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.
- 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.