What I stopped buying as a minimalist

(Disclaimer! None of the links to commercial websites are sponsored!)

Stop painted on a white wall

Introduction – What I stopped buying as a minimalist.

I started on my minimalism journey after a breakdown in 2018 and haven’t looked back. But I wasn’t always a minimalist or a mindful shopper. During my 20s and 30s, I used to love going shopping, looking snazzy in the latest outfit, and displaying a wall of books to make me look intelligent.

I have written about minimalism extensively on my blog over the last few years, and my regular readers and clients will know the basic concept. As a good introduction for anyone unsure, I suggest reading my article, ” What is Minimalism?

As I wrote elsewhere, there is more to minimalism than decluttering and owning fewer possessions, but both evidently play a big part in minimalism.

One of the most common misconceptions about minimalism is that it is simply about getting rid of stuff. While it is true that minimalists tend to own fewer possessions than non-minimalists, minimalism is about much more than just decluttering. (Minimalism isn’t just about owning less: debunking the top misconceptions.)

But minimalism doesn’t just stop after one decluttering session. Minimalism is a process, a journey that a person travels on. Lifestyle changes are necessary to maintain a clutter-free home and mind.

In today’s blog post, I want to focus on the material aspects of minimalism and give you seven things I no longer spend money on and why.

Woman with sunglasses carrying multiple shopping bags in each handd.

1. Fast Fashion

According to the Britannica website, fast fashion is the rapid production of cheap, low-quality clothing that encourages consumers to continually buy new clothing to be on top of the latest trends.

Fast fashion, a term describing the rapid production of inexpensive, low-quality clothing that often mimics popular styles of fashion labels, big-name brands, and independent designers. By endlessly offering new trends at cheap prices, fast fashion brands such as Shein, Zara, and H&M encourage consumers to continually buy more clothing. Consequently, previous purchases, perhaps worn a handful of times, are soon discarded. The rise of the fast fashion industry in the late 20th and early 21st centuries has had enormous consequences, from its myriad environmental impacts to its exploitation of garment workers.

Fast fashion as a phenomenon is relatively new, originating in the 1990s and accelerating with the expansion of the internet and online shopping. Check out the Ocean Generation website for more facts and figures on Fast Fashion.

Fast fashion produces endless clutter and overfilled wardrobes in your house and is also destructive to workers and the planet. We only need to look back on the Rana Plaza incident of 2013. In Bangladesh, the Rana Plaza clothing manufacturing complex collapsed, killing over 1000 garment workers.

Good On You explains that fashion wasn’t always as destructive as now, and people used to shop less.

Fashion wasn’t always as destructive of an industry. Clothes shopping used to be an occasional event—something that happened a few times a year when the seasons changed or when we outgrew what we had.

According to statistics, 65.5. of Brits shop every week.

As a minimalist, I have stopped investing in fast fashion or having an extensive wardrobe. Instead, I invest in timeless quality clothing, such as Organic Basics, that will last me for years to come.

Young black man sitting behind a pile of books

2. New Books

I have been an avid reader since starting primary school and learning to read. My reading list expands from trashy Sci-fi novels to complex books on climate change. In about 1985, I won a reading competition at my local library. Last year, I read 130 books.

I was an obsessive shopper of books; Foyles, London Review of Books and others became my second home. I had a whole wall consisting of five filled Billy bookcases.

I still read an obsessive amount, but no longer buy new books. Instead, I do one of three things.

I go to my local library and try to borrow what I need from there. With over 325 libraries in London, a whopping 4.1 thousand in the UK, and an excellent inter-library loan system, it is easy to get many books you are interested in. With the average price of a new book at about £9.54 for a paperback and as much as £20.25 for hardbacks, you also save a ton of money.

Sometimes, the library doesn’t have what I need, in which case I check out World of Books or other second-hand suppliers. World of Books works with Ziffit, a service that enables you to resell any book you don’t want to keep. They even come and collect from your house.

I know about the problems with Amazon, but I have a Kindle and occasionally get e-books that I can’t source for free elsewhere. I might be giving money to a big corporation, but at least I am not contributing to clutter in my house.

Interior of a souvenir shop

3. Souvenirs

I travel regularly around Europe and beyond but have stopped buying mass-produced tacky souvenirs for myself or my friends. I was trying to find statistics on the souvenirs that end up in landfills but could not find anything. However, YouGov tells us that 68% of women and 62% of men bring back souvenirs for family and friends. I am sure many ends up in the trash.

I am an avid tea drinker, and instead of souvenirs, I source local teashops and bring back tea and the occasional piece of high-quality teaware that I can enjoy for months to come.

Plastic water bottles

4. Plastic Water Bottles

According to the Website Recycle Now, an average of 35.8 million plastic bottles are used daily in the UK.

It is estimated that an average of 35.8 million plastic bottles are used EVERY DAY in the UK, but only 19.8 million are recycled each day.

Instead of buying water bottles and contributing to unnecessary plastic waste, invest in a good refillable bottle, a water filter, and a soda stream. You will save a ton of money, too.


5. Duplicates

In the past, if I liked something, I would buy multiples. Why only have one handbag when you can have three or four in different colours or sizes? Having only one of most things will save you money and reduce decision fatigue. In the case of handbags, you will never lose any of their content, as frequently happens when moving from one to the other.

Of course, there are items that you need to have duplicates of. I am not suggesting you wear the same underwear daily or never change your towels.

Cleaning Spray bottle in read and yellow

6. Cleaning products

I used to have different cleaning products for different surfaces and rooms. If you analyse the components in the back of the bottles, you’ll find that most contain similar ingredients. For me, much of it is marketing and a ploy to get us to buy more.

I use vinegar and water on a lot of things and, in addition, own one multi-purpose cleaner and one window cleaner from Ecover.

White plastic bag with Thank You written on it.

7. Plastic Bags

According to UK government statistics, the UK used 564 million plastic bags in 2020. The Centre for Biological Diversity gives us some startling statistics on the environmental impact of plastic bags, and that alone should make you stop using them, if not the price tag of 10p per bag.

  1. It only takes about 14 plastic bags for the equivalent of the gas required to drive one mile.5
  2. In 2015 about 730,000 tons of plastic bags, sacks and wraps were generated (including PS, PP, HDPE, PVC & LDPE) in the United States, but more than 87% of those items are never recycled, winding up in landfills and the ocean.
  3. About 34% of dead leatherback sea turtles have ingested plastics. 

Instead of plastic bags, I invested £5 in a reusable foldable rucksack for shopping, as well as taking my trusty messenger bag.

Conclusion – What I stopped buying as a minimalist.

There are many more things I stopped buying since turning minimalist. Ready meals, cling film, take-out coffee and pedicures, to name but a few. The above, however, should give you some food for thought and a place to start if you wish to curb your shopping habits.

Already on your minimalism and low-buying journey? In the comments below, let me know what you no longer buy.

Bettina Anna Trabant, Founder of Life Organised, your professional organising and decluttering service in East London. Eco-conscious minimalist and avid tea drinker,

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