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Less Is More | Am I Up For The Challenge?

Author: Guest Post

Earlier this year I (Lauren) wrote a post about becoming an accidental minimalist. Yes there are ten of us here and we love to recommend our favourite items, so that’s a whole heap of product suggestions but I have to say even with my upcoming arrival I’m really trying to keep purchasing to a minimum. He still doesn’t have a pram though and I figure that’s pretty essential. (Although my yoga teacher mentioned recently about a client who purely used a sling and no pushchair but I don’t think that’s really feasible is it?)

Anyway, this post isn’t about me, or prams, it’s about guest writer Jess as she goes public to pledge to cut down on her non-essentials.

Minimalism – Reducing Consumption and Collection

The moment I realised it was when I opened the post to find a shiny ‘Privilege Customer’ card from The White Company. This was accompanied with a luxe coffee style magazine (not the usual flimsy flick through they send me), this felt super special. That’s when I knew and the excitement gave way to worry. How much must I be spending with The White Company in order to become a privilege customer? I knew it probably wasn’t good. (I have since looked into this and it’s £700 across a 3-year period)

I’ve been getting into minimalism for a few years now. Hooked from the moment I first watched Minimalism, the documentary I went on to purchase their best-selling book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying and The Art of Discarding to name a few. I tried the project 3-33 challenge and haven’t really looked back since. My life is tidier, happier and marginally less cluttered but I haven’t truly mastered the magic or the art and now I know why. The final piece of the puzzle is purchases. I haven’t reduced my purchases. I may have got rid of more but I’ve bought more.

More clothes. More books. More lipsticks… it would probably take me over a year to wear what I have already. Having read blogs on the topic I came across a blog by Cait Flanders and was instantly inspired by her story; Cait had given up buying stuff for a year (in fact her one year turned into two). I’ve been so amazed by her (and other inspirational) stories but I’ve not read of anyone doing this with kids. Not that I intend to stop buying for my children – I just want them to learn passion before possessions. To have more life and less stuff. And it feels like all I’ve done since having children is buy stuff. Yet this isn’t what I want to teach them. I’ve already drilled into my family the concept of one-toy-only for Christmas or birthdays – and to be honest, I would rather they all got her an experience, animal adoption, a trip to the beach with a picnic, a meet-the-animals day etc. After all, she raves about the time she spends with her grandparents and cousins way more than any plastic fantastic she’s received.

But change starts with me first. I don’t know if I can do what Cait has done but I know I need to do something, to challenge my consumer mindset and to get out of owning more and buying out of hobby or habit. This week I witnessed my three year old daughter point to an advert and say “Mummy, I want that” for the first time. I was so shocked at how quickly advertising had got inside of her mind. When I sat and thought about it, actively becoming more present about the purchases I was making, I realised the many times I find myself wanting to buy something in the week… when I’m bored, as a reward, because it’s on sale, because I saw it on Instagram, because a friend recommended it, because it might come in useful… the justifications I made to myself to continuously add to cart made me feel a little ashamed. And I started to ask the right questions. Not, ‘will it go with the dress I bought last month?’ but ‘do I need more stuff? ‘Will buying this add to or take away from my life?’.

Looking around me and being really aware for the first time, I am surprised at how many people I know are purchasing things to impress others, to set up the perfect Insta-photo, peacocking in front of everyone they know, to showcase their “success”, their style, their talent… competition and keeping up with the Joneses has the nation debt-riddled and hinging our happiness on the number of ‘likes’ that strangers give us per purchase. I know it’s time for a much-needed change in how we consume and I want to be championing that and choosing real life over likes.

So the question is… can I do it? Me, the queen of purchases, the marketing maven herself. Can I go cold turkey on consumption and collecting? Cate did it, right? But I’m nervous. What if I commit to it and then I can’t actually hack the challenge? An entire year of not purchasing anything that isn’t pre-approved (to give you an idea of the pre-approved list, it includes food, fuel, clothing for my daughters, toiletries on a one-in-one-out basis, gifts for others and experiences – eg I’m going to spend money on time with my family and on massages – something I’ve never let myself have regularly because of money and yet I think it matters more to me than another pair of boots! I’m allowing myself hair cuts, yoga classes, vet bills, candles, plants/flowers, family holidays, baby paraphernalia as it’s required eg a new high chair, decorating bits are allowed (paint) but home purchases (cushions) are not (sob!). I’m also allowing myself a few basic essentials during the year (namely, two new sets of lingerie when I finish breastfeeding and need underwear that fits and one pair of jeans as I have none left.) That is it. The hardest bit is an entire year not buying books (I have to read ones that I already have – Amazon is my biggest addiction).

The aim of the year isn’t simply to not buy anything or purposefully deprive myself. It’s to see if I can be happier, more mindful and more present. It’s to spend more time on my relationships, with myself and my family, to spend less time wanting more and more time living my life, credit free and learning what truly makes me happy. Who is Jess with less?

Have you done this? Is it as hard as I think it will be? How did you feel? Perhaps you haven’t done it but want to give it a go too? If that’s the case, why don’t you join me (there’s strength in numbers, ha!) And would you like to hold me accountable? I would be more than happy to do a report back to keep me on track.

So here goes, my commitment to a year of nothing. Or is it the year of everything? The year I turned my life on its head and truly found happy? Here’s hoping…


Written by Jess Collins. Follow Jess on Instagram.

A guest contribution from one of our readers.
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26 thoughts on “Less Is More | Am I Up For The Challenge?

  1. Morning Jess this post really struck a cord with me. I suppose I have accidentally done this! We went down to a single income when my last contract ended and had to cut back. The reasons where 2 fold

    1. No cash (or a perceived lack of cash)
    2. Too much stuff. Everywhere. All over the place.

    Like you my no spending doesn’t extend to the kids, because they keep growing, but it covers everything else.

    What has made it easier was making a really organised budget for everything. So we set aside, for instance, money for entertainment (date night, family days out etc.) and money for clothing. I do allow myself £20 a month towards my clothes. I can either save it up or spend it each month and I find more often than not I end up saving it.

    Seeing where we spend our money all written down (on the spread sheet of love as it’s called) has helped us realise that we were really spending money on “stuff”. It’s helped ease the feeling that we were constantly broke and the stress that comes with that. It means when we do spend money we enjoy it more because there is no guilt attached.

    1. Hi Susie,

      I adore the idea of the spreadsheet of love! I think moving forwards, an organised budget would be a great idea for me also. I also love the idea of your clothing allowance (that forces you to only buy what you truly love) and I might introduce something like that in the future but for the first year I want to go cold turkey if I can! I particularly like your comment about guilt free spending, that sounds amazing. For me, I really want to be present about the purchases I’m making (so easy to just add to cart isn’t it?!) Thank you for your comment!

  2. I’m currently 8 months through my year of not buying new clothes, make-up and accessories and have definitely noticed a difference in how I’m thinking about things. My rules are a bit different from yours, because I’ve been allowing myself home purchases (not spending on clothes has allowed me to put money into 1 or 2 nice things that I’ve wanted to finish off rooms) and I’ve also been a little less strict about underwear and toiletries (but mostly just essentials, sorting out my problem skin). And recently, without the distraction of shopping, other habits have changed. I’m watching less tv, I’m reading more, I’ve joined a gym and I’m starting an ou course in October. For me stopping the purchases has been the easy bit – it’s the letting go of what I already have that’s hard. Having said that, I’m definitely eyeing up a lot of the hush new season, and there’s a pair of boots I have my eye on so I’m looking forward to some treats in the January sales – thinking about how to approach next year and not go overboard is definitely something on my mind.

    On the subject of my daughter’s toys, I constantly feel like I’m drowning in the plastic crap – definitely in need of a sort out before Christmas!

    1. Hi Rebecca,

      Wow! Well done you, how have you found it? Ah, Home purchases are my biggest weakness but I find too often I’m buying pieces because they are on sale and not because I truly love them. I know I need to stop buying stuff for the house to break the habit (although flicking through the latest Cox & Cox magazine yesterday I was doubting if I could do this!)

      I love what you have said about other habits changing since you’ve stopped shopping and I am really looking forward to seeing how this might impact my life in other ways.

      Letting go of stuff has become easier and easier for me and the feeling of calm when a room contains less is a bit addictive (I just have to stop bringing more stuff in!) Yes, with you on the plastic crap and we seem to have such little storage! This will be our first Christmas with two children so that will be interesting! I don’t want to make Christmas all about presents for them but I know I’m fighting consumer culture at its strongest (if you were three years old, what would excite you most? A walk on the beach and family games or lots of shiny new presents and toys?!) Thank you so much for commenting, so wonderful to know other people have done this (and survived! Haha!)

      1. Completely with you on the cox & cox catalogue – it all just looks so beautiful!

        It’s definitely become easier as the year’s gone on – and I’m still letting myself look, but knowing I can’t buy helps me realise how much I don’t need whatever it is I’m looking at.

        My plan when it comes to being allowed to shop again is to take a really critical view of my style & the things that make me happy and to institute some kind of limited shopping rule along the lines of limited budget or limited items, possibly moving more towards a capsule wardrobe – but I’ll see!

        1. I love this, you should definitely check out Courtney Carver’s 3-33 challenge, this changed my life entirely (in a snapshot, you’re allowed 33 items to wear over 3 months including shoes, bags and accessories) For the first day I felt afraid at how little I had but by the end of it I felt amazing and every day I was wearing something that I truly loved. I no longer felt overwhelmed opening my wardrobe door anymore! I do not think I have your willpower on the looking but not buying thing so I’m probably going to have to unsubscribe from Cox & Cox for a while, damn their beautiful marketing photos!

  3. As with Susie above, I’ve fallen into this by accident (thank you statutory maternity pay!)
    Book solution: our library reservation service is AMAZING. Plus a few lends and swaps with friends.
    And it is just stuff, it doesn’t really add to life.
    I don’t have strict rules but big purchases (hello much needed new boots) are usually intentional rather than impulse.

    1. Hi Amelia, thanks for commenting. I’m also on statutory maternity at the moment so perhaps that’s played a part? Although I actually find this period even harder, sat breastfeeding for hours on end, it’s the perfect time to shop online! Argh! You are so right, it is just stuff! Books are my biggest weakness and I will definitely be joining a library but I’m also going to try to enjoy the books I already have and pass on books that I’ve finished with rather than hoarding them forever! Ha ha! Watch this space!

  4. Marie kondo changed my outset completely. Allowed me to let go of the guilt when clearing out. Although there are still zones of the house that are bulging with stuff – the room of shame. Said room is mainly the husband’s domain…..and he claims he’s not messy 🤦

    1. Ha ha The Room of Shame, I love this! Our Room of Shame is sadly my office, it’s turned into a total dumping ground – clean laundry gets piled up here, junk mail, books, magazines, paperwork… I found some Christmas wrapping up here last week… it’s the final room to Kondo the crap out of (before it becomes my daughters new bedroom and I get relegated to the smaller room!) And as for Marie Kondo, her book has been my favourite and was the first step to feeling free from stuff, it literally was life changing!

  5. My awesome friend Maria is currently doing this type of project and had three children. You can follow her on Facebook at Relove My Fashion. She is also on Instagram. She started in January so just has a few months left. She has allowed herself to buy secondhand but as her journey has developed has also been cutting down on these purchases. Good luck!

    1. Wow, thanks Kate, I’ll check her out! I would definitely consider in the future buying second hand but what I don’t want is lots of loopholes I can get through eg splurging on cushions and justifying it as it was an EBay purchase! Ha! I know myself too well and for it to be truly effective for me I have to be quite strict but longer term, I think buying preloved is a great way to live. Thanks for commenting and I will check your friend out! I have to fill my Instagram with inspiring people like this now and delete all of the shops that I follow!

  6. I probably really need to do something like this. Do I have the willpower? REALLY not sure…

    Though please do update us on how you’re getting on Jess!

    1. Thanks Tracy! The worrying thing is that I read your comment in agreement “do I really have the willpower?” Before remembering that it’s my article and I’ve gone public with it! But that was the point of promoting what I’m doing, to have accountability and push myself to do this. Thanks for cheering me on!

  7. I can see how this could creep up on you and believe making a conscious decision to stop can only be a good thing. Good for the environment too. I lived on benefits for some time as a single parent when I couldn’t find work. I had so little money that I just couldn’t afford to buy things. We’re not particularly well off now, though things are a lot easier than they were, so I struggle to understand the idea of having to force yourself not to buy clothes or shoes. I only tend to buy things which are necessary or to replace something which has worn out. I can’t get my head around the idea that some people really do go and buy lots of new things every season just because they can! I don’t know how I will react when our income increases again in the future. I hope I won’t take it for granted and start regularly shopping for fun but who knows! I do really enjoy homewares… Do you see this becoming a long term habit, Jess? I haven’t had to cut back on my spending but have had to stop holding onto things ‘just in case’. It’s taken me years to get to grips with it but I think I’ve reached the point where my view of things has changed so it isn’t difficult anymore and I don’t need to think about it. It’s more like “why is this junk taking up room in my home” when it used to be “what is the minimum amount I can part with to create some space”.

    1. Hi Jade, you’ve definitely got the right mindset! I’m a bit ashamed to be that person (the one who goes out every season and buys new stuff) I realised that if I didn’t then I could buy better if that makes sense. For example, I’ve always had lots of jeans but I’ve never paid more than £15 for a pair of jeans – this means they never last. My final pair have just died and I’ve decided rather than wait for a sale and buy ALL THE JEANS at £10 each, I’m going to (for the first time ever) invest in a decent pair of jeans as I wear jeans pretty much every day in autumn/winter. So I’m hoping that once the challenge is over that I can buy less but buy better when I need to.

      Yes, I absolutely see this becoming a long term habit. This first year is a bit extreme but basically I want to change my consumption habits and be really mindful about purchases. I read somewhere the other day that the cost of buying something is not just the financial price, it’s the cost of having to clean it, maintain it, store it and have it take up our mental space also – this makes so much sense to me. I think what I’m learning is that space is sacred, more space gives me much greater happiness than more stuff. I will try to do an update here (perhaps around January time when I’m at my weakest because of the sale!) Thank you for commenting!

  8. Quite simply, I can’t be arsed with buying more stuff to clutter up my house even more. I would hate to feel like a couldn’t treat myself occasionally, so I try to be good by having a one in one out cosmetic rule, and considering whether I really need clothing purchases – recently I nearly bought a new dress for a two hour event, nobody else cared what I was wearing and I have no idea when I would have worn the dress again. I use the library regularly and often get new releases quickly – it’s also surprising how many new books you find in charity shops.

    I love the feeling something new can give you, but I think that you appreciate things less when you buy all the time. I would much rather have a nice day out as a treat.

    1. Hi Claire,

      Exactly that! Time for days out is so much more valuable that it’s where I want my focus to be – on spending time with my family and friends. I think the library is a lot better than I remember it being so I’m excited to join and borrow books one at a time as opposed to ordering five from Amazon then only reading one and leaving the rest on a shelf! You are so right about appreciating things less when you buy them all the time too, plus I don’t use/wear half of it. I buy it but then keep it and don’t wear it (not sure what that’s about!) I’m hoping this challenge will change how I purchase things and what I choose to bring into my home in the future. Thanks for commenting!

  9. I keep thinking about doing something like this. I’m on mat leave just now with my second and really want to do a big wardrobe clear out to see what I have, before buying a few key pieces instead of cheap things. I have quite a few gift vouchers stashed away so am planning to use them to treat myself.

    My current weakness is photo frames but we’re reaching the point where I have no more space so that’ll stop!

    Totally with you on the sea of plastic though, thought we’d done a good job of reining in the grandparents for my daughters birthday and then my sister turned up with a load of presents. Hard to not seem ungrateful but there’s just so much stuff. Doesn’t help that my husband loves ‘his belongings’ and hates to chuck things away

    1. Hi Linsey, I’m on mat leave with my second too! Congrats! Clothing is a nightmare right now isn’t it? I’m not quite my old size yet but maternity clothes are hanging off me, it’s a nightmare! I cannot recommend the Project 3-33 challenge enough though, it’s been life changing for me! Hehe I love that your weakness is photo frames, for me it’s cushions – OMG somebody stop me now! Even my dogs have cushions now for their beds as they love them so much and I had too many! It’s so hard with the plastic thing, just like you I hate to appear ungrateful but when I tell people one present only and they buy five I’m like ?!?!?!?!. I know it’s their way of saying “I love you” to my daughter but how will she ever learn that you don’t use material goods to show affection if that is what she’s surrounded by? I know I’m currently swimming against an uphill stream but I’m hoping things will change as minimalism becomes more mainstream and society perhaps begins to come full circle so that we appreciate the simple things more. Feel free to join me on my journey, I commence on 1st October and accountability partners are more than welcome!

  10. I’ll be really interested in hearing about how you get on. We’ve only got one income at the moment and are absolutely fine, but would like to save more towards our future and fun things. I’ve got much better with clothes but also found if I felt rubbish in what I was wearing, I wasn’t happy so trying to buy better and keeping my work wardrobe looking decent. I’m terrible with the kids clothes (there are just so many gorgeous clothes about and I’ve found you get what you pay for…) and have tried to buy eBay bundles in the past but quality has been mixed and I’ve ended up spending more. I’m much better than I used to be though, and get second hand when I can. I’m toying with setting myself budgets, but haven’t had the mental energy to work that out yet! Good luck and keep us updated!

    1. Thanks Sarah, I’m equal parts excited and frightened about how it’s going to go but I know it will be a learning curve no matter what! Yes to buying better – less but better is basically the way forward I think (I’m just going to zero for the year to try to reset my mentality) And yes! Kids clothes are a nightmare – I’m allowing myself to continue buying these but with a different mindset. Since I have two girls I thought I could just reuse everything from first time around but it turns out a summer baby and a winter baby need completely different wardrobes! Ha! My answer to this is each season to buy them both a capsule wardrobe of just a few pieces each then replace as needed so that they have the basics, stuff that I love but as affordably as possible. My three month old was bought so many gorgeous clothes when she was born but sadly not been able to wear some of it as couldn’t get through it – they can only wear so much! I will try to keep updated on here, perhaps every quarter if Lauren has space. It will be good for me to be accountable! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  11. Good luck Jess, I really look forward to hearing how you get on. I’ve been deliberately trying to change my spending habits as I just don’t want anymore stuff. I think once you start thinking of things environmentally/ ethically it really helps. Before I buy anything I try to think of where it’s come from and what packaging it’s likely to arrive in and it’s amazing how that stops you purchasing! I really like reading the Little Birdie blog, Jen’s approach is to think about the coming season and plan if you need anything for your wardrobe and what you’d like to do/ can afford for home improvements. I’ve been trying to adopt this and it’s been working for me. That said dealing with kids stuff is a nightmare isn’t it! xx

    1. Thanks Ella, that’s great advice. I’m really shocked at how much packaging things appear to have! I will check out The Little Birdie blog also, thank you for the recommendation! I will try to stay accountable here during the year so keep an eye out (and continue to cheer me on! Haha!) x

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