Confessions of a Minimalist
Somewhere in-between the 100 Things challenge and decluttering my garderobe I became the opposite of a shopaholic. I get way more pleasure from freeing myself of stuff than shopping. Malls became too overwhelming and I am rarely tempted to make purchases.
Online shopping, on the contrary, is still something that I can hardly resist. It’s pure magic – the product materializes in front of my eyes. I can scan all the available options from the comforts of my home. With a click of a button, it gets delivered to my front door. There’s always the element of surprise – I never know how the thing would look and feel in reality.
When I booked a trip to the Camino de Santiago, a 790km pilgrimage route in Spain, the perfect chance for online shopping appeared. I had never done anything close to a 10-days hiking trip. So I did what every sensible person would do – I run a quick google search on what to pack. I immediately discovered websites dedicated solely to packaging tips for female travelers.
Your backpack shouldn’t exceed 10% of your body weight or maximum 10kg (22lb) – that’s what the internets said
The infinite world of goods
The product reviews on travel blogs were just the tip of the iceberg. I spend countless hours reading online. I whole new world was opening up in front of me:
- magical quick drying, non-smelling even after a few days of wear Merino wool undies
- double layered anti-blister technical socks
- the Spork – 100% titanium spoon-fork-knife combo
- special filtering water bottles “turning tap water into fresh, great-tasting water anywhere you go”
- water reservoirs installable in the backpack
- a lining of the finest satin with extremely silky texture
- drying within a few minutes towels
- the buff headwear – a moisture-wicking, quick-drying, breathable, stretchy headband which can be used as sun/wind/dust protection, hat, etc.
It was very tempting to buy all these new, advanced clothes and tools. I did add them all to my shopping cart. It’s so easy, isn’t it? Just click that orange button and have no worries whatsoever.
The product reviews online didn’t make it any easier:
The cheap socks will fall apart and will not protect your heels and toes from the impacts from the hike. Just go big (spend the money) so you don’t have to go home (early)! – HerPackingList.com
The big awakening came when after the furious “Add to basket”-ing, I opened the said basket and I saw what the subtotal – 350€!
These were money which I never considered spending. Still, there were very convincing reasons why I should go on and proceed to checkout.
Mindful Shopping – how to go about it?
I started to wonder:
Where did all the excitement come from? It’s clear that all these things are handy in some way, but do I really need all of them? How can I be rational about it? – Kate App
Here’re my 5 tips for mindful shopping:
Look for alternatives
Just for the sake of experiment, I selected a couple of my sports Tshirts and underwear and I washed them in the evening. If they were dry in the morning, they would perfectly work for the trip. My hypothesis was: if I take 2 Tshirts with me, I can wear one of them during the day, wash it overnight and have a fresh one in the morning.
Surprise, surprise, they were dry and my strategy with washing clothes every night would work. I concluded I didn’t need the pricey Merino wool ones.
Ask yourself twice: do I really need this?
The Buff sounded like such a good idea, but in reality – if I have a hat and sunscreen anyways, why would I need a buff for sun protection? If I had a thin headband, why would I need the buff for?
I spend so much time reading about the innovative filtering water bottles until I woke up to the realization that I’m going to a civilized part of the world and there will be portable water fountains along the way. Plus, if I get this bottle, I would need to regularly change the filters. I got a simpler version of the same bottle which did a great job.
My backpack was slightly bigger than what was recommended on the forums. 22-30L was the recommendation, but mine was 40+10L. Buying a new backpack would have saved me 0.5 kg (1,1lb) but I stuck with the old one, which already had the hip straps and I actually loved it.
Realize how much time you spend on research
It’s a crime how much time I spend researching the Merino wool undies and bras! Most of all, the brands that were recommended were not available in Germany, so it was almost impossible to find an alternative. Nevertheless, I kept very stubbornly trying to get my hands on a pair.
I ended up not buying any of them.
“Save for later” and wish lists are your friends
I am immune to the shiny shops at the mall. But I can’t resist books. Even with books, I have a strategy – whenever I hear about an intriguing book, I add it to my wish list on Amazon. It gives me the satisfaction of a purchase without one. The unread books are piling up only virtually, and not in my apartment making me feel guilty I didn’t read them. Because let’s be honest:
How many books can a human being possibly read?
I only buy a book when I repeatedly hear good things about it and if it’s related to something specific I am dealing with at this very moment. I am very clear on the time commitment I’m putting into.
Know your triggers
Back at home, I am in familiar waters. I know how to handle sudden shopping impulses. But packing for a trek in Spain was something new and exciting. It caught me off guard.
Observe yourself and know what triggers you – hobbies, fashion, healthy living, friends’ newly-acquired toys are just some of the suspects. I’m not saying you should limit your passions. But make sure that proceeding to checkout is not merely a knee-jerk reaction.
I ended up spending much more than initially planned (around 200€). My trip was unforgettable, and I ended up taking a few more items than needed. Nevertheless, I take this as a powerful paid workshop on mindful shopping.
What are your triggers? How do you deal with it? I’m looking forward to hearing from you!
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