I recently had my very own aha! moment. HRM Oprah would be so proud.
Since sometime last year, I began dipping into minimalism. I would say I’m a casual practitioner of minimalism but not a full-on minimalist. My cluttered and messy office won’t let me call myself that just yet.
I don’t practice minimalism in a get-rid-of-all-my-stuff sort of way but more of a mindfulness-about-what-I-need-and-don’t-need sort of way. I’m not going to paint my walls white. I’m not going to quit my job so I can specifically make less money. I’m not going to give up my phone.
For me, minimalism is about being more mindful about the products I purchase and bring into my life.
Minimalism Does Not Come Naturally to Humans
According to neuropsychologist Rick Hanson (via his appearance in the 2015 documentary Minimalism), humans evolved to obtain things in order to survive and we did that by hunting and gathering. This craving is in our DNA. Since most people don’t need to hunt and forage in order to survive, this biological need is now fulfilled by shopping and buying something shiny and new.
Understanding this is important. Wanting new things doesn’t make a person materialistic or greedy: it makes them human. But when we understand this evolutionary trait, we can manipulate this urge and ask ourselves a few important questions:
- Why do I want this?
- Why do I need this?
- How will this enrich my life?
- Can I make do without this?
Really taking the time to answer these questions makes it much easier to buy something without guilt, or not buy the product at all.
Three Ways I Practice Minimalism
To simplify my mornings, I arrange my collection of black t-shirts from worn last to worn most recently. As the week progresses, I move those shirts to my laundry bag or the back of the line.
I also rarely buy new clothes. I was shocked to learn that the average American buys 70 new articles of clothing per year. HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?
I’m certain budgeting is related to my positive outlook on minimalism. Last year I blogged about budgeting using YNAB and I’m pretty sure there is a major correlation between those two things: buying fewer things and saving money. They are natural comrades on the playground of life simplification. My husband and I both have a set amount of money we can spend on “fun” items every month and we’ve stuck to that number pretty closely for over a year.
The Simple Step of Considering Big Purchases for Longer Periods of Time
I keep an ongoing wish list of items I would like to own. These are useful to have for birthdays and holidays when family members ask what they can get you. It’s also useful because an item can sit on that list for a long time and eventually, the appeal of it just kind of… goes away.
And that’s where my recent aha! moment comes in.
Marketing is a Tricky Beast
I work as a graphic designer, a career closely tied to marketing and advertising. You’d think I’d easily see through marketing ploys but that’s not always the case.
I’m a user of Apple products. I’m a designer. It’s just what we use. Yes, their products are expensive but I like them. My husband went through two or three Windows laptops during the lifespan of my first iMac. I’m currently using an iPhone 6S Plus and an iPad Air 2—basically antiques in the world of technology.
Apple is fully aware a lot of their customers are people who consider themselves to be creative. A trick commonly used in marketing is appealing to a person’s identity, or the identity they wish they had.
Since the introduction of the Apple Pencil, Apple has sold it by featuring lots of cool drawings and artwork on their new iPads.
I started eyeing up a new iPad when my old 16GB model kept running out of storage. I mostly use it as a TV anyway so I don’t need that much space for apps or games.
But then I saw Apple’s marketing for the Apple Pencil. And I suddenly wanted one. And I wanted an iPad with a huge amount of storage in order to save all the multi-layer illustrations I was going to create with my new Apple Pencil. I would get better at hand lettering and drawing and use all kinds of cool brushes in all the great art apps you could get—
Hold on. Hold on a sec.
I don’t draw.
Sure, I’m a graphic designer, but I don’t draw. Just ask that set of drawing pencils I purchased four years ago and never used. I just don’t. I haven’t been into drawing since I was a little kid.* And, truth be told, an iPad and an Apple Pencil aren’t going to make me start. A new iPad and an Apple Pencil won’t transform me into someone who takes their iPad into a park on a sunny day to sketch greenery.
*As soon as we got the internet, I started making websites for fun and I got out of drawing. As an adult, I make websites as a career… and I redo my personal websites a lot. For fun.
This is what good marketing does: it makes you believe their newest and most expensive product will make you into a person you would like to be. More like a person you admire.
If I was going to get into drawing, I would have by now. I have paper. I have pencils. I have empty notebooks and sketchpads. Nothing is stopping me and, more importantly, nothing is making me start. Not even Apple.
Cut to: me, back on the Apple website, comparing iPad models and thinking, “These are really expensive. Why do I want a new iPad in the first place?”
Storage on my current iPad. That’s it. A lack of storage was my only true pain point. The cheapest iPad is about $500. An increase in storage was, for me, not worth $500.
With that realization, my new-shiny-thing lust just kind of… evaporated. I’ve never felt that before. My craving for a new toy became genuine pride at overcoming such an obvious marketing technique.