The glory of Vegas

eiffel-105506_960_720I was recently in Las Vegas. I had low expectations of glitzy facades attempting to cover seedy bars and casinos, and filthy streets; I wasn’t expecting to love it.

But love it I did. It was fabulous: glitter and glamour, bright lights and creativity and a central strip that never sleeps. It was like a giant, adult carnival, and the seediness, while certainly present, wasn’t as overt as I’d feared. I remember walking down the strip one night, past the extraordinary fountains of the Bellagio and the soaring spire of the Eiffel Tower and thinking that human creativity had outdone itself. Here in Vegas, was everything that man had to offer.

Two days later, I drove out of Vegas and went to the Grand Canyon. The contrast was immense. Not just in size and in grandeur, but in heart. In Vegas, human creativity was at its peak, at the Canyon, we caught a glimpse of God’s. And it won, hands down.

The next day we were in Monument Valley, and we rode through the desert on horseback.20160104_074834 The silence was overwhelming. The monuments rose, towering trough the frigid air. They were so sure of themselves. Their majesty did not need the adornment of bright lights, or the lure of naked women. They didn’t care whether people came to look at them or not. They reflected the glory of their creator, and they will likely stand in worship of him, long after Vegas falls.

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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.

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.

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

photo-woman-triumphant

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

girl-shooting_385-19321008

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 #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 #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.

The Holiday Glut

cupcake_21006126Why do we love to do what is not good for us?

This will be my second Christmas without sugar, and this year I won’t even miss it. I am not tempted at all by chocolate or candy canes or puddings or tarts. My body has learned to see it all as a poison and my mind has followed suit.

But I’m not off the hook. I’m a glutton for other things. As soon as my holidays start my careful health sustaining routine goes out the window. I stay up late and sleep as long as I want. I forget to exercise and I eat when I feel like it, and lo and behold, within two weeks I’m feeling pretty average.

The word gluttony is usually associated with food, but I wonder if I could define it as the excessive consumption of what feels good over what is good? If so, holidays are a prime time for it.

I’ve really been challenged on this. Holidays give us a great chance to relax and let our hair down, but they’re not a time to let our glutinous feelings take over.

This Christmas, let’s remember to honour God with out bodies. Just because we can do it or just because we have the excuse to do it, doesn’t mean we should.

 

Wishing you all a lovely Christmas celebrating the birth of Jesus and a happy, healthy holiday.