How to buy less- Some tips for budding minimalists in a consumer culture

As someone who really wants to live a minimalist lifestyle, but struggles to stop buying clothes, I am in need of my own advice. I love new outfits, and I do wear them lots. Until I get bored. Then occasionally I will also buy the odd turkey, which bombs so significantly it sits in the back of the wardrobe until I can bear to admit it was a waste of money and finally part with it.

As readers of this blog will know when I started to look at a capsule wardrobe this regular buying has improved, but I’m not there yet. So I’ve come up with some new ideas below to help me manage what is definitely my worst area of spending; impulse buying.

  1. Unsubscribe to email newsletters – I have had varying success with this. As I like a bargain and many newsletters offer a 20 to 30% discount fairly often I don’t want to remove all of them (see number 2. for an alternative idea). However all the group buying websites for cheap canvas frames, holidays and restaurants are things I can access at any time if I feel the need for any of these items. So I have unsubscribed to these. I have also unsubscribed to any other email newsletters where I have occasionally bought things. This removes the temptation to buy a random item because it’s on 50% sale in the hope ‘it might come in handy’
  2. Use email filters – As an impulse buyer, I will often see an email come in with a sale or a discount and think ‘Oh yes I have to get the discount/sale item’. Yet what I forget is I am trying to have a much more planned and co-ordinated approach to buying clothes, and that anything home purchase wise I have agreed will be a joint purchase with my wife, so actually I shouldn’t be buying anything. I often have a few key things I’m looking for though to add to my wardrobe (currently a striped shirt and bird print dress). So I have set up email filters on my Gmail account (go to settings/filters/create new filter and add in the email address) so that when emails from companies come in, they skip my inbox,  are marked as read, and filed into a separate folder called email newsletters. Then I can look at them at my leisure in a planned way. It also means that when I am aware of an impulse coming on, I can avoid them like the plague which will hopefully help
  3. Use a wish list- This is one that a very good friend told me years ago and I have always used. On Evernote I keep a wish list where I note down all the purchases I think I want into categories e.g. home, cosmetics, toiletries, clothing etc. When I think I desperately want something I add it to this list. Then I leave it. There are differing schools of opinion about how long you should leave things there to revisit, but I would say even a week or a couple of weeks will give you time to review if you really want it. If it’s a big purchase, you could start saving for it. When you go back to the wish list, review if you really want/need what you’ve added. I would say about 60% of the items I add I then delete again later. So it’s a good way to reduce spending and buying.
  4. Reuse, recycle, reshape – If you’re great at sewing or upcycling, this is a great way to use what you already have to make something ‘new’. I have upcycled some old teak coffee tables into contemporary blue and grey tables, which look great. I had an old dress with elasticated sleeves that really annoyed me. I cut off the elasticated sleeves, took them up (which is really easy if even I can do it, and can be done by hand) and then made a short sleeve dress which I now love. I have also used decoupage (where you use cut up bits of paper of fabric, cover an old item and then paint over in upvc glue) to upcycle a coffee tin into a storate jar, and some rather fabulous flamingo fabric to create a pen pot. Rather pleased with myself too

So why don’t you give these a try, and if you’ve got any ideas for me, please do share and I will retweet and attribute them to you. We’re all in this minimalism thing together, and any help we can give each other is greatly welcomed by me!

Mindfulness, Minimalism

Did we go TV free?

So the final decision has been made! We can live without TV! Our month’s trial is coming to an end and we’ve both decided we’re not going to go back to watching TV.

In all honesty I have hardly missed it. There has been the odd time when I’ve gone in to switch it on, but it hasn’t been as difficult, or awful as I thought it might. I also thought I might watch a lot more on catchup on my tablet, but I haven’t. What have I done instead in this cold, barren TV less zone?!

Had dinner at a proper dining table, sometimes with wine! EVERY night (the dinner, not the wine. That’s one habit replaced with a whole other one otherwise!)

Socialised with friends, caught up on volunteering tasks I had to do (I volunteer for an animal rescue group and never have enough time to do my tasks), took the day more slowly because I had no programmes I just had to make sure I ‘caught up on’.

My wife and I have been out for more meals, to the cinema, on walks and just general quality time as opposed to sitting next to each other on our phones not speaking.

Read more, although not as much as I thought I would. Time seems to run away with me

Blogged more – Really pleased about this one. I hope you are too!

Spent more time with our cats and dogs, and as we have six, that’s a tough one usually!

Listened to more music, radio podcasts and  Youtube soundscapes such as rainforests, windchimes and rain. That is part of my mindfulness practice and so makes me feel very worthy when I actually get to do it!

So our TV trial is over, and we are going TV free. That’s £150 saved on a TV licence every year, and so many hours of our life reclaimed which we can do more with.

Do you think we’re crazy? How would you feel if you had to cut down your TV? Do you want to or does the idea of it just make you shudder in horror?



Mindfulness, Minimalism

Perhaps the biggest lifestyle change to date; the TV removal trial

This year our minimalist and simple living quest has been turning up a notch with starting to declutter sentimental items, really think about how we live and our latest decision is one that has caused most controversy amongst friends and family; planning to live without a Television.

These days a standard television could be viewed obsolete as more and more people ditch the little (or not so little) black box for projectors, surround sound cinema experiences and bigger and better HD experiences.

But we aren’t looking at any of those options. We are looking at a life without any television screen.

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Why would we want to make this life changing decision which has shocked many? The aim of our TV less world is to live more simply. To utilise the time we often spend numbing ourselves with programmes we’re half interested in to actually experience life, the great outdoors, see more theatre and film, go to more restaurants, have more after work drinks, read more, just go for coffee, hang out in the library, blog, vlog, write and generally develop a richer, simpler way of living.

This isn’t to say we will never again watch the best that Auntie has to offer, or watch a film but we will be doing this on our laptops and will be making very conscious decisions to only watch the best and our favourites. This allows us to also watch different things from each other, to schedule programme watching around our life and to limit the ‘fire gazing’ done where hours of life is lost to something you only half watch as you fiddle with your phone.

We are starting a month’s trial of this brave new world this Sunday, and will turn our TV round. I am actually really excited. My plans are to read more in the evening, the chances are we will interact more and we’re looking forward to getting out our York version of Monopoly that we’ve hardly touched. We have also signed up to a theatre membership so will be getting out and experiencing some live drama. To me it feels exciting, but also really daunting. TV is the bedrock of so many of our lives. Who can’t remember the first episode of Eastenders when Reg Cox, or the ‘Free Deidre’ campaign? The first episode of Big Brother when it was still a brilliant concept, or getting round the telly at Christmas for The Only Fools and Horses Christmas specials?

What happens if we don’t have anything to do (unlikely, I will be able to blog more, read more, listen to radio plays, music, and spend more time with the 4 cats and 2 dogs that own us)

The biggest reaction has been from those we’ve told of our plans ‘What are you going to do?’ ask work colleagues with wide open eyes, as if we’ve told them we’re going to seal ourselves in the house for the rest of our natural lives.

Parents reactions were more perplexed? ‘Why don’t you want a TV?’, my parents worship the BBC as if it is the font of all knowledge, and spend every evening watching it. So to say we are no longer planning to have one was just as if we had said ‘We’re off to live on Mars’.

What do you think? Could you live without a TV? I will update throughout the month with how we get on.

Having raided Pinterest, one of my favourite inspirations I found a great pin with 47 things to do other than watch TV. It’s American, perhaps us Brits are so surgically attached to the TV there are no pins out there from us?

I’ve highlighted below in bold the ones I plan to have a go at, and there’s lots of suggestions for you if you fancy it and I will update you on how painful or life changing it’s been in a couple of weeks.

47 Things to Do Instead of Watching TV (thanks to

  • Paint or Draw
  • Play a game
  • Go for a run/walk
  • Start a business
  • Declutter
  • Make a backyard fire pit and roast marshmallows
  • Take a Hike
  • Plan a Trip
  • Actually do a pinterest project
  • Learn a language
  • Play with your kids (in our case our neice and nephew)
  • Read the Bible (not my cup of tea, but I will be reading a ton of books)
  • Throw a Party – Maybe we will start some dinner parties?
  • Learn to knit
  • Make eye contact
  • Start a blog (Well I’m ahead of the game on that one but I plan to develop this blog lots more)
  • Throw a bbq (Yes definitely in the summer months)
  • Read to your kids
  • Write in a journal
  • Play or learn an instrument
  • Exercise
  • Visit a friend (I definitely plan to do more socialising)
  • Make a budget
  • Ask your spouse about their day
  • Have a picnic
  • Plant a garden ( Thinking about a veg garden)
  • Cook from scratch
  • Phone or Skype with a friend ( Definitely a plan)
  • Invite someone over
  • Take pictures of your family/friends
  • Go for a drive (summer evening drives to the countryside is a definite)
  • Read a magazine
  • Go camping (the backyard counts) (We are definitely planning on this over the summer)
  • Have a scavenger hunt
  • Try out Geocaching
  • Go to a Museum
  • Craft
  • Go to the park
  • Visit local farm or farmers market
  • Ride a bike
  • Build a fort
  • Go fishing
  • Join a church or community group
  • Take a class
  • Volunteer (I already do)
  • Teach your friends/family/kids something you Know
  • Attend a Community Concert or Play (Have plans for more theatre)

So here’s to a TV free month. Let the fun begin!



A Beginner’s Guide to Minimalism…Part 1

I’ve been trying to live a minimalist lifestyle for a while now, upping the ante in the last six months to remove lots of our belongings that aren’t important, loved or needed, as well as thinking more about how we live and aiming to live with a more simple, minimalist lifestyle; based on having an experiential lifestyle, using memories, experiences and family rather than things such as reaching for the ever bigger house in the most expensive area, and upgrading our ‘stuff’ as money allows.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m prepared to pay for things that I really need, and I’d rather have a smartphone that helps me manage my life and all the things I need it to do; camera, apps so I can use to write on the go, and an interactive calendar because it means I don’t need seperate items, but I want to have a life of a few meaningful, important or loved items, rather than wading through stacks of books, collectibles and piles of ‘home decor’.

But if you fancy starting a minimalist journey, or living a more minimalist lifestyle it can be overwhelming. Where do you start? What do you do? If you’re someone who like me had lots of physical ‘stuff’ it can be really difficult to know where to start. There are some great blogs out there to inspire you , but my recommendation as well if you’re a social media fan is to set up a Pinterest board. Pinterest is great because it’s like a virtual scrapbook. All the ideas without painstakingly cutting out magazine after magazine and sticking in a book.

Pinterest can inspire you in two ways; one – there’s loads of great pins on articles for minimalist living which will help you, and give you ideas, but I would also suggest setting up boards to pin pictures of what you want to achieve. So images of clean , clutter free interiors, pictures of what you’d rather spend your money on (Holidays? Weekends away? Time with friends and family?) Hopefully that will help inspire you through the first difficult times.

If you’re planning on a physical de-clutter, which is often the easiest way to start on your journey to minimalism, I’ve got a few ideas you can use to get started. They’re well tried and tested by other minimalistas so hopefully will work for you too!

Getting Started

  1. – Find one drawer (perhaps the one where you crush everything into, with the thought that it might be useful one day, or  ‘come in handy’) . Take everything out, and I mean everything and pick each item up. Ask yourself ‘Do I love this?’, if it’s a no, don’t panic. No breaking out in a cold sweat yet. Ask yourself ‘Do I need this?’ and before you say yes and put it back in the drawer, ask yourself again ‘Do I really need this? Will I use it?’  If it’s a no (i.e. that leaky ballpen, the 10 takeaway leaflets, an old tupperware pot, bits of plastics that might come in handy, old, grey tea-towels) there are a number of things you can do;
    1. Think can it be repurposed? For example old tea towels we cut up and use as cloths.
    2. Can it be recycled? If you’ve got paper, glass or plastics that aren’t of use can you recycle them for a new item?
    3. Can it be sold? If you’re sorting out items of value e.g. old jewellery, clothes or CDs etc can you sell on an site like Ebay, or Magpie for CDs and DVDs?
    4. Will it need to go in landfill? If you really can’t find an alternative, can it go into landfill?

At the end of your first drawer – hopefully you’ll have a clean drawer with perhaps a few loved or needed items in and be feeling rather pleased with yourself. Now you can try and tackle something else, or set yourself a goal to pick another area next time.

2. If you’re someone who has to push back a tidal wave of clothes every time you try to close the wardrobe, you could try starting with a wardrobe clear-out and  finding a few items to start with so it feels like you’re not parting with your right leg. Have a look through piece by piece, and ask yourself ‘Do I love this?’ Unless you’re a vet or a police officer, it’s unlikely you have clothing you ‘need’. So your next question is ‘Have I worn this in six months?’ if not why not? Now comes the painful bit…as a plus size woman I know that theory of buying something ‘to fit into’ , or something that’s a bit tight that you will ‘slim into’, and I’m definitely guilty of buying purchases that I think I look great in which actually make me look like a shiny sausage. It can’t just be me surely? So be brave, chin up, and take out anything that doesn’t fit, you don’t like or that has a hole in where it shouldn’t. Well done…a first sweep of the wardrobe. Again, think repurpose, recycle, sell bin.

3. Final suggestion for today to get started – Get a box and put it somewhere out the way. Each day do a general sweep of your home, and find one thing you can’t say you truly love and need, put it in the box. The box should be out of your general line of sight so you don’t think about it all the time. If you find yourself really missing the item, bring it back out. Chances are after a few weeks you won’t remember what’s in the box and you definitely won’t have missed it. If a daily sweep feels too much try alternate days or a weekly sweep.

If you have a go, let me know how you get on, or if you have any other good ideas for beginners let me know…


Reduce, Reuse, Upcycle!

For a lot of people minimalist living is about having a few things they treasure, and getting rid of things that don’t meet their needs. Although I wholeheartedly support this approach, mine is slightly different in that I actively look for things people don’t love anymore to upcycle into things I will love and that will become part of our home.

My latest piece is a bureau desk I got for £40 on Ebay. I have been known to pick up items down the alley (telephone table, and a lovely bistro set I have repainted in Hammerite metal paint that now lives in the garden) and Ebay is like a virtual Aladdin’s Cave of unloved pieces waiting for my hand to give them a new lease of life.

The bureau is quite sturdy, there’s nothing wrong with it but it is a bit aesthetically challenging but I bought it always with the intention of upcycling it. I’ve heard all about this Annie Sloan paint, and being the sort who finds prep really very boring a paint with no need to sand or prime seems like a gift from God.

Thought you might like to see the before and after and hear how I found the whole process, so you can have a go too. The more we upcycle, the less we need to consume and that’s good for the environment, good for our wallets, and good for minimalism!


The bureau is wooden, and has four drawers with a great section at a top for storing things. I think the drawer sections in the bureau have been added by the look of things.

bureau before 2 bureay 3 bureau 4

I used Annie Sloan Provence which is like a blue-ey green colour. It was pretty thick and oily at the top, and very chalky at the bottom so needed a massive stir at the start. I think it would be worth turning it upside down for 10 minutes. It was really easy to apply but I think in hindsight the best coverage is where I have applied really thin coats, and given the bureau two thin coats. The sections where I have applied paint more thickly have become a bit more rustic looking!

The paint, when brushed on in thin coats dries really quickly. I painted outside, and it was a warm windy day so that probably helped, but in an hour it was dry to the touch. It’s also eco friendly which I loved, and comes off things really easily, which as I manage to get paint everywhere is a really good thing!

Once the paint is thoroughly dry, about 2 hours after painting, the paint needs to be waxed. The wax helps seal the chalk paint, and also prevent things like grease stains. I looked up a few YouTube videos on the waxing, as I had never done it before, and the key seems to be putting on a very thin coat and then working it in bit by bit. It took a good bit of elbow grease, but I was really pleased with the results.


Et Voila! One upcycled bureau which I love, and will do for years to come, for very little cost…