With this post, I’m doing something different from the usual, writing other than about publishing, writing, and books. I’m battling with the thought, should I write this or not, but it has occupied my mind since the turn of the year, so I go ahead.
Last year, I had this idea of not buying new clothes and other unnecessary items, and I failed after a month or two, reasoning this and that is necessary. I need them. I hate to admit that. That I was so weak. This year, after watching a video on YouTube, I thought I would give a shot for the harsher version where I buy nothing, only the necessities like food and replacements for hygiene and cleaning products, and I have permission to renew trade programs I now use to advance my writing like Grammarly, WordPress, even an audiobook service (some of you might disagree with this, but I consider it as my tool to know what is out there and keep writing my reviews and learning about writing. I can’t buy new books, but don’t worry, I counted I have on my night table over 30 books I haven’t read, and there’s a possibility of using libraries. I now see I have a problem. But I don’t renew any streaming service subscriptions or anything like that. Those are unnecessary for my writing career.) Also, I will renew my climbing gym membership (sorry, not giving up that for anything. It keeps me sane.) I have always been against overconsumption and hated what it does to our nature and morals.
And I have always thought I spend a little. I don’t use makeup or hair products; I don’t buy that many new clothes, this and that. But the truth is, while this might hold true compared to some, I buy a lot of shit I didn’t know I did. Only going cold turkey made me see where I spend my money, how I see it, what I think as necessities, what lies I told myself, what loopholes I had. And all this has gotten me thinking how much I reward, motivate, desire, and so on through things and activities that cost money. That partly my self-esteem and inner state are reflected through the material world. This truly surprised me. What else have I been lying to myself?
This idea of going cold turkey first seemed absurd and silly to me. Why do you need to do that? Don’t you have a backbone just not to buy? I kept asking myself. And I kind of thought that for the first few days, but the thing is, I needed to take a step back and wholly see what this consumption thing is and how entangled it is with my being. (I’m still in the early stages, and difficult times are ahead.) The first thing I noticed was how many things I fix by buying, and I don’t mean things like clothes and so on. I mean ordinary house items that serve a function. Like another day, we were sitting in the kitchen with my husband and doing an old jigsaw puzzle, and he noted that we should get a lamp over the table because the ones we have are poorly situated, and it is dim to do anything on the table.
First thought was, okay yeah, and then my new friend I call No Buy Year asked me a question, “Can you fix it without buying something new?”
The answer is yes. I have Christmas lights hidden somewhere. We could use them. Or there is the night-lamp we rarely use. Maybe we could bring it to the kitchen. Suddenly, there seemed to be so many solutions I might have ignored before. And I realized how many problems call for a bit more effort (in its purest form, going over in your head what you already own) without a need to spend a dime.
But it is easier for me not to buy new house items. They don’t arouse any particular feelings in me. Only problem-solving. But I found out, I have problems with loopholes. I went climbing with my friend and there was a shop in the front hall with climbing clothes in it. And we got to talking about trousers and so on. And I found myself inside a fitting room with these soft, beautiful, durable, as if I’m not wearing anything pants, and my friend was inventing reasons how could I bypass my resolution. I was brave and said no. It was easy to appear cool about it in front of her, but when I got home, I kept thinking those pants and how perfect they were. Before going to sleep, I googled them and found a shop where they were 15% off, and I drooled and drooled and thought how much nicer they were than my climbing pants. And… I shut the pages and hoped that my husband would buy them for me as I had sent the page link to him. The next morning I asked if he had he seen the link, he shrugged. And I realized how stupid I was, that I tried to wiggle myself free of this deal by outsourcing my cravings to someone else.
I reminded myself that I have two excellent trousers I can use. Yes, they are worn out and so on, but there are no tears and that I climb as well with them as I would with my new magical pants. Why am I writing this? I noticed I had these excuses in my head. I can buy anything to advantage my exercising, I can buy any book with a whim, I can pamper my cats with new toys (and all they want is attention from me,) I can fix small problems by buying new. That is consuming and without a good cause. You, silly woman, have over 30 books on your night desk, and you think you need more? You have two, no four pants you can use for climbing, and you believe new pants will make you, what?
I knew I had these loopholes in me, but I ignored them, saying that they were morally superior items to cheap fashion. They aren’t. That is the ugly truth. It is consuming as much as anything else, I just can pretend I’m using my money wisely. Money that we work hard to obtain, and then we go out and spend it on crap instead of us. What are your dreams, what are your wants? The secret wishes you don’t let anyone know. There you should spend your money and time. (Also, time-wise, friends and loved one’s human or animal kind are more important than we like to think.) I realized that if I don’t buy crap, I might save enough money to purchase editing and cover art for my third book. Isn’t that where I want to use my money? To gift me another year more to write and publish?
Just a reminder, we are still in the early days of the year. I have to be vigilant with those loopholes and consult my new friend, No Buy Year. But the loopholes weren’t the only parasite I found I have. There is this thing called value and self-esteem. Self-esteem is an easy one. The clothes and activities that I consume don’t define me. They don’t make me worthier to be alive. Yes? Simple. Let’s move on. No, wait! The thing is. Not that simple. I noticed that I use rewards to motivate me. And it is a fine tool to use occasionally when I want to change my behavior or to get myself finally from procrastinating to work. But then I looked at my rewards from the light of my new friend (monster) and noticed how much of it involved buying. And I mean not only new items, but also activities. And I wondered, is this how I want to value myself? Is this who you want to be? Are you genuinely saying that a reward from being, for example, proactive and social, is that you get new pants or trip to a deprivation tank or evening out on the town with art shows and eating out? Really?
I’m afraid I don’t have an answer to this question. Some wisdom to share. I’m still trying to figure this one out. I’m happiest when I’m next to my husband, playing with my cats, deep in the forest, reading a book, after I write something, after I finish something difficult, and after I exceed myself, when I speak with my friends. I know this, yet, I reward myself with things that make me feel what? I don’t understand this. Where and why such behavior has sneaked in me? We can, of course, question the whole rewarding system. It is a shitty way to motivate oneself. Because the wise say that action itself should speak to itself. That am I fighting against my nature when I force myself into action when there is no will to one? But I leave that question open for now. I leave this notion with a question. Have I internalized other’s wishes and wants as mine, suffocating that voice inside me who knows me better than I do?
The last item on this early No Buy Year discovery is other people. How simply they say to any problem that buy a and then everything will be fine. I hadn’t noticed before how many conversations involve consuming one way or another, activities included. And I don’t think the people around me are any more obsessed with consuming than others, it is just that I hadn’t noticed that before. That we share these tips on how to survive our lives, and many of those tips involve some form of money exchange. It could be explained with evolutionary psychology, something to do with survival and foraging. Still, now as those don’t take up most of our time, we fix our lives and our constant cravings with other material goods, thinking they elevate our chances to succeed in life. But while evolutionary psychology is appealing, it often cuts corners and simplifies complex problems. So this buying thing has multiple layers, starting from basic needs to aspirations to cultural to status to power to life and happiness.
To conclude, the year has just started. I battle with these thoughts and what they mean and the cravings ahead. I question my motives and my impulses, trying to peek behind them and understand where they come from. I hope my ramblings have some sense to make you read thus far.
Thank you for reading and have a good year! You are a lovely human being, and nothing else has to be said.
“Free from desire you see the mystery.
Full of desire you see the manifestations.
These two have the same origin but differ in name.
That is the secret,
The secret of secrets,
The gate to all mysteries.”
–Tao Te Ching