I have to start this post by saying a huge Thank you to Brooke Mcalary for her inspiration and motivation for this challenge! her podcasts and books are a great place to get started for anyone who is keen to try this more themselves.
If you haven’t been following the journey, you can catch up on week one, week two, and week three by clicking on the links. So here we are, 30 days of not buying, and of clearing out lots of clutter. Beyond food, fuel, and a couple of bunches of flowers, I’ve not bought anything, and it’s felt really good. I was unsure when I took on the thirty days if it would feel more like a challenge, but as I explained last week, it hasn’t felt like one.
Words I would use to sum up the past few weeks include:
The space is not just literal-having cleared out more than two thousand items from our home, there certainly is a bit more space in the cupboards. Mentally, there feels like more space, when you take out the option of should I buy this or that, where will this or that go.
I have generally been surprised, both by the impact of the challenge, and also the sheer quantity of certain items we had. having emigrated here from Australia last year, and sorted through so many of of our possession then, I would have been sure we weren’t still hoarding lots of unnecessary thing. But 21 pillow cases still managed to tag along of the trip!
A sense of intention is a slightly tricky this to explain, but I have found the challenge has made me think about what matters more in our lives i guess. And it’s also made me think about what we do actually need.
As I mentioned before, the mental space, and sense of calm. When you aren’t spending, ordering, returning, feeling guilty about spending, eyeing up the next purchase-it all just feels that bit calmer.
The clarity is certainly a result of all of the above. i feel more able to look at our lives and focus on what we enjoy. Shopping does not make the cut (especially with a toddler!). I would say we have spent the past month doing more, and experiencing a more full life, which seems really interesting given we weren’t physically adding to it.
I thought it might feel like a really boring month, like January both resolutions. But actually we have done more this month. With trips to the library, time with family, visiting friends and generally prioritising more important things as opposed to wandering round the shops-it’s been great.
I also thought at the beginning, it would be a little like a “diet”, that I would fast for thirty days, but could binge at the end (and put back on all the weight plus a bit). The first week I would look at items and think-it’s okay, I will just buy it in four weeks time. And even told myself, with all the money I had saved, I could buy myself something really nice. missing the point a little hey? Now I have reached the end of the thirty days, I don’t feel I want to rush out and buy anything, yes there are a couple of things we need-Intrepid Bebe is down to only wellie boots which fit her now. And the nature of having a rapidly growing two year old does mean purchasing a certain about of clothing every few months is going to be essential. But even the way i intend to go about that has altered. I have been really looking into shoes for her, rather than just grabbing a couple of pairs and the nearest shops. And I keep weighing it up, how to make the most appropriate choice.
When it comes to mental health, a big aim is to create space between a thought and an action or reaction. To ‘notice’ what you are feeling, before necessarily running away with the thoughts. And this experience is similar. Rather than ‘impulse purchases’, and manic clicking at every whim, this challenge has created that space in between thought and action.
Beyond a less busy home (with less housework!), and mental calm, here are a some bigger, and possible life changing things which the challenge has given our family:
I spoke that week about the fact we no longer felt this hurried need to extend our home. Yes perhaps eventually we may find two bedrooms isn’t enough. But at this stage (with a toddler who barely uses her own bed), it makes far more sense to reduce some of the stuff from the house, as opposed to build more space and buy more stuff.
There are lots of reasons for Mother’s to work, far beyond monetary, the sense of self, their own wellbeing, career aspirations etc. But I often used to say that for me to work part time, and pay for child care, I would come home with little more than the sum of my online shopping habit. I appreciate this isn’t the case for everyone, but if I look at the facts, eight pounds on that book, a two pound magazine, a thirty pound top, three pounds for some pens, a twelve pound piece of make up, a five pound toy, a six pound pot plant- it all adds up, and for anyone, removing all of that could mean you can take those hours back as your own time. And to be missing time with my daughter purely to afford these things, things which I will barely recall in a week, well it’s a simple choice when it’s spelt out like that isn’t it? This is not to say i do not intent to work, it’s just drawing up the amazing difference of not shopping.
It became apparent very quickly to me that purchasing for myself wasn’t the main source of my shopping, it was for my daughter. Almost daily I would see a cute outfit, or think of another toys she would love, hear about a new book I knew she would enjoy. But I think we all know, our children want our energy and attention. I am sure i am not the only one who’s child can have a room full of toys but still want me to play with her (and usually with a random stick or something non-toy instead). I don’t want to try and substitute my time and love with stuff, and I don’t want to convey the message that she needs stuff to be happy, and teaching her not to search externally, that she has all she needs exactly where she is. And also, i was forced to admit to myself I buy her clothes for me, she still shouldn’t care less what she wears.
So going forward?
Well I intend to try and continue as I have been really, the thirty days may have ended, but as with the “diet” analogy I used earlier, we all know that the real was to maintain a health weight is a lifestyle change, not a quick fix. I am not saying i am never going to buy anything for myself again, but certainly, I hope to approach it in a more moderate and considered way. I would have thought two thousand items was a lot to get rid of, but actually there’s so much more to go, so I am containing working through them, and revisiting the cupboards (see here for how to get started on your own home!). Intrepid Bebe definitely needs some shoes, but as for the musical guitar (I must be a masochist?), jumpsuit, and new pop up book-I think i will just go and play with her instead.
I would love to hear if you have tried a similar shopping ban and the impact it’s had.
You can read about our next thirty day challenge here.