The End of The Year of Not Buying (Much) Stuff

Huh. I definitely didn’t think a year with (minimal) shopping would go by this quickly, but my Year of Not Buying Stuff is pretty much over. And you know what? I don’t even feel like running straight to Nordstrom and stocking up on red lipstick.

Well, as can be expected, I have had a few failings in my Year of Not Buying Stuff. Overall, I have purchased two pairs of jeans (because I can’t wear holey jeans to work), a skirt (for days when I have to dress nicely for work), and a gorgeous grey lace dress and silver ballet flats (because I had a moment of weakness while poking around online). I also purchased some gifts for family members, a dress to wear for my sister’s wedding, and a neck pillow because it was on sale in the airport and I had a layover in Atlanta (why???). Around my birthday, I blatantly cheated and gifted myself a single tube of red lipstick, and a SPF shirt to keep me from burning to a crisp on my motorcycle. And then, when my trusty old KitchenAid blender kicked the bucket and could not be persuaded to re-start, I did replace the blender. But I wanted to spell out a little more clearly why I even bothered with this challenge to myself. There are a few reasons that I passionately believe in, and they are all inter-related.

  1. I have WAY too much stuff. This isn’t particularly uncommon among Americans, or even in many other highly developed, commercialized countries, but accumulating and owning stuff isn’t bringing me any happiness, and it doesn’t benefit people I care about.
  2. Some of the people I care about benefiting are strangers to me – local shopkeepers, local producers of food and goods who conscientiously choose to participate in more ethical, better researched supply chains. The kind of places that don’t participate in this. I wanted to take a long time to think, to research, to learn, and to re-direct my economic power toward things that I actually believe in.
  3. Most of the “reasons” to buy stuff are manufactured reasons. Do I need to have at least thirty pairs of shoes to ensure my happiness? Nope. Do I really need to spend tons of money on expensive beauty products to transform my hideous face into something fit to be seen in public? Definitely not. In fact, my (adorable, not hideous at all!) face has been REALLY happy with me slathering coconut oil all over it instead of using moisturizers. In place of retail therapy, I have concentrated on better sources of happiness and peace that were already in my life: fuzz therapy (hanging out with my eternally wonderful dog), yoga therapy (okay, it’s just lying on the floor in savasana until I fall asleep but it still counts), and motorcycle therapy (self-explanatory). And guess what? It works for me.

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    Seriously. How could you not just want to hug this dog?

  4. I want to be more connected with the stuff I do choose to have. To me, this means making more things myself. I inherited a sewing machine, had it serviced, and finally learned how to use the dang thing. I’ve been sewing things that are even fit to wear outside of the house! And I’ve been really inspired by people like Jillian Owens of Refashionista.net, who recycle thrifted clothes rather than participating in fast fashion. I experimented with Homemade Spa Day and invited my friends over to smear food on their faces, which was a surprise hit.
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That’s a whole bunch of edible skincare for less than $15, folks.

Bottom line for me – I have really, really enjoyed my Year of Not Buying Stuff. And even though it’s officially at an end, I’m not going to “make up for it.” It’s been wonderful living with a built-in response to any pressure to consume: “Oh, I’m not buying anything this year.” If you’re thinking about trying it – go for it!

Love, peace, and priorities,
Sumiko

 

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Bad, Bad Blogger.

Happy July! Yes, I realize that it’s been seven months since I last posted. I’m a bad, bad blogger. But since I do enjoy breaking cardinal rules, I’m just going to go with it. I also have a good excuse in the form of this watertight pseudo-mathematical proof:

marriage
+ grad school
+ work
+ teaching part-time
+ occasionally sleeping
zero time for blogging

So, here’s a quick update post.

The Year of Not Buying Things

The Year is almost over! I have failed on several counts – such as buying myself a lipstick for my birthday (it was so red and so pretty, and I had a terrible moment of weakness – and was also goaded on by my sister-in-law). I also purchased a UV shirt for riding my motorcycle, because skin cancer is really not on my to-do list. I have also had to make a few necessary purchases for work and school (matron of honor dress for my sister’s wedding, whiteboard markers for teaching, and required books that I couldn’t find at the library).

But overall, The Year has helped me to accomplish what I was hoping to do. I was able to take a step back from the habit of buying stuff just because, and to really carefully consider WHY I wanted something, and if I actually needed it. And because I have not been consuming at anything near a frantic pace, I’ve been able to inspect the ethics of my consumption as well. Supporting local businesses is really important to me, as is supporting craftspeople and the overall slow/quality movement. So when I needed a (very specific shade of blue) dress for my sister’s wedding, I was able to pay an extremely talented friend to make it for me, keeping my money in the local economy.

In fact, it’s been such a good year that while I may relax my restrictions a little bit, I think I’m going to keep to the same path. Being able to re-focus on what’s really important to me – my people (you know who you are!), learning stuff, stretching my creativity – has been an incredible gift for the past 11 months.

Summertime, Traveling, and Motorcycles!

I’ve been bouncing around a lot this summer, too. In May, a trip to San Antonio for the Rhetoric Society of America conference…

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And then in June, a trip to Sacramento, where I saw this magnificent piece of artwork and also got to spend some quality time with my (seriously) cool family-in-law…

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    …and to Massachusetts for some beach time and my little sister’s wedding (awww!)…

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…left me pretty wiped out. I was seriously excited to get back home and to my own kitchen! Which I have barely used at all because it’s been near 100 degrees since we got home. (Ick.)

Despite the wretched blistering heat, I really love riding my motorcycle (as you may recall). I haven’t been riding as much this summer because I’m enrolled in two pedagogy classes and totally geeking out over that, and also teaching part-time in addition to my regular full time job. BUT! This weekend I got to go for a little ride with my totally excellent mom.

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Mama’s helmet hair is infinitely cooler than mine. Thank goodness for motorcycles and family. And now, it’s back to homework for me (see item #2 in my watertight pseudo-mathematical proof, above).

Peace, love, and hopefully less than seven months until another post,
Sumiko

Year of Not Buying Stuff, Update 2

We’re more than two months in! And, perhaps not too surprisingly, The Year of Not Buying Stuff has already hit some snags. We’re human, right? Well, here’s the dirt.

Sean’s purchases: a baseball cap, a game (Cards Against Humanity plus one expansion pack). 

hat and cards

My purchases: books for school, notebooks for school, a set of cute bookends that look like old-fashioned school desks, and a 1999 Toyota 4Runner. Heheh. Oops! 

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Technically, according to the terms set forth in the original “rules,” the hat, school supplies, and books are all “legal” purchases because they are either required for school or replacement items/required for work. And I guess, since the 4Runner is a replacement for my trust old Tacoma (*sniffle weep*), that’s a “legal” purchase.

The game and the bookends are both “illegal” purchases. For these, I have atoned by making scarf hooks out of recycled egg cartons. About a week after this challenge began, I realized that I had no idea where my scarves were, and fall was coming up. So I turned to the Place From Whence All Answers Come (yeah, the internet) and found some tips for turning the 20 egg cartons that I’ve been refusing to throw away into something useful…in this case, a sort of paper mache.

After a couple of failed attempts, I came up with this idea.

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They consist of a blob of egg carton mache, squished into some kind of shape, with a piece of wire hanger stuck into the middle, baked until they were dry, and spray-painted. Once the paper mache has completely dried, I was able to drill small holes in it to secure them to the walls! And now my scarves have a home that’s slightly more organized than “a pile on the cedar chest.”

I have to say, there have definitely been some moments where I was sorely tempted to just go and buy something new. Like when I broke my blender making the paper mache for the hooks…but, it can be repaired! And so can the sandals and two pairs of boots and the bag that I took to the repair shop the other day.

I do have to say, the creative satisfaction (albeit small) of coming up with an unconventional solution to a “need” beats the hell out of retail therapy.

Love, peace, and 10 months to go,
Sumiko

Year of Not Buying Stuff, Update 1

As mentioned previously, starting on August 1st, my sweetie and I are trying to go a full year without buying stuff. To test my own resolve, I’ve been leafing through the new IKEA catalog every day.

I should explain: even though their furniture is cheap and hard to assemble and sometimes flat-packed to the point of ridiculousness, IKEA is a horrible, wonderful addiction of mine. As in, I walk in intending to purchase a set of curtains and walk out with a shopping cart full or decorative shelves, lamps, linens, tupperware-type containers, and maybe the odd impulse-bought desk, bookshelf, chair, side table, or (occasionally) sofa. Half the time I forget what I went in for in the first place. Thus, leafing through the IKEA catalog always inspires a sort of pitiful longing in my soul.

Foolish Self: “Why can’t my house look so organized?”
Reasonable Self: “Because you actually live in it. These are just staged photos.”
Foolish Self: “But still! If only I had the PAX storage system, all of my organizational woes would be a thing of the past.”
Reasonable Self: “Don’t be ridiculous. You’d just clutter the house up. You leave piles of books everywhere!”
Foolish Self: “Yes, but look at how stylish the IKEA piles of books are! I can leave stylishly-piled books lying around my house too! And also, I want a monochrome palette for the entire house!”
Reasonable Self: “Sigh….”

And so on and so forth.

This challenge has been very good for me, because I’ve been forced to realize that the purchasing of any organizational system, no matter how attractive it looks in the catalog, is not a panacea for the woes of habitual accumulation. So far I’m all the way through the first 100 pages, and I haven’t broken down crying yet. I feel proud of myself!

My resolve has also been tested this week by one of my all-time greatest temptations. Shoes. My favorite summertime pair of “I can get away with these at work” sandals broke today at the office. As in, there were two pieces of thread holding together the front and the back of my shoe. I work in very close proximity to a mall with at least four places to purchase shoes, so the urge to run out a buy a new pair was, I’ll admit, present. But I’m pleased to report that rather than doing that, I merely whipped out some packing tape and did some super-stylish repairs.

I’ll take them to a real cobbler ASAP.

Love, peace, and taped-up shoes,
Sumiko

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