When you read people’s minimalist origin stories, there’s often a clear point in their lives that jump-started their journeys down the path to living a simpler life. More often than not, something terrible or profound made them change their lives for the better. My story is no different.
Up until now, I’ve only shared snippets of my past as an online compulsive shopper. I’ve shared how I kicked my habit, but I’ve never dived deep into my habit and how it jump-started my journey into minimalism. Well, today’s the day, friends.
My Pre-Minimalist Shopping Self
It’s embarrassing to admit, but back in my compulsive shopping days, the very first thing I would do in the morning was check my favorite sites to see if any good deals had popped up while I had been sleeping. Literally, it was the first thing I would do after opening my eyes.
If there was something that was a ‘good’ deal and in my size, I would probably end up buying it. Even if I didn’t totally love it or need it. It was on sale – how could I resist? If I had to describe my online shopping habits in one word, it would be ‘mindless’.
That’s exactly what it was. The process went a little bit like this – ‘Website, sale section, something in my size, purchased’. I never once stopped to think about how my purchases were impacting my finances (negatively, if you were wondering), the environment or my general state of well-being. It literally never crossed my mind that this kind of compulsive shopping was detrimental in any way. Shopping is a hobby, a time-honored tradition – what could be harmful about that? (oh, how naive I was).
Yoga Pants Were My Kryptonite
Since we’re getting into the nitty-gritty, back in the day, my number one go-to store was Lululemon (yep, the same one that is synonymous at this point with poor quality merchandise and see-through pants). At the time, I had just started getting into yoga. I was practicing multiple times a week (I would later become a trained instructor), and I obviously needed ALL the yoga things. Like, all of them. Or at least, that’s what I would tell myself. I couldn’t possibly practice in the same pair of pants more than once a week – how embarrassing that would be!
I am not exaggerating when I say I would get a delivery almost every day of something ‘new’ I’d purchased online. Thinking about it now makes me nauseous. That’s how I ended up with probably over 50 pairs of yoga pants (I never counted at the beginning of my minimalist purging phase, but at the height of my shopping, I needed an entire closet just to hold my yoga gear). 50 PAIRS! Last time I checked, I only had two legs!
Minimalism is one of those things I stumbled upon that made absolute and utter sense as soon as I read about it. My first memory of my minimalist journey was when I was doing my B.A. in 2011. I was surfing Facebook and saw a quote pop up in my feed.
“We spend all of our time working jobs we hate, to buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like”.
That was my lightbulb moment.
I realized I didn’t need nearly any of the things that I owned, but this was especially true for clothes. It wasn’t until the last year of my Master’s Degree that I started to act on my minimalist urges. I was so overwhelmed with the amount of ‘stuff I owned that it was starting to affect my mental health. It was like I was drowning underneath everything I owned. I had a perma-suffocated feeling every day.
Trigger Me Happy
Our habits don’t exist inside of vacuums and lucky for me, I had a lot of help as an online shopper.
Sale emails were probably my number one trigger – they seem like free money delivered right to your inbox! On social media, ads on Instagram are particularly potent. It’s harder to tell reality from carefully crafted and paid-for narrative.
Being the introvert I am, I hate shopping in brick and mortar stores (I am such a millennial, I know). So, when online shopping exploded in the 2000s, it was basically my dream come true. I never had to leave my house and beautiful, amazing things I NEEDED were delivered right to my door. That was the dream.
You might be surprised to hear this, but, I honestly can’t think of any single item that was a really bad impulse purchase during my compulsive shopping days. While most of my purchases were impulsive, with few exceptions, I wore or used everything I bought online at least once. I then promptly forgot about them and moved onto the next shiny item. What was much worse for me was recognizing the cumulative behavior of compulsive consumption and how it was impacting my daily life. (Like being the roommate that ‘got daily packages delivered’).
Curb Your Enthusiasm (err.. Shopping Impulse)
The three most important things for dealing with my shopping habit were ‘unfollow’, ‘unsubscribe’ and ‘delete’. I did a huge email and social media purge when I decided to get my shopping habit under control. For starters, I unfollowed all brands on social media (regardless of how much I loved them). I also unsubscribed from 99% of all marketing emails from brands. All of the shopping apps (Amazon, Etsy, eBay, etc) on my phone were deleted. It’s amazing how much your mindset changes when you’re not being constantly confronted with that kind of information or have one-touch access to the online shopping world.
I also had to replace my first-thing-in-the-morning shopping impulse with another behavior. Now, instead of compulsively shopping as soon as I wake up, I read blog posts or listen to podcasts from creators I enjoy.
My Post-Minimalist Shopping Shelf
Right now, I’m doing a year-long shopping ban (and I’m almost six months in)- so my online shopping behavior is great! Up to this point though, I have become much more mindful of my shopping behavior. I only shop for something when I truly need it (like when something I wear a lot becomes damaged and I cannot repair it). And my shopping process is a very long one.
Now, when I shop online, my first place to check is second-hand and vintage sites like Etsy and eBay. If I can’t find something used, I try to find the item from a Canadian company. I’ll consider an item for as long as possible before adding it to my cart. Really considering an item and how it will fit into my day-to-day life has helped me cut down on impulsive purchases I know I will regret.
So, that’s my minimalist origin story. It might not be as dramatic as others, or as ‘glamorous’ (if there’s such a thing as a glamorous life-changing realization). But, it’s the truth. Who knew something as innocent as yoga pants would jump start this wonderful journey?