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.

Things I’ve learned from killing consumerism #7 – You don’t know it’s enough til it’s enough

shopping--outlet--skirt--skirts_3196466“Miss, I haven’t seen you wear the same thing all year.”

This comment came from one of my year 12 boys last week. Now let’s face it, boys aren’t the most observant, I’m sure I’ve worn several things multiple times, but he does have a point.

I’ve generally aimed to mix and match and not wear the same thing multiple times in the classroom… in a weird sort of way I think it’s respectful to the kids… but who would have thought that four months in to not buying anything I’d still be managing to not double up. In fact, as I think about it, there are multiple items in my wardrobe (I’d take a stab and say 20) that I actually haven’t worn all year.

So, once again I find myself asking how it was that I ever really believed that I ‘needed’ more stuff. Maybe it’s because you don’t know it’s enough till it’s enough. You don’t know you’re being excessive until you realize how easily you can live with less.

Things I’ve learned from killing consumerism #6- I’m still hungover from my drunkenness

I’ve been trying to figure out why it’s been so ridiculously easy for me to quit shopping. So easy, in fact, that I’ve felt like I must be cheating somehow.

empty-glass--wine_19-135581There are three options that I can see:

  1. I was never really hooked in the first place
  2. I’m finding enough loopholes to keep up the habit anyway
  3. I’m still hungover from my drunkenness.

I think it’s probably a combination of all three, but the most interesting one is the latter. I’m not a drinker, but I get the impression that when you’re hungover, you really don’t feel the need for another drink. Quitting shopping is easy when you’ve been drunk off of consumerism so long that there is actually nothing you could possibly need.

The deal was that if I needed something, instead of buying, I’d make, or borrow, or swap. It has been two and a half months and I’ve neither made, nor borrowed, nor swapped. I’m full up of stuff.

So why on earth did I shop before? I guess it must have been a hobby; a past time or entertainment.

So now? Well I just replace it with dinners or friends or reading or whatever else I feel like doing and that is that. Because at the moment there’s nothing I need. I’m still drunk from before.

Things I’ve learned from killing consumerism #5 – Oh the irony: When trying to avoid shopping costs you 50 bucks.

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How is that even possible? Well it is.

I’m traveling to Melbourne next week for a friend’s birthday. A few people are heading over for the weekend to go to the footy and shop and then they’ll drive back along the Great Ocean Road.

I decided to avoid the temptation to shop and just fly in on the Monday in time to do the drive back with them.

It all seemed like a good idea, until I booked the wrong flight. Somehow messing up the whole 24 hour time thing, I booked a flight that I thought was arriving at 2.55pm, only to realize it arrived at 22.55pm… long after my friends would have left the city.

Had I booked for any earlier day, it wouldn’t have mattered, but I’d tried to avoid the shopping.

So, I paid my $50 to change my flight, wryly acknowledging that it would have been way more fun to spend the money at a DFO, and I’ll look forward to another shopping-free weekend.

Things I’ve learned from killing consumerism #4 – Sometimes I really, really want to break the rules

20150310_170422‘Umm, what is that?’ my sister asked me when she came to my house for the first time. ‘You’re not leaving that there are you?’

I have a floor mat. It’s pretending to be a rug, but it’s really just a mat. My housemate and I like it. The colour works in the room and, let’s be honest, the fact that everyone else seems to hate it makes us stubbornly like it more.

But I’ll admit, a month in to the mat pretending to be a rug, and it is starting to wear on me. The truth is, it does look like a panting drop sheet. It’s cream so it gets dirty within a week, and you can’t vacuum it because the vacuum just sucks it up. I’ve machine washed it twice already and it’s too heavy to iron so it just sits on the floor in a rumpled mess.

Whether we like it or not, its days are numbered.

And then I found a rug at IKEA. Like, an actual rug. One that would be vacuumable and that had colours that would work in the house. It was $99. Normally it would be a no brainer. It’s the smart choice. It’s the perfect replacement. It’s what would keep our feet off the cold floor in winter.

But I promised I wasn’t going to buy anything new. So really it should be a no brainer. But I’m agonizing.

Things I’ve learned from killing consumerism #3 – It’s nice to have the decision made

A couple of weeks ago, just after starting my no-shopping challenge, I went into town with some friends. It’s Fringe festival time in Adelaide and the city is full of funky markets and cool hippie buying opportunities. I could have bought ten things.beauty_fashion_hippie_natural_fashion_photography_photography-620e571c7edba076f5a7d986c7f9e1ef_h

There was a beautiful scarf for $20 (which I totally didn’t need but it was pretty) and some cute coasters that would have gone well in my house. (Seriously, since when do I buy coasters??) There were little earrings with fragments of classic books pasted inside (I mean who doesn’t want quotes from To Kill a Mockingbird on their ears?) and second hand hippie clothes that I could surely pull off wearing (at least once a year at fringe time when all the weirdos come out.)

Every time I saw something I felt something familiar. Maybe it’s not normal, but it’s familiar to me. It’s a mild anxiety. It has an undertone of ‘I want. I want I want,’ and an anxious overtone of ‘I don’t know if I should spend the money. Do I really need it?’ BUT ‘I want. I want. I want.’

The familiar feeling was there. But there was no wrestling with it, because I already knew the answer. It didn’t matter if it was a one-of-a-kind-exotic-bargain; I wasn’t buying it. And it was actually nice. The decision was made.

Things I’ve learned from killing consumerism #2 – The difference between want and need

black-tea-1121435-mThe other week I learned the difference between want and need.

Here it is: I want a tea strainer. I need tweezers.

Somehow in the house move, my tweezers got lost. And it was my first anti-shopping crisis. I put tweezers in the category of cosmetics, and I wasn’t going to be buying those. I looked everywhere, and with every box that they weren’t in, the visions got more horrifying. I may not be the best eyebrow groomer around, but after a year of no tweezers, everyone would know just how good I’ve been til now!

I could not go the rest of the year without tweezers.

I consulted a friend. She offered to buy some to lend me, but I figured if I was going to cheat like that I may as well buy my own. So I did it. I bought tweezers. Maybe it was cheating, but I decided I don’t care. I really need tweezers.

On the same day as the tweezer incident, I decided to go into T2. Maybe it’s cheating again, but tea counts as groceries and if I can’t buy anything else, I can at least buy nice tea. But there was a problem. See T2 offers hundreds of tea varieties, but only about 8 come in teabags. I’m not sure I’ve ever in my life made tea without a tea bag, but suddenly I just had to be able to buy crème burlee, or red or special sleep tea. But I didn’t have a tea strainer. The friend I was with offered to buy me one (bless her, I have amazing friends) but that totally defeats the purpose. So for now I am loose leaf free. Because I really don’t need a tea strainer.

P.S. I have to make a confession. The day after writing this post I opened my cutlery drawer, and guess what I found? A tea strainer. One that I’ve probably had for years and never used. Case in point. I need to stop buying stuff. Except maybe some loose leaf tea…

Things I’ve learned from killing consumerism #1. Take care of what you’ve got

20150214_160930It’s been a week since I moved house, and a week since I quit shopping.

I have been surprised at what I’ve learned about myself already. Like how slack I’ve been about taking care of the things I have.

I have two pairs of running shoes. I’m the type who buys new running shoes about every 5 years. You’d think that could be testament to how well I look after them, but really it shows how often I go running.

Anyway, I have two pairs: One old one that sits in the back of my car in case I face an emergency muddy adventure, and one pair that is ‘new,’ that I wear to the gym.

A couple of weeks ago I was painting and gardening at my new house. I was wearing the new runners and the old ones were in the car; just right there in the car. And guess which ones I wore to get splattered with paint and caked with mud? Yep, the new ones.

The old me was willing to ruin her new shoes rather than change, because she could always just buy more.

The new me is kicking herself. The new me sat down and cleaned her shoes for the first time since her mum made her as a child. The new me will be wearing paint splattered runners to the gym for the rest of the year.

The new me will learn to take better care of what she’s got.

My Australia Day Commitment

cut-expenses-1_21176251For the last four years I’ve been living with my parents. There were a variety of unfortunate circumstances that led to me having to move back in with them, but finally I’m moving out again under very blessed circumstances.

I’ve been able to save quite a bit of money living with mum and dad and it’s enabled me to renovate my apartment. Amongst the blessings though, I have seen my heart gripped by consumerism.

I love the adrenalin zip of the credit card. I love packages arriving in the mail. I love scouring the net for home wares and never turning away from a clothing sale. I love buying books at the click of a button and finding new and wonderful shoes.

Towards the end of 2014 I read this article about a woman who decided not to buy anything new for a year, and I knew that that is something I wanted to do.

So in a couple of weeks I’m moving house. Once that’s done this is my commitment: Beyond essentials and gifts, and until December 2015, I will buy nothing new, or even second hand.

No clothes.

No shoes

No cosmetics

No books

No home wares

Today is Australia day. I live in one of the most blessed countries in the world and I want to break the hold that consumerism has on me. I want to learn to be content with what I have.

Wish me luck, and I’ll keep you posted!

Remembering that your one wish has been granted

wishThere seems to be something in our human nature that drives us to always want more.

I’m an Australian. I have a job and a house and a bank account. Already I’m far wealthier than about 95% of the world’s population. You’d think I wouldn’t find anything else to want. And yet, as you could easily predict I find myself daily wanting things I don’t have.

Have you ever thought about what you’d ask for if you could have one wish? Anything? As big or crazy or costly as you want? What would you ask for?

I’ve often been struck by King David’s words in Psalm 27:4 “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”

If David, with all his wealth and power could have ONE thing, it would be to dwell in the presence of God all the days of his life.

It sounds like a pretty good one thing. In fact, if I didn’t already have it, signed, sealed and delivered, I’d probably be keen to ask for that too!

And there is the problem and the solution all in one. I have been given the greatest, most amazing, all surpassing gift that could ever possibly exist within this universe, and somehow I take it for granted and I pursue lesser things.

I have the one thing that David wanted. Maybe that needs to be enough.