12 Things Minimalists Wish You’d Stop Spending Money On
Owning more stuff than you can use doesn't just waste money, it fosters procrastination and increases feelings of anxiety. Break the cycle with these tips.
We all own way more clothes than we actually wear, but you might not realize the extent of your wardrobe hoarding until you get a reality check from a minimalist. Most people wear 20 percent of their clothes 80 percent of the time, says Joshua Becker, founder of the blog Becoming Minimalist and author of The More of Less. “Almost everyone would benefit from … cutting their closet in half,” he says. “They wouldn’t miss half the things they get rid of and would find getting ready is easier.” Easier said than done, we know, but you can start by not adding to the clutter. To avoid feeling the need to buy all-new pieces every season, stick with one classic style that suits you, says Becker. So that ultra-trendy top that will be out of style in a year? Leave it on the rack, and create a timeless capsule wardrobe instead.
Single-use kitchen gadgets
A little mug might not take up much space in your kitchen, but a specialty appliance or tool takes up a ton of real estate—especially if you don’t use it that often. “I like appliances that can do double duty to save space,” says Evelyn Rennich, founder of Smallish blog. For instance, skip the apple corer and use a basic knife. And avoid buying other kitchen gadgets that are a waste of money. If buying a new tool is the only way to make a recipe you’re looking at, consider if it’s worth it for just one meal. For instance, if you rarely make brunch but are in the mood for something bread-like, satisfy that craving with pancakes nix buying that waffle iron.
Pinterest addicts harbor big dreams about all the lovely, homemade items they might make for their home. When those supplies go on sale at the craft store, it’s like a dreams come true. But are you really going to decorate a dozen Mason jars, or find things to coat with gold spray paint? Keeping supplies around without ever doing the projects wastes money and stresses you out, says professional organizer Suzanna Kaye, owner of Spark! Organizing, LLC. “Don’t let yourself surround yourself with incomplete projects,” she says. “This adds to procrastination and hurts your self-esteem and motivation.” She recommends active crafters keep just enough for three projects on hand, and not let yourself buy materials for more until you finish one.
Between 1975 and 2015, the median square feet of a new home in the United States rose 62 percent—from 1,535 to 2,467 square feet, according to the Census Bureau. And what does that extra square footage get you? Maybe a few bragging rights—but that’s it, says Becker. “It’s this keeping up with the Joneses mentality,” that dismays him. “We’re comparing ourselves to all the wrong things here. We’re trying to get in a certain neighborhood or make a certain impression.” Plus, the bigger the house, the more belongings we hold on to, he notes. We need bigger and bigger homes to fit all our stuff, and so the cycle continues, he says. That extra storage space is also a waste of money. We promise you can be just as comfortable in a way smaller house—and these decluttering tips from the owner of a 480-square-foot house is proof.
‘Life-changing’ beauty products
“Marketers have done a super job convincing the American public that they need several different types of soaps and lotions in various scents to remain well cared for,” says Rennich. “Really, people only need one basic gentle soap, maybe a shampoo.” Even if your personal-care routine requires a bit more than that, keep from going overboard. Don’t buy duplicates of anything you already own (that foundation promising perfect skin probably isn’t any better than whatever is already in your makeup bag), and skip products you’ll use less than once a month, says Zoë Kim, founder of The Minimalist Plate. We suggest starting with these time-tested, iconic beauty products.
The latest and greatest technology
There are two types of obsolete: Technology that is so outdated that it can’t do its purpose, like a smartphone that’s incompatible with the apps you need; then there’s the gear that works just as well as the newest version, but just isn’t… well, new. “Some people love buying whatever the new thing is,” says Becker. “If technology isn’t solving a problem in your life, it’s just adding problems to your life.” So if your old phone works just as well as the latest version—even without all the new bells and whistles—upgrading is a waste of money.
“As Seen on TV” anything
“If you don’t know you need an item until the first time you see it in a store, you probably don’t need the item,” says Becker. Did you really think twice about the shape of your pancakes before seeing a product that produces perfect circles? Don’t even think about it. And put those previously “as seen on TV” and other items cluttering your home on eBay or sell them at a yard sale. Take some of the proceeds to splurge on some great real maple syrup to celebrate.
We’d never recommend leaving your kid toy-less, but there is such a thing as toy overload. Too many options overwhelm children, and they’ll get less use out of each toy. When you limit how many playthings are lying around, kids are prompted to stretch their creative muscles more. “Kids can make a game out of anything,” says Kaye. “Our daughter is much happier with a cardboard box than a toy from the store. Her imagination runs wild and [by the time she’s through with it] the box has been cut, taped, colored, and shaped to be many things.”
“Minimalism” does not mean decoration-free. But it does mean only sticking with home décor you truly love, rather than cluttering your home with tons of accent pieces. “The more decorations you display, the less focus you bring to the important ones that really tell your story and share your values,” says Becker. Before buying a new knick-knack or piece of art, decide whether it’s something you truly love. If it will just take attention away from your favorites, it’s a waste of money. Check out this guide for clearing out clutter.
Don’t worry, we aren’t about to go on a screen-free rant. But rein it in if you’re considering buying a television for a new spot in the house. “The average home has more TVs than people in it,” says Becker. “That’s a good indicator that you have too many.” You’ll save major dough—and probably have better dinner conversations—by bringing your snack to the living room during your show instead of picking up a TV set for the kitchen.
Sure, that book’s plot might be a total page-turner. But unless you’re a really avid reader, you’ll never revisit it. Don’t waste the bookshelf space. “Some people are wonderful readers and get through books, but other people have a ton of books that they’re never going to read,” says Becker. Check out library books instead, then return them if you don’t get around to them. Make good use of that current unread stack with these thoughtful ways to donate books.
Before you buy extra dishes, don’t just ask if there’s room in the cupboard; ask if you really need them. When you buy a new item, you should be willing to get rid of another to make room. “The accumulated effect of extra things we hold on to is what begins to take our time and energy, and becomes a distraction,” says Becker. There’s nothing wrong with buying a new set of dishes if yours are chipped or stained, but keeping the old ones “just in case” is just plain clutter. Skip that cute dessert plate or souvenir cup if you don’t love it more than the ones you already own.