This has been a solemn holiday season for me. A contemplative Christmas or New Year's Eve isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, and there is a gift wrapped up in the sorrow. I spent quite a bit of time this holiday, and some sleepless nights around the time of Dad's death and funeral, reflecting on priorities and goals.
I have a long-standing interest in living more mindfully and to that end, I've been working on letting go of habits and things that get in my way. Over the last couple of years, for instance, our eating habits have changed as we have tried to eliminate processed foods and cut way back on sugars and simple carbs, and increase vegetables and other healthy foods.
We continue to work on de-cluttering to make the house more peaceful and easy to maintain. In 2017, we set ourselves a list of seven financial goals, met every one of them, and ended the year with no debt other than our mortgage. Even that we took a healthy chunk out of. For the last month or so, I have done a lot of reading on consumerism and frugality and began gearing up for a big change in the new year by unsubscribing from advertising emails and canceling our Amazon Prime membership.
My husband and I have agreed that starting tomorrow, it will be a year of no shopping for us. Obviously we will continue to buy groceries and maintain our cars and fix things that break in the house. I’m talking about discretionary spending. So for 2018, we will be buying no clothing, no shoes, no accessories, no cosmetics, no kitchen items, no gadgets or electronics, no furnishings, no books, no shrubs or trees, no non-necessary household goods. I’m announcing it publicly because I know about myself that when I do that, by god I stick with it. And I was delighted to find a Facebook group all taking the same challenge! Our hope is that having a shopping ban for a full year will be enough time to change our relationship to spending and acquiring things. Because let’s face it, we have plenty of stuff. I’m pretty good at getting rid of excess but new purchases always slide in. Sometimes rapidly. We intend to continue to winnow our belongings to free up space and time in our lives. But for this year, we are going to avoid what feels like an inevitable creep of acquisition.
By the time 2019 rolls around, I am hoping we will have a better handle on discerning the difference between wants and needs. Wants are endless and there is always the next thing to buy in search of happiness. I know intellectually that material goods won't deliver fulfillment, but we are bombarded by the message that the next new thing will fill a void, make us better people, bring us joy and win us the admiration of others. Never mind that all the research on consumerism shows definitively that it just isn't true. With any luck, we will be able to use this year to permanently step off the consumer merry-go-round. I suspect it will be a challenge, but I hope I will learn a lot about myself and about peace this year.