Experiment in Mindfulness

A few months ago I read an article about a woman who bought nothing new for an entire year. At first I read it and thought “How does one not buy anything for an entire year?” but after re-reading the article I realized I had missed the concept of NEW.

I begun thinking about my commitments to reducing my carbon footprint, getting (and keeping) my credit score above 700, and my overall distain for dusting. I wondered how I would do on this type of journey. So, I decided to try it. Not only that, but I challenged a co-worker, Karol, to join me in a 30-day challenge to buying nothing new.

After explaining the concept and my own personal journey with reducing overhead, Karol thought it would be fun. We got to work developing some rules and agreed to confess our transgressions honestly and openly, without judgment, on a weekly basis. We also decided to exclude some items from the challenge:

  • Food and personal hygiene items
  • Gifts for others
  • Handmade items from local artists and crafters (*This rule was added mid-challenge during true confessions)

We set our mind to the challenge and moved through our month confessing sins and celebrating small victories each Monday morning.. At the end of the month we discussed the challenge. Overall, we both agreed it was a good lesson in mindful consumerism. Karol talked of how she really thought twice before buying something and if she really needed it, she hit thrift stores first. I found myself doing the same and even found some pretty sweet, gently used items that were a quarter of the price of buying a brand new item. I didn’t feel like I had suffered at all. In fact, after looking at month-end finances, it appears that a long-term commitment to this as a lifestyle would benefit me tremendously.

What did I learn during this challenge? Mindfulness for sure. I seriously asked myself when thinking “I need (fill in the blank)” if I could get that used or if I really needed it all. If I did need it, and it had to be new, I asked myself if there was a locally-owned store I could get it before hitting the big-box chain. When searching for a new book on parenting, I found BlueFrog books – a cute local bookstore – instead of going to Barnes & Noble.

I also learned about my community. I recently moved and this activity required me to find new places to buy used items. My favorites? Another great little bookstore called Unicorn One which primarily sells used books. For clothing, I found Where the Wild Things Grow right next to La Boutique, two Salvation Army thrift stores, and one Goodwill (which also led to wwwShopGoodwill.com!). Since I wasn’t shopping as much, we discovered a cool place to feed ducks, a nature center, and a great indoor play area for the kiddo.

But most serious of all the lessons learned: I still struggle with turning to retail therapy as a temporary fix to loneliness, self-doubt, and overall boredom. This, I’m sure, is a carry over from my “more money than brains” first marriage sprinkled with a bit of parental influence. Issues that certainly make therapists froth at the mouth when they see me coming, I’m sure.

So what did I buy new? Seriously, only three items – two of which were one the exclusion list: A potty chair for the wildling, a hand towel to hang on my stove to dry my hands (which was later met with grace from my challenge colleague who agreed  handmade items from Farmer’s Markets were excluded from the challenge because purchasing such items benefit local artists) and a new book. So, essentially, I made it through the entire month buying only one item she refused to grant grace to (the book). She (and I, eventually) agreed if searched for the book online I most likely could have found it used, therefore, my failure wasn’t really the purchase. My true failure was the inability to delay the desire for the item. (Ouch, right???)

Who lost? We called it even with my book and her new leggings. We both believed we were winners because of all we learned. (I know – everyone gets a trophy, right??)

I had so many eye-opening Ah-Ha moments this month, I plan to continue through the month of November, too. However, Karol challenged me to another November contest – To reduce dining out. I’m not a huge offender of this, but she apparently struggles with ‘meal organization’ which then leads to budgeting challenges so I jumped on board. I’ll write about some items in the weeks to come.

What about you? Do you struggle with delaying gratification? Do you shop to fight boredom or sadness? Do you buy what you don’t really need just because you can? Weigh in here and until next time – share your favorite easy packed lunch ideas.