Why I bought nothing at the new mall

The mall in Century City has been undergoing a massive $1 billion makeover, and last night, some of the more famous new spots finally opened. One being Mario Batali’s Eataly. The other being Apple’s new location near the huge, shiny Nordstrom. And oh, the French boutique Equipment with their buttery silk blouses, which I absolutely adore… And oh lookie, a Jo Malone shop with candles that would be great for my house!!!

But while waiting for my friend to arrive, I bought nothing. And after she and I had our coffee date, I walked out of the mall without a single purchase. Not even a book or magazine from the new Amazon bookstore. And you know I love books.

Let’s get real. I do shop. I buy things all the time, things some folks would consider frivolous (like a fragrant, organic candle). But what I don’t do anymore is buy things on impulse. And so, while walking through that newly-renovated, glittering mall, I put on some armor in order to resist the siren call of consumerism. But if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t have to struggle to put on that armor. Why? Because the siren call of shopping no longer tempts me.

I wrote about decluttering and minimalism in prior posts, but I haven’t fully explained how I developed my armor and how that armor has hardened over time. Years before Marie Kondo’s famous book came out, I was already feeling overburdened with stuff. So I sought wisdom in the place I usually find it: books. I also reminded myself about what life was like when I lived abroad – super happy years that involved very little shopping and very little stuff, as explained in this post here.

Apart from Marie Kondo’s books, these are the books I continually find most inspiring. They’re chock-full of wisdom that keep me on the path of mindful spending.

I love this book. It really makes me think twice before an impulse purchase. Erin Boyle writes about how she will not buy anything unless it matches her aesthetic and/or functional ideals. She’ll wait to find the perfect item, rather than buy something that’ll suffice for now. (This is a very French approach, actually.) Whether it’s a kitchen utensil or a pair of socks, Erin won’t buy unless the item is exactly what she’s looked for, even if the ideal version doesn’t show up until much later at a higher price point. Since she’s an aesthete, she doesn’t buy things she doesn’t like to look at. This takes discipline, but actually, if you’re an aesthete, it’s easier to maintain that high bar because you have a very strong understanding of what you like and don’t like—you’re not swayed by what’s hot or trendy or on sale. I find her book very inspiring, which is why I’ve read it three times since it was published. It provides armor maintenance and upkeep.

Josh Becker is one of my favorite bloggers. He’s also a pastor. He runs the website becomingminimalist.com, and he gives concrete pointers on how to live mindfully. I find his voice to be very friendly and encouraging, never judgmental. I once emailed him a question about his faith and his writing, because he does a fine job of inspiring people without pounding them on the head about Christianity–this word, unfortunately, is such a loaded one these days. And he wrote back very quickly and graciously, and basically said that he wanted his message to resonate with a wide audience, which is why he doesn’t advertise his profession on every post. I think he’s succeeded with this approach.

This book is a classic, and was recently revised and updated. Francine Jay truly understands the costs of over-consumption from a time/environmental/lifestyle perspective. She runs the website missminimalist.com that features, on a weekly basis, people who’ve come to see the light. I love this book.

I’m not going to lie: I have a weakness for luxury goods. I think it developed while I lived in Paris, among people who bought only few items in the highest quality they could afford. I love the way luxury goods are made, the craftsmanship and attention to detail. I love longstanding companies with a history of producing fine goods that last a lifetime. Did you know that Cartier invented the first modern wristwatch so that a pilot could quickly find out the time, instead of pulling out a pocket watch while navigating a plane?? And their creations last a looooooong time. I’ve owned the same watch (modeled after the pilot’s original version, because I love that story) for twenty years. And I rotate among the same handbags I’ve had for a few decades, adding to my collection every few years with only a high-quality item I’ve eyed for a while. I don’t go for the “it” bag. As for clothes, I am increasingly trying to buy few items in fabrics that feel good and look good and that last — silk, linen, cotton, cashmere, fine wool.

It’s all about mindfulness, and being aware of why you’re buying something—do you really need it? why do you want it? can you afford it? Or is the purchase an attempt to fulfill some empty aspect of your life or to stave off boredom? Do you really like it or are you buying it because everyone else is? Remember this quote from the movie, Fight Club: We buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.

As we enter the biggest marketing season of the year, with holiday sales going on left and right, I hope this post encourages someone out there who’s trying to live mindfully.

If you have any pointers, do let me know. There’s room for improvement over here!