Cheapskate, Environmentalist, or Minimalist?


I’ve developed an aversion to shopping, both online and in person. Because when you shop, you buy things, and I don’t want more things. I want fewer things. I want to get rid of stuff, not accumulate more.

Maybe I’m getting obsessive about it. Last year, I wondered if I actually owned enough clothing to see me through my remaining projected lifespan. Turns out, I don’t. You know those technical T-shirts that get so stinky and stay that way even after they’ve been washed? And wonder of wonders, underwear can rip, and socks get hole, and running shoes wear out. So I’ve had to replace some textiles.

Am I Just a Cheapskate?

I don’t think so. We give plenty of charitable donations each year in my family. I just get so little pleasure out of purchasing stuff. I know people who buy every damn thing that crosses their mind, but I don’t see they’re any happier for it.

During the early months of the pandemic, I took a course on “The Science of Well-Being.” One suggestion was to spend money on experiences rather than on things, because experiences are remembered, can last a lifetime, and will provide more pleasure.

I believe that’s true. I remember and still savor some art gallery visits where I paid an entrance fee. Or a special meal at a favorite restaurant. A trip to a spectacular national park. All experiences, with nothing concrete to show for them (okay, maybe a refrigerator magnet souvenir).

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

We’re big into recycling at our home. We reuse plastic baggies. We make our own compost from kitchen scraps. You have to fill out an application in order to use a piece of aluminum foil.

Then there is the stuff I make. As the kids got older and our backyard ice rink days ended, I used the framing lumber to build a firewood crib. When I built a bookcase for Harriet to keep her cookbooks organized, I used only wood I had on hand. Same thing when I built my Little Free Library, which required a number of design compromises because I wouldn’t go out and by a damn hinge or a pine plank.

Nonetheless, the wood crib still stands, the bookcase is straight, the library doesn’t leak.

I am an environmentalist, but I’m also a minimalist. I don’t need to possess more stuff. Buying things doesn’t make me happy. In fact, just the opposite: not buying things makes me happy.

With one exception: books. I buy books and I read them. Please don’t call me a hypocrite.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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