How to Shop Like a Japanese Minimalist

How to Shop Like a Japanese Minimalist

Photo Credit: Scovad/Thinkstock

If you want to induce a case of nausea, download your spending report from Amazon. I did, and found I’d purchased 179 items last year. That’s about a purchase every two days. I could sit here and justify, “Well, I have kids and I’m buying cupcake flavored dental floss online to make my life more convenient.” But I’m not going to. Because clearly, 179 items is too much time and money spent at Amazon. And that’s just one vendor. Most of us shop at multiple places—online and in person.

And where does all this stuff end up? Strewn all over the joint. According to The Los Angeles Times, the average American home has 300,000 items in it. One could go the route of Fumio Sasaki, the author of the forthcoming book Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism. The Tokyo-based resident adopted a minimalist lifestyle and no longer even owns chairs or a bed. While that’s extreme, I’m drawn to the idea of focusing more on the essentials. Where to start: Staunching the flow of what comes into my home. You might not live in a 200-square-foot Tokyo studio apartment with only a vacuum cleaner to sit on, but here are eight ways to shop more mindfully.

  • Harden the target. Unsubscribe to marketing emails and as many physical catalogs and promotions as you can. (PaperKarma is handy for the onslaught of paper mailers.)
  • Become a slave to your list. Buy only what’s on the shopping list. If it’s not on the list, it’s not happening.
  • Sleep on it. Sure, click on that purchase. But tomorrow, after you’re had a good night’s rest. See if you even remember it in the morning.
  • Experiences, not things. For those prone to shopping to alleviate boredom, sadness or anger, come up with some comforts that will work instead: A book club, pedicure, yoga class, cooking dinner with a friend, a good new movie, etc.
  • Ask questions. “Where will it go now?” and “Where will this be in six months?” are two important considerations.
  • Shop without a cart. Just use the hand basket. It’s much harder to get carried away.
  • Unshop. Pretend you’re on a game show. What can come out of your shopping cart, arms or basket? Feel grateful for the space you’re creating in your home by not bringing anything new in.

Focus on the long term. Joshua Becker, a prominent minimalist author, points out that rearranging, or organizing our belongings, may be satisfying but is a temporary solution. Bringing in less, on the other hand, forces us to evaluate our lives and values, and helps us focus more on our life’s true calling. Don’t declutter, he says, de-own.

By the way, here’s how to see how much you’ve spent on Amazon. Brace yourself.

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. Her latest book is Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!, a science and natural history “gross out” for young readers.

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