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Minimalism and Shopping: How to Shop with Intention

Minimalism and Shopping: How to Shop with Intention


For those who aspire to a simpler, clutter-free and minimalist lifestyle but still love to hit the shops every now and then, here’s a helpful little guide to Minimalism and shopping and how to shop with intention.


In the pursuit of minimalism, I love a simple lifestyle without clutter. I’m happy with what I have and don’t often splash out on fancy new stuff or seek retail therapy to make me feel good.

I’ve found other ways to entertain myself, spend my free time, relax and I know to avoid buying stuff that just ends up cluttering my home or draining my bank account. This didn’t happen overnight though and there have been plenty of times that I’ve purchased an item or two and then wondered why I had!

But, over the years, I’ve become more mindful and intentional in my shopping habits. I’d like to share these ideas with you today on minimalism and shopping and give you some tips on how to shop with intention next time you’re in the mood for some retail therapy!


One strategy to avoid spending money unwisely is to never go shopping but, unfortunately, it’s not a very realistic strategy! We all need to go shopping sometimes. Things get worn out or used up and we’re forced to buy new or buy more.

However, for some of us, especially those with shopaholic tendencies, shopping also fulfills a different function. It could be as a response to boredom, anxiety, stress or just a habit that we’ve fallen into and find hard to kick.

We might get sucked into making an impulse buy, snapping up a bargain, tempted by those sharp marketing tactics or just want to fill a gap in our lives but which, in turn, just creates a gap in our finances and stuff in our cupboards.

We all need to shop but it helps if we all shop mindfully.


So, how do we shop mindfully? If shopping is a necessity and, for some of us, a source of emotional support, how do we go about shopping mindfully and intentionally?

The answer is two fold.

Firstly, we use some little tips and minimalist shopping strategies to help us shop more wisely. We’ll look at a few of these strategies in a moment.

Secondly, we try to understand the relationship between minimalism and shopping. As with other aspects of the minimalist lifestyle, it’s about being aware of what clutters our lives. From the physical stuff in our homes, to the emotional stuff that clutters our minds. Shopping often just adds to that clutter.

  • There are many reasons to own less stuff, to free up time, space and energy for living your best life instead of managing the stuff in your life.
  • It helps to remind ourselves of what’s most important in our life, our priorities. Does buying things really benefit those priorities?
  • What value do you place on the stuff in your home? Does adding to that stuff really add true value to your life? Maybe yes, often no?
  • Consumerist society encourages us to buy more and have more just to be more happy and content. Why can’t less be the new more?

None of this is to say that shopping is bad. It can be very fun! But there’s no harm in checking every now and then that your shopping habits reflect your mindful approach to life!

Minimalism and shopping


Here are some tips on how to shop like a minimalist. Be mindful of your purchases and spend your money intentionally.

1. Mindset

Firstly, you need to get into the Minimalist mindset. Remember that minimalism and simple living is not about living in scarcity but instead encouraging you to focus on what’s really important. Every time you go to the shops and think about buying something, ask yourself if what you’re buying is adding value to and enhancing your life or whether it’s a quick fix to make you temporarily feel good. Will it ultimately just add to the clutter in your home.

2. Quiz yourself

Ask yourself three questions whenever you’re about to buy something – do I really need it, do I really love it and is it really worth spending my money and time buying it? The answer should be YES! YES! YES! If not, don’t buy it.

3. A list

Always go armed with a list of what you want to buy. If it’s not on the list, then don’t buy it!

4. Budget

Set your budget before you go or only take with you a certain amount of cash, so you don’t get carried away. Leave those credit cards at home!

5. Stay away from sales

Avoid sale time unless you’re confident that you won’t get swayed by the amazing discounts.

6. Don’t go alone

Take someone with you who you trust. Make sure they know to tell you when to stop if you get carried away!

7. Think first

Never buy something on a whim! Take a moment to reflect on whether you really need that item before you commit to buying it.

8. The one in/one out rule

If you can’t resist something you see in the shop but which you don’t strictly need, then consider the ‘one in/one out’ rule. Could you buy that item but then get rid of, or donate, something that you’ve already got so you don’t end up accumulating yet more?

9. Sit with the idea

If you see something in the shop that you really like and want to buy, then ask the shop if it’s something you can buy online from their website. Go home, sit with the idea for a few days and if you still really want the item, then buy it online. This avoids buying things on a whim and makes you really consider the purchase.

10. Time yourself

Set the timer on your phone for a set period of time. Stop shopping when the timer goes off!

11. Shop online

When I do the food shopping I tend to do this online. I find I get distracted less by all the sales and marketing tactics of discounted prices and special offers and I stick to my list better. The kids also don’t get the chance to sneak anything into my shopping basket or trolley without me knowing (until we reach the check out!).

12. Shop local and independent

Shopping centres and big stores are like goldfish bowls. They make you walk round and round, tempting you into each and every shop or department as you go around in circles trying to find the exit or the one item you came for in the first place. There’s advertising everywhere to suck you into buying things you hadn’t planned and probably don’t need. Stick to smaller individual shops, support local wherever you can and you’re much more likely to buy only what you intended.

13. Don’t stockpile

Don’t fall into the trap of buying five bottles of shampoo because they were on special offer. Use up what you already have before you buy new. If you’re running low, pop it on the shopping list to get just one replacement next time you’re shopping.

14. Avoid duplication

If you spot something you like, think about whether you already have something similar and do you like this new one more than your existing? If you’ve got the budget, by all means buy it, but then donate or throw away the old one. You don’t really need two!


Here are some extra tips to bear in mind when shopping for clothes.

15. Prioritise

Set yourself a budget and just buy one or two pieces a month or whatever your budget allows. If you’re looking to revamp your whole wardrobe for a new season or a new activity, for example, going back to work after having children, then work out what your priority items are and look for those first. For more help with this, here are some tips on how to purge your closet quickly and assess what you have already.

16. Quality over quantity

Invest in quality key pieces that are wardrobe staples. Maybe consider spending a bit more on these items if your budget allows as they will last for longer.

17. Go cheaper for in-season items

Go for brands that are more reasonably priced for current or seasonal clothes so it doesn’t matter so much if they only last a season or two.

18. Versatility

Look for items that are easy care, don’t need dry cleaning and ironing and are versatile enough to be dressed up or down and go with lots of other things in your wardrobe. Read this post for other tips on curating a simple wardrobe.


Next time you go shopping, try to remember these points and see if it makes a difference!

Remember that minimalism isn’t about trying to live with as little as possible or not doing things that make you happy.

Saying that you can’t ever go shopping, buy new things and have fun doing it, is NOT what the minimalist life is about.

Shopping like a minimalist is about shopping intentionally and mindfully. It is about being aware of how and why you’re spending your money to buy something and whether what you’re buying is going to truly enhance your life in some way. How you define that is very personal but you have to be really honest with yourself!

“Minimalism is asking why before you buy.”

Francine Jay

Minimalism and shopping isn’t a precise science. We’ve all bought something that was totally pointless, we didn’t need or we didn’t really think through, just because we loved it, wanted it and had to have it! Sometimes there’s a lot to be said for doing things on a whim and having fun along the way.

However, what the minimalist lifestyle does encourage you to do is to re-think old habits and redefine your priorities. Over time you might find other ways of honouring these instead of hitting the shops. And, if you do, remember these little tips for more mindful shopping!


Armed with these minimalist shopping strategies, I hope you find it easier to make purchases more wisely and avoid bringing more stuff into your home.

One other suggestion that has really helped me shop more mindfully, is to ask myself some questions before I start shopping.

These questions and the answers that come forward encourage me to think carefully about what I’m buying and why I’m buying it.

1. Do you have this item already?

Avoid duplicates where possible. If you’ve got a similar item already, do you really need another?

2. Do you have something similar already?

It may not be the perfect option, but if you’ve got something that’s good enough, will do the job and is pretty much the same, can you use it instead of buying new?

3. When will you use it?

How many times will you use the item after you’ve purchased it? Once or twice but then no more? Is this a good way to spend your money or contribute stuff to your home? Will you use it regularly? Is it fully versatile and/or functional?

4. Can you loan or borrow the item or find it for free?

Perhaps you don’t need to buy the item outright. Could you borrow a book from the library or that camping equipment from your neighbour, or that handbag from your friend? Check out Freecycle, Facebook Marketplace or your local donation centres.

5. Where will you keep this item?

If you don’t have a home for the item when you’re not using it, then it’s likely to be stuffed in a random cupboard or left on a table top! If you don’t have a place to store it, are you going to be frustrated with looking at, moving and clearing it? Will this frustration outweigh the benefit of buying the item in the first place?!

I hope these little questions give you some things to think about before you go shopping. As the quote from Francine Jay goes, “Minimalism is asking why before you buy.”

Minimalism isn’t about never going shopping, enjoying something new, spending money or treating yourself. Shopping like a minimalist is just about asking questions and adopting healthy shopping habits to ensure we’re adding value to our lives in some way, instead of draining our bank accounts and cluttering up our spaces in the process.

I hope the ideas in this article help you get clear on how your shopping habits can add value to your life and why.


If you’d like to explore what a Minimalist lifestyle could mean for you, here are some resources which you might find helpful: