I used to pride myself in knowing the only shopping I enjoyed was for produce. For me, a day at the Farmer’s Market was and is nothing short of a spiritual experience, while going to the mall is like a visit to the Inferno.
That pristine image was forever changed the day I signed up for Amazon Prime. “This is great,” I thought. “No more malls!” Little did I know the contract I signed was a Faustian bargain.
It’s started small. Some eye cream with a book. A few hard to find chocolate molds. I felt appreciative, grateful even, to have such convenience at my fingers tips. Slowly but surely, boxes started arriving seemingly by their own accord.
Then one day Amazon changed their page. Instead of quietly recommending purchases, the page was broken into Brady Bunch boxes of my purchase history conveniently compartmentalized into “buy again” categories.
My mind spun over the amount of stuff I had bought. There was the double pack of scissors (Why buy one when you can have four?), six pairs of footies (I promptly gave away to my niece), and thousands of books (I eventually resold and checked out from the library).
Staring at the screen, my denial crumbled. There, challenging the very essence of my belief, was the glaring truth of what I was doing. Hidden beneath the practical purchases were compulsive items that revealed a lot about my state of mind.
Compulsive consumerism is one of many ways to fill a void where meaning, joy, and connection belong. When we buy something, our longing (boredom, desire, etc.) is temporarily lulled. But it’s an illusion. Once it returns, we need more and the cycle continues.
It was at that moment I began to visualize another screen. Only this one displayed boxed images of my experiences: reading to my son with him sitting on my lap, pulling spring weeds from the garden, and laughing with a friend over lunch.
I knew what I had to do.
It’s easy to get trapped in the cycle of stuff. George Carlin had a genius skit on “stuff” that poked fun at the ridiculous lengths we go to secure it. You can see it here. Watching it reminded me of the finite amount of time and energy we are given to spend in life. I’ll be damned if I go out wishing I had more stuff than memories.
When it comes to ridding life of extraneous things, the following three questions have been instrumental in keeping me on track to a minimalist lifestyle:
1. Do I love it?
This is the minimalist mantra. The gold standard, as declared by Marie Kondo. This question alone will help you get rid of unwanted items and keep your ego in check from purchasing unnecessary stuff. That’s because becoming a minimalist puts us in control of our stuff. But in order to do so, we must change our relationship to our belongings.
2. Do I need it?
Ah, there’s the rub. What do we really need? This one forces us to be exceedingly honest with ourselves. Minimalism equals space. Not only space to see what’s in the garage or closet, but space in our mind and soul to think, dream, play, create, and grow. As an experiment, consider what you need. If you’re drawn to making a purchase, sit with the impulse before buying and see if there is something underneath the desire that needs your attention instead.
3. Do I use it?
While the minimalist lifestyle is not just about function and practicality, these two qualities are heavy hitters when it comes to evaluating our need for stuff. The accumulation of crap has become something of a national pastime. This question can help rid your kitchen of redundancy in one swoop. Do yourself a favor and jump off the crazy train. If you don’t use it, lose it.