A month without buying stuff I don’t need.

After feeling completely disillusioned by consumerism and possessions this past Christmas season, I have been gravitating towards a more minimalist lifestyle. I discovered and began pouring over material from Leo Babauta, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, Courtney Carver, and Joshua Becker. I’ve been evaluating my possessions ever since, purging big boxes of things I realized I didn’t need.

Each month, Leo challenges himself to go without something, such as a smartphone, coffee, TV, or sitting for over thirty minutes. Joshua Fields Millburn also had a 2011 year-long resolution to not buy any stuff to prove that he could be content without it.  So, in light of the example these people have set, I decided that as of February 24th, and until March 31st, I would not buy anything I didn’t need:

  • No clothing, shoes or accessories – I’m trying to purge and not restock. Ideally I would like my dresser to be half full and everything else to fit in an average closet.
  • No hobby materials – I have plenty of incomplete projects to take up my time.
  • No personal entertainment items, such as books, movies, gadgets, etc.
  • No non-essential home goods – I don’t think I’m going to need the torch or dishes to make crème brulee anytime soon.
  • No junk food or frivolous snacks – I must use up what I have, and go without for the rest of the month. Good-bye brie and crackers! I will miss you my darling 72% dark chocolate!
  • No take-out work lunch or personal meals.
  • No wine or alcohol for home unless it is being shared with someone.

I made some exceptions as well, because this is not about depriving myself from experiences or being stingy with other people – it’s about getting away from excess. Exceptions include:

  • Nutritional Foods, like fruits and veggies, whole grains, and my occasional meats and dairy.
  • Gifts for other people – there are a lot of birthdays this March. More on that in another post.
  • Expenses with friends, like going to the movies, going out for a drink or dinner with people. Spending time with friends and family always has a place on my budget.
  • Snack and junk food groceries for my husband – I won’t drag him into my lifestyle change, but it sucks watching him eat chocolate that I can’t have because I’m out! Excuse me while I meditate to my happy place…
  • Personal betterment, such as dana for my local meditation center and my gym membership.
  • Essential maintenance, in case my car or the heat stops working.
  • Contribution
  • Personal care items  life would stink without soap.
  • Tea if I run out – but I don’t think I will for a few more weeks. Here’s an example of something I had in excess. I’m drinking this as a healthier alternative to coffee and other drinks I don’t need.

I decided to do this because I always had a habit of buying things on impulse. I worked hard and felt I deserved new things, and the appetite was insatiable. My home became disorganized because I had too much stuff, and I ran late most of the time from constantly misplacing things. My pursuit of pleasure through things was actually causing more stress and discontent in the long run.

Maybe this all sounds like common sense to people. I’m not sure what happened. I lost track of myself. I think it may have been the desire to be unique in a world where I felt small, and I bought things to project who I was to others. But I kept changing, and I kept accumulating, and I kept the things I used to love for nostalgia’s sake. Now it’s a mess that I want to clean up and keep clean. I hope that this exercise will help me:

  • Have more time to spend with people, relax, and do the things I actually enjoy.
  • Appreciate what I have right now.
  • Live contently in the moment.
  • Simplify my home so it’s easy to keep clean, which motivates me to have guests over more often.
  • Feel perfectly adequate without more stuff.
  • Be on time more.
  • And sure – save more moolah for the nest. That always helps.

Just because the goal will be over April 1st doesn’t mean I’m going to go on a shopping spree right after. I started this goal to get me moving in a new direction, and I’ll set another one if I need it to gain momentum. I’m still going to wait until I run out of most of my tea before I buy more. I’m going to continue to test myself on what I can live without while being content with my situation and what I have. My stuff does not define me. And there is still much to be purged.

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King Arthur’s Faire – 2011 Fall Connecticut Renaissance Faire Review

I went to the Connecticut Renaissance Faire on the first Sunday of opening weekend, and although the forecast kept predicting possible rain, it turned out to be a very warm and sunny day. Within the first hour I regretted wearing my more elaborate gown – even if it was the Royal Invasion theme day – the humidity and warmth was staggering under all that velveteen, and it made me rather uncomfortable for a larger part of the day. It was such a good idea too! I could only imagine how those other royals felt sporting all that heavier velvet! (Would it be wrong if I said that the comparison made me feel a little better?) It made me think twice about making my Catherine Parr tudor gown. Oh, well, at least I still felt pretty!

One of the first things I  recall at this fall’s Connecticut Faire is Shops, Shops, and more Shops! The entrance was in a different location on the lot, and for about the first hour I thought the faire was smaller than last year by how it was sectioned out. Then, as we got to one corner, we saw the path curve to the left, and voila! There was twice as much to be seen! I was almost overwhelmed by how many more shops there were than the previous year, and still don’t think we saw them all. As I mentioned in my last review, I love Black Swan Masks, and this is when I got my second one. I’m planning to build a costume around it so I can wear it at the faire next spring. It will be nice to have another elaborate – yet cooler – alternative to wear. There was also a really cool place – the vendor name alludes me at the moment – but you can’t miss the large display of multi-colored roses at the tent. I have overlooked this before, so I thought I would point out that the roses are made of feathers!

I didn’t spot those killer french fries that were at the Robin Hood Faire in the spring (there was so much, I very well may have missed them), but those apple cider donuts…..if you go, get them. No question. If you’re like me and have a sensitive stomach, split a bag with a group of friends. It’s sugary heaven in your mouth. I really had a poor appetite due to the day’s heat, but at the end of the day when I was ready to eat something tasty that I really shouldn’t touch, I got the loaded grilled cheese, which consists of three toasty slices of bread melded together with cheese, tomato, and bacon. Yeah, I felt like royalty eating that one. I didn’t get around to buying one of those chocolate covered bananas, but I would recommend it after having it previous years.

I was happy they had the court dance again this year. I have a lot of fun participating in that event. But I was surprised how few guests wanted to join in! If you’re reading this and plan to go, you gotta do the court dance!! It’s easy, and the second dance is a ton of fun. Left together, left together….

One thing I really hope they do next year is a theatrical theme of some sort. The Robin Hood theme they did in Guilford was so freakin good!!! I was really looking forward to what they had in store this fall, but they chose not to do a theme for the fall season. I was speaking to one of the Faire owners (a dude in a sweet monk get-up), and he said the traditional barbarian invasion was getting old. I’m not sure how long ago they last did that – it was probably before I started going annually, but I remember an awesome performance with reversing time a few years back that got me jazzed up about seeing the main character performances each year. Last year was a mayor election, but voting wasn’t a very mystical prospect, and not far enough away from the real world, so I kind of blew that one off. But the Robin Hood theatrics this past spring really made me enthusiastic. To give them credit, they did a story-telling thing, like recounting the tale of the Sword in the Stone. That’s really nice for the kids, but our group didn’t really feel drawn to it.

The bottom line is that we all  had a really good time, and it’s possible that I may be going again this weekend to bring my mom, who has already laid claim on my other costume from the last few years (the green one in the picture above). I’ll make her do the court dance whether she likes it or not!

Connecticut Spring Renaissance Faire 2011 Review

I’ve had this draft sitting here forever! Before starting a review on the 2011 Fall Renaissance Faire in Hebron, CT, I must get this one published once and for all.

This past May, I attended Connecticut’s first Robin Hood-themed spring renaissance faire. I thought this event was well worth the hour and forty minute drive from Springfield, MA to Guilford, CT – a very charming town if you’ve never been there. Unfortunately for the faire, a good number of the weekends were very rainy, and I had to keep delaying my plans to go until the very last day of the faire. This year I finished sewing a new “Ever After” Italian Renaissance gown in burgundy cotton velvet, so there was no way I was going to let that get wet. That’s really my only excuse for staying away from the rain. I really hope not too many others were too deterred from attending this year for the same reason, because they would have missed out on some great performances and unique purchases.

I have been to King Richard’s Faire in Carver, MA, and King Arther’s Faire in Hebron, CT – this new faire’s  fall sibling – and I saw a few familiar faces, including the rather cynical performer for Curious Magic – unmistakable with his odd, black jester’s hat and dry sense of humor – and the Pope – well-known for his Poprah talk show in Hebron – although he moved down a few stations this season as a bishop. I think I mixed his friend up with him, as they tend to work together at both Connecticut Faires – I asked him if he was the Pope in disguise. Close, but no cigar. I wonder now if they’re brothers…? I also kept an eye out for Rufus, our favorite muddy beggar who shows up everywhere and graces us with very amusing performances, but alas, no, he wasn’t there this time around. At least not the day I went.

I went to almost all the Robin Hood theme performances, and I was very impressed. Most notably, I have to applaud the actors who played Prince John and Sir Guy of Gisborn, although I think everyone worked very well together and all deserve credit for a show well done. Prince John hammed it up just enough to make his character absolutely delightful, and you could tell how much he was enjoying himself on the stage. I sat through the Villains’ “Secret” Meeting performance, and even though I had to deal with a little girl directly behind me screaming about being the “Princess Queen”, Prince John kept the show afloat and improvised well to any unexpected ridiculous behavior from the audience.

Gisborn was simply awesome. I would never have thought of him being dressed up like a barbaric horse, but he played his part to the fullest – loping around with a very creepy neighing sound, wild eyes, and flashing teeth as he moved amongst the audience – just looking plain crazy. He really creeped me out, so I think that makes him a success. A little girl dressed like supergirl – not sure how that fits in with medieval, but it was cute – thought he was a riot and I saw him chasing her around later like some scary cannibal. She was just delighted,  enjoying the game and running around giggling. That kid had guts – I probably would have cried at that age. I was such a wuss!

There was a nice variety of shops, and a lot of them had very reasonable prices, especially considering how most – if not all –  of the products were handmade! So many things these days are mass-produced, and not even from the USA, so it’s very refreshing to have the opportunity to purchase individually crafted pieces from our own artisans! My particular favorite is Black Swan Masques, with beautiful leather masks that are very tastefully decorated. Whether you like masquerade, faerie, jester, or goblin styles, these guys have a nice assortment at different price ranges. A friend of mine loves Marrus Art, a painter who both sells her paintings and paints faces with great style. What she loves about her work is that every painting has an inspiring story or motive behind it – literally, as it is included on the back of each work. I’m the proud owner of two masks now, and she’s the proud owner of two painting prints.

The food was decent, although I don’t tend to have a big appetite when I go to these events. They don’t charge steep “concert” prices, if you know what I mean, so that’s encouraging. The french fries were to die for at one stand – I’ll have to keep an eye out for them again next time. And if they had the apple cider mini donuts like they do for the Hebron Faire – you have to get them while you have the chance!! They’re super addicting!

One thing I really like about the Connecticut Faires is that you can go return to your car for things and be re-admitted to the faire. Because I have some strict diet requirements, it’s great that I can bring a lunch that won’t make me painfully sick for the rest of the day – don’t think for a moment that I can eat those fries and donuts without getting severely punished later! Those are an end of the day, I’ll suffer while driving and when I get home sort of thing. While that’s one reason I like going back to the car, the other great perks are that I can shed parts of my costume if it gets too hot or cumbersome, and drop off purchases.  That’s one thing that deters me from going to King Richard’s Faire in Carver, MA – there’s no going back once you’re in. If your feet hurt, you can’t go get comfier shoes unless you bring them with you – which totally cramps my more elaborate style. It discourages me from going all out on my costume. And of course – my food choices are extremely limited if I want to feel good. If Carver wants me to return more frequently, they need to change that limitation.

So, all in all, I thought this faire was really fun and totally worth the travel and expense. I definitely plan to go next year! I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll have some more great Robin Hood themed performances in store! That was truly my favorite part this year.

I’ll be sure to bring sunscreen next time – I underestimated the May sun and got the worst sun burn of my life. I still have the  overly tanned (not a pretty tan at all) skin from the shoulders up that reminds me of this mistake straight into the fall, and probably through the winter at this rate!