3.11.2008

The Spending Hiatus -- A (Very Long) Recap

Some purchases made over this past year (+ one gift) that I don't regret a single bit...

Forewarning, this is a long one, but now that I've officially rejoined the ranks of those that purchase, I thought it was time for an update of my spending hiatus. To fully appreciate the results of my eight-weeks sans purchase, I have to first revisit why I went there in the first place. Originally, it was a simple New Year's resolution motivated by a particularly spendy holiday season, and I reasoned the best way to kick-start the process was just to go cold-turkey for a while.

But the further I got into the purchase-free period, the more I realized my motivations were more complex -- I realized it was no longer just about purchasing less stuff to make up for one too many Christmas gifts, but there was also the desire to own items that were meaningful, embedded with some history (and ideally) some level of craftsmanship. There were environmental considerations as well, I mean after all, the less disposable my purchases, the less I would end up throwing away (a no-brainer, I realize.) I figured that buying a bunch of cheap, instant gratification items that ended up on the curb was a bigger eco-sin than my
addiction to paper towels.

Overall the whole experience was a rousing success, given the fact that (excluding the few purchases I made in Germany) I really didn't buy anything, which is huge, as I really enjoy the process of buying stuff. But the real surprise was that it wasn't all that hard. In fact, it was a little bit addictive. The more I didn't buy, the more empowered I felt.

The hiatus also changed my relationship with the stuff I already own. In the absence of bringing new items into our home, I began taking inventory of what we already possessed, discovering in the process what I truly loved, what could be re-purposed or repaired and what I no longer loved. I donated loads of old clothes and toys and starting putting things on eBay and Craig's List (which strengthened my resolve not to purchase, as it's awfully humbling to sell something you barely used for a fraction of what you originally paid for it.) It also helped set the stage for how to handle purchasing again once the hiatus was over.


So what happens now? (Or perhaps you've abandoned this long-winded, self indulgent post altogether at this point -- for which I'm not sure I'd blame you...) Well I am officially purchasing things, but I'm doing so far more mindfully. Not only have I set a three-day waiting period on all non-essential purchases to ensure they maintain their "luster", but I'm also planning to continue selling a slew of things each month on eBay to create a "slush fund" for optional purchases. This keeps the house somewhat clutter-free while forcing me to consider whether that item I just "have to have" is worth giving something else up. And perhaps most important, I've continued my resolve to stay away from the places that provide the most temptation (specifically that panacea of instant gratification otherwise known as Target.) I'm also trying whenever possible to buy items that are handmade or thrifted, barter or trade with friends and make more things myself.

But most of all, I continue to revisit the adages that get repeated over and over and ooze with simplicity and obviousness, like William Morris' ubiquitous quote:

"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

If I can just apply that to everything I buy, purchase with mindfulness and consideration, and buy sparingly, then I'm golden.

10 comments:

TwinkleBee said...

Very well put. I am also a spender, enjoying the instant gratification, driving my husband nuts for all the same reasons you listed :) I"m going to jump on board, and try out a few things you have listed. It takes a lot of self control doesn't it!?! I enjoyed the post.

mamacita said...

My daughter also has a pair of those silver shoes. They are some of my favorites she's ever had. Unfortunately, we can't find one of them right now. We would probably be able to track it down if I didn't have SO MUCH STUFF. I need a spending hiatus, too.

Decorno said...

I am so impressed by your little project.

Also... even though I link to you, I realized today that I simply do not stop by enough. Your blog is so great - both visual and nicely written. Shame on me. I need to make you a daily read.


PS those egg press paper dolls are so cute, I can't even stand it.

Jennifer said...

Oooh I loved this post on mindful consumption. I need to do this - to reduce spending, to enjoy what I have and love, and avoid the places that tempt me. Thanks for the daily doses of beauty in your blog!

karey m. said...

i need to do this. you've inspired me. xoxo.

Joanna Goddard said...

really interesting, i loved hearing about this...xo

a cat of impossible colour said...

That's really admirable, and inspiring! I have been trying to spend less and appreciate what I have as well, so it's great to hear you put your reasons and what you have learned so clearly.

There is something really empowering about not spending money, isn't there? I find a strange satisfaction in going to a shop, looking around and coming out without buying anything.

SGM said...

Wonderful post!
I am on an spending hiatus too and have had the same experience as you. It's now kind of a little contest with myself to see how long I can keep going without buying any crap. I'm sure I'll break down with all of the lovely spring clothes out now, but I will be more mindful about my purchases too.

SGM said...

Oh my gosh--I just realized who you are! Saw your house on More Ways to Waste Time and I LOVED IT. You are so talented!

Joslyn said...

sgm -- thanks so much! so nice...
by the way, love your blog.