After the computer condescendingly spat out, “Congratulations! If everyone in the world consumed the way you do, it would take 2 1/2 worlds to sustain us”, she decided to dramatically decrease her habits of consumption for a full three months.
I could have said, “That sounds interesting–tell me more.” Or, “Wow–do you think it will be hard?” Or even, “I may be interested in doing something like that someday. What are your guidelines?”
But, no. Instead, I quickly and regrettably, said, “Hey–I’ll do it, too!”
I laid out the rules and told everyone who would listen. I would spend as little money as possible for 120 days. Groceries and birthday presents were necessities, as long as I didn’t use bags, of course. Shoes, hair cuts, clothes of any kind were not.
Gone would be the days of grocery shopping at Super Target, slyly adding a pair of sunglasses, a t-shirt and some socks to the food bill.
I’m pretty sure this was not part of the original plan, but I spent the prior week stocking up on inventory. My favorite Bumble and Bumble shampoo that’s only available at the salon, Borghese makeup and t-shirts galore. Certainly, I was denying the fact that the same amount of consumption was occurring whether it happened all in one week or over the course of a few months.
Nevertheless, this would be an important life lesson about putting thought into what I consumed instead of utilizing my typical American more-more-more-and-still-more because-that-is-simply-not-enough mind. It would be a realization in the fine art of appreciating what I have instead of longing for what I don’t.
And for the first few weeks, the lesson was definitely being learned.
I resisted impulse purchases. I used things that normally sat at the back of my closet. I scraped the bottom of the barrel instead of buying something new. I was becoming thoughtful about reducing, re-using and recycling.
Two months has gone by, now.
It’s getting old.
My hair is a grown-out mess. The t-shirts I bought have stains on them. The money I savcd for a new designer purse is spontaneously combusting from non-use.
Perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned is that the purpose of shopping is not just to acquire things.
In the craziness of a family of five, two big dogs, a fish, friends breezing through the house, and harried car rides to endless activities, shopping is a respite, a few moments, however fleeting, to think about me.
During that half hour at Marshall’s, pondering over a nineteen dollar blouse, I’m not thinking about putting dinner on the table. I’m not thinking about cleaning the house while I’m in the shoe section at Nordstrom Rack. I’m not thinking about exercising while I am looking at the exercise clothes at Target.
The term “retail therapy” is not a joke, and can provide as much peace as a good yoga class or meditation session.
I have four weeks left on my shopping diet and I’m starting to get the shakes, headaches. I’m jonesing for a buy.
They say most diets fail, and that dieters gain all their weight back plus a few pounds. Does this translate to my consumption diet as well?
Will I walk out of the mall with t-shirts and makeup spilling out of my bags at 12:01 on the last day of my plan?
But, at least, I’ll be carrying reusable bags. Some things, thankfully, have stuck.