“Does it spark joy?”
Those are the wise words of a living icon, Marie Kondo, who took the world by storm with a little book called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. You might have heard of it ;) Ms. Kondo’s philosophy is most often related to trying to sort through things you already own—the elation of spring cleaning, you could say. But it’s just as relevant when it comes to buying new things.
This principle of taking careful consideration into purchasing things has a name: intentional consumerism. Take it into account, and it might just change your shopping habits. Let’s break it down:
Essentially, an intentional, or mindful, action is one we carefully consider before, during, and after.
When you take a mindful walk, you consider all aspects of the walk. How do your shoes fit? What do you see? How do those gorgeous flowers with the little white dots smell?
Let’s practice right now! In your house, try walking to the kitchen and back, trying the entire time to pay attention to the way your muscles make your legs move and how your feet roll across the floor. That’s moving with intention.
Now, what the heck does that have to do with buying something? Bringing intention to every aspect of your life can help you find meaning and joy in unexpected places!
This is a much simpler concept to grasp, for pretty obvious reasons. When we buy something, we buy something. It’s an open-and-shut case. But combined with mindfulness, a whole new world opens up.
Now, let’s put it together. Intentional consumerism is the idea that we should pay close attention to the things we purchase, because those products make an impact on our lives and the world. Before buying, consider purpose, function, and impact.
Let’s imagine you’re buying a new backpack. Does it fit your laptop? Are the straps comfortable? Is the material sustainable, like recycled nylon? Do you like how it looks? With intentional consumerism, these are all great thoughts to have.
The main goal of intentional consumerism is to get people putting careful consideration into the things they own and to have people buy things they really need or want. If it serves you well or sparks some real joy, then chances are it’s going to be a great purchase. Applying this principle really helps you to not buy things that you don’t use and keeps your individual waste down. There’s also a growing body of research that suggests mindfulness practices decrease stress levels.
The world is filled with abundance
This one is a powerful mindset change. What if we went about our lives with the assumption that they’re already filled with abundance, and we already have most things we need? There’s something beautiful to that, isn’t there?
With a little bit of planning, you can do a lot with less. Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you jump right into becoming a guru of minimalism. For many of us, making these mindset changes results in much smaller changes in our everyday lives. A massive lifestyle change is a lot of pressure!
But instead of jumping straight to buying something new, consider first how you can make the existing things in your life work. Let’s say (in the COVID-less world of the future) you’re throwing a party at your house. You don’t have enough chairs or enough glasses. Instead of going out to buy things you’ll only need temporarily, how can you repurpose what you already own? Can people sit on pillows, or can you make mats from an old rug? As for glasses, old jars make for fun, eclectic partyware that’s a lot more durable than paper or plastic alternatives.
Learning to make small repairs also goes a long way. With a little practice and some household supplies, you too can learn how to upcycle your clothes like a pro. If you know how to sew basic things, you won’t have to part with your favorite shirt if a button falls off. Repairing skills let you hold onto the things you really do want to keep and also helps justify investing in higher-quality items.
And if none of it works out in the end, don’t feel guilty! Instead, feel confident that you made the decision with intention. At the end of the day, it’s not about being perfect, but being thoughtful.