Quite some time ago, I began removing myself from various email lists. It was at the recommendation of other minimalists that I started doing so. I unsubscribed from small local shops, big box stores, chain retailers, and a wide variety of internet entrepreneurs.
But I didn’t unsubscribe from everything.
There were still a few businesses that I allowed to continue emailing me. I chose those businesses because they have products I enjoy, and I figured I could easily window-shop.
And then, like I should have seen coming, the window-shopping got difficult.
Actually, it was last night.
I got an email from a company that I have always liked. I’ve used their products in the past, and I’ve always enjoyed the fun and functionality of it all. When I opened the company’s email, I figured I would smile and look at what’s new before deleting it.
But I stopped. What was new was seriously awesome. In my world, my hobbies, my likings… it was like the coolest of the cool had landed in my email inbox. And there was a coupon attached!
I sat looking at the email in awe. I was like a kid in a candy store. I kept reading it and looking at the pictures over and over again. I then looked up the company on Instagram and watched a video about the new product. I ooh’d and aah’d and thought of all the ways I might use the product. Finally, I flagged the email so that I wouldn’t delete it because that coupon wasn’t set to start for a few days.
And this morning, I woke up.
I realized that not too long ago I had already purchased the same basic thing. I was already set to begin using the same basic thing. And I already like the version of the thing that I have.
So I went to my inbox, and I deleted that email. The coupon is gone.
Advertising is everywhere. That’s just a fact of life, and we have no other choice than to accept it. We find advertising in our email, all over our social media, as we walk or drive down the street, in the television and movies we watch, on the radio, and just about everywhere else.
Our lives are full to the brim with advertising. And that advertising can be pretty tempting. After all, who doesn’t want a shiny, new version of whatever they think is cool? Upgrades have become a natural part of life these days. It actually seems weird to go against it, as if not upgrading every item in your life every year is somewhat dysfunctional. And those upgrades aren’t limited to the latest in technology. People upgrade clothes, shoes, cars, houses, and more.
Heck, we upgrade our toilet paper if the advertising hits us just right!
The unfortunate side effect of all this upgrading, however, is the immense clutter and dissatisfaction it brings. We upgrade to keep up with an ever changing world on the outside, but inside we are drowning in all the unhappiness that caving into temptation has forced upon our lives.
Inside, we just wish we had said no.
Because We Know Better
It is ok to say no, but it’s not easy.
So what do you do when faced with all those bright and shiny new things? How do you react when temptation is staring you in the face?
The way I see it, this all boils down to making a very clear choice. And that choice can be made by asking yourself a few simple questions.
First, did you actually want this item before seeing the advertisement?
Second, will you use this item to its fullest?
Third, will the item bring any value to your life?
Did You Want it Before Seeing the Ad?
Advertising is so clever. It is targeted straight to the people who are most likely to fall for it. This is especially true online. Every time you pause when scrolling a feed, and every time you click a link, that information is stored and used to target (gear) advertising towards you. If you are someone who stops and looks twice at a particular shoe brand, then that brand will begin to pop up all over your social media.
But just because you happen to like something, doesn’t necessarily mean you want it. You can like a particular brand of shoes and not want them because you currently have plenty of shoes for every occasion.
So if you didn’t want an item before seeing an ad, chances are that you really don’t need that item.
Will You Use it to the Fullest?
Spur of the moment shopping can bring on a lot of regret. For example, say you see some fancy new kitchen gadget advertised on television and you think you absolutely need to have it, so you go purchase it. Then that item sits unused in your cabinet because you don’t actually enjoy cooking all that much, or maybe you just don’t end up needing it as much as you thought you would the day you bought it. That’s when regret starts to form.
You spent all that money.
You’ve taken up space in your kitchen.
You’ve told yourself that you will use this item – you’ve set expectations.
But you ended up doing nothing. And looking back, you knew that would happen.
If you can’t truly visualize yourself using an item to its fullest, wearing it out or down, really making it work for you and your needs… chances are, you just don’t need it.
Will the Item Bring Value to Your Life?
I think the third question is probably the most important. We bring all sorts of things into our daily lives; but if those things don’t add any value, what’s the point?
One of the first steps people often take when embarking upon the minimalism journey is to declutter their homes. Throughout the decluttering process piles and piles of old, unused, unwanted, and forgotten things are discarded. Often these things include clothing, knick-knacks, books, CD’s and DVD’s, coffee mugs, toys, etc… And as a person declutters, they often find that the items were just money wasted. They never actually got anything lasting from the items.
And this is where a person really has to consider the value added before giving up space in life to another random object.
I think one of the best ways to do this is to hold off on a purchase for a few days or weeks. Give yourself time to evaluate your life without it. If you can’t see that item adding anything special or unique in value for your way of living, then chances are you just don’t need it.
Not caving into advertising, stepping away from mindless consumerism, discarding possessions that don’t add value, minimizing and downsizing, and living life in a more intentional way… all of these things are incredibly countercultural.
Don’t expect the people around you to understand.
But at the same time, don’t be afraid to live life on your terms.
I deleted that email from last night. My husband (not a minimalist) thinks I should jump on the opportunity to buy the item. He thinks I should utilize the coupon to its fullest for no other reason than that I like the thing. And that’s ok because that is how he is. It’s not my goal to change him.
My goal is to continue living how I believe suits me best.
Not everyone will get it… but I’ll be happier for it.