Accidental Experiments with Minimalism

I could wax poetic about ToDoist all day long. Anyone who’s chatted with me about business and how I manage tasks (i.e., keep my life from falling apart) has inevitably experienced my inability to shut up about it. For me, it allows just enough project customization, but still has a structure I can get my head around (Asana? Too many bells and whistles). I create projects based on various parts of my life and business, and within each of those, build nested sub-projects. It gives me a way to dump thoughts, tasks, and assignments in one place, all with a minimal amount of effort.

Important for me in any task management app is that it can merge the biz parts and the real life parts of my existence. Which is how ToDoist also became a receptacle for links to things I sometimes think about buying. Nested way, way down in my list of projects, I have a folder labeled PERSONAL. It has projects in it named things like “Lucy,” “Personal Reminders,” and occasionally, packing lists I’ll create for upcoming trips.

But also housed in PERSONAL are lists — restaurants I want to try, gift ideas I come across, and shopping lists. I have a shopping list for me, one for home decor finds, and one for Joe too (though his is more a gift list, filled with things he mentions in passing that I keep in my “ToDoist back pocket” in case I need a gift idea down the line).

Right after the new year, I was cleaning out ToDoist, reorganizing certain tasks, purging ones that had been completed and fallen off my radar, when I landed on my wishlists and took a deep dive into them. Like, actually clicked through links I’d dropped in, to see what — at one time — had caught my fancy. Here comes the big shocker: of the scores of items I’d left for myself, post-purge, there are now four items still on my personal wish list.**

Looking through all the shit I’d once really coveted, I could remember how intrigued I was by each item, months or even years ago. But I was simultaneously really glad I’d left everything in a holding pattern, because I was compelled to purchase exactly none of it today. Essentially, I discovered that if I leave something in retail purgatory long enough, my desire for the thing goes away. This included stuff for our house, stuff for my wardrobe, beauty purchases I’d considered…allll of the things. None of it was interesting to me now. In some cases, I’d found other solutions for things I’d thought about purchasing, but for most items, I just didn’t care about them anymore.

So it got me thinking: maybe part of the compulsion we get to immediately buy (especially when shopping online) is more about the fear of losing out on something, or fear of forgetting about it and how excited it made us feel. I wonder if we store the idea of it someplace (other than the back of our heads, where it can tempt and nag at us), it will relieve the worry that we’ll forget or miss out. And then eventually, the desire for the thing goes away completely.

Do not take this as some holier-than-thou “I’m never shopping again” thing. I considered doing this No Shopping for a Year challenge and dismissed it in about half a second. I still shop online, and I’ll probably fall victim to an impulse buy here or there. I’m also a sucker for really great sales; I think part of becoming a more enlightened consumer IS keeping these lists and knowing what you’re looking for, so that when the perfect thing floats into your life (and especially at a discount!), you snap it up. But if like me, you have been prone to boredom and enjoy randomly surfing the Internet for things that delight you, and you also have your credit card number memorized, putting all potential purchases in quarantine is an interesting experiment.

You should try it. You need only create a list for yourself somewhere — a blank email draft, a bookmarks folder in your browser, a list like I have in ToDoist. When you stumble across something online — even things I post about here that you think about buying — add it to your list and then sit on it. See if you forget about it. If you still dream about it days, weeks or months later, get it, if it makes sense. The key here is to drop the links somewhere that’s easily accessible, but also kind of forgettable. You might even find that the lists come in handy down the line. For example, I’ll cop to it: in addition to the ToDoist list, I have another folder for “House Stuff” in my Chrome bookmarks bar FILLED with home decor finds I’ve come across online. There have been times when I felt ready to purchase something (hey, the living room needs a new lamp), and boom, five different ideas were already sitting there. But I need to clean that folder out more regularly too, as my New Year’s purge revealed a bunch of items there that I’d never want now.

All of this dovetails nicely with the whole minimalism thing that’s so hot right now. Maybe it’s the time of year, maybe it’s just the continuation of a trend, but everyone’s talking about minimalism (to start: these three pins served all in a row to me last week). It does go hand in hand with other January wellness goals like meditating, yoga, eating clean. You can clear your thoughts, your mind, junk from your house, junk from your body. I think a key component to minimalism of any kind — whether you’re trying to pare down your wardrobe or streamline your life — is cultivating consciousness. Ironically, window shopping online and dropping links into a list is the most mindless thing I could do, but the process itself gave me a way to be slightly more conscious of certain purchases.

So some final thoughts on this very random topic. I’m sure Joe will read this and think, “Um, if you were minimizing purchases with this genius process, what are all those Amazon boxes doing in our dining room?” Point taken, love. How about this: a list of all the things I come across online that I think I NEEEEED will, I’m hoping, make me more conscious around other shopping habits too. My list thing isn’t about budgeting or curbing shopping completely or anything like that. It’s more about noticing how we convince ourselves we need things in mere seconds, when really, long term, we have no real connection to them.

Your Friday food for thought.

** And in case anyone is wondering what four items remained on my personal wish list, they include…

+ A new rug for my office. My current one is over 4 years old and has an untold number of peanut butter Kong stains, Lucy saliva, and other mysterious substances in it. Note to self: new rug must not be expensive.

+ A new bar cart or display table for our dining space. Because our current one was a very inexpensive thrift store find from about 8 years ago, and while I know it’s from the 1960s and I love its vintage-ness, it’s completely falling apart. I live in fear that it will collapse and take our vintage glassware down with it.

+ This bracelet. To be honest, I’d totally forgotten about it, but seeing it again, I’m still really, really into it. Knowing me, I’ll put it on my Xmas 2018 wishlist (lol).

+ The Abelle bag from Sézane, which I’ve talked about before but still have been debating about. I’ve been looking for a medium-small rectangular black shoulder purse for a long while and have a few contenders, but just can’t decide. This bag might get struck from the list any day now, but I’ve thought about it long enough that it’s earned its spot for now.

No plans to purchase any of the above, but I’m on the lookout and with these reminders, I just know it’ll be obvious when I should pull the trigger on them. Progress!


Photography Credits:

Images by TaduudaAustin Chan, and Marco DeWaal, all via Unsplash


  1. 1.12.18
    Jill said:

    Great post. I sometimes do this in a draft email– drop in a bunch of links to things I like but don’t feel ready to buy. A few months later I’ll click through them and most of the time I don’t want to buy them.

  2. 1.12.18
    Kelsey said:

    I have a secret Pinterest board where I save all of my wishlist items. Some of have been on there for years at this point! I don’t have a lot of expendable income so things tend to stay on that board until I have enough money saved. It’s also a great resource when people need gift ideas for me. My parents, siblings and friends all asked for gift ideas for me this holiday season and I already had a bunch of ideas to give them of things I had been collecting throughout the year. And like you, every now and then I go through and purge. Some items just don’t appeal to me anymore. It’s definitely the perfect way for me to plan my spending.

  3. 1.12.18
    Ellie said:

    I never got hooked on ToDoist, but I L-O-V-E love Wunderlist (similar concept). I also keep a running list of things I’ve been looking for. That way when I come across an impulse buy, I can think back to that list and consider if I would rather put the money toward a long term want. It also gives me a sort of permission to jump on something if I see it at the right price. If I’ve been after it for 8 months and it comes up 25% off, you bet I’m pulling the trigger!

  4. 1.12.18
    Kellie said:

    I have a Pinterest board titled “wishlist” & you’re right- it’s a really effective way to think about what you actually want versus the compulsion to buy right then. I didn’t start it for that reason but it’s turned into that & it’s actually helped me a lot with my goal of being more aware of my spending habits!

  5. 2.28.18

    Such a good post. One can so easily fall prey to mindless consuming, often, as you said, feeling pressure to snatch up an item so as not to miss out. (And stores target this fear by letting us know there’s only 2 left in stock … or by sending us a reminder email that we left something in our “shopping cart”)

    Amazing how time can make us reevaluate those items we were really craving at one time. I’m learning how to do this (pinterest has been helpful, although I’m going to try the app you suggested).

    Also: Sezane makes such dreamy stuff. I got some Sezane denim — and the whole experience has been delightful. Jeans fit great, and when I opened the box, it smelled like beautiful French perfume. AND they included a pretty tote bag fo’ free! : )

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