Guess who else is killing consumerism? Kim McLeod

FB_IMG_1454933482874A few people have approached me over the last year regarding my non-shopping journey, though none quite so inspirational as this young lady.

Meet Kim McLeod. She’s vowed that 2016 will be her year of killing consumerism, so she’s sworn off buying all those little luxuries that we’ve convinced ourselves are ‘needs.’

Here’s what she has to say about her journey so far:

1. What has been the most surprising thing? The feeling of walking away from a sale and how quickly I forget about it. When the option to buy something is eliminated it’s kind of freeing!

2. Hardest thing not to buy? Clothes and jewellery! I’m not a big spender, but I never walk away from a sale!

3. Why did you commit to a year of no shopping? I did it because I didn’t think I could and wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to be in control and be able to walk away from a sale. I already have so much stuff and, after visiting Nepal and seeing how content people are with so little, I realized I’d rather save money so I can bless others rather than accumulating things. I also feel like I’ve been called to live simply so after I saw you do it I thought I needed to at least try.

4. What used to be your biggest shopping weakness? Online shopping. Darn those Facebook adverts!

5. No 1 tip for quitting shopping? Avoid all shops. So far so good.

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I need more boundaries

385428_10150435859463143_1946831023_nLast year I completed my ‘no shopping’ challenge. As you’d know, I found it easier than expected and enjoyed feeling liberated from my consumerist lifestyle.

Then the end of the year came.

I was free.

And as I have so often found before, freedom without boundaries leads to bondage.

Restarting shopping came with several unexpected pitfalls.

Judgement: People who had watched my ‘non-consumerist’ journey, now felt free to judge my every purchase. All of a sudden I was a hypocrite.

Extravagence: Over the year, I’d had a build up of things that I needed, so when the end of the year came, I bought a lot of stuff. I felt myself begin to slide down the slippery slope towards the pit that I’d spent a year climbing out of; my love of shopping came oozing back.

That sick, icky, guilty feeling: I loved shopping again, but I wasn’t feeling good. I felt like someone who had been on a healthy diet for a year, and had then gone out and eaten cake, and chips, and chocolate. Not in excess… I wasn’t being excessive, but my body was used to better things.

So now it’s the end of January, and I know I need boundaries. This year, apart from op shopping, I’ll buy only one new thing per month. And if it’s clothing, I’ll do it ethically. I want to be calculated and think about what I need. And I want to be free to give more.

My new shopping challenge

bohemian-chic_19-130070 I always thought that shopping ethically meant wearing hippie linens and sandals and frequenting Oxfam.

I found it to be a bit of a moral dilemma. While I felt an underlying guilt over my vague knowledge of child and factory worker exploitation, I also didn’t see how I could commit to tie dye and scratchy cottons.

Then I came across Baptist World Aid’s ethical fashion guide, and the pieces started to fall in to place. They produce an annual guide that rates every day Australian brands on their labour rights and living wages. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that when I first came across it, I still thought it was a bit beyond me, but after quitting shopping entirely for a year, I began to wonder why I couldn’t make these changes.

I’ll be honest and say, I’m not yet committing for life. I’ve been tragically dependent on products that come to me via slavery and poverty, but I’m making a start. I don’t know if I’ll make a long-term difference, but I’ve decided that’s no reason not to try.

So this year, at least, I’m sticking to buying only from stores that have a green B rating or higher. That means boycotting Myer, Portmans and Valleygirl, and embracing Witchery, Sportsgirl, Cotton On and Kmart.

I’d love you to join me!

You can download the Baptist World Aid Ethical Shopping Guide here, or for a more comprehensive list (that rates on other things too) download the ‘Good on You’ app.

Things I’ve learned from killing consumerism #14 – I did it!

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Today marks the final day of my no-shopping challenge. When I started at the beginning of the year, I was fairly confident it was doable and fully confident it would be painful.

I was surprised.

What I’ve learned most this year is that going without, when you already have so much, is not only doable, but easy. I can probably count on one hand the number of times this year that not buying something was actually really difficult.

Instead, this whole experience was liberating.

I’ve been challenged to live simply, to give more and to consume less. It sickens me how much stuff I bought that I didn’t need; how retail therapy was such a go-to thing for me and how stress inducing that rollercoaster of see-want-consume-see-want-consume is.

My strict no shopping days are over but I’m also determined to guard myself against ‘relapse.’ I’m a convert. Consumerism no longer holds me and I hope that I’ll live a more simple giving-focused life for many years to come.

My journey isn’t over. I already have a plan for next year’s project (stand by), but I want to put out this challenge:

Make 2016 your year of killing consumerism. I did it. You can too. All you need is to make the decision and you’re 80% of the way there.

Things I’ve learned from killing consumerism #13 – We want beauty for ourselves

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I’ve been thinking about why it is that I used to shop so much, when I’m actually completely fine without it. It’s as though I had this consumer instinct inside me that just needed to possess. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much this permeates all of our lives.

We’re not content to just look… we want beauty for ourselves.

I think this covetous instinct dates back to the beginning of time, but it astounds me how it has exploded in recent decades. It’s not just about buying; it’s about capturing. Why is it that half of us travel the world, seeing it all through a camera lens? Why is it that we record concerts and speeches and sermons? Why is it that when I see something beautiful in the shops, I feel such a desperate need to possess it?

Is it fear? Are we afraid that if we don’t hold on to things, the beauty will be lost? Why can we not just stop, look, appreciate and move on? There’s enough beauty to go round.

P.S. I wonder if I could go a whole year without taking a photo? Just a thought…

Things I’ve learned from killing consumerism #12 – ‘Groceries’ is a broad word

I’m five weeks off the end of my no retail challenge. I think I’ve learned a fair bit. I’ve given up a lot, but I also know I’ve exploited a couple of loopholes.

This weekend I bought a tree – a mandarin tree. And yes, I justified it as groceries. I mean, that’s what it will ultimately turn into, right? What’s $40 now when in two years I’ll have all the free mandarins I want?20151025_170005

I do think it’s justifiable, but I could have tried harder. I could have found out how to cultivate a tree from cuttings (is that even possible?) or grow it from seeds. I guess that’s the difference between me doing this challenge as a challenge and doing it as a necessity.

I can look for loopholes and excuse myself for buying things under the banner of groceries. I really have no idea what it’s like to live pay check to pay check and not be able to afford a new dress. I’ve gone without by choice. I can’t presume to know what it’s like to go without by necessity.

I hope I’ve learned more discipline. I hope I’ve learned to live simply and not gratify my lust for shopping. But at the end of the day, I have to acknowledge, that really, I’m still a rich girl who can afford to look for loopholes.

Things I’ve learned from killing consumerism #11 – Reclaiming the joy of shopping

Fashion, Freedom

My birthday is at the end of the year, and as I’ve found things I liked this year, I’ve kept them in mind as possible birthday presents.

It’s been like being a kid again, in those days when the anticipation of getting something would drag out for months, either until I saved enough money, or until my birthday came.

Today I bought some things for my parents to give me for my birthday. I’d had my eye on them for about 4 months, so I knew I really wanted them, and then today I discovered there was a sale at the store.

It had been so long since I’d first seen these items, that I knew they could be sold out and they were no longer listed online.

I actually prayed on the way. I prayed that if God wanted me to have them they would be there, and that if not, I would be content in that.

It was all there. And all 60% off.

For the first time this year, I bought something for myself (though I won’t actually ‘receive’ it til December.)

I couldn’t believe how it felt. No buyers remorse. No guilt. No feelings of excess. Just a real joy that I haven’t felt since I was a kid, after having saved for something for months.

My going without has returned to me a more pure form of shopping joy.

 

Things I’ve learned from Killing Consumerism #10 – The joy of receiving

I’ve always loved receiving gifts, but I’ve noticed over the last few years that the enjoyment has worn off. I loved the thrill of being surprised with something I really wanted, but, as I got older, I found that people seemed to miss the mark. I slowly, and somewhat cynically, lowered my expectations.

Just this week, I suddenly realized why.

I had lost the art of wanting, and so had lost the joy of receiving. It is dizzying to think of the speed at which I purchased things to meet my every whim. Before anyone had time to think to buy something for me, I had already bought it for myself.CJ3JXUcWoAAZIaE

This year has been different. At first I noticed it slowly: the joy of a beautiful candle as a housewarming gift; two friends who bought me a necklace because they knew I wouldn’t buy it myself. But then, on Friday night, it all hit home with sparkling clarity.

I was out for dinner and got a text from mum saying they’d bought me something. I dropped past their house on the way home.

They’d bought me Harper Lee’s ‘new’ book, Go set a Watchman. I was thrilled, and touched and blessed. And suddenly it hit me. If it weren’t for my resolution this year, I would have pre-ordered the book before it even hit the shelves. In holding back, and depriving myself, I’m creating room for others to bless me. And I’m rediscovering the joy of receiving.

Things I’ve learned from Killing Consumerism #9 – I bought something, but I can totally justify it

2015-07-06 21.34.33It’s time to confess.

I vowed to be honest at the beginning of the year about anything I did buy this year, so here’s the rundown.

I bought a book. I bought it online while at work. I got it sent to work. It’s to check out to possibly have on the curriculum at work. I’ll claim it on tax. I think that’s ok.

I bought a pot. It is a black flowerpot that I was intending to plant my coriander in. It cost 74c. It’s too big anyway and I’d completely forgot I wasn’t supposed to buy it until I already had. I think I’ll take it back.

I bought a No Junk Mail sign. It cost me $3.95 from Bunnings. I knew it was stretching the rules, but you know what? It’s worth it. Now when I drive past my mailbox in the mornings and see all the junk spilling out of everyone else’s slot, mine is clear. No longer will I be assailed by the tirade of consumeristic, promotional rubbish. No longer will those mountains of paper be wasted on me.

I used to enjoy flicking through the junk mail, but no longer. It’s taken me 6 months of buying nothing to finally make the move, and I had to break the rules to do it, but I’m not looking back.

Things I’ve learned from Killing Consumerism #8 – Consuming makes the world go ’round?

In general, when people have asked me about my non-shopping project this year, they’ve been somewhat impressed. I get lots of questions about how hard it is and what I do and don’t buy and how I’m coping.

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This question, over lunch one Sunday, was a new one:

‘But doesn’t our economy rely on consumerism?’

Now that, I hadn’t thought of.

If westerners, presumably the largest consumer body in the world, ceased to consume to the same excessive extent that we do, would our economies, or even the economies of many poorer countries that support our habits, collapse?

Has the world become reliant on our greed and excess?

I don’t know. But it doesn’t really worry me for two reasons:

  1. I don’t see a large-scale departure from our consumerist ways, and
  2. I think it’s more of a moral issue than an economic one.

Greed and gorging on excess is something that should probably prick the conscience of any moralist. I think we can all afford to depart from excessive consumerism on moral grounds, and leave the economy to God.

After all, when a country sticks to God’s moral law, things tend to go pretty well.

Go figure.