Rumor has it a habit is formed in 21 days. If so, does this mean I won’t backslide? I hope so, since much of the urge to shop is gone.
It’s Day #22 and after three weeks I’ve seen the difference not shopping makes in my life. Maybe it’s too soon for a Top 10 list, but maybe I’ll do one every month and see what sticks and what doesn’t.
During this first month, just off the top of my head I came up with these:
- I’m less eager to go shopping even if it’s ‘allowed’ and I’m lacking essential stuff. Browsing, looking, buying used to be a form of entertainment, but since I no longer equate shopping with fun, it’s become a chore. Why leave my warm house, get in the car, and drive to the market for groceries when there’s food in the freezer, the pantry and the fridge? It may not be exactly what I want to eat, but there’s nothing wrong with it.
- My bank account is growing. I hadn’t thought about this until my friend Debbie said outright, “You must be saving money not shopping.” Yeah. Probably so. She would know, as she’s traveled with me to the Catskills, to Woodstock, to Cape Cod, and has seen how I never come back empty-handed.
- I use cash instead of credit cards. Paper is convenient and faster than plastic. Nowadays my purchases are on a much smaller scale; the total dollar amount can be counted on two hands. Remembering that I used to drop over $100 on incidentals like personal care products, office supplies and linens — that’s staggering. Did I really need any of it?
- I have more free time. I don’t read sale emails or click through to websites. I don’t browse online catalogs or shop online. Those two alone used to suck up hours every week.
- I produce more now that I consume less. I’ve been writing more, cooking more, organizing more of my life and possessions. One thing I haven’t done is watch more TV, as viewing media is a form of consumption; I’ve had that addiction take root during some of the worst periods in my life. Plus, commercials are a waste of time. If you can’t or don’t buy things, they’re meaningless. More on that in #6.
- I am quieter. That sounds unrelated, but it’s not. I think my need to shop was a way to keep my mind busy, my hands doing things, my legs moving. Shopping was a way to play pretend, a version sanctioned by grownups for other grownups because it improves the economy. It was pretend in that I’d visualize myself wearing, applying, decorating, using potential purchases and seeing myself better, improved, more attractive, more likable, more glamorous, more admirable, more together. Shopping is fueled by a sense of lack — we consume in the belief we are going to gain from what we buy — and this lack in turn fueled the voice of self-doubt inside that was always chattering about how I fell short and how I could do better. When there is no shopping, focusing on the lack is less likely to occur. You can’t change it, so you come to some sort of accommodation. Thus my life is quieter because my head is quieter.
- I observe more. I see how much snow has melted now that the temperatures have edged above freezing. Since I’m home more I take the dogs out every 3-4 hours and in a single day I’m aware of change, the small incremental change in the season, the sound of water dripping and the smell of the muddy earth. I feel more connected, more in touch with what’s real.
- I’m clever about being frugal, to the point at which I’m cheap. Here’s an example. My dogs love plush animals and spend hours gnawing on stuffed toys, eventually shredding them. Before, I used to sweep clumps of polyester stuffing and thrown them in the garbage. Now I gather them up, re-stuff their toys, sew them up and give them back to my dogs. They don’t know any better so they’re happy. Their favorite warthog has become something of a cat toy in that it’s already had four separate lives.
- I’m planning more trips. In the past couple of weeks friends have talked about their vacation plans and asked if I wanted to be included. Sure! I expect to have the money because I’m saving much more than I used to. Since I’m going with a different mindset — to enjoy myself rather than shop and bring home stuff — traveling is not going to take the kind of financial toll on my budget that it has in the past.
- I’m satisfied with less. This is to be expected, but the satisfaction comes with a sense of ease. I’m not driven by FOMO — fear of missing out — because in this practice is the recognition that I already have what I need. Unexpectedly, that’s the best outcome of this whole experiment so far.
All this I’ve noticed in the past month.
Individually insignificant? Maybe. But together they reflect the shift in how I spend each day.
Since this process has been relatively easy so far, I anticipate there will be bumps ahead as nothing truly worthwhile comes easy. But for now I’m grateful. Every day the journey reveals something new.