I have had a few months to sit and reflect on the challenge I gave myself last year not to shop. I entered with so much trepidation and feel largely successful in my efforts, not because I was perfect at not shopping, but because I really believe that I learned some valuable lessons that will continue to impact our family for the better.
First off, when you stop shopping for a year, you have to learn to get comfortable saying “No.” It can be so easy to justify and reason with yourself why you feel you might need or deserve something. Asking yourself the simple question, “Can I live without this?” quickly clarifies your real feelings. You can live without more than you think. When that question feels too harsh, asking “Will this really improve my life?” is another great way to sort out whether something is needed or not.
The flip side to saying no is that you become awesomely adept at finding creative solutions. You learn to borrow, you find activities that are free, you connect with people far more. Saying “no” to all the unnecessary makes room for our relationships to enlarge and brighten.
The second lesson I learned was that it is really important to know your triggers and if you can’t avoid them, make a plan to get through them. I have learned that there are definite trigger stores for me (Target, Ikea, and Costco being the main culprits). There is a reason these stores are popular and there is a reason they make a lot of money. They are good at what they do. I was most successful when I avoided these places all together. Being tempted is never easy and these stores always had something that I could see being helpful in my life. However, when I didn’t know something existed, I was living just fine without it in the first place. Also, everyone makes jokes about walking into Target and leaving spending way more money than planned…I mean I laugh too, but sometimes jokes speak great truths.
One major discovery was that change was a larger trigger than I expected and I wasn’t prepared for it. Within the space of three months we bought and moved into a fixer upper, found out I was pregnant again, and started rehearsals for a musical. Life was busy and time felt short and I was tired in every sense. That is when it became a lot easier to justify things like eating out. At one point Kyle bought me a few tops (at Target of course) because all of my maternity clothes had gone through the ringer (ahem…three previous pregnancies) and it was like it unleashed a floodgate of justifying purchases a little more easily. I would probably say I was still pretty stringent by most peoples standards, but it definitely crossed the line that I had set for myself, which was disappointing. Through this I learned that I am most successful when I plan ahead.
I also found that when I surrounded myself with the right voices, it helped me to stay focused. There are tons of bloggers, instagrammers, facebook pages, and writers out there who live minimally. They promote a simplified life and offer tons of insight and advice. When I take the time to really read their words, they help to fortify my desire to make these positive changes in how we live. They drown out all those other posts about whatever sale is going on and those supposed “must-have” items. They redirect persuading thoughts back to where you want them, on the things that hold true value.
The biggest takeaway from this shopping ban was not the amount of money saved, but the establishment of a simpler, more free way of life. A life where I don’t feel hurried or overwhelmed, where I have tons of time to be present and pursue worthwhile goals. I have loved having more freedom to reflect and meditate upon what values I want to promote for myself and within my family. Saying “no” more often means getting to say “yes” to what matters most. There are so many things that we know drain our energy and leave us frustrated but we continue on, pushed forward by unknown forces to maintain the status quo. Taking a break from shopping disrupted this standard and revealed a slower pace.
This slower pace makes room for quiet reflection, for sitting and reading with my sons and building tower after tower. It prioritizes time together, gathered around the table for dinner or snuggled on the couch with a bowl of popcorn. It gives me moments to recharge by reading a book or taking a walk. It has clarified dreams and goals and given me power to pursue them. More often I feel myself grinning and finding joy in everyday moments.
This shopping ban was the tip of an iceberg of discovering minimalism. On my favorite minimalist blog, Becoming Minimalist, Joshua Becker clarifies what minimalism is. He writes, “At its core, minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.” I love this! This is the heart of what I have discovered and I want to continue challenging myself to promote what I value and get rid of the excess.
I have a few more ideas in mind to keep this momentum going.