I’ve read articles and watched Youtube vlogs on minimalism. I’ve tried my hardest to channel my inner Marie Kondo. But, I like things. I like a lot of things. My relationship with materialism is analogous to binging and purging. After not shopping at all for two to three weeks, I’ll see an add and buy five Bath and Body Works candles, the same pair of velvet flats in two different colors, and a jumbo bag of artisanal bath salts. When I realized I had a real problem with shopping, is when I found myself returning things almost every week. I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t let them sit unused or unworn, but I want to get to the point that I don’t buy them at all.
The fundamental cause of this behavior is filling time, channeling my thoughts towards what I can buy to make me look like the person I want to be. The internet has been inundated with articles about personal brand. The confusion I, and I think many people experience, is that “brand” is associated with things we buy. It’s more about creating an illusion that convinces people to purchase a product than advertising the truth. Because if one thing is certain, it is that Oreo Thins will not make you thin (hypothesis was tested: confirmed).
I graduated college six months ago, and relocated from the east coast to Houston to be closer to my boyfriend. Fortunately, I found a wonderful job that allows me to live almost anywhere and travel most weeks. Thanks to good internships, a scholarship to college, and a signing bonus, I have a solid emergency fund and additional savings. I chose to live in a one-bedroom apartment because I didn’t know anyone in the city. From the beginning, though, this really stretched my budget.
A lack of friends led to exploring the city. After gathering recommendations and reading yelp reviews (in the bathtub, because I like danger), I realized that most things in Houston involve spending money. If it’s not going to a restaurant or a gym, then it’s checking out a shop. Because I have no willpower, I normally didn’t stop at just “checking out” a store, but instead almost always left with something new for my apartment.
Credit Card Bill: ~$900 first month after moving
I moved here in my car with clothes and a few personal items. I furnished my apartment from scratch and not from Ikea and Craigslist, like I should have. A very enthusiastic West Elm employee and the blog Apartment Therapy convinced me to spend almost $3,000 on a modern couch, table, and leather chair. I told myself it was a “steal” because the couch and chair were 30% off, and I got $600 back in a gift card by charging it to a store credit card I opened.
Furniture: $2,900 – $625 gift card + extra $300 I spent when I purchased a media console and couldn’t find one there for the value of the gift card.
The furniture is great, but it did not arrive for 6 weeks. While I sat in my empty apartment in a Wal-Mart lawn chair, I browsed more design blogs.
Lawn-chair: $14.97 paid for by my father when he visited. Thanks dad.
The big furniture purchase made me think that I had to buy even more décor to fit the look I wanted, and create a space that showcased my personality. I have no clue why I wanted this. The only person that regularly comes to my apartment is my boyfriend; his biggest priority is a fresh towel after soccer and football club. No one sees my space, and I live comfortably with the things I own. Social media and overexposure to the blogo/vlogo-sphere has created a distorted view of what I “need” to prove that I’m an adult. The real adult thing to do would be saving my money by putting it in my investment account
and towards future grad school plans.
There are more authentic messages out there about personal branding that attempt to correct the shallow misconceptions. People advise that your brand is based on your actions. It is what people can count on you to do, not wear or showoff. Knick-knacks from extravagant vacations don’t make you interesting the way that listening to people and making them think about something in a new way does.
When I see people’s apartments or clothes, I make assumptions about their lives. But, these are soon displaced once I get to know them and what kind of people they are. When people do come over, I doubt they’ll think I’m put together simply because of my perfectly color-coordinated items. Whatever illusion created is gone when I’m running 20 minutes late and can’t find my driver’s license because I use a hair band wrapped around my license and credit card as a wallet.
In the end, I’m still struggling every week not to buy things. I’ve spent over $4,000 in the span of three months, and am seeing it constrain other area of my life, financially. It’s good to remember that these purchases will not affect the quality of my life, only the amount in my bank account. I made a list of things I want for my apartment, prioritized it, and put dates to spread out the months that I buy it. And in the mean time, I’ll be weaving an art piece out of scrap yarn instead of buying the ~*artsy*~ overpriced print in my Minted cart.
Katie is a full-time free spirit and part-time consultant. She enjoys overpriced fitness classes and exploring her new hometown. Her perfect date is watching Real Housewives with a green tea and the company of her shih-tzu.
Image via Unsplash