Can You Stop Shopping…for an Entire Year?

I recently read an awesome article in the NY Times entitled “My Year of No Shopping” by the writer Ann Patchett (Bel Campo, State of Wonder). It’s fantastic.

The longest I’ve gone without buying a single item of clothes, shoes or accessories was two months. Yes, it was refreshing to press that pause button on consumerism. But after those two months, I also felt like a thirsty and ravenous person crawling out of the desert. Once I allowed myself to start shopping again, I felt crazed and binged on everything before me. So I found Patchett’s article to be extremely inspiring. So inspiring that I may try to do something similar. I don’t think I can go an entire year, but perhaps three or four months or more…

Below are excerpts that really stuck out for me:

It’s true, shopping is a major time suck. Some find it relaxing, some find it fun, but I’ve noticed that increasingly, I find it scary. Terrifying. Sometimes, I browse shopping websites for a perfect pair of jeans and am horrified to find an hour (or two) slipped by. All that precious time could’ve been spent writing or chilling with friends or hiking or giving Sherwin a bath…that frittering away of time makes me feel so awful and guilty!

Rampant consumerism is truly a first-world problem that I think afflicts about 99% of the American population. Our mainstream society so loudly trumpets a false message: that happiness is linked to that new house, car, purse, gadget you buy. This is such a huge deception, and I’m hyper aware of the marketing tactics because we’re right in the middle of the holidays, when retailers urge you to shop, shop, shop. Free shipping! Extra 25% off! Hurry before supplies run out! 

And isn’t it interesting that the way we spend money reflects our values? Just look at your credit card statement to observe where most of the charges were spent. Do you spend solely on yourself and your own circle, or do you give generously to those truly in need? The hunger for more and more material goods makes it easy to devalue what you already have.

Okay, enough preaching! Especially since I so often fall short.

Anyway, I wish we could do away with this pressure to buy, buy, buy during the holidays and just focus on the true meaning of the season: friends, family, love, good health, grace, gratitude. Those are the true gifts that result in real, lasting happiness, not the fleeting kind that dissipates once that shiny new object is in your hands.