Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Year Without: Volume 2, "The First Three Months"

After not biting my nails for two weeks I was ready to take on the world. So on February 17, 2006 I decided to do something much more grand. I decided that I was not going to buy anything for me or my house for one year. I made up rules, first I could replace things if they wore out and I had nothing similar. For example, if all my jeans wore out then I could buy one pair, if a water heater went out I could replace that. I could also buy necessities like shampoo and replacement cosmetics, but not fancy things like scented lotions or perfumes. I could also still buy things for my children or my husband, they were not part of the deal--but I could not transfer my materialistic urges to them.

Why did I take on this task, you may or may not have asked. I'm not a particularly big spender. I didn't have oodles of cash around that I was wasting. It's just that I was tired of feeling a little desperate every time I went to Target or Smith's Marketplace. I was sure that if I found just the right white, grey or black t-shirt or just the right pair of pants that I would feel great about myself. I had a closet full of basic clothes and I kept buying more. I had an epiphany (one that I should have had long before that moment and one that I'm sure most of you don't even need to have)--maybe it wasn't clothes I needed to feel good about myself--maybe I just needed to stop and think.

At first it was such a relief. I could go and get groceries and not feel compelled to look at the clothes. I knew they were off limits. It was wonderful. I felt so superior. One month later I'm faced with an incredible temptation. I stained my favorite deep purple dress shirt--a grease stain that I could not get out. This was a necessity. I justified and hemmed and hawed, but I knew it was not part of the deal. I had other dress shirts. I had to either get it clean or do without. I treated it and washed it with every load of darks and finally after about 10 loads it came clean. I cannot tell you the utter rapture I had wearing that shirt. I had been living in an environment where I would have considered that shirt disposable--what a waste. (I wore that shirt Christmas Eve 2008 and I still loved it.)

Our society has considered so many things disposable. Take computers in and you will be told that it is just cheaper to get a new one. Rip a hole in your pants, you don’t mend it with a patch, you buy a new pair—I seldom see anyone with obviously repaired clothing nowadays, but when I was little I remember wearing flower patches, sun patches or just the good old ubiquitous blue rectangle patch.

During this time I was movie "Bleak House" on PBS, the young heroine received flowers and she immediately pressed some in her book, then gazed on them tenderly from time to time. I loved that. Because she had so little, she really prized what she had. Often I think we can just replace things, even something sentimental. Nothing is precious--or everything is too precious and we feel desperate for more of it.

Two years later it all seems a little silly in time of recession. Willingly giving up things, things considered luxuries to the rest of the world, is much different than being unable to pay for housing or food. I hope I understand that--but putting conscious space between myself and materialism changed the way I acted. I hope it changed it forever.

To be continued, "IKEA Comes to Town"

1 comment:

  1. Seriously, someday I will try to live up to your experiment! You have incredible will!

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