I have bought no stuff except food this week, and it is awesome.
Somehow, in ways I don’t understand, my capacity for buying stuff appears to be tied to my capacity for creating stuff. The same week I cut myself off from buying things other than food, I finally started writing stories again. For the first time since… high school? Yep. High school.
That’s one side benefit I was definitely not expecting.
It hasn’t been all sunshine and daisies. I realized less than a day into my year-long resolution to Buy No Stuff that I had at least one project I would have to nix; I had been planning to get a smart TV, and get rid of the rickety tower of milk crates I currently use to prop up the Netflix computer while I exercise. On the other hand… I was also going to sell the computer that has been my Netflix-portal. And I really don’t need to do either of those things. The milk-crate-Netflix tower works fine for now, and I can wait until it stops working to fix it. (Besides, although it’s been a good 6 months, there’s no guarantee I’ll still be exercising as much in another 6.)
That said, this first week of buying nothing has helped me really see how much I already have. I’m pretty sure I have enough shampoo for the next year. I have enough bars of hotel soap for the next ten years, so I’ll probably end up giving most of them to a local shelter. I have more clothes than I need, though by the end of this year I may only have one or two pairs of pants left in wearable shape. I don’t have (or want) a printer, or a CD player, and that’s how I like it. I have so many art supplies that I’ve been giving them away so I have space to work with the ones I actually like. I even have enough board games to keep me busy all year (though at some point next year I’ll probably acquire a copy of Ricochet Robots).
More than those individual categories of stuff, though, this week I’ve been noticing the way privilege makes this goal possible — even reasonable. I live in a house where we don’t lock our doors. In the eleven years friends have been living here, there’s never once been a robbery. I didn’t need to go out and buy a bunch of supplies before starting this project, because I inherited a house-full of stuff when my mom passed away. I’ve been sifting through it and giving it away as quickly as I can, and luckily there’s space in our garage for all the things I still don’t know what to do with.
This year-long goal probably isn’t one that would work for everyone. I hear kids grow pretty fast; they’d need clothes sometime during a year. Babies need diapers, people with retail businesses need stock, and sometimes things we need day-to-day up and quit. A friend suggested a modification of the rules that allows replacing things if they break, or get used up, and I think that version would work for many more people.
Even if you have to modify the goal, I’d encourage you to try out a ban on
shopping for a while. Try a week, or a month. Let yourself relax into a way of being that doesn’t involve buying stuff for a while, and see what that freedom lets you discover about yourself, your priorities, and your life.
What’s so important that you have to buy it right now, anyway? Could you wait a few weeks or a month before shopping again? Do you buy enough stuff to run up credit card debt? What do you expect would change about your life if you didn’t buy things you didn’t need?