Recently I was presenting my public speaking course at Wollongong Uni, and a participant gave a beautiful presentation on her stance against consumerism. Inspiring positive social change is why I do what I do, and I loved her talk so much I invited Tracy to write a blog explaining what she’s doing and why. I think you’ll be just as inspired as I am by what Tracy has written below. Thank you, Tracy!
It was just an idea my sister had casually tossed around, but it caught my attention and I thought yes, this is a good idea. I have enough stuff, I have a lot of the same stuff, and I keep buying more of the same stuff over and over. I didn’t think too much about the outcome of this when I started. I just said, sure let’s do this. I can always do with extra savings and I suspected, and hoped, I would save some money.
We agreed at Christmas that we would start this challenge from January 1. As we rang in the New Year, I thought, “ok this is it, today I start the experiment of not buying anything for 12 months.” At first, it didn’t even seem like a big deal, I was never one for rushing out to any after Christmas sales and we were going down the coast for a few days, so I didn’t think about it too much.
I went back to work in January to office chatter about Christmas celebrations, presents and lamenting how much this season cost everyone. I joined in on the complaining, as it is a very expensive time, and I think we waste a lot of money on food and buying unnecessary gifts.
It is now 90 days since I have purchased any clothes, shoes, or items for the house. I am no saint by any means. I still eat out, drink good wine, am going to the theatre, movies, and concerts and enjoy a very social lifestyle. I have just decided to stop purchasing items that don’t make any real difference to my life.
It’s been an interesting three months. I have learnt about others and myself and I genuinely feel different. When I started telling people about what I was doing, I wasn’t over analyzing it or thinking about the outcome. When I did share this idea their reactions informed mine and I started to think about what I was actually saying and what it really meant. The responses varied from “That’s a great idea, I wish I could do that,” to “Can you talk to my wife please.” I think it made some people uncomfortable hence they would make jokes or make light of it. Some people wanted to talk at length which was great as I got some positive feedback which encouraged me to not only continue but to really reflect on why I was doing this and how I could potentially influence others to do the same.
I decided to take the challenge more seriously and I started to do some research about shopping and why we do what we do. While attending some training on Presenting with Confidence my supportive workshop group suggested I use this as the subject for my presentation, which further fueled my resolve.
Shopping was invented quite some time ago. There was a time where people had one coat, one set of clothing, and one of everything. They clearly found value in something besides having a lot of stuff. I remember doing an assignment in high school about the psychology of advertising and how they use pictures of happy people to sell products and it works. We have an emotional response to the ad and what it looks like as opposed to the actual content of the ad. We buy an experience. We don’t buy Ugg boots because they look good. We buy them because we think of us being warm and curled up and think about the experience of what happens when we wear the boots. We are pursuing happiness and an experience.
The sad thing in most cases is that the so-called experience you buy ends up being just an item, an inanimate object that becomes part of the clutter in our lives. I think that explains why people buy some many cookbooks. The amount of times I have heard people say they have a whole shelf of cookbooks but never use them or even look at them. They are always so lovely and shiny, and the food is presented so well that you think if you buy the book something magical is going to happen. You never connect the fact you must buy the ingredients and cook the food. I do indulge my cookbook habit. I have an abundance of books, but I do read them and cook from them. I will admit, I do sometimes just sit down and look through them and it does give me pleasure and it often inspires me. I do refer to cookbooks as my version of porn even if that does sound slightly off colour.
In reality, it hasn’t been as hard as I thought it might be when it finally dawned on me I wasn’t going to purchase anything for 12 months. Besides stopping and thinking about whether I really need something when the opportunity has presented itself, I haven’t noticed denying myself. I have done a stock take of all my stuff and I now wonder what I was thinking when I look at some of it. Wonder what I thought was going to happen when I bought another version of the same style of skirt or top. It has never been life altering, but I have repeated this for years. What actually happens, is I wear it a few times and then store it with the rest of my stuff. I may give it to charity or throw it out and then I buy it again. I do this with clothes and household items. The cycle is never ending.
I was pleasantly surprised when I was asked to write this article. It has taken on a life of its own, as I wasn’t sure what to write. So far, I have felt quite a few different emotions. It really started with indifference, but it has now moved on a feeling of purpose. I also have to say I have felt a bit superior at times as if I am better than people who keep on shopping and are not as enlightened as I am. This is completely unfounded. I haven’t bought anything for 3 months and suddenly I think I am the Dalai Lama. It has helped me be more mindful and to check in with myself on how I am feeling, and why I think I may need whatever is in front of me at the time.
I am going to write about this again in three months time, not for the purpose of publishing but to check in with myself and see where I am and what has happened to me emotionally, and physically and financially. I am going to continue to tell people I meet, and I hope they will tell more people too. There are other things that will happen as a result. Environmentally, this is positive, and although small, if the word is spread then it will have some impact and I am a believer that every little bit helps. I am optimistic that when you read this, you’ll tell your friends and family and they, in turn, will tell others, and so on and so on. Even if you just stop for a second and think about purchases you make and why you them, then I feel I have made a difference.
I have to give credit to my sister whose ideas this was. She inspires me regularly and I admire her for her ideas, her compassion, and her enthusiasm on how to make things better not just for her, but also for people around her. She continues to touch people’s lives and I don’t think she realises how much. Wish me luck with my endeavor and please spread the word.
I for one am really looking forward to the next installment in Tracey’s journey, and we’ll try post it again and get more people involved too. Let’s hope, together, we can keep inspiring Positive Social Change in our community! Brilliant Tracey. Thank you!