A month of un-doing
So I’m a month in, give or take a day or two and you want to know how it’s going, this ‘not buying anything’ thing, don’t you? OK, so maybe it wasn’t top of your need to know list for today, but it’s risen to the top of my need to ‘fess list. I could say it’s going really well. It wouldn’t be a lie, maybe just not the whole truth.
Since the start of the year I’ve been stuck in bed a few days between colds and migraines, and I’ve only managed to get to anywhere with shops a few times. My shopping opportunities have been limited. My resources are limited too because I’m not earning any money at the moment: automatic BIG restriction. It’s like giving up chocolate for Lent when you don’t even like it – not much of a sacrifice. The thing is, deciding not to buy anything new has made me more aware of how much I actually buy, full stop. My plastic gets hit routinely, not for anything superfluous or extravagant, simply ‘everyday stuff’: the groceries, the toiletries, the consumables, those odd bits and pieces which you actually ‘need’. I ran out of parcel tape and genuinely couldn’t think of how else to get packages wrapped and sent. Perhaps I lack imagination, but I’m probably like lots of other people, trying to do the best they can; caring and failing.
I avoided the sales. Anyone who sent me discount emails and tried to convince me that I really needed new clothes or kitchenware or books, or whatever, has been solemnly unsubscribed from. Despite the bombardment, I did not succumb. It’s amazing how much of an offensive there actually is to prise our hard-earned cash from us.
I suppose a lot of us are immune by now, but why subject yourself to such attacks on your good intentions. As everyone who is addicted to something knows, you need to remove yourself from the environment where you’re likely to encounter temptation, and whilst that might not be wholly possible 100% of the time it is do-able a lot of the time.
I’ve not been able to avoid being on line. It’s where I hang out with people. It’s where I engage when I’m stuck in my ‘remote and isolated hamlet’. So I run the gauntlet of Facebook advertising and pop-ups and articles that pretend to be news, but are actually trying to sell you something. I’m relatively savvy, although not entirely immune. We were going to make our own favours for the wedding. Really. It was all planned. And then a sneaky little link came from I-know-not-where and hooked me. So now we’ve bought our favours instead. It’s all very kosher – a donation to a charity we believe in, a gift that can do good from the purchaser to the recipient – but still unplanned, and in many ways unnecessary. (If you think I’m being obscure here, you’re right. I don’t want any guests to know what we’re planning!) I’m not beating myself up. We have a budget for the wedding and I’m not including it in my ‘buy nothing new’ challenge as I don’t need any additional headaches. As I’ve said before, lots of things are being done by friends and many would-be purchases have been avoided by borrowing, buying second-hand and making. My point is that I’ve purchased something I didn’t have to. Nice as it is, beneficial as it may be, it was something I didn’t need to buy. And that’s how it happens I suppose. We know what advertisers are like and we brush them off with a laugh, but then something good and worthy and in-line with our values pops up and we’re suckered in.
No, I’m not being overly hard on myself, but neither am I patting myself on the back. I could definitely ‘do better’. I might not ‘technically’ be buying anything new – the book I needed for my course was definitely second-hand – but I still have a ‘buying stuff’ wire in my head somewhere that won’t unplug. I didn’t think this challenge would be easy, a walk-in-the-park of challenges, but I didn’t expect it to tax me greatly, given my disposition and ethics. Taxing me is exactly what it is doing, however, as I’m thinking more about things, questioning motive, need, intent; questioning myself. I suppose that’s a good thing. I’ve re-read my original blog, which outlined the whys and wherefores of this challenge and even after a month I think it sounds rather sanctimonious. That’s life I suppose. We do literally live and learn.
I’m sure there will be lots more insights over the next 11 months and I will endeavour to share some of them without being censorious or smug. I probably don’t do ‘humble’ but I’m aiming for ‘real’ at the very least.
Feel free to comment and share your own travels in un-shopping.