Happy New Year! 2020 is upon us. But rather than serve up yet another post about New Years Resolutions, we thought we’d share the deeply inspiring, final instalment of Jess’s No Purchasing Year. Because there’s something wonderfully motivating about reading the story of a person who set a (lofty) goal and stuck to it. I, personally, found this so inspiring. It’s made me reflect on my own habits and how I can improve them going forward. The lessons that Jess has learned are the perfect sentiment for carrying into a fresh new year. If you fancy a recap on Jess’s No Purchasing Year, here’s where to catch her first instalment and second instalment. Without further introduction, I’ll hand you over to Jess…
1st October 2019 was the day I changed my life. I didn’t necessarily know it at the time, I just thought it would be a fun challenge but my year of no purchasing turned into a year of soul-searching, of reconnecting, of appreciation of the things that matter most.
A brief recap for those of you who haven’t been following my story – I decided to try a year of no purchasing because I found myself caught in the web of consumerism and I wanted to step off of the treadmill and pursue less materialism and more meaning. It’s been a whirlwind year. Here are the major lessons I’ve taken away from this journey:
Stuff doesn’t make you happy
Shopping used to be a hobby and something I considered made me happy. But once I removed it from my life I realised all it really was is a distraction and something I used to make me feel better when I was unhappy/bored. It wasn’t the stuff that made me happy, it was the feeling when shopping of having something that might change my life – a book, a new foundation, a new dress (it didn’t). Once I got past the initial withdrawal stage, I began to feel better about myself and not associate my self-esteem with my stuff.
Stuff costs more than you think
One of the reasons that I justified buying the things that I did was because of the price – it’s on offer, it’s a steal, it’s buy one, get one free, it is in the sale, etc. However, what I’ve come to realise is that price is just one element of what is paid for everything I purchase. I then have to store it, clean it and maintain it – giving it precious space in my home. Do I really need more stuff coming into my home? Usually not. And it might just be something small like a mascara but every morning do I need the added mental space that is taken up deciding which mascara I need to wear? Sounds silly I know but it all adds up – which cleanser, which mascara, which outfit, the skinny jeans or the high waisted jeans? I want less choice, less care about the things that really don’t matter and less concern over storing, tidying up (which becomes infinitely easier during a no-spend year) and maintaining all of the things that I wasted my money on.
I’ve ALWAYS got something to wear
When I started the process I thought what would I do if I didn’t have something to wear? Truthfully, I’ve always had something to wear. Apart from the fact that I transitioned from breastfeeding back to normal underwear again, I have not had to go without. When my beloved jewel-encrusted flats died in the middle of the year (RIP Topshop faves) I replaced them (with some much more sensible, not quite up to the Topshop beauty but infinitely better for my feet Clarks numbers). And that is how I’ve lived – buying less but buying better. It took me nine months before I needed to buy any skincare because I already had so much, I didn’t realise just how much we can accumulate without even being aware. On another note – toys. We have a modest selection of toys which is how I like it and in the past, people have commented on my low amount of toys as if my daughters are deprived but what I’ve realised is that we definitely don’t need more toys – I took an entire two bags and put them into the garage and nobody noticed any of them had gone. We only have three baskets of toys and yet two bags worth made no impact when they disappeared. I think that was an eye-opening moment in lessons of enough-ness. It’s shown me that how many toys you need (or clothes or cleansers) is a personal preference and everybody has a different perspective (and often an opinion). The girls played for three hours the other day with a wooden spoon and a balloon so, they may be deprived of toys but they more than make up for it in imagination.
Relationships are the most important thing
An obvious lesson but nevertheless, one I wanted to share. In a world where a shop assistant asks you if you would like an eyebrow pencil that will give you an “Insta-brow” (translation: an eyebrow that looks better on social media than in real life – I kid you not), I realised that consumer culture is fueled by the need to always be “on” and selfie-ready. It’s easy to think that we nurture our friendships because it can feel that way with the likes and comments on social media but authentic connection isn’t something you can achieve via an app. This year has inspired me to spend more time meeting in person with friends, going for swims, long walks, catch-ups in pavement cafes – spending money where I think it matters most – building connection, community and self-care. Living authentically rather than appearing a certain way.
New doesn’t mean better
Ah, the marketing magic of “new”. How many times when someone pays us a compliment do we brush it off with “Oh, it’s old” as if new is somehow magically better. The lure of new is a funny old marketing myth and one I’ve learned holds little weight at all. Now my year has ended I will definitely be buying less and when I DO buy, it won’t be unnecessarily new.
Some questions I have been asked a lot during my year:
What was the hardest part of the year?
The hardest part was probably the January sales. Due to the way my year ran, I had just passed the three-month mark by this point and the initial excitement about not purchasing had worn off. I felt tired, crappy (I had just given up dairy and was going through a lot of withdrawal issues) and was sleep-deprived with a six month old. We lost our dear dog in the second week of January and the grief was immense. I really felt an urge to shop at that time (this was probably the moment that I became acutely aware of how my mood affected my consumption). I got through this by unsubscribing to everything and unfollowing all of the accounts of my favourite brands. It was a very tough time emotionally and it forced me to sit with the feelings I had around losing Jasper which was ultimately an incredibly important process for healing.
Will I continue it?
No. Haha, I think people expect me to say I will but in all honesty, I like being able to buy things and I don’t think it’s healthy remaining in either camp of buy-lots or buy-nothing. I think it’s good to buy nice things occasionally from a place of presence and purpose. But I won’t buy unnecessarily, I’ll never shop for “fun” again and I feel I’ve learned lessons through this experience that have changed my life forever.
What would I say to anybody considering a spending sabbatical?
Do it. Don’t worry about failure, you don’t need to tell anybody or go public with the declaration as that just adds pressure. Just do it for you – I promise it will be one of the best things you’ve ever done. You don’t need to do a year or even put a time limit on it at all, just dive in and give it a go. You may be surprised what you discover.
What did you miss buying most during the no-purchasing challenge?
Books. OMG BOOKS – I missed them so much. But a few months in I joined the library and binged there – I took out like 9 books in one go and read….zero. I realised that I buy a lot of books but never read them so I would rather purchase less but with intention. For my birthday I was given a voucher for Waterstones and I literally did not know what to do as it wasn’t technically spending to use the voucher but it WAS shopping – so I didn’t use it. Then in October when my no-spend year was over, I went to Waterstones and spent a few blissful hours browsing (reading lots of back covers and introductions) and then buying one book with my voucher and having a coffee in the café with my new book – it was the best shopping experience I’ve ever had, literally ever. Quality over quantity. And I read that entire book.
A word on minimalism
I am really passionate about minimalism as a concept and enjoy reading about minimalist culture. Although I have taken many lessons from this, I don’t consider myself a minimalist because I’m not aspiring to live a minimal life (eg reduce more until I have less), I am simply aiming for “enough-ness”. Being happy with what I have – not obsessively counting spoons so I only have two (over-exaggerating but you get the gist). I basically don’t want to be caught in consumerism (buying stuff because of the shiny marketing campaign) but I also don’t want to be following a rigid set of rules (mustn’t buy another jumper as I’m only “allowed” three). And in all honesty, I’m a little disengaged with the entire social media side of minimalism which often seems to be a buzzword to conceal consumerism behind a carefully crafted on trend concept #gifted
I truly have learned so much during my year of no spending. It’s made me think about how I purchase, why I purchase and where I purchase. It’s made me appreciate things that matter a whole lot more and it’s even given me the push I needed to pursue a long held personal dream that was buried beneath all of the belongings. What I realised is that spending is so often procrastination or distraction in disguise – it’s easier to shop than it is to sit with yourself and do some soul searching but I learned that my power lies in my heart, not in my purse and that if I pursue what I love and what lights me up in life then I will be infinitely richer. And that’s priceless.
How do you currently feel about your relationship to shopping?
Do you have any plans to change your habits this year?