Experiences not things: My 6-month shopping ban

I have been an avid follower of Cait Flanders’s blog for several years, where she shares brutally honest and clear discussions about money and our relationships with things. Started as Blonde on a Budget, she described how she was able to go from being weighed down with debt to simplifying her life. One of the tools she used (for two years!) was a shopping ban, where she dramatically restricted the number of things she was able to purchase.

Even though I have spent a lot of time thinking about minimalizm, since my first #MinsGame experiment in Feb 2015, I noticed the creep, as I settled into my life in London, that I started gathering more and more things.

In interest of distilling my stuff down to what makes my life better, taking out the things that add pressure, weight, and complexity, I decided to start a 6-month shopping ban of my own.

The goal of this challenge is not only to put a roadblock between me and accumulating an avalanche of things, but also to recognize that my PhD income is limited, and in order for me to get to enjoy travel and other experiences that bring me so much joy, I need to stop up the cash that seeps out through the small purchases, so I can chanel those limited resources to the experiences that make me happy.

Experiences not things!

I officially started my shopping ban on July 10th (which is an arbitrary date, but that is the way I roll). I didn’t share a post about this yet, because I wasn’t sure how it would go. However, I am now 1.5 months in and a little bit more confident that I may actually be able to do this. Here is how I have been doing with my shopping ban.

Prior to starting my shopping ban, I brainstormed the things that I may need to purchase in the coming months. This excludes consumables (groceries), and I have been tracking all of the physical “things” that I have accumulated during this time. I am also allowed to purchase gifts for friends and fam (which is a bit of a loophole because I don’t actually accumulate the thing that I am purchasing). The hardest line I drew for this challenge was that I am not allowed purchasing books. I love books, but I have already accumulated a stockpile of books in my “to read” shelf, and I also am an avid ebook borrower from the library, so I don’t think this decision will put a damper on my voracious reading habit. Here are the things I am allowed to purchase over the next 6 months (some of which I have already purchased):

planned purchasesBike stuff:

You will notice one of my large exceptions if “bike related stuff.” As cycling is my main form of transportation as well as a favourite hobby, I had decided that I could purchase anything necessary to keep my wheels in good working order. While, usually, this would just be replacement tubes, as I was having a lot of issues with my commuter bike, I splurged on the first weekend of my shopping ban and purchased a new folding bike. And it is marvelous, and I love it. And it makes my commute infinitely more pleasant every day. I feel splendidly British and happy as my bike neatly folds up to sit beside me at the office.I_am_so_excited_to_introduce_the_newest_member_of_my_bicycle_family._This_studly__Smo_is_my_first_folding_bike_and_it_is_a_total_dorky_delight.__bikelife__bikelove    I also decided that my new hobby this fall would be to build a more suitable touring bike for my planned Pedalling for Mental Health trips. While I will be able to strip some components from the now deceased “tank” bike (my flatmate’s previous commuter bike) there will be a bunch of things purchased in order to make this happen.


Over the last year, I have spent a lot of time simplifying my skin care regime and beauty products and am thrilled with my streamlined assortment of products that work for me. I don’t have the constant guilt of seeing half-full bottles of lotion or face masks go off and need to be tossed after languishing in my cabinet for too many months (or years). The added benefit of streamlining my beauty products is that I get unexpected delight in using things up! There is something incredibly satisfying about using something up – of wearing it out, of squeezing that last bit out. I think I had pretty much forgotten this feeling, as I had far too many clothes,toiletries, and shoes to ever get to the point of wearing one thing enough to wear it out. Usually, I have a floating lipstick or chapstick in nearly every bag or pocket. Now that I have ONE pink lipstick, one red lipstick, and a small assortment of lip chaps, I had the incredibly satisfying experience of finishing a tube of lipstick, before losing it (or losing interest).


I have also gotten a bit more honest with myself about my stuff. Rather than clinging to things that I “think I should” value, I have gotten rid of some stuff that I don’t love. In line with Marie Kondo’s “spark joy” hypothesis, I have set a dress free to find a new home because even though it was a perfectly fine dress, I didn’t love it. I never felt sensational in it and I hope that it will find a new life, rather than be relegated to the back of my closet.

As I have tried to stay away from fast fashion, opting for more durable, quality goods, for the first time in my life, I have items of clothing that are worth repairing. My Nudie jeans got a complimentary repair (because all the classiest ladies wear out the crotch of their jeans. It’s a fact), and a pair of Nine West heels is at the cobblers to get the heel fixed. This has meant that I didn’t need to buy replacements for either of these items, which was a really nice change. I_have_lost_countless_pairs_of_favourite_jeans_due_to_fatal_holes_in_the_crotch._Imagine_my_delight_to_have_this_pair_of__Nudiejeans_restored_to_me_with_repaired_and_reinforced_inseams.__repair__reducewaste

Unexpected side benefit:

I have been losing less stuff! This was a really exciting discovery – because I have fewer things, I will hunt for my single pen rather than letting it wander in the wilderness of handbags or backpacks, pulling out another. This has not made me exempt from forgetting adorable floral ball caps on trains or (slightly horrifyingly) losing a journal that may contain some rather personal details… (oops).

The hardest moments so far:

Paris: I took a wonderful vacation a few weeks ago, and when we were in Paris, we spent an afternoon browsing through shops. I had found a few darling items that were almost physically painful to leave behind, but I am pleased to say I resisted. Possibly, the fact that I had to bike all my stuff back to the UK was the only thing that allowed me to keep my resolve in the face of the most adorable things.

The charity book shop in Highgate: This place is my kryptonite. I have been largely avoiding going in, as I know I will salivate all over the books, and every time I have went into the shop, I have found a few books that are on my “must read” list. When my subletter moved in, I gave her a tour of my favourite haunts, which included a stop at this book shop. It was agony to leave the treasures behind. I had even held a stack of choice books in my hand before finally breathing a resigned breath and putting them back on the shelves.


I know that my upcoming move will add some complexity to this shopping ban. I am trying to pack very carefully, so I won’t find myself without essential items when I arrive in Stockholm. Wish me luck!

Draw something

Sew something

Cook something

Sing something

Build something

Make something

Buy nothing



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