What does shopping as a minimalist look like? Do minimalists even buy anything new at all? I’ve always said I’m somewhere in between minimalism and maximalism, but as each year passes, the former is definitely overtaking the latter in my household.
I’ve found that the more Swedish death cleaning I do, the less new stuff I want to bring into my life. That might also have a lot to do with the fact that I’ve been in a sort of a career limbo for a while now, which has made me more discerning about what I spend money on.
But beyond the financial factor, I’m genuinely finding it refreshing to have less stuff to look after. I even sold my car this year, and while I continue to miss it on some days, those occasions are fewer and farther apart, and never because I need a car. I don’t.
Long story short, yes, I still buy stuff, and I still enjoy shopping around. I’ve just gotten pickier and I’m probably also more eco-conscious than I used to be in the sense that I prefer to spend more on something that’s good quality. To compensate for that, I buy less.
Another Year of Shopping as a Minimalist
While I didn’t officially announce I was doing any sort of low-buy challenge this year, I was indeed still in a rather frugal mode. I continued decluttering at home and got rid of another heap of stuff I sorted out during a 30-day minsgame challenge in early summer. I did pick up a few new garments and one new pair of trainers, but they were all replacements for things I had worn out. So I was pretty good again this year.
I got an iPhone 15 Pro Max this month as well, but that was also a replacement for my old XS Max which, at 4.5 years old, was getting close to being on its last leg. Apple gave me a couple hundred bucks for it through its trade-in programme, so I’d qualify that purchase as a bit of minimalist eco-friendly shopping.
While I am enjoying the camera on the new iPhone 15, it did not make it onto my list of favourite things. I guess that’s because I’ve always had iPhones for the past 13 years, so upgrading to a new one is no longer a big deal.
So without any further suspense, here are the four things that did have a WOW factor for me. This was really good minimal shopping and I’d wholeheartedly recommend these items to anyone.
And, because I love reading so much, I’m rounding off this post with three good reads from this year, too. Everything in this post was purchased with my own money, and I actually use and read everything I recommend.
Apple Watch SE – A Great Bang for Your Buck
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever envision myself wanting a smart watch. After all, I have a classic, minimalist collection of real watches that I love to rotate. Yet now they’re all tucked away in the safe deposit box.
What changed for me?
It was a health issue, as is so often the case in life when one reaches a breaking point. As mentioned in my last post around choosing happiness and how physical movement is so vital to our well-being, I have been suffering from chronic pain for some time now.
Since I still can’t do any standard fitness routine but can walk fine, I decided to make a new habit to briskly walk a minimum of 10,000 steps every day. So I’m basically counteracting the pain by leaning into it.
For the first few weeks I was just tucking my iPhone in my pocket so that it would count my steps. But the max-sized device was really annoying me and in the summer, it fell out of my pocket a couple of times.
Plus, if I wasn’t actually carrying my mobile on me, I had no way of counting all those other steps I was taking when doing my daily cleaning routine or just moving around doing the gardening or other chores.
Because all I was really interested in was tracking my movement, and because I already had an iPhone and a MacBook Pro, I opted to stay in the Apple eco-system and chose the cheapest SE model with no cellular, just GPS. Honestly, I half expected to hate the thing and envisioned re-selling it with my other clutter on eBay in a few months.
Lo and behold, I love the Apple Watch SE. I still think it’s ugly as heck and feel like a crew member from For All Mankind, but I wear it all day every day. I even wear it when I’m sleeping because it tracks my REM and deep sleep phases, which I find fascinating! I also like how it works as a notification hub when my phone is in another room, and I use the timer function on it every day when I make tea.
Sometimes I still do go get one of my good watches out of the safe. On those days, I tuck the 40mm Apple Watch into my pocket so it still tracks all of my movement. This compromise works well for me.
In terms of cost per wear, this thing has paid for itself already. I bought my SE watch with the “sport loop” band and midnight colour at Apple in the EU, and paid €279. You can now get the same SE model for much less on Amazon, and there are lots of other bands and colours to choose from!
- Apple Watch SE
- The smallest Apple Watch model but still a very nice size at 40mm.
- The most inexpensive option in the Apple Watch range.
- I opted for GPS only and no cellular connectivity because I don't need to take calls or text from a watch. You can still do so, however, when the watch is near your phone!
- If you prefer total connectivity so that you can leave your phone at home, then go for the GPS+cellular version.
- Apple eco-system: automatically connects with your other Apple devices
- Super easy set-up
- Does so much more than count steps: it can act as a notification hub, play your music, mark messages as read, serve as a timer, video player, selfie remote, and so much more
- Can also be configured and customised from the Apple Watch app on your phone
- Surprisingly easy to navigate
- All the fitness stuff on it! Track heart rate, breathing, sleep patterns, training and exercise sessions, medication reminders, customisable activity trackers etc.
- 40mm size is great for smaller wrists
- It has gamified fitness and made it FUN
- It's kinda ugly compared to a Rolex 😅
- Needs to be charged at least once a day – a bit annoying when you wear it 24/7. I've found it best to do my charging session about one hour before I go to bed when I'm just sitting on the couch anyway. This gives me a full charge for overnight and the entire next day.
Aarke Carbonator – No More Lugging Bottles
This soda maker should be on any minimalist eco-friendly shopping list if you ask me. It’s definitely my favourite thing I bought all year.
I use it multiple times a day, every day of the week. I’m doing way, way better at staying hydrated each day, and my skin shows it. Plus, it’s saved me the hassle of having to schlepp home heavy beverages from the supermarket, and schlepp back all the deposit bottles. Win win win!
My model is in white, but there are other neutral colours to choose from, as well as stainless steel and even shiny gold, chrome or bronze versions for those who love buffing fingerprints, heehee.
This thing is made of metal – no plastic parts that will wear out or fall apart. What I also love about it is how little room it takes up on my countertop. My kitchen is small and I prefer to keep as little on my counters as possible. What’s allowed to stay out are the things I use constantly, like the coffee machine, a Murano glass fruit bowl and the electric kettle. And now my Aarke.
- Aarke Carbonator
- Make sparkling water and other carbonated beverages with regular tap water
- Built to last
- Nice looking!
- Eco-friendly: made of metal and helps conserve the environment by allowing you to stop buying bottled sparkling beverages
- Sturdy construction
- You can use cheap generic replacement refill cylinders with it
- Comes with drip tray, cleaning cloth and bottle
- No more carting home heavy bottles from the supermarket!
- There are loads of syrups and essences on the market so you can even make your own soda pop, or just add natural lemon, ginger, or orange to flavour
- Makes staying hydrated easy
- Compact countertop footprint
- Sleek, modern design
- Beautiful colours and finishes to choose from which match any kitchen decor style
- Inserting the gas cylinder the first time was tricky and I had watch a YouTube video to get the hang of it
- The compatible plastic bottles from Aarke have an expiration date so at some point you need to replace them
Here are some examples of available flavours mentioned above, for when you’re thirsty for something beyond sparkling water:
Minifitness Silent Stepper – Worth Every Penny
By now at the latest you can tell that fitness was a big topic for me this year. Next up on my minimal shopping list of favourites is a stepper I discovered on the French Amazon. Fortunately you can get it on pretty much any Amazon locale.
This thing is different than a conventional stepper. It’s more bouncy and emulates your normal walking gait. I LOVE IT and it has been helping me achieve my 10,000 steps each day.
Apart from the fact that it’s easy on the eye compared to most other fitness gadgets (#aesthetic, anyone?), the coolest thing about it is that it’s completely silent. No one downstairs hears me walking. I even walk on it when I’m on a longer phone call and nobody notices! You won’t break a crass sweat on it, because it’s not intended to replace a killer cardio workout. It will, however, get you moving in a much more joint-friendly manner.
I keep it under my desk and whenever I’m watching a YouTube video, I pull it out and hop on. At the end of my workday, I check my Apple Watch to see how many more steps I need to reach my goal of 10,000. Then I turn on the news, and do those remaining steps while I catch up on current events.
This gadget has been a blessing when the weather is so ice cold and crummy that I don’t want to go outside and I’m glad I got it. Plus, it really is fun!
- The Minifitness.fr is made in France and is sturdily constructed.
- It makes it super easy – and fun! – to move your body, especially when you're often tied to a desk all day long.
- For me personally, it has really helped with the chronic pain I have in my hips, knees, and butt because it's made it far easier for me to maintain a daily walking goal.
- Completely silent
- No mechanical parts that are susceptible to wear, maintenance or noise
- Modern design
- Compact and lightweight
- Seems indestructible
- Manufactured in one piece out of a memory shape composite material that can't warp or break
- Covered in a slip-proof elastomer front and back
- Allows for adjustment of speed during use – just move the position of your feet
- Versatile: can also be used for e.g. yoga exercises or other non-walking routines by flipping it over
- No slipping or scratching on hardwood floors
- Holds up to 100kg
- The slip-proof elastomer can get dirty and needs to be wiped occasionally
- Too bulky to travel with
- Can't replace a hardcore cardio workout
SanDisk Portable SSD – Trust Me, You Need It
Last on my list of fave shopping as a minimalist is one of those things that was on my wishlist for ages. I could kick myself for not buying it sooner.
I said goodbye to three clunky old external harddrives, as well as a rather large NAS mirror drive that was so big it had to be hidden behind the television. I replaced it all with just one of these solid state drives, SSD for short. And boy, it is friggin’ awesome.
It feels lightyears faster than my old serial ATA drives, and it connects with USB-C so you can also plug it directly into a smartphone. The best thing is even though it’s so, so tiny, the SanDisk has a huge capacity of up to 4TB.
If you’re on the go a lot, you’ll also appreciate that this drive can take a beating. It’s encrypted, dust resistant, water resistant, and I honestly don’t think you have to worry about dropping it on the floor – or off a cliff – because it’s encased in such a rugged material. Hang it from a keylace, tuck it in your pocket or your even your nano handbag. This thing is truly portable.
I liked it so much, I ordered a second one. I always say it’s a good idea to have a backup of your backup, and I like to keep a redundant drive in my emergency documents binder, just in case.
My SSDs are black, but SanDisk also introduced very pretty light blue and midnight blue colours after I purchased mine. Swoon!
- SanDisk Extreme Portable SSDPROS
- Rugged: 3-metre drop protection
- Super small size for true portability
- USB-C: plug and play, even with your smartphone
- Fast transfer speed of 1050MB/s read and 1000MB/s write; I backup my entire MacBook Pro in a mere fraction of the time my old SATA drive used to take
- Winner of RedDot design award
- Choose from a range of storage capacities from 500GB to 4TB
- Available in 3 attractive colours
- If you do a lot of video work, the largest capacity of 4TB may not be big enough for your needs
Bookworm Bonus: Three Good Reads
I read a lot, and tend to have four to five books going at the same time. Much of my shopping as a minimalist of sorts thus revolves around literature. Probably 95% of the books I buy or the ones I borrow through my Kindle Unlimited subscription are non-fiction. I just always enjoy learning about new stuff.
I mentioned my career limbo further above and I tend to make light of it. In reality it’s been a bit terrifying. That’s why I was delighted when I found 55, Underemployed, and Faking Normal by Elizabeth White. Just what I needed! It’s not uncommon for middle-aged women to be made redundant and find themselves unable to get their professional foot back in the door, and I feel so much less alone after reading this book. Not only that, I became a fan of White’s approach to “making a casserole” of multiple income streams when all else has failed.
If you’ve also been going through a tough time following a redundancy, check out her book. Her Ted talk is uplifting, too.
My next pick circles back to my fitness/health stuff from above as well.
At my wits’ end with both my own pain and the advice of orthopaedic surgeons to down painkillers and “just get it all operated” (um, no and no), I ordered 3 Minutes to a Pain-Free Life by Joseph Weisberg, the title of which appealed to my inherent laziness when it comes to physical fitness.
The practise of six stretches outlined in the book really does only take three minutes and has, to my astonishment, provided some relief. Working on the “Asian squat” was another epiphany the book sparked. The squat is our natural position to relax the spine, yet most adults in the West are unable to do it at all. There’s something very minimalist about sitting on the floor or being able to squat anytime, any place when you’re waiting. Toddlers do it all the time!
For fiction, I almost always turn to the classics, yet sometimes I enjoy an easy contemporary read. The sort of fluff you’d flip through on a beachside holiday when you’re unwinding and don’t want to think too much.
A few years back I had gotten Katherine McGee’s teenage epic, American Royals, and enjoyed it, so this year I dove into her three-part Thousandth Floor series. Her futuristic vision is fun: McGee takes us to NYC one hundred years in the future, where high-tech glamour reigns and people are… pretty much the same as they always have been. 😉
What were your favourites this year? What did you get the most use out of, and what books did you read? Drop a comment below!