In Between Maximalism and Minimalism: Stuff I Stopped Buying

100 dollar bills spread out.

Minimalist vs. maximalist? In search of a sweet spot in between my love for stuff and the stress it causes, here’s what I stopped spending money on in my quest to live lighter.

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Around 5% of the overall population is addicted to shopping in OECD countries, and the condition is becoming more predominant. Beyond these compulsive consumers, the number of people who are impulsive shoppers is largely unknown. It feels like consumerism is swallowing us whole sometimes thanks to digital tracking, ads in apps, and “influencers.” I’ve been suckered into buying some crap in my time, too. But at some point I realised I wanted to hit a sweeter spot in between maximalism and minimalism.

If I had to classify myself, I’d say I’m a minimal maximalist. I’m not happy with naked walls, no books, or just one handbag. I do love my stuff, and there are certain things I simply enjoy collecting.

Over the years though, I accumulated quite a bit. When I downsized my flat in 2014, I did get rid of at least one-third of my household. But fast forward seven years later and stuff had piled up again. I didn’t feel good about it. In fact, it started stressing me out.

Curbing the Spending

In the midst of yet another hard lockdown last winter, I decided to embark on a low buy year. I wanted to really knock it off with the spending, cull and sort what I had accumulated, and get rid of things I no longer like, need, or use.

My focus was thus two-fold: not only to save money, but to also reduce the quantity of what I have. Here are 8 things I stopped buying so far on my journey to finding a healthy middle ground in between maximalism and minimalism.

Clothing

I dare say I qualify as a latent fashion junkie. If you’ve been following my low buy series in the Minimalist Money category, you know this was one of my biggest ticket annual spending categories. In retrospect it makes me queasy.

The paradox is that outside of my business trips, if you saw me around my hometown you’d probably find me wearing the exact same thing every time. Jeans and a t-shirt in the summer, or jeans and a black sweatshirt in the winter.

Don’t ask me why I accumulated such an archive of high fashion threads. I don’t know. It was fun? I was bored?

Cutting out clothing for at least one whole year from my budget was a no-brainer in my case. Six months into my low-buy year, I’ve already saved a hefty amount of money. And I continue to find “new” things in my closet every week with the tags still on, so I’m not suffering much from the abstinence of clothes shopping.

I don’t know if I’ll ever find quite the right soft spot in my closet between maximalism and minimalism. It is what it is. But I’m trying.

Interior Decor

This was a pretty easy category to cut all the way back in. My flat is fully furnished and decorated. It really doesn’t need anything beyond what I already have. Clutter makes me feel anxious, and I don’t enjoy having a lot of surfaces and things to dust.

I do have a lot of little decorative knick-knacks throughout the flat, but they’re selectively curated and they make me happy.

When I made my last-ever decor purchase before the holidays last December, I got four songbirds from Kay Bojesen. I loved them (and still do), but didn’t even know where to put them at first. This was the breaking point where I realised that unless I do a total overhaul or renovation someday, I’m done decorating.

Starbucks

Oh the infamous coffee-to-go trap. It’s probably on the shit list of every financial blogger out there. The truth is honestly that you will not become rich one day just by skipping your frothy lattes (or your avocado toast). That said, these to-go expenditures do add up. An entire industry has worked very, very hard to make us caffeine addicted, with stupendous success.

I was also sucked into it. I even had a Starbucks Gold Card. It happened at some point on my business trips simply because there is a Starbucks on nearly every corner of every world city, and it was a beverage that kept me regular (and helped me whip my constant state of jetlag). But one or two of these things every day Monday to Friday really makes a dent in your wallet.

The pandemic made it super easy for me to stop buying coffees to-go, admittedly. Things have opened up again though, but I’ve managed very well to stay out of the coffee shops. I got into the habit of having my afternoon coffee at home, and always keeping some homemade ice coffee in the fridge during the warmer months.

Beauty Products

If I was going down in the Zombie Apocalypse, I was going to go down looking good and sufficiently moisturised.ο»Ώ

I’m a sucker for the latest skin care innovations and anything labelled “anti-aging.” Yup. I was that lady at the office the younger girls approached for skin care advice. It was flattering, I’ll give you that.

What was silly though was the situation at home in my bath. There was no in between maximalism and minimalism; I was hoarding a truckload of expensive products that had expiration dates.

It only got worse when the pandemic broke out. I prepared my beauty supply cabinet for the Zombie Apocalypse. Yup. If I was going down, I was going to go down looking good and sufficiently moisturised thank you very much πŸ˜…

Now I only buy what I need to replenish, and I’ve stopped experimenting with the latest hype. My skin is still doing great, and I’m able to use my products while they’re still fresh.

Being a Shoe Lover in Between Maximalism and Minimalism

Closely related to the halt I’ve made with buying clothes are things in the shoe department. I have huge feet. You’d think I have only a moderate selection of shoes given how difficult it is to find my size. Nope!

I still have a way to go here in terms of finding a good middle ground here. I guess I view it as a challenge of sorts to hunt down my size and when I find something, I buy it. The result? An awful lot of shoes that I don’t wear or that really hurt my feet.

During my decluttering challenge earlier this year, I sorted out quite a few pairs. I also vowed to lay off the shoe shopping this year.

Subscriptions

It seems most apps and software companies these days have moved to a subscription plan. Just a few years ago, Microsoft Office was a thing you bought a license for. And you used it until you couldn’t anymore. Now they make you pay an annual subscription fee.

I’ve noticed most other software companies have gone this route, and I hate it. Apps on the Play Store or in the Apple App Store can really add up, too, if you don’t watch out. 4.99 here, 12.99 there, 99 cents a month etc.

I cancelled most of my subscriptions and made a concerted effort to narrow everything down to the tools I rely on and use most. I kept my Evernote subscription, Spotify, Netflix, Tailwind, MS Office (reluctantly), Canva, Tasty Pins, and obviously my hosting subscription for Tidymalism. Everything else had to go, and I don’t miss any of it.

Magazines

I love magazines. Especially fashion and interior magazines. But they’re pricey. And they create clutter. I stopped buying them at the kiosk and train stations this year. Instead, I’ve been reading blogs more heavily again, and using my Kindle on the train.

Office Supplies

One of my recent posts was about decluttering art and craft supplies. I had a lot to sort through. It’s so easy to accumulate them and I seem to have the same tick with office supplies. I’ve always loved them since I was a little kid.

Every time I go to Asia, I cart back a suitcase full of the stuff after having gotten lost for hours in my favourite shops like Eslite, Don Quijote, and Tokyu Hands. Long story short: I’ve quite a stash of stickers, pens, pads, washi tape, notebooks and other office supplies and I really don’t need any more… for quite a long time! So this was another category of stuff I completely stopped buying.

There you have it. Eight kinds of things I am no longer purchasing as a minimal maximalist. I’m going to continue chugging along on my journey in straddling a healthier middle in between maximalism and minimalism. It’s a bit like body weight, in a way. At some point you’re just plain satiated.

Lady holding a spread of hundred dollar bills in front of her face. We can only see her eyes and she's clearly happy with her savings. Caption reads stuff I stopped buying in between maximalism and minimalism.
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