Do You Need Minimalism in Your Life Right Now?

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Minimalist fashion can seem like just another newfangled movement from afar. Worse, it can seem cultist. And nothing makes people run in the other direction faster than a perceived attack on their sanity or an invitation to join some strange movement with weird rules and rituals.

As someone who stays far away from lifestyle gurus and anyone who promises to change my life, I completely understand the apprehensions a new concept can bring in people's mind. Especially if it necessitates drastic changes in one's way of living. My typical response is "I am pretty happy with my life and don't need to change it, thank you very much."

I stumbled upon minimalism by accident while researching capsule wardrobes. I had just come out of another festive sale season and was feeling overwhelmed and unhappy. The call for me came from within and not from some external life coach claiming to show me a new path. Even today, I read a lot about minimalism but I do it objectively and incorporate only what seems reasonable; and that gradually. 

Read about how I stumbled upon minimalism here.

Overhauling one's life in a single sweeping gesture is not practical, or even recommended (at least not by me). Even if it worked for someone else and they could turn their life around with one drastic step, this is definitely not a one-size-fits-all world. 

So do you need minimalism in your life right now?

In my opinion, we could all do with minimalism in our lives. But that's just my opinion. So let's dig a little deeper. 

Do you have more clothes, shoes, belts, bags, accessories or jewellery, than you know what to do with?

I would look at all the stuff I owned and wonder how I still didn't have anything suitable to wear for the occasion. This would happen frequently enough to stress me out. Important work meetings, casual get-togethers, alumni events, weddings, parties, weekend getaways and vacations. How in the world could anyone have a closet that was unmanageable while still feeling imperfectly dressed? 

To decode your personal style and answer the question of what to wear read this post

Do you buy things in anticipation of future needs?

Historically, we are taught to save for a rainy day. Resources are scarce and we want to get the best use out of them. Money is one of the most precious resources in our minds today, so we want to grab the best deals and stretch the use we can get from the (seemingly) little money we have. Sales and discounts, quite obviously, prey on this mindset. Buy at cheaper prices today so that you don't shell a bomb for the same thing tomorrow. 

minimalism, shopping, retail therapy, addiction, fashion

The reasoning seems so solid and unarguable that we have been following this logic for a couple of generations now. But shopping during sales make sense only when we buy things that are definitely on our list. Impulsively buying clothes or shoes (or anything else for that matter) simply because it caught our fancy in the moment and the price was appealing creates clutter. Without realising it, we become hoarders. And then we complain about not having enough space to stay organised. 

Do you go shopping (online or in-store) out of boredom?

I would do this so often, it was not even funny. Everyone from my mother to work colleagues would roll their eyes every time a new delivery came with my name on it. I had a couple of popular shopping apps on my phone and would "window shop" whenever I found a few minutes to spare.
On weekends, it was always easy to choose a mall trip over any other activity. Thanks to living in a metro city, malls are easily accessible, have convenient parking facilities, movie theatres and food courts. They seem like the perfect place to go when you have no other plans.
You think you can just window shop and return home empty-handed. But simply exposing yourself to a retail environment every week sends subliminal messages to your brain. You dream up things that you suddenly need, although you were quite happy without them. A disposable income becomes your enemy because you don't think the purchase is making a dent in your savings.

Do you trade short spurts of glee for long-term happiness?

The truth is that retail therapy does reduce residual sadness and makes us feel happy. I know it is surprising coming from me, but a study conducted at Ross School of Business, Michigan proves this. And it's ok if you indulge in a spot of retail therapy on rare occasions to uplift your mood or pull yourself out of a rut. The problem occurs when shopping becomes a cover up for the problems we do not want to face.
If you find yourself resorting to retail therapy frequently, then take a step back and evaluate why you need to shop so frequently. Chances are, the reason will not be because you need that much stuff. 

minimalism, shopping, retail therapy, addiction, fashion

At my lowest point, I would shop because I was sick, unhappy and stressed out. I was suffering from severe vitamin D deficiency which left me with little strength to do much. I would stress over the lost opportunities in my career and open a shopping app to take my mind off my problems.

Deliveries of new clothes would give me short bursts of enthusiasm and happiness. I would wear the new clothes and receive compliments that boosted my confidence for a few minutes. But the effects were short-lived and I would relapse into listlessness once again.

When I slowly got better and regained my strength, shopping became less important and I deleted the apps and unsubscribed from newsletters in an attempt to get over my addiction. Although I did not know about minimalism at the time, I had, at least partially, recognised the problem and looked for a solution. 

Do you constantly find gaps in your closet that you need to fill?

This was my excuse for shopping so much. There was always something I "needed" to buy. T-shirts or shorts to wear at home, shoes to wear during monsoons, flat sandals for the daily commute, stilettos for work, new denims to replace the old and fading ones, expensive designer clothes to wear to parties and events I would not even attend.
My sister once asked me how I find so many deals online. I told her that I keep my eye out for sales and go and browse through their collections. There is always something I need so browsing helps jog my memory.
I had effectively stated the problem without even realising it. Continuously browsing through department stores or daily online deals will reveal things you "need" except you didn't really need them until you saw the deal. 

Do you shop for others in an attempt to satiate your own need to shop without feeling guilty?

In all honesty, I have done this and maybe I am still guilty of it today. 

minimalism, shopping, retail therapy, addiction, fashion

While I fully committed to minimalism for myself from day one, I would accompany my mother when she went shopping. This became a sneaky outlet for me to shop for her instead of myself. Fortunately, my mother is not really into shopping for clothes, so she would only pick what she needed and fit her budget. It took a couple of shopping trips for me to realise what I was doing and I am still learning how to control my impulses.

Do you promise yourself that you will not shop for X and then go shopping for Y?

There is a scene in Sex and the City 2 where Carrie admits to cheating on fashion with interior decorations. It makes for a cute dialogue but not much else. I know so many women who resolve that they don't need anymore shoes and will not go shopping. Next thing you know they are shopping for something else.
Shopping addiction is in fact insidious. It creeps upon us gradually and takes over all aspects of our lives. If it isn't clothes then there are shoes, jewellery, accessories, cutlery, dinner sets, furniture, furnishings... the list really is endless.
So take a step back and ask yourself these questions. If you answered yes to one or more of them, then maybe you do need to adopt minimalism in some form.
Minimalism will not solve all your problems or make them disappear. What it will do is reduce stress from a few aspects of your life.
What do you think about minimalism? Do you have any questions and concerns. Let me know in the comments section below. I would love to hear from you.

Do You Need Minimalism in Your Life Right Now?

This post was originally published on 12 January, 2018 on my first blog. I have migrated it here and made some minor updates. 

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