In January I embarked on another stuff purging project, inspired by a fresh new year and listening to the audiobook of Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki. (I wrote about my first major purging and organizing project in my review of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.)
I got rid of 84 books, 8 bags of clothing, a lot of my DVD collection, and other assorted random objects. I still have a little more work to do, but now that the bulk of it is done I want to switch my focus to the most important part of downsizing material possessions: stopping the flow of things coming in.
I am really inspired by Ann Patchett’s Year of No Shopping, although she gave herself a major pass on my biggest kryptonite: books. (As an author and independent bookstore owner, books are her profession.) I decided to start much smaller and try just a month with no shopping, but books are not on my list of exceptions.
Here’s what I can still buy:
- Food, of any kind. Groceries, delivery, meals out.
- Any personal care items: shampoo, deodorant, etc., or anything medical related: cold medicine, cough drops, prescription refills, etc. (But I have such a stockpile of all this stuff I doubt I’ll need to buy any of it, except for the prescriptions.)
- Anything that I have a recurring subscription to I can still use or receive. I’m not going to cancel magazine subscriptions or Netflix. (Although as part of a separate project, Graham and I will be looking into all our recurring charges: totaling up how much we spend and deciding what we want to keep.)
So: In February (yes, I chose the shortest month), I will attempt a month with no shopping. I will keep notes and report back here on how I did.
Here’s what I think will be most challenging:
- Graham and I will be traveling to Philly for a long weekend, and I always like to visit independent bookstores in the cities I travel to, and I also like to buy books from them to support them.
- Audiobooks: I have a lot of un-listened-to purchases stocked up (and access to wonderful libraries), so I won’t run out of things to listen to. But I am a sucker for Audible’s daily deals and sales, which is how I’ve built a great collection of audiobooks without going broke. Even though these are digital items and don’t take up physical space in our apartment, I’ve decided they are off-limits during the month of no shopping. I am trying to reduce the habit of shopping overall, not just the material possessions in our apartment.
I decided in December to try out this project in 2018 (when I first read the Ann Patchett piece), and I’ve tried to mindfully prepare for it. I didn’t buy a single book in January; I didn’t place a Gap order days before the end of the month. A four week No Shopping experiment wouldn’t be as meaningful if I went crazy in January trying to pre-satisfy any buying urges right before the start of the project.
I recognize that having the means to buy material possessions that I don’t need is a very privileged problem to have. My hope is that being a much more mindful consumer will reduce my environmental footprint, free up my time and energy to devote to worthier causes and pursuits, and increase my and Graham’s ability to use our money in ways that better align with our goals and values: saving more, traveling more, and giving more.
Stay tuned for an update at the end of the month!