Year upon year, high-end fashion retailer, Diffusion, has a sale. Prices are slashed as the metaphor runs, by 30, then 50, and finally 70 percent. Every year I go in, every year I spend up to £500 and feel pleased with my bargains. Then buyer’s remorse hits. You might know it well. It’s when you suddenly realise you’d rather have the money than the things you bought with it. Diffusion has a seven day exchange only returns policy. When your money is spent, it’s spent. I’m left with nice clothes but a bitter aftertaste of regret, wondering why I’ve done it again.
Last year, I discovered minimalism. At first I thought it was about having as little stuff as possible. Whilst the challenge excited me, it felt pretentious and hardly aspirational. Over time, I came to realise it’s about having the perfect amount of things, things that you love, untroubled by clutter that you don’t. Within a month, I cleared out perhaps 80% of my things, mostly books, clothes, CDs and items I thought were useful despite the fact they were never used. The weight lifted mentally was immense. No longer did I have all of these things adding stress, reminding me of the money I’d wasted, of the greed I’d been a part of, and of the unspoken obligation to use them when I didn’t want to. They added pressure, not enjoyment. I was free to enjoy the things I loved, like a husband who’s renewed his wedding vows. A declaration of love to my surviving things: if I could do it all again, I’d choose you.
Then came January. Diffusion slashed those prices and I found myself inside. I bought an Alpha Industries jacket, the style I’d wanted for ages, at a good price. I may have spent a little too long looking at alternates but the right decision was made in the end – I loved it, I loved how I looked in it and it added value to my life. Days later, I couldn’t help but pop back in. The jacket was reduced again, £28 cheaper. Me being me, I saw opportunity. Return it at the higher price, buy it again and have £28 credit to pick up a tee. I didn’t. I bought another two coats and the credit turned into a loss of around £200. I regretted this as I left the cash register and realised I’d done it again.
I was fortunate. The prices at which I bought enabled me to sell the three items online and actually make a small profit. I no longer wanted any of them; my knowing this type of shopping made me unhappy and doing it anyway killed the buys and the experience for me. I wanted to wash my hands of it.
And so this reminds me that minimalism is an ongoing ideal to aspire to. It isn’t easy, but when you get it right for that moment in time, it’s utterly wonderful. After a purge at the weekend, I lie on my couch looking at the intentional living I’ve created in my lounge, with the sun peeking behind the clouds and I can smile. I’m getting it right today.