So, it’s 2015 and The Challenge is officially over. What now? Shopping spree! Time to go out and buy everything I’ve ever wanted to buy all year long …
… Actually, no. I have no such desire. In fact, I’ve had a difficult time coming up with ideas for my extended family regarding Christmas and birthday gifts. (My birthday was yesterday.) “Well, what do you need?” My mom asks. “Running shoes. I need running shoes.” I say. My Dad has a friend who owns a running store, so he has taken dibs on that gift. As for the rest, I’m kind of at a loss.
My mom and I may go to a day spa, spend some time together, and treat ourselves to a massage. I might get a heart-rate monitor that syncs with my running app. Beyond that, I think I’ll save my birthday and Christmas money for experiences: triathlon race entry fees, music concerts, special dinners. I don’t have any specific plans. I just know I don’t want stuff.
Stuff has been trickling out our door–mostly to the Goodwill–like water from a leaky tap. I look around my house (and closet) and think, “Wow. I absolutely LOVE everything I own.” It is a fabulous feeling.
There are some small things that will be purchased in the next few weeks: pantyhose with no runs or holes in them, a non-broken umbrella, scotch tape (it’s amazing what can be accomplished with electrical tape when need be), and my husband wants a caddy for our shower. Fair enough. I suppose.
Later this month we will also be purchasing a family cargo bike. It’s a major investment but one that we’ve had plenty of time to research, consider, and save-up for. As a car-free family living in The City, we think it makes sense. And I can’t wait. I keep asking myself if this is an “acquisition of material stuff” excitement, but I’d like to think it isn’t. It’s an “ease of lifestyle” excitement. It’s not about the thing, but about the experiences it will provide. But, okay. Maybe I’m a little excited about the bike itself. It is orange, after all.
So, there’s my future spending plans. No long wish-lists and no binge shopping to “reward” myself for a year of–mostly–successful “dieting.” While the official challenge has come to a close, The Fasting Consumer is far from done.
I love owning less. I love being happy and comfortable with four people and a dog in under 1000sqft–even with bicycles hanging from the ceiling. I love feeling impervious to marketing and to the cute little displays of nicknacks and must-haves for every new season. (I know I’m not really impervious, but I’m headed that way, and it feels great.) I love that my kids are happy with less and I love that this year’s Christmas-a-la-Fasting Consumer was awesome. Looking ahead, I can’t imagine doing it any other way.
While I did have visions of a completely stuff-free Christmas–visions of holding hands and singing Da-who Dorays around a giant tree, it didn’t quite work out that way. We wanted to buy absolutely nothing but, in the end, decided that empty stockings would be a little inexplicable to kids who still believe in Santa. While our seven-year-old is well aware of the Fasting Consumer “game,” it was clear that, in her mind, Santa was not playing. So, we buckled and filled the stockings. We kept it simple: chocolates, socks, and underwear. The one somewhat extravagant stocking stuffer (a camera for our daughter) was purchased off Craigslist for $15. Crafty elves, I tell you.
There were no other “Santa” presents and no presents from Mom and Dad (for the kids, for each other, or for anyone else), but from grandparents my daughter got a pogo stick and some new books, and my son, a ukelele and some little toy cars.
Our minimal shopping lists afforded us both the time and the money to purchase quality fair-trade organic chocolates, socks, and even underwear (I’m not joking), and to support local, independent stores. Shopping was accomplished in one stress-free afternoon while we took turns playing with the kiddos. Peter baked Dutch Stollen as gifts for our extended family and we wrapped the stocking items in packing paper from the pogo-stick delivery, electrical tape, and some leftover raffia. It was quite lovely, actually.
On Christmas morning, the kids were ecstatic. Despite there being only two presents under the tree (and some awesome stockings – granted), the Christmas magic was alive and well.
We had a few ribbons. We had a few tags. We had a few packages, boxes, and bags, but with limited stuff, we had something much more: the joy of a Christmas barely bought from a store. [Acknowledgements to Dr. Seuss.]
A Christmas with absolutely no material presents now seems entirely feasible, but not entirely necessary. Call me weak, but I reckon that one or two little grandparent gifts for the kids, some small clothing staple necessities, and some holiday baking seems like a reasonable and sensible way to celebrate, even for a Fasting Consumer.
A lot has happened this year. We moved to San Francisco, my husband took a job in Silicon Valley, I wrote the LSAT and applied for law school (I should hear back in the next couple months), and we purged a good 50% of our stored items (basement, closets, etc.), and a whole bunch of our every day stuff as well.
Life is looking grand and as the future unfolds, I plan to continue, perhaps not with the hard-set rules of the one-year challenge, but with the attitude of being a mindful consumer. While some purchases seem necessary, attempting to make it a year without giving-in to any apparent “needs” has taught me a lot about needs versus wants, about materialism, and ultimately about how consumerism interferes with life, the sustainability of our planet, and with true, uncluttered happiness.
I have so much more I would like to write about, including stuff I promised to write about and never did: thoughts about food choices, the economy, and about my quest to create a soap exchange. So, although the year is up, the writing will not stop. As I continue my journey, I will continue to update you with our Fasting Consumer successes, our failures, and the lessons we learn along the way.
Thanks for a great year and here’s to living 2015 in a way that may sustain happiness for all earth’s citizens, present and future.
The Fasting Consumer