Week 54: The Finale!!!

Week 54: The Finale!!!

Ha! I just Googled: How many weeks are there in a year? and it came back with 52 weeks and change. Hilarious, I passed my year mark two weeks ago and didn’t even realize it. I thought it was 54…or that was the number in my head. So here we are, a whole year has rolled around, and what have I learned from this self-imposed challenge?

I’ve realized that the need to shop is truly an illness in our culture. Not to judge everyone else, since this was just about me, but I’ve seen the same struggle going on for many of my friends. I’ve always considered myself to be one who is not susceptible to marketing, (my mom trained me from an early age to be really, really skeptical of advertising ) and yet, I am very much a product of my culture (those wily advertisers/marketers!), and unfortunately our Western culture is based around consumption, to the detriment of all.

I can’t say with any certainty that this year-long exercise has saved me any money. I do know that living the life style that we do (ie living in NorCal with two young kids, a single income, with a house and two cars ) there are expenses that are not going away. Unless we move to a shack in the woods, we will not be free of the cycle of earning and spending. We need to spend in order to maintain what we have. I’m okay with that, I like my life and lifestyle. I have also learned that,without a doubt, complete austerity/conservatism when it comes to spending only leads to backlash: I build up my need to spend and it eventually boils over.

I have also come to appreciate how fortunate we are.

The struggles of this year, to clear my head of the useless search for things, to stop spending just to spend and stressing from the resulting clutter and the attempt to de-clutter…all of this is first world problems. I always keep that in mind. And with all that has happened in this year of insane politics, this exercise has almost lost its meaning.

But I do want to acknowledge myself for making this effort. The pay-off has been great, even if it is hard to measure:

One thing that stands out ( and my Mother-in-Law confirms) is that my kids no longer expect us to shop for things. We shop for groceries, but that’s all the shopping my kids see. We have chosen playing outside, at museums, libraries, and parks over shopping. My kids have been instrumental in helping me overcome my desire for things. When I put them and their needs first, we always end up doing something fun rather than wandering the endless, fluorescent aisles of yet another store. My kids, amazing beings that they are, have for the moment, been de-consumerized (not a word, I know, but fitting).

Another change is that I now am equipped with a “Slow-it-down-and-think” process that helps me eliminate about 80% of the things I consider buying. “Is this love” introduced to me by a friend is a great question that has served me well when considering any purchase.

I have not in any way felt deprived this whole year. I have everything that I need and more. I have just learned to eliminate the excess spending and the resulting stress/depression of over consumption.

I am by no means cured. I still have my moments of desire and want. Yet I am more able to continue to talk myself down, to consider the necessity, to come up with alternative ways to sate the desire to acquire. Sometimes just simply looking at the things I DO have is enough. Definitely a tidying session in my cluttered house is a definite if temporary cure.

The change has not been necessarily very visible, but the impact on our family is large. Or, at least, I think so, though my husband has stayed completely and blissfully unaware of any of my efforts and has not once read a single blog entry of mine. Lol. C’est la vie!

And now what? Will I, at the finale of this year-long challenge, go out on a wild spending spree?

Naw. More likely I will continue to maintain, as best I can; to stay vigilant so as not to slide back into my former ways of consuming mindlessly to fill a void.

So, what happens to this blog space?

I have an idea.

What has been brewing over the course of this year of self analysis and deeper seeking, is the desire to reconnect with my spiritual center.

Part of spending needlessly is the want to fill a void. Needless spending is an empty practice that is cyclical and un-ending. In trying to break that cycle I had to delve deeper to the root causes of disquiet and state of dissatisfaction. What is in that void? I’ve been standing at the edge of something big, hesitant to make the jump.

Now I’m ready to go deeper. I want to be the person and live the life I can envision for myself but haven’t managed to become or do yet. I want to be, in all aspects, more conscious.

And so, I propose that this 365shoppingdetoxblog become a detox from our toxic world of brain-dead smart-phone over-usage, media barrages, over-sharing sharing apps and the constant need for feedback, of acceptance and acknowledgement. I want to go deep and find the core of me that requires nothing but itself. I want to be a better person, more loving, generous, empathetic, thoughtful. I want to be all of these things for me and my family. No more of this in-out of who I am. I want to firmly be me in my centered and best state.

What does that mean?

It’s going to take a lot. I’ve been mulling over the changes that I will need to make in order to make this a reality.

I don’t plan on blogging as regularly as every week; it would be counter to my need to lighten my use of media, but I will regularly check-in and report on my plans and implementation of them.

More to come!

Blessings. Thank you for following my journey!

 

Sharolyn

 

PS. That last useless splurge-impulse-buy, that ukulele I got off of Amazon? I LOVE that thing. I’ve happily been playing for a year, teaching myself bit by bit; first as proof that my last splurge would not become another useless relic, now as a happy addiction. I’m going to be a ukulele rock-star, just you wait!

 

 

 

Week 53: The Cure

Week 53: The Cure

Last week I wrote about my struggle to resist yet another mind-concocted temptation. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to shake. It never is.

First I just stopped looking. That’s step one. Hard when media and Google is at your finger tips. And you know how those ads, the ones targeted specifically to you, tend to show you what you were last looking at? I was seeing Blundstone boots along the border of my Facebook page for days. I averted my eyes.

The next step was to try to get it out of my system via distraction. Maybe, I thought, I just need to shop; window shopping could do the trick. Often, I discover that when I am at the store I lose all interest…the physical reality of things instead of it’s shiny perfect-in-picture-only existence, is sometimes enough to snap me out of it.

One of my favorite places to shop is the thrift store. Because of this year long challenge, though, I’ve been staying away as best I can. Going to thrift stores is a sure way of accumulating unnecessary items. And though they may sell way below retail, a lot of money can go towards impulse bought thrift items too.

That said, I scored a couple of solo hours while my mum-in-law watched the kids, and I headed out for the cure at my local Salvation Army.

My intention was to buy nothing.

I decided to walk aimlessly through the aisles and just see what there was. True to my usual pattern, as soon as I was there, going through the racks of clothes, my desire for clothing vanished. All the fashions seem…boring. All of it has been done, or I keep getting drawn to the same old thing. Each item always has something about it I don’t like. So, it was all working out splendidly: no temptation=no need to decide whether or not to spend. Perhaps this would be the cure I was looking for, a nice dose of reality.

Just as I was about to call it a success and walk out, I overheard a conversation between two middle aged ladies who had just met in the aisle. One was a former model and fashion consultant, the other a woman just trying to get some new-to-her clothes. Well, what happened was just awesome. The former model and fashion consultant started pulling clothes out for her, describing why it worked for her body type and telling her to put away the choices she’d already made and to think outside the box. “You don’t need Macy’s” she said, ” all you need is right here”. The other woman would exclaim “wow! I looked at that but didn’t think I could pull it off” etc. etc. Long story short, that former model was a fashion whiz. She’d take all of two seconds to find exactly what she was looking for for this other gal. She took her to the changing room and had her try it all on and put the outfits together. In under 20 minutes the woman had a new wardrobe and all her choices except one were exactly right. The lady for whom all this was given was just gushing “Oh my! You are amazing! This is amazing! Wow! Oh my gosh!” When I left their vicinity, the fashion whiz was taking her to the other part of the store where she’d help her accessorize.

Somehow, that woman’s positive shopping mojo spread to me. I took a second look at a jacket I had passed and realized it was worth a try on. I scanned the racks and found a dress that had all the right elements with nothing to disqualify it. I even scanned the shoes thinking of my Blundstones…and found a pair of Clark’s boots, barely used.

In the changing room I thought, this is where I can find something wrong and I won’t have to buy these. But all three items fit perfectly.

So folks, it was a cure, but it did cost a bit. I got a barely used made in England Barbour waxed cotton rain jacket (retails for $399) for $9.99, an Olive&Oak dress for $11.48, and Clark’s suede leather boots for $7.

Getting a few items for me felt good and I was, for lack of a better word, sated.

 

And now, for a pearl of wisdom that I accidentally gave myself:

My two girls were fighting over the same *insert toy of any kind here* again. I stopped them and said, “girls, it is silly to fight over the same toy. In a minute, when one of you tires of that toy, the other can have it, but I bet, when your sister loses interest you will too. We always want what we don’t have. The trick is to learn how to make what we do have special, and in that way we will never be dissatisfied. Until we learn to make what we do have special, we will always want what the other has instead.”

I realized immediately, that I need to follow that exact advice. Words to live by.

 

S

Week 52: The Struggle

Week 52: The Struggle

What will it take to rise above temptation? Honestly, I’m exhausted. What has this year taught me?: That we are so brain washed by consumerism that it is almost part of our DNA.

Literally, before opening this tab to write ( a tactic to shift gears out of temptation), I was, once again, looking at Blundstone boots. I WANT a pair of Blundstone boots. I don’t know what sparked this want, I don’t know , I don’t know…but I do. I am having such a hard time shaking it.

I can definitely create reasons for wanting a pair: they are well made and will last a long time (though from reading a few reviews I’ve seen that their quality standards may have slipped). They are great for the winter and spring weather here and can go from work ( I want something to slog in when I go on photo shoots. Read: my old cracked rain boots aren’t good enough though they actually do the job…I just don’t like how they look) to a night out, to hiking. And they pull on! What else could a busy mom ask for?

They are also: totally inappropriate for the upcoming hot weather(if I were to buy them now, I’d only get to wear them a short time before the season changes). They are expensive. I already have a pair of similar boots that are a bit dressier and have heels, but essentially a similar look. No one sells them at a physical store, so they must be ordered on-line which will be a little bit of a rigmarole if I don’t get the fit just right ( Aussie sizing is a bit different).

How much? $175 on average.

If it’s gonna last years, it could be considered reasonable. But then, consider my already full shoe closet. Yes, I KonMaried that closet quite well not too long ago, but it is still far from minimalist. I have shoes for most every occasion, and not many occasions to use many of those shoes.

I have gone through all sorts of mental contortions, from ‘just turn off the computer and stop looking…stop looking!’ to ‘ Well, if I earn them by booking two one hour photography sessions…and/or sell a few items on that Facebook sell page…”

The thing that stops me from pushing that ‘Buy’ button is when I think about how much work it would take me to earn that $175. Or how much in groceries that $175 would get for the family.

Today, with everything being so high cost, $100 is nothing. You spend more in one grocery run, half of that filling a tank of gas. That on a few items of clothing.

But for this mama who only really spends on necessities ie food and gas, who buys clothing rarely and then usually at a thrift store, and who doesn’t earn money regularly if at all…$100 is a lot. Yes that $100 will definitely and unavoidably be spent, but on what? There are so many true needs.

In the long run, are boots and the temporary satisfaction of that new/pretty item more important than my family’s nutritional intake? No. Are they more important than being able to power our car? No. More important than our  gas or electricity bill? No.

I could survive bare foot if I had to. I can survive being un-stylish if that’s the fear.

Heck, it would even be more worthwhile to set that money aside to save for my future “better” camera when I’ve earned my stripes as a legit professional photographer (when my earnings exceed my investment in equipment) and am ready to upgrade.

And yet the Consumer mind is strong. I have no doubt I will be doing some late night drooling over a glowing screen staring at reviews for Blundstones on Zappos...”Free shipping…order in the next 4 hours and 48 minutes to receive them by April 12!! “…Finger hovering over the “Buy” button, fighting the good fight.

S

 

 

Week 51: False Generosity

Week 51: False Generosity

When I think back on this week, really all that stands out is embarrassment at one incident where I didn’t act with personal integrity. Not that you could see it from the outside, but I knew it on the inside.

The story is this ( and it’s a short one): I was unloading my kids from the van in a shopping court parking lot. We were there to get some lunch since it had a been a packed morning and I hadn’t managed to pack a picnic. As I hauled my Littles, stepping up on the curb, a big Armenian-looking man walked straight up to us ( a little intimidating as he was tall and broad and very direct) and said “Hi, Do you have any money so I can get some lunch?” He looked a little rough around the edges, like his story could be legit, so I said, “let me see” and dug into my wallet all while balancing my littlest in one arm against my hip and keeping my eye on my three year old nearby. He attempted gruffly to ask how I was and I absently/guardedly said “good, thank you” and then paused not knowing how to ask that in return of someone obviously down on their luck. He didn’t meet my eyes anyway. I really needed to get my kids to lunch as they were already whining about hunger. I opened my wallet knowing I had some small bills…there were two ones and a five…a reasonable amount to give. At the last moment I skipped past those bills, pulled out a ten and handed it to him. Without a word, he turned and walked straight into the nearby Starbucks.

As I walked then, with my girls, to the fast food Chinese restaurant directly across from the Starbucks (where you can get a good sized bowl of food for under $10) I mused that I had just given away our lunch money to a man who chose lattes over real food, or (to give him the benefit of the doubt) real food at a steep price and small portions.

As I sat there with my kids I realized I was kinda pissed. And then I stopped myself. I know that, if you are going to give, you need to give without conditions and let go of the outcome. I managed to let it go…for all of a minute and then realized that I kept returning to irritation.

I was conflicted, would be the word.

Recently I had arrived at the conclusion that I want to be more generous. I feel, often that I am too self centered, selfish and hoarding of my stuff. I really believe that in order to experience abundance one must also let things go. I want to live by that standard, embody my beliefs. I find that I am better and better about being generous with friends, and I never regret that. However, with giving to a stranger, I realized that I have attachments. Part of me was peeved that he didn’t even say thank you. But while that is a nice thing to receive, gratitude, it shouldn’t be a requirement. To give without attachment is to expect nothing in return. By my reaction I realized how much my ego was involved. At the moment of choosing what to give, I gave more, not just because it felt right, but because on some level I wanted to see his surprise and gratitude. Talk about instant karmic lesson.

I am humbled.

And because I am in the process of trying to restrict spending, part of me felt that, because I had let that small portion of my money go, I should pair back what we then spent on our own lunch. And then I felt resentful. How crazy is the monkey mind.

The moral or conclusion of this story? Act with integrity or don’t do it.

I should feel fully empowered to say no, if I know that I will not be able to give without attachment. I want to be generous, but I can take baby steps where strangers are concerned.

My take away: the act of giving should hold no strings. If by my giving I will create a tangled ball of monkey-mind thoughts, I should take a pass on it and look to other ways to be generous. I can always return to that mode of giving, once I have mastered my inner world a bit more fully.