This is largely the tale of how a love of Korean sauces helped me realise that it’s ok not to conform to fashion.
I was looking through some slow cooker recipes the other day trying to decide what to make for dinner. I ended up picking a recipe for Balsamic Chicken and added the ingredients to my shopping list ahead of my visit to the nearby behemoth that is our 24hr Tesco.
I don’t actually go to a store to do grocery shopping all that often these days, not because I don’t enjoy it – how else would I have discovered the Korean beef sauce that I could happily live on for months – but precisely because I enjoy it a little too much. All those new things to try, all those new temptations lining the shelves, calling my name (how else would I have… ohh I’ve said that already).
The nearby Tesco is one of those huge buildings with aisle after aisle of home wares, electronics, bed linen, crockery, clothes, everything you need to fill a home and that’s all before you get to the groceries. It offers almost everything you could ever need to purchase and is a convenient place to go when I have an urge to buy some nice candles, or a new roasting tin. But it’s that ease and availability that is precisely why I don’t visit it very often.
Well that and the fact that, like every other supermarket the country over, it’s full of idiots who stop randomly and turn their trolley one way while looking another. Also, whilst I’m ranting, for the love of god can supermarkets please agree where eggs go? Stop making me guess!
Annoyances aside, convenience is a big factor in why these types of store are so prevalent and I’m very guilty of allowing myself to be swayed as soon as I step foot inside. Of course in my defence I can offer a very good reason as to why that new mop was needed… actually scratch that, I can’t. It’s just a mop and I already had one that did the job, but it looked like a nicer mop and hey, it was only £9, they are practically giving it away!
When is a mop not a mop? When it’s an improvement? When it’s aesthetically pleasing? Can a mop be aesthetically pleasing and, if so, why would you even need a mop that is pleasing on the eye, it’s a flipping mop!?!
Of course it’s one thing to have a rational thought process about the purchase of a new mop when you are sat at home, but as soon as we walk through those doors, well, suffice to say we’ve all fallen prey to the power of suggestive buying, we all have a glittery mop purchase in our past, don’t deny it. It’s almost like these stores are designed to make us buy things we don’t actually need, like they are engineered specifically to get you to the point that buying a glittery mop seems like such an obvious decision that, well, why wouldn’t you?
And then a few weeks later you go to mop the kitchen floor, pick-up said mop and, while you watch sunlight dancing off the glittery handle in a joyous little lighting display that fills the room with sparkles, think to yourself “why the fuck did I buy this?”.
This type of impulse buying is something I’ve been guarding against during my efforts to de-clutter and minimise my life, so much so that I’ve largely been getting my groceries delivered and happily paying the delivery fee rather than risk my own lack of willpower/ability to be manipulated by special offers and shiny new things (Editors note: if only he could find a way to resist those fiends at Apple and their pretty offerings).
With that tactic in place I’m more confident that I am winning the war of the creeping invasion of needless things into my but I know the battle isn’t over, as some recent and somewhat frivolous purchases have proven.
And there’s the rub, whilst I’m all for living a simpler life, a life that doesn’t rely on things and belongings, I’m still drawn to pretty shiny things and, let’s be honest here, what’s prettier than a rope of led baubles in the colours of a rainbow! Did I need them, of course not! But after coveting them for some months I finally caved and I absolutely, 100% refuse to give myself a hard time for it.
OK, maybe it’s more like 80% of me that is trying to convince the rest of my brain that this purchase was ok, that it doesn’t mean I’m no longer a minimalist at heart.
I’m not really sure what kick-started my drive towards minimalism. When I first got my own place, a place that was mine to define, I looked at things I’d always liked in the past. The clean lines of Scandinavian design, pristine white rooms with sparse decoration were what I thought I liked but I now realise that my hankering for less clutter was a more a reaction to having to compromise in the past, what better way to say this is mine than to embrace my natural tidiness by taking it to the extreme.
Looking back that compromise was no bad thing but as it was all I’d ever known – I went from living with my parents straight to co-habiting – suddenly having free rein to do whatever I wanted left me a little bewildered.
At first I bought functional things like a sofa, a coffee table, a TV unit, and some bookcases, but soon I realised that I wanted to be more mindful about what I owned and started to look for furniture and decorations that I really liked and would enjoy having in my home; my Eames recliner, the little glass table that sits next to it, the brass peacock, the vintage lamp and reclaimed shade, the vintage drinks cabinet.
At the same time that I was buying those things I was also stripping away my belongings and now I’m approaching the point now where I’m pretty comfortable that I have everything I need and now, stepping back to look at the belongings that constitute my life, I find myself wondering what style I was aiming for as I went along. What is my design? What is my minimalism? And why is it important to me to have one?
I’ve always been a bit of a style magpie or perhaps a style-less one as I don’t really follow fashion all that closely. I’ve always admired those people who have their own sense of style, something distinct that makes them stand out, something that says they are unique and interesting (I definitely have a ‘type’ of person who I’m attracted to and this is definitely part of that).
It is safe to say that I am not one of those people and in both clothing and home decor I’ve always tended towards the safer end of the fashion spectrum; function over fashion.
At least I used to.
What I’m finding these days is that by limiting myself to fewer purchases I’m much more considered when I buy new things and less likely to buy something just because it meets a basic need. Sure IKEA does some great cheap functional furniture but that vintage chest of drawers is far more pleasing to the eye whilst offering the same function. Which would you rather have? That mind set also means I’m less likely to settle for something if it doesn’t catch my eye and sure, I’d like to think I have an overall design in mind, but more often I’m purchasing items based on much simpler factors. Does it do what I need and does it look pretty.
Breaking out of being in-style has other benefits as I’m not bothered about whether my new lampshade is the right shade of copper to go with the slate grey feature wall, and so I find myself drawn to vibrant colours and loud patterns more and more. Clothes falls into the same bracket, with the vast majority of the blue/grey/black options that most stores seem to stock leaving me wondering why kids get all the great clothes!
Safe to say I’m embracing my own style choices more and more, and giving fewer and fewer fucks if other people don’t like what I wear or how my home looks. I’m still not completely immune to criticism but hey, I love my multi-coloured trainers, I adore my lime green sofa and colourful rug, and yes the rainbow lights fit in perfectly well. It doesn’t matter that my home is a mish-mash of items, it’s MY home.
Here it is then, this is my minimalism, this is my style; it is considered, it is colourful, it is a little cluttered but full of things that make me smile. And it feels good to at last have some sort of style even if it is an ever evolving mishmash of ideas, a ramshackle collection of things that I like.
And as it happens, for those of you who’ve been reading along, I think this matches my personality pretty well. I am inconsistent, I am a little cluttered and I like to make people smile. I will never be the most stylish person in the room nor the most considered, but I’ll be me.
So next time you see that person with the multi-coloured trainers strutting his way through the aisles of your local supermarket, do me a favour, don’t judge them if all they have in their trolley is a sparkly mop bucket (the mop was feeling lonely, ok!).