifies my living space and also subconsciously tempers the urge to always add new brands and products.
On this basis, transfer all of your supplies of rice, pasta, beauty-, and other everyday products into label-free containers and use them up before refilling. This will help you live more mindfully by showcasing your real necessities. It will also make it easier to resist buying temptations – your focus will slowly shift toward intentional consumption as opposed to mindless hoarding.
Keep track of your purchases
Most of us don’t even know what we buy on a regular basis. As with shopping lists, keeping track of our purchases is a proven method to live more mindfully.
Simply write down every purchase over a certain amount of time and you will soon feel more organized and less exposed to momentary consumer urges.
Understand your reasons for buying something
Intentional consumption is all about establishing purchasing patterns. Try to understand why you bought something. Was that coat necessary because I live in Alaska or did I buy it to look like Jon Snow?
Once you understand your reasons, you can gradually adopt your own consumption rules. Over time, a decision to buy something will become the result of a thought process – not a mere impulse.
While there can always be exceptional, spontaneous decisions, the vast majority of purchases will follow your pre-defined consumption norms.
In simple terms, here are some good and bad buying arguments:
- Good reasons: quality, durability, joy, value.
- Bad reasons: trends, cheapness, peer pressure, spontaneous cravings.
Define your wishes and necessities
The 21st century brought us some fantastic consumption novelties but it also blurred the lines between wishes and necessities.
Ubiquitous ads, peer pressure, and media manipulation now make us want things we neither need nor really care about.
Nevertheless, our own minimalist mindset should define our genuine needs and wants. Everyone has different preferences, but there are numerous ways to delineate wishes and necessities. In this context, here are some characteristics to help you define your needs and wants.
- Needs: you use it every day; it is essential to your job; it makes you happy long-term; it improves your mindfulness; it is an investment in yourself.
- Wants: you didn’t know about it before you saw an ad; your friends tell you how great it is; you don’t know why you actually need it; you already have something very similar; you mostly buy it because it’s cheap.
Re-evaluate products a couple of months after buying them
Once your buying rules are clear, you’ll be able to reassess every purchase you made in the last 6 months.
You can sort your purchases into three categories: the good ones, the daft ones, and the doubtful ones.
The “good buys” are the products that – after a couple of months or even years – still adhere to your mindful living rules. As an example, I bought a G-Shock GA100-1A1 military-grade watch a couple of years ago. It has been to over 20 countries and never let me down. It can be used while diving in deep seas, trekking through jungles, or jumping out of a plane. 8 years after I bought it, I still consider it a great purchase.
Like everyone, I am definitely guilty of some idiotic buys over the years. I once bought an expensive bright green jacket only to realize that the color didn’t match any other outfit I had. Needless to say, the jacket falls into the second category.
The doubtful buys are the items you are still unsure about – even after checking them according to your intentional consumption criteria. There are a couple of solutions.
Radical minimalists would simply erase this category and mark these items as “senseless buys”. A more subtle approach would involve waiting a couple more months and re-evaluating the products by using your own keep or sell rules.
Useful links on intentional consumption – mindful living habits
- check out the best label-free food containers: the Oggi canisters on Amazon
- read the 10 principles of minimalism
- more under the topic “Spending”
- read keep or sell stuff – how to decide in 7 steps
- read how to adopt a minimalist mindset in 10 practical steps