Monday, November 23, 2015

Minimalist Monday: 3 Years Into My Low Buy and Plans for 2016

I've wanted to discuss something that's recently been on my mind a lot, namely my experiences with doing a make-up low-buy for three years now and my plans for 2016. Before we dive in, there's one thing I'd like to clarify: I'm not trying to advocate any minimalist agenda or forcefully attempt to convince you to change your habits in any way. If you're happy with your stash and your purchases, GREAT - I envy you, and you do you. The reason I'm stating the obvious (to me at least) is that I've recently come across this sentiment that some minimalism-leaning bloggers can come across as a bit militant in their opinions. I have no such intention - this is just a personal blog and I'm coming here to share MY feelings and struggles, and if it inspires someone to change something they've been uncomfortable with anyway, then that makes me really happy; but if not, that's okay too.
Alright, enough of boring disclaimers, let's get to it. Above is the main reason for this post - the contents of my back-up skincare drawer. That's right, it's all back-ups, meaning it's not even all of my skincare; the stuff I'm currently using is in my bathroom cabinet, which I'll show you an update on some other time. In my defense, very few products inside this bin are what I've purchased myself; probably 90% is gifts, gifts with purchase and press samples. But you see the problem, yes? YES?! It's freaking 15 pounds worth of skincare I'm not using, it's just sitting around, waiting for its prime. I don't need or want all that... so what to do?

In my first couple years of beauty obsessing and documenting it on the blog, I had set a loose monthly budget for myself in the amount of $50. It was supposed to include all 'fun' expenditures such as clothing and accessories as well as make-up, skincare, nail polish, you name it. It seemed reasonable at the time, and the amount was something I was comfortable with spending for non-essentials. Looking back on it now, I can honestly say that a beauty budget did NOT work for me. I wasn't very dilligent in tracking my expenses, meaning that I very often went over the $50, but the main problem is that it resulted in a proliferation of cheap thrills in my wardrobe and beauty stash. I'm not saying cheap to be offensive - I'm all for affordable things if they're good quality. Unfortunately, most of what I bought wasn't, and on top of that, I was soon overwhelmed with the amount of clothes and products in my possession.
Enter phase two, which was my beauty low-buy, introduced at the beginning of 2013 as a 'No Back-Ups Challenge' (read the original post here). I decided to give myself an allowance of two make-up products per month, without setting any budget goals, and work hard on using up all my extra products across several categories, mostly skincare. I'm not going to lie - it was VERY difficult at first. For someone used to popping into a drugstore 'just to see what's new', and usually leaving with a couple make-up toys in tow, having to thoroughly think through all my purchases, plan ahead and only get two out of the large pool of everything I fancied was hard. So I did stumble here and there, and definitely at the end of 2013 I had accumulated more than just 24 new make-up products, but I did make a large dent in my back-up stash, and it was a start (here are my thoughts at the end of the year). So I just stuck to the same low buy again in 2014, and added in another stash-reducing challenge via Project Make A Dent and various declutters. This time it went even better than the previous year; I was able to stick to my resolution more, and developped some strategies to help fight lemmings and urges to shop while learning to appreciate what I already had (final post for 2014 can be found here).

Now this year, I do think that my low-buy has really taken hold and taught me a valuable lesson. In 2015, I've been able not only to limit my purchases, but actually change my behavior and thought patterns when it comes to beauty shopping. I think I'll discuss my experience and strategies in more detail in a separate post next month, but I wanted to share my back story with you mostly to show you that in my case, it has truly been a slow evolution towards the ultimate goal of an edited capsule collection that makes me happy and grateful instead of causing anxiety and stress. It's definitely a loosely defined goal, and as such, the particulars of it keeping changing, namely towards even smaller and simpler stash.
But let's get back on track - if I've been such a pro at reducing and editing my stash, why that skincare back-up explosion, I hear you ask? Well, first off, it was actually worse than that in the past *gulp*. On top of that drawer, I had another drawer, and then a lot of products under the bathroom sink. In fact, I even had a hanging organizer on the bathroom door at one point because I had so much extra stuff. The organizer is now gone, and my bathroom cabinet currently houses just haircare and travel items, so this drawer plus what I've dubbed my 'soap box', pictured above, is all that I have left - and it would be much less than that if not for generous friends and PRs. But still, for me, the contents of those two containers are way more than I would like to keep on hand at any given time. Which is why for 2016, I decided to do go full throttle and introduce a complete SKINCARE (for the face AND body) NO BUY. It's like the ultimate challenge for a beauty junkie, am I right?

I think that this time, the challenge won't be so much in fighting lemmings because I feel that I've gotten pretty good at keeping myself in check. However, I may struggle a bit with not purchasing products that are more convenient to use than what I already have on hand for that purpose. For example, I'm not really loving bar soaps as much anymore - I got used to fancy shower gels now, and it's nicer to indulge in a scented body lotion than slather your limbs in a natural plant oil. I realize that in this scenario, many of you would just get rid of the surplus bar soaps & oils and happily purchase your favorites in their stead, but to me it feels wasteful and unnecessary. My other reason for attempting to use and use up these particular products is that they're more eco-friendly and sustainable, as well as less irritating for my sensitive skin. The second issue I'm foreseeing here is that like a true hoarder, I'm slightly worried about not having enough face cleansers or toners to last me an entire year. But you know what, I'm determined to make it work - I could just as well DIY a cleansing oil like Gummy, or try the Oil Cleansing Method again. I'll make do; as long as my skin is happy. If for any reason any of my back-up products turn out to harm my skin, I will pass them along and ultimately purchase a replacement if no more back-ups remain in my queue. Simple as that.

I will definitely document my progress with photos in a year's time, or sooner, if that turns out to be the case (ha! I wish). I would also like to point out that my no buy does not mean I won't be accepting press samples or gifts. While the influx of products for review consideration may seem to hinder my progress, this is a beauty blog after all, and I enjoy trying and reviewing products for you. I also very frequently pass things along to family and friends, and it makes me happy that I can give back and share great products in this way. But enough about me - do you guys have any stash-reducing plans for 2016? Have you ever attempted a beauty no buy? If so, what was your experience like?

20 comments:

  1. Sounds like it will be fun to follow your progress next year! I am not trying to reduce anything, exactly, other than by not spending more than what my very small budget can handle. I did weed out things I didn't like last time I moved, though, and my biggest problem is what to do with those things. My local friends aren't that into beauty products, and my family members who are have already taken everything they want. I hate wasting things, though, so I can't bring myself to throw away a bunch of perfectly functional products. I might just see if someone on instagram will take it all for the cost of shipping or something! For me, that is the most difficult part of accruing junk that I don't want/need.

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    1. I know exactly what you mean. I used to make little cosmetic pouches for coworkers, and I constantly pass on products to every woman in my family. But you know, sometimes, you just have to throw things out. I remember reading somewhere that holding on to unwanted things is actually costing you money and energy because you're providing the space and maintenance for them - that thought made it easier for me to get rid of unloved products. But definitely try the Instagram thing, and let me know how it goes!

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  2. Wow, I didn't realize that your low-buy is three years old now! That's amazing. I've been on a no-buy for three weeks now and am really enjoying it, and I was thinking that for 2016 I'd do a low-buy much like yours: two new products per month. I actually had a question about this: If you happen to buy three products one month, do you limit yourself to only one the next month? Conversely, if you don't buy anything one month, do you get four products the next, or do you stick to just two?

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    1. You know what, when I first started drafting this post, I wrote 2 years, but then I checked back in my archive and it's actually three years now. Crazy how time flies, right?

      I used to roll products back all the time - if I purchased more, I tried not to get anything next month, or I would not buy products for a month or two in anticipation of a sale or something. This year though I've probably managed to get a little under 2 products a month, and I try not to allow myself to purchase more in cases where I haven't exhausted my limit. I find that once I give myself permission to buy more, it's easy for things to get a bit out of hand, if that makes sense. But you know, whatever works for you! It's good to have a little bit of flexibility, especially at first.

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  3. I need to carve out some time to figure out my plans/resolutions for 2016! I'm not sure how I want to approach beauty minimalism in the new year, as I've been pretty good about not purchasing things. Maybe I'll focus more on using things up -- I haven't been that great so far.

    Your plan sounds awesome though, it was really interesting to read over the progress you've made in the past 3 years! Is it absolutely crazy that I think limiting yourself to $50/month seemed really low? My first thought was "wait...that's a blush and maaaybe a mascara from Sephora!" It just goes to show that despite how much progress I feel I've made personally, you can't take the consumer out of the beauty blogger!

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    1. Lol, your comment about $50 made me laugh. I think 4-5 years ago, I would actually consider $50 to be quite a substantial chunk of money, but more recently I've come to regard it like you do - $50 at Sephora barely covers two products, or one piece of clothing that's not from H&M or Forever21, which I'm trying not to shop at anymore. But yeah, one of the reasons why a beauty budget is not for me is that I would rather just get a few good quality things that may be more expensive than a whole bunch of stuff for a couple dollars each. I'd now prefer to drop $100+ for a good pair of leather shoes once or twice a year instead of 5 trendy pairs at Target or something.

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    2. I've been avoiding F21 and H&M as of late -- the fast fashion guilt is starting to creep in! I think the last place I need to let go of is Zara, but I can't quite resist that one reasonably-priced seasonal piece.

      Otherwise, totally with you on buying things that last instead of going through several iterations -- it's gotten easier as I've figured out what I like and what works on me!

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  4. I think it's very smart to write it all down and document your progress! It helps put things into perspective and allows you to really measure your level of success.

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  5. I had exactly the same problems with back ups and purchase gifts. It took a lot of time to empty most of them (I gave lots of cremes and samples to other people!) and I'm happy that I'm nearly done with them. My beauty budget was also about 40$ (2009 - 2012), but I have invested most money on cheap drugstore cosmetics. Not having any clue about my colours and preferences, I bought I lot of stuff I did not even use. I'm glad that I decided to declutter and to sell some stuff which do not flatter me. I wish I had bought less items of better quality instead of lots of cheap, random stuff. Now I spend 15-20$ per month for ALL (incl. basics).
    I totally aggree to your observation concearning the No Back Up Challenge and your Shop Your Stash. 24 boughts in one year is really little. I have bought / received about 100 products this year (incl. skin care, hair products and stuff like that) and it's less than in my past years.
    I noticed that you wrote a lot about skincare in the last months. I think its the right way to avoid buying skincare. I'm looking forward to your project :)

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  6. Hi Monika,

    I find it so interesting to read your post. For years I was in a state I couldn't afford another skin cream when I finished it, and I used just olive oil, from the kitchen. But now I have, thank God, a friendlier budget and even a few things waiting in queue for their turn :-) I like this experience, it tells me there is abundance, even if it is "only" a few face creams waiting. Since I have a blog, I have samples, too, and so I got more day creams than I need, I guess for another year? or two? Let's see.

    Buying is great though and I still don't use a lot, one pot/tube lasts long. I am rately tempted to buy things I don't really need and I can search for one product for 6 months or so, with fun. "I'll buy this one, when the other one is empty". My opinion might change, but when the other one is empty, then I decide. I guess this is still left from "back then".


    $50 is still what I use in a year though, since I'm happy with the low price products.

    I find your thoughts interesting about how much and where you keep it. Mine is in two helmers, besides my maybe 200 nail polishes *cough* ;-)

    I like to use two or three products alternating, I need a change every now and then and when one of them is empty, I choose one from "the queue" and then I slowly choose another one...thats fun!

    I don't want to write a novel here, but I believe you can understand what I mean ;-)

    I wish you a happy success with your plan :-)

    Love from Berlin,
    Moni from fingertip gallery :-)

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  7. Good job, Monika! I'm glad you aren't pushing the whole minimalist thing down our throats, because while I see the movement taking hold, I also feel quite intimidated by the whole thing. It's almost as if it's a bad thing to have "stuff"! haha... I've been decluttering and reducing etc but I like my stuff and currently, my obsession is with skincare. I've got tons of them, but I aim to go through them all by next year! Ambitious, I know :D

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  8. It is CRUCIAL for me to read posts like this (so THANK YOU!) because I still struggle with wanting to purchase new things when I've barely appreciated the old. It was perfect timing to read your posts and others right around the Sephora sale, as I ended up walking away with just two concealers - that is UNHEARD of for me! Especially considering I was working on my purchase list for the event for about, oh, 5 months. Ridiculous.

    I feel hopefully though that as you've reached a different, more minimalist MINDSET, that I'll eventually get there as well - I still have this weird sense of entitlement sometimes where I'm like 'I haven't bought a lipstick in a few months so it's totally OK for me to buy one now' which is still not the right attitude. I want to buy a new lipstick because I adore it and it makes me excited - not because I've been 'good'. Here's to continued success in 2016!

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  9. I totally didn't notice that you are intentionally going on a low buy (just thought you are always in control) ...I don't think I can deal with setting a limit (I can probably still end up a bunch of junk for 30 bucks with couponing back in the days) but now make an active effort buying stuff I actually wear so even if I have lots of item, they will still be loved one day or another.

    In a way, I am glad that I never need to deal with pr (that hair extensions company should stop spamming me. Oy...) because keeping track of those would be so stressful.

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  10. Hi Monika, late in the bandwagon here, but I think we are in the same wavelength in terms of mindset to find that right balance of the amount of possession that does not create anxiety but rather enhance our well-being and quality of life. Such is I think the true goal of minimalism: owning the right amount of product that creates a positive relationship and frees mental energy from being consumed by things. It is NOT about the numbers, but about the feeling of at peace with one's own possessions. Therefore, I understand why you would still accept PR samples and such, it totally makes sense to me! See.. I think there is a good balance between having the right relationship with things v.s. a mere acquisition of things. From the outside, it seems counterproductive, but really, I think it is just another way of finding whether or not a product is right and then, if it is, making the most use out of it. Plain and simple.

    I've been following you for a while now and I can predict, skin care would be an easier challenge for you. You've already have the insight on how your mind works in regards to purchases, curbing impulse buy, not over-analyzing about purchases, etc. From my own experience, limiting skin care purchases has pushed myself to be more creative with my possessions and repurposing things along the way. Narrowing things down to the items that is most crucial helps me focus my spending and weed advertising/other shiny and new products disguised as products I already used. Best wishes to you & looking forward to this new journey!

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  11. Hey Monika, I never felt you're shoving the concept of minimalism through your blog at all! I think you're inspiring, and I come here to read to have some sort of motivation to get rid of some stuff. I don't think I can ever be a minimalist for I'm a true Leo, but it's good to be able to declutter and keep things current. For me personally though, I use the term de-cluttering very loosely. It can be cleaning out old stuff, or reducing some stash for more new things, or just using up some old stuff that don't get loved. I don't judge if some people mention "minimalizing" or "decluttering" and then I see them post pictures of new shiny things on social media. Dude, we're human after all :-)
    I love your wardrobe ideas, and when it comes to makeup, your stash reducing posts give me the oomph to use my stuff more regularly. This year, I've finished more makeup than I have in the last few years.
    Look forward to more of these posts from you Monika!

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  12. I like to think of myself as simply being "streamlined." I don't like clutter--the free samples from ulta and sephora are the bane of my existence, particularly since I am so picky about what I put on my face (I am prone to acne.) I have taken to refusing all those little samples and that made my life much easier.

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  13. wow, what an ambitious goal! I wish you luck!! I need some help, that's for sure! I've been wardrobe shopping like crazy lately, and my beauty shopping isn't so hot either... Though in my mind i like to think i've been doing ok when it comes to beauty shopping, i'm not quite sure if that's true! LOL

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  14. It was very interesting to read! I don't have no buy or reducing the amount plan. I save items to my wishlist, check it in reality once or even few times and very often I clean my wishlist of put things to maybe folder. Even I have them on wishlist, different products, it doesn't automatically mean I will go and buy them right now. I read some bloggers who make wishlists and then I see all of that products in a month or two on their blog. I can think on a palette for two years:D I don't have backups for anything actually. And yeah, I'm that person who will throw bar soaps if I don't like them and will buy showergel. Why? Not because I want to waste things. If I have opprotunity I will give this stuff to someone but if not I don't want to force myself into using something I dont like. Taking care of myself is something what should bring pleasure, as for me. :) Of course, I can't change your plans but I'd not do as you do with your skincare. I would set a rule buy what is necessary when a product runs out. If you like your skincare it's good to stick to it and just substitue empty jar with new than trying to make some DIY when it's not what you actually want:)

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    1. You know, I think that's just an individual thing - if you don't feel like using something and you feel comfortable with throwing it away/ passing it on, then that's awesome. For me, it's a bit more complicated - sometimes I don't feel interested in a certain product, but once I decide to try it, I discover some amazing stuff and I'm so glad I gave it a go. However, if it turns out to be absolutely awful, at that point I feel comfortable throwing in the towel - I don't make myself use stuff I hate either. So we'll see how I do - I may try some DIYs once I run out of stuff, but if I don't feel like it or they don't work out, I have no problem purchasing new stuff. Thanks for your input! <3

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