Stopping shopping

I’ve been reading a lot about living a minimal life recently. A life where you scale back what you have, are intentional about what you buy and simplify all areas of life (from how much you pack when going on holiday to reducing the amount of stuff you do just because you do it, not because you necessarily want to do it). It’s been really eye opening.

If you’re interested, some of the people I’ve been learning from are:

I mentioned in a recent post that I’m considering doing a shopping freeze. Where I don’t spend unintentionally for a period of time. I’m thinking of doing a month with the view to maybe extending it for longer.

Sure, since Jenson has come on the scene I’ve bought less for myself (it comes with the territory of having a baby who wants to be constantly on the go and doesn’t like wandering around in shops) but I’ve often ordered things on amazon on a whim, mindlessly bought stuff I don’t really need in the supermarket, made impulse buys in the few moments I’ve had in shops. And I’m starting to yearn to live a different life where I’m more intentional about what I spend my hard-earned money on.

There are several reasons why this idea has been brewing within me in recent times.

  • Now that Jenson is on the scene, the income we’ve got this year has been reduced by about a third. We’ve decided to give ourselves £200 spending money a month (£50 being dedicated to coaching sessions I’m having each month). This money is to pay for dinner out with friends, any necessities I need for myself, the cost of running this website, vegan treats, to pay for upcoming hen parties and weekends away etc. I know this is a lot more than some have but it’s a reduction in what I used to spend before.
  • When I go back to work, Jenson’s childcare will cost close to £1000 per month. That’s what Gregg and I used to save every month so if we are going to still be able to still put money aside towards future holidays and future dreams, I’ll need to spend less in my daily life. On this trip we’ve hatched another travel dream of spending 3+ weeks in India in late 2019 (just before we’d need to pay for a full priced plane ticket for Jenson). If this is to happen, my daily spend will need to decrease.
  • I’ve become aware of just how much I’m being manipulated by companies into believing that I absolutely need something to just find out that I don’t need it at all. There have only been a few things I’ve bought and still love from over the years – my computer which I use to write my blogs and coach people via Skype, my chakra necklaces that I wore regularly until having Jenson and intend to put back on when I return to work, my cornflower blue accessorize bag which I bought myself as a treat for passing my HR studies, makes me feel so pretty and which comes out every summer, my magimix food processor which gets used weekly if not daily. I want my life to be filled with things I love, not things I feel luke-warm about.
  • I find myself getting rid of things and replacing them with stuff that I then get rid of. Shoes that are uncomfortable, clothes that are pretty but not practical for daily use, charity shop purchases I make because they seem like a bargain or they are a good make (regardless of whether I really love how the clothes look on me). I’m no longer happy doing that.
  • My life is going to become more complicated juggling work and motherhood and my rich social life. I want to simplify every other area in my life so I have as much brain space to focus on what really matters to me. A tidy, minimalist house and wardrobe will help me to have a tidy, stress free mind.
  • I want my life to be rich in experiences, not in possessions but for the former to be the case, something needs to change.
  • I know that sometimes I push down my feelings with shopping. It’s not my poison of choice – food will always be my number one vice – but I get a thrill from shopping which feels like an endorphin high and I’m curious of why this is and what life would be like without the rush. Would I deal with emotions underneath more?
  • I want to tread lightly on this earth and so buying less seems to be exactly the right thing to do.
  • I want to enjoy and appreciate what I have instead of always wanting more.

So there you are and well done if you’ve made it through my massive list of why I want to do this ‘stopping shopping’ challenge. Why it is the right call for me at this point in my life.

So what do I need to do in order to bring this challenge to life?

I need to de-clutter my life – sort out and get rid of the clothes, shoes and possessions which are dead weight to me. This will partly have to wait until I’ve finished breastfeeding and no longer need the tops that allow me to feed Jenson/express milk but it can start now.

It would also be good, like Cait Flanders who did a two year shopping ban to draw up the rules of engagement.

Here are her rules:

What I’m allowed to shop for:

▪ groceries and basic kitchen supplies (plastic wrap, tin foil, etc.)

▪ basic cosmetics (like eyeliner and mascara, but only after I run out)

▪ toiletries (toothpaste, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, etc.)

▪ cleaning products (namely laundry detergent)

▪ a few essential clothing items identified at the beginning of this challenge

▪ gifts for others

What I’m NOT allowed to shop for:

▪ “fun” cosmetics (namely nail polish)

▪ clothes (except for a few essentials, or if I lose weight and nothing fits)

▪ shoes (this will be easy, as I hate buying shoes anyway)

▪ books, magazines and notebooks (this will be tough)

▪ household items (candles, decor, furniture, etc.)

▪ electronics and appliances

While Cait writes about physical purchases she makes, I want my list to include all the things I spend money on. Here’s what I’m contemplating as rules for myself:

What I’m allowed to spend my money on:

  • Groceries on my pre-written shopping list (removing the impulse buys I so often make)
  • Basic home supplies when I run out (cling film, cleaning products, etc.)
  • Toiletries for myself, Gregg and Jenson (toothpaste, soap, shampoo, nappies etc.) but only when I have used up everything I already have.
  • Essential clothing – a new pair of work trousers, a pair of flat work shoes that are comfortable, can be worn with every work outfit I own and are good for my back (I suffer from lower back pain but never usually bear this in mind when I buy shoes).
  • Replacing clothes that break over my time stopping shopping (i.e. my jeans that are on their way out)
  • Transport to work
  • The cost of house up-keep (basic paint, repairing our broken gate)
  • Resoling my old Birkenstock sandals so I can continue to wear them in the future and avoid buying another pair.
  • Gifts for others
  • My ‘vegan living’ magazine subscription which inspires me and helps me to stick to my plant-based lifestyle
  • Printing out photos to put up at home of recent adventures
  • My annual website subscription
  • My coaching sessions
  • Occasional meals and coffees out with friends
  • Experiences I want to have – trips to the cinema, massages, weekends to see friends, holidays

What I’m NOT allowed to spend my money on:

  • Clothes and shoes (except for a few essentials listed above)
  • Books, notebooks and cards
  • DVDs, music etc
  • Cosmetics
  • Household decor
  • Coffee out at work
  • Electronics and appliances
  • Trinkets and momentos on holiday

Some of these things make me feel uncomfortable – stopping the impulse buys at the supermarket, not spending money on pretty notebooks, not buying very many clothes. But I also see that there is a lot that I am allowing myself to buy. I’m hardly depriving myself!

And immediately I feel like I need to do this for longer than a month in order for me to see how this goes. What about three months? Six months seems too long so there it is! Until 19 September 2018 I’m going to have a go at stopping shopping. It feels scary, exciting, liberating and right all at the same time.

I’ll let you know how it goes, dear friend!

How I broke up with my phone…or didn’t

I shared a few months ago that I was reading a book called ‘how to break up with your phone’. It provided a 30 day challenge to get rid of the habits I disliked about how I used my phone (over-checking it and reducing the 3 hours + that I find myself spending on it each day).

It was a really useful and thought provoking exercise to go through, one which has changed my relationship with my phone…but I still find myself on it a lot. And at the moment that’s ok.

I’ve got a 14 week old baby and a lot of the time I find myself trapped on the sofa under him as he’s sleeping. Reading a book or magazine is impractical when I find myself in this situation as the movement of turning the pages wakes him up and is not very comfortable for me. So I look at my phone. I catch up with friends on WhatsApp, write on my blog (as I’m doing now!), plan my trips abroad…and that’s ok.

This is a time where I have to come to peace with looking at my phone more than usual to keep my sanity.

But I have recognised the unhealthy aspects of my phone use and the book has really helped with that. I’ve realised how I mostly look at my phone when I feel awkward in social situations or to distract myself from uncomfortable feelings like anxiety, boredom or stress instead of dealing with them.

And with this awareness comes an ability to choose. Do I really want to use my phone to avoid tough feelings or can I sit with them until they vanish or instead reach out to someone.

So I haven’t broken up with my phone completely, but I have started to redefine my relationship with it and that is exactly what I needed to do.

Why now, what for, what else?

I’ve been continuing to read my book ‘how to break up with your phone‘ (I wrote about it in another blog here) and enjoying the day-by-day activities to reduce the amount of time I mindlessly spend staring at social media apps.

It’s been straight forward, albeit a bit scary as I deleted all the apps from my phone that I go to automatically in moments of boredom – Instagram and Facebook being the main culprits (yes, Facebook had snuck back onto my phone after being deleted a few weeks ago) and I found the following activity in the book particularly helpful – when you reach for your phone, ask yourself:

Why now? What’s prompted me to pick up my phone right now?

What for? Is there a particular reason for doing so?

What else? What could I do to better respond to the reason why I was reaching for my phone in the first place?

What I’ve discovered in following the exercise is that I pick up my phone quite a lot out of boredom or when there’s any space in my life (like when I’m breastfeeding). It’s like a second reflex.

I also pick it up when I’m feeling a bit socially awkward – with no one to speak to or not sure where I fit in, I reach for my phone.

And I also pick it up out of FOMO – wondering what I’ve missed online.

This awareness is really helpful to reduce my time online. And what I’m discovering is that the exercise is also brilliant for any other areas of my life that have a tendency to get out of balance

  • The cake I reach for when I’m feeling anxious
  • The things I buy to fill a void in my life
  • The TV I watch out of tiredness/boredom

Not that these things control my life or are particularly dysfunctional but asking myself ‘why now, what for, what else’ gives me the option to truly respond to what is going on underneath.

And that’s always a good thing!

Breaking up with my phone

I wrote a few weeks ago about disconnecting a bit from social media and my phone – since I’ve been on maternity leave I’ve been finding myself going from app to app more often than usual and mindlessly passing time scrolling through pages and pages of content without really being aware that I’m doing it.

I initially bought the book ‘how to break up with your phone‘ for my mum as I think she’s as prevalent as I am online, posting things, commenting and getting drawn into the dopamine high of online life (sorry mum!). But when I had a sneaky pre-read of it, I could see that it would be really useful for me so I decided to keep the book and offer it to her (if she wanted to look at it) after breaking up the relationship I have with my own phone.

There’s a 30 day programme you can follow which involves a lot of reflection about my online habits and I thought I would do them here since, reading this, chances are you spend a lot of time online too, dear friend. And if you want to, you can also follow the headers I will use to assess your own relationship with your phone.

Our lives are what we pay attention to…so what do I want to pay more attention to as I disconnect from my phone?

I want to be fully present moment-to-moment – with my family, with friends, when I’m walking out and about. I want to spend more time actively choosing what I do – playing the ukulele, watching my favourite TV shows, seeing people, reading books, getting out into nature – instead of passively passing so much time online.

What do I love about my phone?

I love that my phone connects me to people all over the world. Some of my closest friends don’t live near me (in fact, they live about as far away as they could be!) and I love that my phone allows me to connect with them and stay in touch. I also love how I can record audio messages to these friends so I can still keep in touch even if we’re not able to talk. I love that I have a camera close by most times to capture lovely moments I’m having. I love that I have helpful apps (google translate, a calculator, internet browser, wordpress – the site which hosts my website) at my fingers all of the time. Oh, I also love podcasts on my phone, I listen to loads of them as I’m walking out and about and when I’m feeding Jenson at night or can’t sleep.

What don’t I love about my phone?

I don’t like how often I’m drawn away from the present because of my phone. I find myself reaching for it compulsively to check whether anything has happened online. I’ve disabled all notifications apart from for text messages, so my attention isn’t pulled away when I get a new whatsapp messages or e-mail but quite often I’ll find myself logging onto my phone just to check whether I’ve received a message. I don’t like how instant everything is – I feel like there’s a pressure to respond to things as soon as I’m contacted and, as someone who can feel anxious, it puts another pressure on my mental to-do list. I also don’t love how much time I spend on my phone. It feels like such a waste of life – all the hours I spend just mindlessly looking online. I also don’t like how pushy some apps are set up to be – I’ve disabled facebook messenger notifications and every time I go on there, I’m asked to enable notifications. It’s annoying and quite intrusive.

What changes do I notice in myself – positive or negative – when I spend a lot of time on my phone?

Positive: When I receive a personal audio message from someone, filling me in on a friend’s life, it makes me feel connected. When I see happy news from a friend on Facebook, I light up. When I witness something wonderful or interesting or funny, I’ll really like being connected online. I also love all the inspiration I get from vegan recipe pages I see on Facebook or Instagram.

Negative – I can feel a bit twitchy when I’ve been on my phone for a while – especially if I’ve been switching from app to app to app. I feel a response, negative or positive, depending on how much real connection with people I’ve had online. My head also feels very full with all the interactions I’ll have had. I’ll also feel bad if I’ve spent loads of time on my phone as it makes me feel like I’m wasting so much time doing something which adds so little to my life. It’s also a bit like sweets for me – the more I have sweets (at dinner, at lunch, a mid-afternoon snack), the more I want to eat them. So the more I spend time online, the more I crave going online. I don’t like this behaviour in myself as it starts to spill over to when I’m with friends, when I’m walking along the street, at work…

Imagine myself a month from now. What do I want my new relationship with my phone to look like? What would I like to have done or accomplished with my extra time? What would I like someone to say if I asked them how I’ve changed?

A month from now, I’d like to be spending less time passively looking online. I’d love to regularly have time when I don’t take my phone out with me, or have it in another room of the house. With the time I’d get back, I’d like to choose something I’d like to do…I think I’d like to read a book that is relevant to my work or go over my coaching notes. More than anything, I think I’d like to be more present with whatever I’m doing. So with friends, I’d have my phone stored away in my bag – not on the table. At meals, I’d not have my phone out. When watching TV, I wouldn’t also be scrolling online. When feeding my son, I’d be either engaging with him or doing something I actively wanted to do. And people would notice that – my increased presence.


So that’s my day 2 activity for breaking up with my phone (day 1, FYI, was installing an app to track my phone usage – I’ve got an iPhone and downloaded ‘moment’. This app which showed me that on a day of low phone usage I spent 7% of my waking time on my phone, which really scared me).

I’m actually on day 3 – which is all about noticing how I feel about my phone:

  • Why I reach for my phone – nearly always to fill space – when I’m in a queue, waiting for someone, when Jenson is quietly feeding – or when I’m doing something I’m only semi-engaged it like watching TV
  • Changes before and after I reach my phone – excitement, curiosity, a bit of a rush which doesn’t really last or leaves me feeling a bit lower if there’s no interesting new message. Also a feeling of anxiety if I’m pulled away from my phone but haven’t finished responding to people online.

I hope this has been of interest or has maybe prompted you to think about your phone habits. I’d love to hear your thoughts about your relationship with your phone.

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