It can feel like a long old road towards a minimalist lifestyle sometimes. There’s always more you could be doing, nothing will ever have a perfect zero impact, and then to top it off, you find out that you probably shouldn’t even be buying avocados.
That said, I’m a firm believer that perfectionism should never be the goal.
This post serves as a gentle reminder of how far I’ve come on this journey – whether it’s swapping out single-use products for endlessly reusable ones, going digital, or just identifying the stuff that won’t be missed.
Whilst reading this post all at once may feel pretty intimidating, please know that this has been the result of a couple of years’ work and has been an organic process of learning and implementing changes. I didn’t stop buying all of these things overnight.
I should also note that this list isn’t meant to be prescriptive or restrictive. In fact, there are plenty of benefits to reducing your consumption.
It’s good for your bank balance and healthier for the environment (reducing waste and waging the war against plastic). It also simplifies your life, reduces decision fatigue, and boosts your self-confidence when you make conscious choices for yourself, others, the planet and animals.
Even if it’s just trying out one or two points for starters, I hope that I can inspire you to make some small but mighty changes, too!
35 Things You Simply Don’t Need to Buy as a Minimalist
A minimal life isn’t a competition to own the least amount of possessions – it’s about consuming more consciously. If you can save money, the planet, and valuable storage space… well, it’s a no-brainer, right?!
As you start to examine the things you traditionally took for granted, you’ll likely find that your shopping habits are mostly unquestioned and inherited. From assessing your makeup bag to physical gifts, there are many ways to live with more intention.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the things you could pause to consider on your minimalist journey. Here are 35 things I no longer buy anymore!
General things I no longer buy
Do you find that you tend to buy the same products over and over again?
I know that I have a weakness for this! Whether it’s five cream jumpers, a new throw for every day of the week, or the endless quest for the perfect pair of jeans, it’s easy to see why your wardrobe and cupboards are overflowing with stuff.
Plus, the irony is that you probably have a ‘favourite’ that you make a beeline for anyway.
To combat this, I’m now in the habit of asking myself whether I already own a version of the item I’m looking to purchase. If the answer is yes, I don’t buy it. And, if the answer is no, I’ll always try to buy right the first time instead of just opting for the cheapest deal or the first thing I see.
2. Fad gadgets or the latest tech
If you’re a sucker for tech that promises to solve all your problems, then I get it. But tell me – when was the last time your popcorn machine or pasta maker surfaced from the depths of your kitchen cupboards?
Where possible, it’s best to stick to multi-function items that you actually use every day. Your idealised self may be a whizz in the kitchen with all sorts of fancy gadgets, but I promise you that the reality is lots of wasted time and washing up. So feel free to let this vision go!
Oh, and if you have to have the latest iPhone or MacBook, then stop trying to keep up with the Jones’s. It’s just a waste of energy, money and resources when what you already have does the job just fine.
3. Cheap, poor-quality items
In the age of fast fashion – let’s face it. A lot of clothes are so cheap they’re basically disposable.
Whilst this has all sorts of ethical implications for the people making your garments halfway around the world, it has also primed you to think that you constantly have to get the best deal.
Shopping cheaply allows you to buy more in the short term, but it’s not a sustainable long-term strategy for your home or the planet. Try to get into the habit of buying less but better, higher-quality items. And make sure to purchase from ethical brands.
4. Anything tested on animals
This is something that I’m sure we can all get behind in theory, but do you regularly check whether the cosmetics you’re purchasing are cruelty-free?
If you’ve read Animal Liberation, then you’ll know how devastatingly cruel and unnecessary animal testing can be.
5. Impulse purchases
Saving money is virtually impossible when brands are manipulating you with a false sense of urgency. If your inbox looks anything like mine used to, then you’re faced with special offers and discount emails – every single day.
This was before I had a digital detox and unsubscribed from a lot of email marketing. I also stopped putting myself in situations where I’d be tempted to spend on things I only wanted in the moment (i.e. no more IKEA trips just for the sake of it).
I now add things straight to a wishlist. If I’ve forgotten about the item within 48 hours, which tends to be the case, then I happily delete it.
Bath & beauty products you can say goodbye to
6. Excessive makeup & skincare
From expensive toners to miracle anti-ageing creams, the beauty industry is in the business of convincing you that you need a hundred and one products to look and feel good in your own skin.
Of course, this simply isn’t true!
7. Makeup wipes & cotton pads
I no longer buy disposable makeup wipes. Whilst they may be quick and easy when you just want to crawl into bed, they’re harsh on your skin and strip it of essential oils.
That’s not even accounting for the amount of unnecessary waste they contribute to, or how much money you’ll save over a year (one wipe per day a year equals easily £30+).
I also used to remove stubborn eye makeup with single-use cotton pads that went straight in the bin. These came packaged in mountains of single-use plastic. Not good.
Now, I use these super handy reusable makeup remover pads, which are great for taking off both face and eye makeup.
8. Pads & tampons
There’s a bit of debate around how much a period can cost a woman over the course of her lifetime, but if I’m being conservative and saying that a box of pads and tampons comes in at about £5 a month, then that’s easily £60 a year spent on sanitary products.
It’s also a heck of a lot of plastic waste going straight into landfill.
For reusable period products, why not try a menstrual cup? Or, my personal choice – period pants. Modibodi and WUKA do some great sets. It may be an initial cost upfront, but you’ll never have that sinking feeling again when you realise you’ve run out of tampons. Plus, it’s comfier and better for the environment, too! Win-win.
9. Shower gel
When I was little, my family always used a bar of soap, so I’m not really sure what changed. I guess if hard soap has one fault, it’s that it can be a bit messy (ever tried cleaning a nicely encrusted soap dish?!). But otherwise, they last longer, are cheaper, and most importantly, are zero-plastic.
Whilst I’m on the subject, I also find it totally unnecessary to purchase shaving cream anymore. You can do the whole lot with a nice soapy lather!
10. Disposable razors
When you stop to think about it, so much of the stuff we buy on autopilot could be replaced with a reusable version.
Disposable razors are a prime example of this.
Typically housed in excessive plastic packaging and discarded as quickly as they’re purchased, you also end up having to store multiple razors that you aren’t currently using.
Reusable razors are the best option all around – I particularly like this one from Wild & Stone. A smart initial investment which will set you up for the long haul.
Fashion items you don’t need to repurchase
11. Fast fashion
Since learning about the darker side of the fast fashion industry, I’ve made a pledge with myself not to purchase from these companies anymore. I’ve also taken the time to declutter and develop my own minimal capsule wardrobe. After doing this, I find that I rarely need to shop for new things any more.
When I do, I always do my research into brands to try and purchase as ethically as possible. I also go for quality and comfort over fad styles I’ll quickly lose interest in.
As a small disclaimer, I’ve never been confident in high heels – and a stiletto just seems to be asking for trouble! It’s very difficult to look confident and sexy when your entire focus is on staying upright.
It was an epiphany moment when I realised that all my late teen and adult life, I’d felt this huge pressure to look a certain way on a night out. And… it really wasn’t my style or comfortable.
These days, I have a couple of low block-heel options that will go with any outfit. And I’ve made it my mission to not care what other people think on the matter.
13. Jewellery & watches
Is your jewellery collection ever-expanding?
Similar to my wardrobe, I identified that I wore a minuscule amount of my collection the vast majority of the time. To reduce decision fatigue and pay homage to the pieces you truly love, why not try wearing the same staple pieces every day? By going higher quality with fewer items, you can say goodbye to cheap fashion jewellery that just tarnishes.
Plus, now that I have my Apple watch, I can use this for all sorts of things a traditional watch can’t do. So it doesn’t make sense to keep purchasing new ones.
14. Bags & purses
I used to have bags for every occasion – including that one clutch I bought for that abroad wedding and have never used since.
As with everything in life, you simply can’t help but have your go-to favourites.
This will be an unpopular opinion with the handbag collectors of this world, but once you’re covered with a modest neutral assortment of the essentials, you don’t need to buy another bag ever again (unless it completely wears out over time, of course).
15. One-time special occasion outfits
Rather than spending a lot of money and clogging up your wardrobe with formal items you’ll never wear again, consider hiring outfits for occasions that will be a one-time use.
Hiring is generally cheaper, less resource-intensive, and will still give you the novelty of that new outfit feeling.
Food, drink & kitchenware you can stop buying
16. Meat, fish & dairy
I went pescatarian for a year before taking the full vegan plunge in January 2022. Not only has veganism been proven to have numerous health benefits, but it’s also one of the best things you can do from a sustainability standpoint and means that you’re not complicit in a cruel system of animal exploitation.
You may want to make the transition slowly or dive in headfirst – either way, going plant-based is without a doubt one of the most empowering decisions I ever made and helps me to feel aligned with my values.
17. Junk food
A knock-on effect of veganism is that I no longer buy ultra-processed junk food. Instead, I take the time time to set myself up for success with plant-based meal prep – incorporating more of the foods that will contribute to my long-term health.
This means a shopping list free from fizzy drinks, ready meals and sugary junk food.
18. Plastic bottles & takeaway coffee cups
Plastic water bottles are so convenient to pick up – especially if you’re on the move. But buying a reusable water bottle is a simple swap that will save you money in the long run.
And, if you really want a personal kick to get on board with this habit, then know that in a 2018 study, 93% of all water bottles tested had plastic particles in the water. Think about it – this means huge amounts of microplastics amassing in your body.
Similarly, I also steer clear of takeaway coffee cups now. It was a shock to me when I found out that despite looking eco, these are mostly non-recyclable and full of plastic.
If takeaway coffees are a guilty pleasure (I know this one was hard for me!), then pack a flask, take your own reusable cup, or take the time to sit down and savour your coffee from a proper mug.
19. Cling film
Quick question: does anyone truthfully get on with cling film?!
Let’s banish it once and for all. If you’re worried about how to store leftover food, then invest in some quality airtight glass containers.
20. Plastic Tupperware
When your cupboards are awash with mismatched Tupperware containers and lids, then it’s time to have a detox!
Even more worryingly, it turns out that plastic containers can leach toxic chemicals into your food – especially when heated. So it really is best to skip plastic in the kitchen at every available opportunity.
As per my last point, I’d advise investing in a high-quality set of glass containers for leftover food storage. And Kilner jars are an excellent plastic substitute for storing your pantry essentials. Plastic needs replacing over time, whereas these will be endlessly reusable.
Cleaning products you can skip
21. Plug-in air fresheners
We all want our homes to smell inviting when we walk through the door, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of your health.
Whilst you may never have paused to even think about your plug-in air freshener, behind the chemical fragrance can be a multitude of worrying ingredients. Think formaldehyde, phthalates, and even an increased risk of your children developing asthma.
I invested in an electronic diffuser which simply runs on essential oils and water. Not only does this make for a more natural scent – essential oils are incredibly potent so you only need to use a few drops at a time.
22. Heavy chemical cleaning products
I’ve never particularly enjoyed using heavy chemical products like bleach or corrosive drain and oven cleaners. So it came as no surprise to me that they aren’t very good for your health or the environment either.
Making your own DIY cleaner is certainly possible with some baking soda and vinegar, but my personal preference is Method. With plant-based biodegradable ingredients, 100% recycled plastic bottles and Leaping Bunny certification, these are my go-to cleaning products.
23. Kitchen roll
I sort of eliminated kitchen roll by accident. One day, I realised I didn’t have any. And then I kept forgetting to buy it for weeks until I realised that I could definitely live without it.
Paper towels are convenient for wiping up spills or when eating greasy foods. But it’s just as easy to grab a reusable cloth. And arguably when you’re eating healthier food, there’s very little need to be constantly wiping your fingers.
24. Fabric softeners
I’ve always been a little bit sceptical about fabric softeners. I mean, can you honestly say you’ve ever been able to notice the difference?
Fabric softener is one of those things that you can just eliminate without the need for an alternative… and never look back.
Still not convinced? The fragrances and ingredients used in the majority of commercial softeners can cause allergies, asthma and lung irritation. So save your pennies and your health.
25. Washing up sponges
Replace this disposable product with some reusable dishcloths that you can put in the wash. You’ll usually save on some plastic packaging, too!
Homewares to save your money on
26. Soft furnishings
Without a doubt, soft furnishings are my kryptonite! Considering I never used to leave IKEA without the latest ditsy floral print bedding or a refresh of scatter cushions… curbing my spending habits has been a real challenge in this area.
However, these days I’ve cut it right down to two sets of white bedding (the spare is so that I’m not caught out when one is in the wash). What I’ve come to realise is that whilst I love patterned sets, I prefer the clean crispness of white bedding. It gives the illusion of more space and light in my bedroom, and is very calming.
I’ve also narrowed it down to my favourite throws and cushions. And now that I’ve done this, I don’t need to purchase any more!
27. Physical entertainment
Going digital is one of the best things you can do to free up storage space and save a bit of money in the process.
Books are generally cheaper on Kindle, your music collection is unlimited with Spotify Premium, and there are loads of films available via Netflix and Amazon (you can pay a small amount to rent if needs be).
Growing up, stationery was my bag. Think glittery gel pens, productivity planners, and new notebooks (that were too pristine to actually write in).
This is another area in which I’ve gone almost 100% digital. I say nearly, because I do keep a physical journal that I like to write in every day. But for the most part, I no longer buy notebooks, planners, paper calendars, disposable pens or office supplies.
Google Docs and Google Calendar will make your life easier! Plus – endlessly more editable than trying to organise yourself with paper.
I used to have a habit of picking up little trinkets here and there. Generally, things that were decorative or pretty but added no real functional value.
As I have a tiny house, this doesn’t work too well as a long-term solution because it all just adds up as mindless clutter. So I try to appreciate things when I see them but resist the urge to possess them.
30. Mugs & glasses
This one might just be me. But when I went through my kitchen cupboards, not only did I find a mug collection that would do the rounds for an office of 100+ employees, but I also had specialist glasses for every possible occasion.
The thing is, I don’t exactly host parties every weekend, so my pina colada glasses were quite literally gathering (a lot) of dust. And I only ever used my favourite few mugs.
Once I decluttered things right back to the essentials – i.e. what I actually use – I haven’t added anything new to my collection since.
Gifting you can stop splashing out on
31. Physical gifts
This one is a work in progress because my family’s love language is gift-giving.
However, I’m trying as much as possible to opt for experiences over things, which I think is a more thoughtful way of gifting. It also helps to gently expose a consumerist mindset and keep me grounded as to what’s important.
Take a look at these gift ideas for minimalists if you want more ideas!
32. Seasonal decorations
Yep, I used to be that person with an Easter wreath.
Whilst I know it can be tempting to decorate for every change of season (and even within seasons), it feels like homewares are going the same way as fast fashion. Basically, cheap and disposable. This only leads to storage problems, clutter and waste.
Now that I’ve narrowed down my Christmas collection to my absolute favourite pieces, I try to just enjoy simple living – keeping my home tidy, cozy and inviting rather than buying for every holiday season.
33. Physical cards
When you stop to think about all the cards we exchange for birthdays, Christmas and other occasions, it’s a strange habit we all hold so dear when they (mostly) just end up in the recycling bin.
This probably sounds callous – I know I have cards I’ve kept for sentimental reasons. But this isn’t the case for the vast majority. It’s just a mindless social act that we get roped into or we look bad.
Try having a conversation with your loved ones if you’d rather stop sending physical cards. If you like, you can always make and send a digital one (much more thoughtful!).
I’m quite a sentimental person, so I used to always pick up a little something when on holiday. I suppose this was a way of trying to keep hold of the memory of that particular place and time.
The problem is that these items are generally tacky or just not the things you really want to display in your home. Rather than physical mementoes, my advice would be to take plenty of photos (they’ll serve as a better reminder).
35. Subscription boxes
Last but not least, I’ve stopped buying monthly subscription boxes because whilst they may seem like a good deal and it’s exciting to see what’s in them… It’s not stuff that you intentionally chose. I’d find myself lumped with all sorts of things I wouldn’t have bought if given the option.
Now, I just spend a little bit more on the things I actually want and know I’ll get the use out of.
Living With Less: The Eco-Friendly, Money-Saving, Clutter-Free Solution
From this list, I hope you can see that shopping intentionally doesn’t mean depriving yourself or imposing harsh restrictions that make you miserable. Bringing less stuff into your life can be incredibly empowering. Not only do you save so much money, but you also simplify your life and boil things down to the things which matter.
Looking for long-term reusable options, reducing unnecessary waste and cutting back on plastic has the added benefit of being better for the planet (and in some cases your health).
For a complete guide on how to start shopping more ethically, check out this article here. And to understand more about the impact of your choices from a bigger picture perspective, these books on sustainability are a great place to start.
So tell me – what items have you stopped buying on your road to minimalism? Let me know in the comments below!