And so, we begin!

Happy 2014, everyone!

For me, this might be the most interesting, challenging, and enlightening year of my life. Or, it might be torturous. Or, it might be nothing at all.

As my family and I commit to a year of buying nothing (except groceries), I must ponder the question, “why the heck are we choosing to do this?”

Sure, saving money is nice. And so is saving the environment. But there’s more to it than that. If we really wanted to save money, we would also cut-out our fancy goat chevre and our occasional trips to the Distillery for dinner and a play. When it comes to the environment, four people “fasting” for one year is not going to make much difference. But, the challenge is about more than saving money and than the direct environmental impact of not buying stuff for a while.

I have both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for doing a consumer fast.

My intrinsic motivations are similar to those of a regular food fast. When fasting, people give their digestive systems a break, and often, their appetites a chance to “reset.” It is my hope that after a year of buying nothing, when I do return to buying things, I will do so with a renewed sense of what it means to “need.”

When we run out of something or see something we think we could desperately use, what will happen if we don’t satisfy that desire (at least not right away)? Will the desire remain, increase, decrease, or perhaps, go away altogether? I want to find out.

Ultimately, I want to change my buying habits forever. I want to no longer feel pleasure from acquiring a “new thing,” but to feel satisfied always, and to gain pleasure through other (less environmentally and financially destructive) means.

My extrinsic motivation is not to ‘save the world’ through one year of buying nothing, but rather to make the statement that a family of four (with kids) can exist–as somewhat ‘normal’ Westerners–without buying stuff for a year. Because really, Capitalism As We Know It would like to say otherwise. And Capitalism As We Know It‘s days are numbered. Either that, or our planet’s days are numbered. (And I sincerely hope the former.)

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think Capitalism should end tomorrow. Certain aspects of Capitalism are fantastic. It’s just that, as McKibben and Hawken point out, infinite growth on a finite planet is not possible. If we believe that our economy must keep growing in order to be healthy, then we must also believe that, in order to be happy, we have to keep buying stuff. I don’t believe either are true and I would like to prove this, first to myself, and then–hopefully–to others.

If the only way for me to be happy is to continue purchasing and consuming goods at the rate of the average North American, then the cost of my happiness may very well be the lives and lifestyles of others–those in developing nations and those of future generations. That doesn’t make me very happy.

So, here’s to a happy New Year … for all! Come what may, let my challenge begin.

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17 thoughts on “And so, we begin!

  1. Mind if I ask what you “aren’t going to buy”? I assume you have to buy food. But, no clothes? No TV, computer, electronics, cameras? No new furniture?

  2. Hi guys hope your trip is awesome. This is a great idea. We have talked about a spending freeze also. Living a simple life, releasing the feeling of always wanting new things. We will be following you on your venture, good luck!

  3. That’s great Bronny – inspiring as usual. 🙂 One thing that occurs to me is to be interested in how this will build community relationships if you need to replace essential items, and have to do so in ways other than buying them – by borrowing, sharing, trading, etc. There’s a lot of potential there for seeing how we can create more meaningful interdependence… maybe essential to reimagining what “community” means?

    • Thanks so much for your comments, Tamara. It is my dream that this year will become less about what we have given up and more about what we have gained – community being key. I think I will write a post about that. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. Wow, this is the most interesting and worthwhile challenge I’ve heard of in a long time! 100% behind you on your endeavour.

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  6. Bon courage! Have you read “Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping” by Judith Levine? Might be a good resource for your experiment.
    Mike

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