How to Enjoy Life Without Buying Lots of Stuff


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“Minimalism isn’t about removing the things you love. It’s about removing the things that distract you from the things you love.” ~Joshua Becker

Over the recent few years of being a digital nomad, I got a chance to live in Spain, Sri Lanka, Mexico, and Canada for a month or longer. As I didn’t have a home base and only had one medium-sized suitcase with me (still do), I couldn’t really afford to buy new things.

I mean, I would need to put them somewhere, and my suitcase is already over forty-five pounds while most airlines only allow up to fifty.

Even when I had to go back to my home country and stay there for almost a year because of the pandemic, I knew I’d be on the road again as soon as possible. So I continued to not buy anything other than essential things.

I was never a shopaholic before, but I still felt miserable wearing the same few-year-old clothes and watching my friends (not even mentioning social media influencers I follow) regularly enjoy new things.

I didn’t realize that more often than not we only buy things to fill a void or to relieve stress, not necessarily because we actually need or even want them. As soon as I figured that out, I started looking for alternative ways to fill my days with joy that didn’t involve buying new stuff.

Today I want to share four things that I’m buying now when I want to feel better, which don’t occupy any space in my suitcase!

1. Online courses

Maybe it’s just me, but courses that teach me new skills are my favorite things ever! Even my husband knows that giving me a course as a gift will always make me happy.

I have a ton of hobbies and things that I’m interested in, and each of them could become a full-time thing if I wanted it to. So there is no lack of information to keep learning.

For example, last year I was into photography and took a bunch of courses on the subject. I learned mobile photography, then normal photography, and even some videography. I studied lots of related things including photo and video editing and even dipped my toes into stock photography.

This year I’m learning digital illustration. YouTube and Skillshare are my two best friends right now and would probably be the most visited websites in my free time if I were to track my web activity. It just makes me so happy to ace a new thing I couldn’t imagine creating before!

Honestly, I could never understand people who get bored staying alone at home and don’t know what to do. I wish I had another twenty-four hours in my day just to fit in all the things I want to learn!

Besides, investing in yourself is never a bad idea. You never know where your new skills might appear useful on your life journey.

2. Experiences

You might say that it’s easy to find new experiences when you are traveling, and that’s true. I often go on walking tours, participate in cooking classes, and find other interesting things that my next country has to offer.

But if you think I didn’t invest in experiences when I wasn’t a nomad, you are wrong.

My favorite kind was always visiting an escape room. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, it’s a quest where you go into a room full of hints and puzzles, solving which leads you to the next one, and so on until the final thing gives you a key or something to escape the room. Usually, there is a specific theme for the room, you have one hour to escape, and there can be more than one actual room involved.

Over the years, with my friends and coworkers, I went to almost every room that existed in my city at the time (which is a lot). Some were very easy; some were so hard that we didn’t get out on time. I remember the one which was absolutely dark and another one where they put chains around your ankles and wrists at the beginning, which you have to get out of.

The feeling of nailing another quest room can hardly compare to anything else; it’s like actually being in an adventurous book for an hour. If you happen to be a nerd and avid reader like me, you know what I mean.

Meaningful experiences strengthen your relationships and create memories for years to come. Do you remember every shirt you buy or reminisce about it with friends? I doubt that!

3. Little gifts for friends

This one is a bit of a cheat, as you might actually get to buy a physical thing.

But, instead of it piling up in your closet, you give it away and feel good about it. Your friend is happy, you are happy, and your home doesn’t get cluttered. Not bad, huh?

Just make sure to only buy things your loved ones actually want so they don’t start hating you for cluttering their home. Especially if your friend happens to be a minimalist.

Wanna know my approach to always giving really good gifts? I swear by wishlists!

I have had one for many years, and I made each of my friends and family members make one. Not everyone likes the idea at first, but I promise you, everyone loves getting specific things they want as presents! And don’t worry, it can still be a surprise, especially if their wishlist is long enough.

To support the idea of having less stuff, encourage your friends to add items to their wishlists that aren’t physical things. About two-thirds of my own wishlist consists of specific online courses I’d love to take, new experiences I wish to try one day, and gift cards for fun things like massages and yoga classes.

When it comes to hobbies and lifestyle choices, people usually know exactly what they want, and you can never go wrong with a wishlist. Without it, unless you know for sure all the details, it’s easy to gift someone a book they already have or a course that is too beginner-oriented (or too advanced) for their level. If you have doubts, better buy them a gift card to their favorite store or learning platform, so they can choose a specific item themselves.

If you think you need to wait for a holiday or a birthday to give someone a gift, think again!

The best presents are unexpected ones. Try surprising your friend with something they want for no particular reason, and just see how excited they get! They will feel loved and valued, which is something we can all benefit from.

And as for you, the process of finding a perfect gift and seeing your friend genuinely enjoying it releases dopamine and endorphins, which basically make you feel happier. Win-win!

4. eBooks

The last thing on the list of things I still buy is eBooks.

I am the person who used to read 100+ books per year and had a full bookcase at home. Now I travel with my tiny Kindle and am more mindful about what I’m reading.

With that said, I still love the smell of real books and the feeling of actually turning pages! I still have a few of my favorite bookmarks. But I only buy digital books as it would be impossible to travel with “real” ones. I wish I had Hermione’s handbag with an extension charm on it, but sadly I don’t.

I know many people these days don’t read books. With so many kinds of easily digestible visual content options we have online now, books became something of an old era. However, the process of reading still has a ton of health benefits: from improving your concentration skills and vocabulary to releasing stress and anxiety that is a constant problem in most of our lives.

Nothing else can take your mind off your routines and worries quite as an interesting book can. It may only weigh a few kilobytes, but it has a whole world inside.

These were my four things to buy that won’t ever clutter your life! They might, however, make a big impact on your self-development, make you smarter, improve your skills and mental health, and make you happier. Not a bad deal, is it? Especially for things that don’t take up any space.

I hope you can agree with me now that it’s possible to live happily without buying new stuff all the time. I am not exactly a minimalist, but I like the idea of surrounding yourself with things that bring you joy, instead of cluttering your life with things that only bring you instant gratification and then get forgotten.

Try to fill your days with fun experiences and learning new skills, as your memories and abilities are something you can always take with you, wherever you go.

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