I would NEVER have conceived of not shopping for a year had I not read “The Year of No Shopping” by Ann Patchett that ran in the New York Times on December 15, 2017.
I posted the article on my Facebook page and asked my social network if anyone wanted to join me in taking this challenge for 2018. Two out of my 1000 “Facebook friends” responded. Two other friends, who are not on Facebook, said they were interested, so that brought us to five, which is a solid number for a group. Doing anything in a group is more fun than doing it alone, not to mention that your likelihood of success multiplies. Outside accountability when forming a new habit is helpful. It doesn’t matter how disciplined you are; habits take months to develop.
I emailed my No Shopping group, and everyone agreed to a January 15th start date.
These are our rules:
— No apparel.
— If there are desperate needs that come up (athletic gear), ask your husband for Valentine’s Day, bday, whatever. But don’t cheat and ask for a new handbag. That breaks the spirit of the rule.
— Outsource as much as possible to your husband, babysitter, whatever. Food is included because it’s a downward spiral.
— No browsing, anywhere.
— Gifts: as much as possible, give books. Stuff like other children’s birthday gifts — try to outsource.
— Experiences ok- travel, exercise classes, mani/pedi- if you can’t take it home in a shopping bag, you can have it.
— If you’re invited to something you don’t feel like you have the right clothes for, DON’T GO!
— Check social media twice a week only for 20 min period, unless using it for work-related activity.
— Can replace cosmetics/toiletries you already have once they run out and try to use excess in your medicine cabinet or under sink beforehand.
Shopping has been a blind spot of mine for a long time. I had a cognitive understanding that I shopped a lot, but still gave myself permission to do it, which is often the case in blind spots we learn of but want to retain. I am not referring to big-ticket items either. I cut back on that two years ago after a marital spat, where I came face to face with the disconnect between my entitlement and our bank account. After that, my shopping got sneaky.
I rationalized the time and excess by connecting it to my family. I spent more time and money than I budgeted in Whole Foods, squeezing organic fruit and filling my cart with seemingly healthy products I didn’t need. Amazon boxes arrived in piles every day containing one item each. A box with a new emoji notebook for my daughter, a box of caramel tea to add to a shelf that was already overstocked with ten other boxes of tea, a six-pack of pens that looked like they wrote more smoothly than the ten I already had in a cup on my desk. Three small items in three huge boxes, the waste alone was disturbing.
I shopped for things I already had, things I didn’t need. I bought backup for everything I deemed essential for life to run smoothly. God forbid, I had a tea emergency and had to run half a block to D’Agastino. There is clutter in every closet and drawer in my home. What is the layer below this habit? Below any unproductive habit? Is shopping a distraction? If so, from what? What will happen if I run out of something?
Leading to the January 15th start date, I panicked. The weekend before I intended to stop by all my favorite stores to stock up. I wasn’t able to execute this plan, and now a month later, I can’t recall everything on that list. I am sitting with my questions, uncomfortably so when a craving strikes.
Overall, not shopping is a relief. The fact that it’s off the table as an option creates space in my brain and schedule. Abstinence is the easiest way to jump-start significant change.
Don’t get me wrong; if I go down the rabbit hole of wondering if I have enough jeans to last me a year, I can quickly become concerned. What if I gain or lose 5lbs? Then buying new jeans would become a necessity that my group would understand. My mind is always ready and willing to offer me loopholes.