How-To Shop Like a Minimalist... Sort of

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Are you new to simple living and minimalism? Me too! I’m somewhere around my 5 month mark of making this lifestyle an official decision. It’s been really wonderful so far, but last Saturday I did something for the first time since making this thing official. 

I went shopping. At the mall.

[Insert moment of silence.]

You did what?!?

I know. I know. I know. THE MALL?! Isn’t that the last place a minimalist should go?! AHHH!

Alright. I’ll tell you all about my ill-fated plans. Here goes…

Since becoming a minimalist, I wanted to take my shopping experience to the next level and focus on what I REALLY needed. What pieces would add the most to my closet? What types of pieces could be mixed and matched easily? I wanted a simple and cohesive closet so I did’t have to think about what I was going to wear. I could just grab a couple of things and they would work. I want to be wise and mindful about what I purchase but I also don’t want to give TOO much importance to things by spending too much of my time researching what to buy. 

AHHHH!!! Enter the crazy cycle of Minimalism.

This process is something I haven’t quite perfected, but I’ll share what I’ve got so far.

Step 1: Have in Mind What You Want to Buy

LBD - I’ve been wanting a simple black dress ever since I KonMari-ed my closet. No, scratch that. I’ve been wanting a simple black tank midi dress long before decluttering my wardrobe, but it wasn’t made so apparent to me how much of a staple it would be until I KonMari-ed my closet. When I was done, I had several things that I loved but never wore or rarely wore because I didn’t have things to go with them. The black dress would go with them ALL. Simple.

Also, bras. [This is a total sidebar, feel free to skip]

So, you know how we [women] have a drawer full of bras but really only wear 4-5 of them and then actually about two of those on a regular basis? Yes, we’re a fascinating bunch, I know I’m not the only one that does that. Well, after ditching the drawer full I was left with five total, one of which I had been wearing since HIGH SCHOOL - the ever popular flesh tone strapless convertible. That thing was a miracle worker. I had about 20 bras before I started this whole thing and yet I wore that one bra about 70% of the time for…….oh my. Ten years?!? Yikes. 

Well, it finally crapped out one day at work when I noticed an odd stain on my shirt. I went to the bathroom to check it out and one of the little gel inserts had exploded leaving me covered in goo accompanied by a strangely shaped stain on my light gray tunic. Thanks Victoria. [Although, I’m pretty sure you aren’t supposed to have the same bra for ten years, so we’ll call it even.] Needless to say, I HAD to replace that one and a $2 black bra I scored at H&M a few months back. Yeah, that one only lasted a few months… wonder why. Left with only three bras, I was looking to add a couple back into the mix. 

Then I knew I wanted some flats, maybe a skirt and a few T-shirts if I could fit it in my budget.  

Step 2: Research Ahead of Time

Hey Pinterest, what up? I spent a few minutes [haha] pinning some things I liked onto my style board in order to have a clear picture of the things I wanted. This was the first time I had added Pinterest to my shopping preparations, but I thought the added visual cue would be a good reminder for me not to get distracted by things not on my list. I found some great things but basically all of the literal items I had pinned were way out of my budget, so I enlisted some help.

Step 3: Crowdsource

Before I spent a bunch of time looking through websites trying to find the PERFECT dress, I thought I’d try and save some time by asking Facebook for some recommendations. That was awesome! And, if any of you ladies that helped me out are reading this now, thank you, thank you, thank you! I looked them over and found a lot of cute options, but unfortunately, didn’t find what I wanted. This is when I resorted to trying to find it at the mall.

Step 4: Look at The Menu

My favorite mall in Charlotte is North Lake, I say that never having shopped in South Park Mall, but I still think it would be the case. South Park seems too pricy. So I went to the North Lake Mall website and checked out the store directory, then checked out the websites of the stores I thought would have a good black dress close to what I was looking for. I found a good option at three stores! Sweet!

Step 5: Set a Budget

After almost three years of budgeting, this part finally comes naturally to me. We’re working hard to pay off our debt and we’ve made awesome strides so far but still have a ways to go. 

Since January, I’ve now gotten rid of at least 80% of my clothes, probably more. Now, I only have what feels good and what I really enjoy wearing. But, that also means I wear what I have a lot more, which means those same pieces get laundered more frequently, which means I need to buy good quality, well-made pieces to ensure that they’ll last. And because I’m on a budget, I’ve got a limited amount to spend on higher priced things, so I’ve got to be careful about which pieces I select. Hence the research. 

In an effort to be transparent, I set aside $50 a month for clothing and we each get $20 for blow money. I don’t ever spend my blow money, so I add it to whatever clothing money I have and go shopping about 3 times a year with that. Now, that may sound like a lot to some, or like nothing to others. In a year, that’s $840 for everything from underwear to coats. To me, that’s a decent chunk of money, but it can go FAST so it still takes some strategy to get that to work. Research, strategy, and places like Buffalo Exchange have helped a lot - I’ll probably write a post on this in the future. Anyway, I’m getting close to the point where I think I can cut that number because I’ve done a good job of filling my closet with staple pieces and I want this debt GONE. 

That being said, I had a little over $250 to get all of this accomplished. 

Step 6: Make a List

After going through steps 1-5 it was easy to make a short list of things to buy in the order of priority and guesstimate how much they would cost.

  • A pair of black or camel brown flats [$50?]

  • A black tank midi dress [$80?]

  • A flesh tone strapless bra [$50?]

  • A black skirt [$20?]

  • 2-3 T-shirts [$50?]

Step 7: Make a Plan of Attack

Now that I knew what I wanted, where I would look for it, and how much I was willing to spend, I mapped out where I would go first.

  • Off Broadway

  • Aldo

  • Express

  • BeBe

  • NY & Company

  • Victoria’s Secret

  • Forever 21

This is why I like shopping alone - haha. I’m well aware that this doesn’t sound like fun to the masses, but it’s enjoyable for me, for the most part.

Step 8: Go Shopping

In the past, this kind of preparation has suited me very well. I get there, find exactly what I’m looking for, only spend what I set out to spend and get out in a few hours. This was completely not the case last Saturday.

First stop, shoes. After walking up and down all the aisles of Off Broadway and trying on two pairs of shoes, I wasn’t happy with any of them and walked out empty-handed 15 minutes later. No luck at Aldo either.

So, I decided to focus on the dress. 

Express didn’t have it. BeBe didn’t have it. NY & Company didn’t have it. 

Their websites sit on a throne of lies. 

After no shoes and no dress, I was feeling defeated, but decided to try my luck at Victoria’s Secret next and… SCORE! Bras on sale 2 for $45 and T-shirts 2 for $32! I always forget they have clothes… Two things off of my list. 

Still on a mission to find a dress, I headed into Charlotte Russe. I found a lot of cute things in there, but not THE dress. It was getting late and I could feel my blood sugar wavering. Feeling like I was about to pass out from hunger, I put my clothes on hold and headed for the food court - I was in no state to be making purchasing decisions.

[Also a really good tip: Don’t buy ANYTHING, except food, when you’re hungry!]

After grabbing a quick bite, I headed into Forever 21 where I proceeded to do not one, not two, but three full rounds of the store. I have literally never done that. Usually I do one lap, head to the fitting room, select what I can fit in my budget and then head for the cashier. I just wasn’t having much luck. Things weren’t fitting correctly and I was also trying to mentally make outfits with the other clothes I had on hold at Charlotte Russe. I made three trips in and out of the fitting room and finally went to the check out. 

From there I bought half of what I tired on and put half on hold and then headed back to Charlotte Russe to decide what to do with those items. I tired those on again and a few other things, put some back and purchased the rest.


Does that seem like a lot? Well, I wasn’t done yet. 

I headed back to Forever 21, picked up my clothes on hold, tried them on with some of the clothes I had just purchased from Charlotte Russe and then put a few back and ended up buying a couple of things.

It was the most annoying day of shopping I’d ever experienced, and it lasted for 8 hours! An entire work day, dedicated to shopping. The Minimalists would not be proud of me. I thought shopping was supposed to be easier once you became a Minimalist, not painfully drawn out. 

Well, what about the black dress?! I did end up finding a black tank midi dress from Forever 21, for $12.90, not on sale. I was willing to spend $80 on it because I know I’ll wear the heck out of it, but I couldn’t find one in that price range, probably because I didn't go to South Park. Next time, next time. 

After all of that work, I’m really hoping it lasts me a while, or else, I’ll be back at this again.

Please, for the love of Simple Living, No.

Love & Blessings,