My Year of Less, Chapter Two: The Shopping Ban
On behalf of COVID-19, we’re wrapping up nine weeks of social distancing/quarantine/isolation/whatever here in Massachusetts, with a tenth and likely many more before us. The first 8 weeks did not leave me a lot of time for contemplation, as I highlighted in Chapter One of this series, but I knew I must take stock of things. If not during a pandemic, then when?
I’ll admit that the first several weeks of this isolation brought on hundreds of online shipping packages. Maybe not hundreds, but dozens upon dozens. First there were supplies for the kids: markers, colored pencils, paints, notebooks, Chromebooks. Then there were other things. Household things or the elusive gluten free flour that I still can’t purchase in a respectable quantity (and, yes, we have one Celiac person in this house).
Many of these things were, indeed, panic purchases, regardless of their legitimacy. I needed to control somethingabout life, and I could reliably count on having products on my doorstep within a few days of purchase.
Before the pandemic, I can’t say things were all that different, but the scale was certainly smaller. My friends and I reminisced about long walks through Target and Home Goods while our kids were at school and we were out running errands. I could stroll the cleaning aisles and come home with a fantastic new scent of multi-surface cleaner that made the whole house smell like it just leapt from the pages of Better Homes & Gardens magazine, despite having 2-4 full bottles of multi-surface cleaner in a kitchen cabinet at home. A new, different color and style basket could certainly get the kids to organize their things better because, after all, the only reason they’re not doing it is simply because the current basket doesn’t call to them quite right, right? This scarf—this scarf is so pretty and it’s on sale. It will make quick friends with the twenty-five other scarves in the basket of my closet and will complete all wardrobe choices.
You catch my drift. I am not one for big-ticket impulse purchases like new end tables, giant planters, mirrors, or chairs, but $5 here and $10 there must make a dent, I reasoned, because the money goes somewhere. Besides the money aspect, what is it that I’m really trying to buy when I buy these items that I don’t actually need with money that could serve far better uses almost anywhere else?
That last question is the basis for the shopping ban, the first experiment in “less” in what will be a year-long journey toward cultivating a life of more.
By week’s end, as promised, here are my parameters for the ban. You’ll see a list of things I’m allowed to buy, things I’m not, and some explanations for other things where warranted.
What I’m allowed to buy:
-Groceries & vitamins/supplements
-Basic kitchen supplies only as they run out (foil, plastic wrap) or break and truly need to be replaced, like food containers (Tupperware) or utensils.
-Toiletries only as they run out*
-Cleaning products only as they run out*
-Gifts for others
-clothes (as outlined below)
*Only from doTerra and Young Living as available. Their products are nontoxic and cost-conscious. Also, in the case of their concentrated cleaning solutions, they serve many purposes. This also applies to essential oils in general. We use them for overall wellness.
What I’m specifically NOT allowed to buy:
-Books and magazines
-Electronics and appliances
-Things “just because”
-Clothes (see note below)
A Note on Clothes:
For kids: As they outgrow them/wear them out. A damaged piece of clothing will only be replaced if the absence of the damaged item creates a true void (i.e. the last pair of pants or one of two pairs of pants/shorts, etc.). I will buy used and/or on sale whenever possible (hint: it’s almost always possible).
For me: Same rules regarding damaged/worn out clothes. In addition, two specific shoe purchases I’m allowed to make over the next 6 months: 1 pair of sandals (preferably Chaco) and 1 pair of clogs (Dansko or Sanita). I’ve also been shopping around for a windbreaker/light raincoat and a good sports bra for several months and will make those purchases when I find what I’m looking for
While my list of things I’m not allowed to buy could have been summed up with “anything not listed above,” I decided to highlight things that tend to be a challenge for me, or signify ways in which I use shopping for recreation. It seems likely that I will add things to this list, but starting this project during the Coronavirus pandemic means that I’m not in stores at all right now, and haven’t been for 9 weeks, so it’s hard to recall all impulses or “old” shopping habits.
The ultimate goal of this whole project is to cultivate an awareness of the ways in which I reach for external, wordly things to satisfy spiritual needs and to turn it around. Ultimately, inward.
What’s not on either of these lists are things like manicures, pedicures, day spa visits for eyebrow waxing, hair salon visits, and going out to eat. I might get 2-4 pedicures a year, if that, and have a feast or famine relationship with manicures that I’ll reexamine when nail salons are open again. I only get my eyebrows waxed 4-5x a year, and value that, so will likely continue. I’m in the process of growing out my hair (and bangs), so will go in every couple of months for a trim when salons open again. My husband and I, and friends and I, enjoy going out to eat. I’ve had periods of time before where I banned restaurants for the sake of budget, where my husband and I have relegated restaurant visits to once a month, and a number of other rules around that. For the time being, I’m just going to keep an eye on all of that and see how it fits into my life, budget, and overall purpose.
What about the money I’ll save?
In an effort to develop intentionality around my spending habits, I want a way to track the money saved by notspending. Whenever I have the true urge or intention of buying something that’s not approved, I will take the cost of that item in total (including shipping if applicable) and deposit it into our savings account. This isn’t for general window shopping (in person or online) but only if I would truly have made the purchase if not for the ban.
I suspect that the real-time dollar savings will decline over time, as my inclination to shop diminishes and my habits change, but I suspect there will be a great deal of savings for quite some time and am excited to see how that plays into this journey.
I just noticed that Cait Flanders, whose book gave me the idea for this project, began her journey on her 29thbirthday. It was a gift to herself, really, and for me it’s much the same. I’m 37 now and endeavor day after day and year after year to grow, mature, and develop so I have room to be the person God wants me to be. I can’t half-participate in the process of sanctification, or expect the Holy Spirit to do all the heavy lifting. I need to follow the teachings of my faith and the leadings of the Spirit to develop in a manner worthy of the Gospel.
How long will I implement the ban?
My goal for this project as a whole is My Year of Less, so I’d like to say “a year.” I look around my life and my surroundings right now and can’t fathom a single thing I need that I don’t already have. In many ways, this pandemic has broken me of the habit of casually meandering the aisles of stores, though some of that has shifted to casually perusing online aisles.
I have to spend the next year doing something anyway, so why not this? As mentioned in my Chapter One post, there are other things I’ll be approaching “less of” as well, and my intention is to fold each thing into the next—not to set one thing aside to take up the next. I’m starting with spending because it feels like the lowest hanging fruit with the possibility of the biggest overall impact. Though, I’m sure as this project continues I’ll be surprised around every turn, and I look forward to that.
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