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!

It’s Just Stuff…

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Have you ever destroyed something before you even got to use it? I have.

The other day I bought a new outfit. It was something a bit different, that I wouldn’t normally buy, but it was heavily reduced. And, let’s be honest, it looked pretty good on me. Virtually the instant I put in on in the change room it was sold. I imagined wearing it to parent-teacher interviews at work, and to church on Sunday. My vanity was probably getting the better of me.

I was so excited about the outfit that it was a talking point that night when I went out for dinner with friends.

Sunday morning I got ready for Church and went to iron my new outfit before I left. I turned the iron’s temperature down, but didn’t wait for it to cool. I didn’t think it needed to. The iron was on the garment for all of two seconds and it was ruined. As I lifted the iron away, a big piece of fabric lifted too, leaving a crusty, melted hole.

For a minute I considered crying. I thought of going back to my room and not bothering to go to church. But then I remembered: ‘Sarah, it’s just stuff!’ How often have I let myself become consumed with things that are just things? I put on a different outfit, and went to church, acknowledging to God ruefully that He had likely saved me from my vanity.

Paying it Forward

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Several years ago I really wrestled with having some friends who were able to offer me so much more than I could offer them. They were a young couple who had an abundance of gifts and abilities. The wife used to get me hugely discounted designer clothes, and sew up couture items for me. She’d do my waxing at cost price and buy my hair products from the wholesaler. When I moved out of home, she went through her kitchen and stocked me up with utensils, appliances and a fry pan. I was always welcome in their home, and the husband did electrical work for me, fixed my car, and installed my CD player.

I was overwhelmed by their friendship and generosity and I was discouraged as I looked at my own skills: Teaching. Writing. Reading. What could I possibly do for them? This never bothered them, they just appreciated my friendship, but it bothered me, until I spoke to dad.

He reflected on a couple who was able to help him when he was younger. He was never able to repay them, but, down the track, he was in a position to help others when they had need. Effectively, he paid it forward.

In recent years, I have had many opportunities to help others in various ways. When they say they ‘owe me,’ I remember the friends who did so much for me, and I tell them they owe me nothing; that one day they can pay it forward.

Finding the Impossible

20130905_190506-1I didn’t know the author. I didn’t know the title. I didn’t even know what it was about. All I had was a vague memory of a picture that had an escalator in it and the knowledge that I had loved that book.

It was a children’s book that my grandparents had owned. They had a whole collection of books that they kept for us when we came over, and I remembered the names of almost all of them, except this one.

I was determined to hunt it down, but how do you find something when you have no information? I scoured Google. I even signed up (it cost me $2) to a website on which a team of people will use all their book-knowledge to try to find a book for you based on the most limited information.

The escalator page! The only thing I could vaguely remember.

The escalator page! The only semi-clear thing I could remember.

I kid you not, all I knew was that it was a children’s book that probably pre-dated the eighties, was possibly about going to work, possibly had a train station in it, and had a picture of an escalator in what was possibly a department store. Try typing that into Google!

So, imagine my elation when, after a couple of years, I found the book during a Google search. I recognized the cover immediately and wasted no time in ordering a secondhand copy.

I’m now convinced that I can find anything online!

Do you have any long-lost books that you’ve been trying to find for ages?

I buy books like they read themselves…

booksThere are two things that I find almost impossible to resist at the shops: Shoes and books.

I’ve had to be stern with myself about the shoe thing. I’ve learnt (I think) to stop buying shoes that are so uncomfortable that I can’t walk in them (even if they are, oh-so-pretty) and I’ve learnt that there are only so many pairs of shoes that you can wear in one year.

The book thing, though, I still struggle with. When I was young I read a lot about children at the turn of the century who saw books as rare treasures, and I think that contributed to my love of them. There is something so precious and alive about a good book. A childhood book can stay with you forever like nothing else can. (I am of course talking about real books here. Don’t even get me started on E-books!)

Suffice to say, I have a large book collection and recently I had to pause and take stock. How many books have I bought on a passionate whim and never read? As I counted them up, I realized there are quite a few. Many of them, still on my ‘to be read’ list are pictured above.

So I’m going to try to stop buying for a while, until I’ve actually read what I have!

Do you have a stack of books that you ‘just had to have’ at the time, but that you haven’t read yet? What are they?

Forgetting that I have a job.

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I do love my job, but there’s something even better about forgetting that I have one. It’s amazing how quickly I can slip into holiday mode and begin to think that sleep-ins and coffee dates and shopping trips are actually how life was meant to be.

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Photo Courtesy of Kerrie

Today I discovered Dilmah Exceptional Rose with French Vanilla tea, passed onto me by my friend Nelly, and a new local magazine, fete.

I’m spending a couple of days at a beautiful house with stunning views over the ocean. Sitting on the couch, looking out at a vast and vibrant blue ocean with a fragrant, spiced cup of tea and a magazine that takes relaxation, beauty and class and puts it on paper, my high school teaching job seemed like something from another life.

What a blessing to be able to take some time out and be relaxed enough to enjoy some of life’s simple pleasures.