Stopping shopping #2

So I shared with you about three weeks ago that I’m on a shopping ban for the next three months. Three months to simplify my life, reduce the amount I spend and enjoy what I have instead of always wanting more.

Since I committed to this way of living, I’ve found myself challenged a few times but have so far managed to avoid spending anything off my list of unallowed items.

The first time I was super keen to buy what I didn’t need was in Dubai airport on the way home from our travels. After five weeks of mostly no coffee (caffeine + breastfeeding = 🙅🏻‍♀️) I came across so many cafés selling the beautiful elixir that is decaffeinated coffee. And I wanted one so badly. To be honest, I could have bought one – it wasn’t on my banned list (I only said no to buying coffees when at work) – but it felt wrong so soon after my commitment of living on less to buy one. And so I did without one and felt quite smug until I walked past another café which brought new temptation. But I stayed strong, I resisted and then Gregg found something so wonderful…free ice cream given out by Emirates. It was better than any coffee I could have ever bought (and, I won’t lie, I may have had two of them 😬).

In the lead-up to my return to work I went into a frenzy of simplifying my life which I might write about in more detail at another point. I reduced my wardrobe to 25 items of clothing (the thought being that less choice leads to less anxiety), got rid of so much clutter in my bathroom cabinet (moisturiser I have had for years, make-up I have bought but never used) and put away the many pieces of jewellery that I have but rarely wear.

I found myself wanting to have different clothes – ones that were more ‘professional’ or ‘smartly-quirky’ to go back to work but my determination to not buy clothes made me dive into what this desire was about – wanting to be more (what ‘more’ is I’m not sure) and wanting to pin my confidence on my external appearance instead of knowing that I am enough just as I am. I know these thoughts of ‘not enoughness’ are perfectly normal for a returning-to-work mum so I’m not sharing this to berate myself. I found it good to notice what was going on for me and to remind myself that I am enough as I am, that I am not just what I look like.

On my first day back to work I had another stumble. I needed to buy a new tupperware container to store my milk expressing kit (sorry if this is TMI) and suddenly found myself in the kitchen aisle picking up a pretty new mug. It had a lovely geometric print on it, it was fairly large for a lovely big cup of chai or peppermint tea and I felt I needed it. I was putting it in my basket before I remembered that this was not something that was on my list of approved items to buy and so I put it back on the shelf. In that moment I felt disappointed to not be buying it – it was so damn pretty – but I knew it was the right thing to do.

And this was a pivotal moment for me where I realised how much I have a ‘disposable’ mentality.

Let me explain more.

Because I bought things with such haste and ease in the past, I was ok with the possibility of losing them or mistreating them so they fell apart. But I don’t like this way of being, such little care shown my possessions. I’d never buy real quality items – sunglasses would be cheap £5 ones, clothes would be what I could find in the sales. Part of this comes down the thriftiness – not wanting to part more money because of the item having a recognisable brand name – but it also comes down to my disposable mentality. Not wanting to buy something I knew wouldn’t last long.

One fear I had was that I’d feel restricted during the weekends or times where I’d usually potter around the shops (although those times have pretty much melted away since having my son!). But instead I’ve found this ban to be refreshing. We’ve enjoyed time in the park as a family, scrounged a picnic together from left-overs, spent time together just enjoying each other’s company. Taking shopping off the table has made more time in my life.

Almost a month into my shopping ban, I feel really good. Positive that this is the right step for me, happy with the level of challenge it is bringing me and sure that I will be able to complete this three month challenge – and even extend it to six months or a year!

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!

Feeling lighter

I’ve really enjoyed reading emails and content from the website ‘be more with less‘. The founder of the website, Courtney shares online how she simplified her life in all areas. Cleared out the possessions she didn’t use from her house, reduced her clothing down, paid off her personal debt and removed most processed foods from her diet.

There’s so much more that she did to simplify her life and I’ve felt inspired by her to, likewise, remove the clutter in order to feel lighter.

I used to enjoy having lots of possessions – as a child I had a huge collections of cuddly toys and collected anything pig/frog related. Skip forward a decade or two and I had a wardrobe full of irregular choice shoes which although stunningly beautiful I rarely wore because let’s be honest, they’re made for their looks, not for comfort. But  as the years have passed, I started feeling that all this stuff around me was weighing me down and just causing more busyness in my life.

So I started to de-clutter. I thought I would share some of the things I’ve done to take a step back and see how far I’ve come but also to hopefully give you some inspiration about how you could take some steps to find freedom through less…

Walk away

Living with less first started for me when I needed to budget – probably in the lead-up to my wedding or saving for a holiday. When shopping for any ‘indulgent’ item (a new dress, make-up, stationary – anything I wanted but don’t really need), I walked away from it and only went back to buy it if I still was thinking about it later on and really, really wanted it.

Now with a baby, things have changed. I have less time to mooch around looking at beautiful things and he’s not really a fan of over-heated stores so we tend to stay clear of them…so perhaps Jenson is helping me to never shop again 😛

Marie Kondo your wardrobe

Encouraged by my university friends who said how amazing she was, I turned to Marie Kondo for advice about how to organise my wardrobe. Apart from her clothes folding technique I’ve used to fit all my clothes into a reduced wardrobe space (see the video below for an idea of how she does it), I’ve slimmed down the amount of clothes I possess by asking myself about each item ‘does this bring me joy?’. Each piece of uncomfortable clothing I bought because I thought it made me look slim, each worn out top and each bargainous charity shop item which never really suited me has been put for sale on Facebook marketplace or donated to charity.

I know I’m in the fortunate position – one I won’t be at the end of my maternity leave when money is really tight – to have a surplus of clothing and be able to give things away knowing I can buy anything I need, but the principle of ‘will this bring me joy’ can apply to anyone when it comes to buying clothes. And what brings me joy?

  • Wearing something which make me feel gorgeous
  • Wearing something that is so comfy and not restrictive
  • Having clothes in my wardrobe that I love putting on each day

Easy peasy!

Ditch the ‘shoulds’ and forget the ‘what ifs’

I’m fortunate to be the owner of a kitchen aid. It’s a brilliant cake mixer which can also whisk eggs and knead dough. The only thing is that vegan cakes are best if mixed by hand, I don’t eat eggs and when I make bread I enjoy kneading it with my own hands. So my kitchen aid has sat around in my kitchen for about 5 years not being used.

I feel I should keep it because it was an expensive gift given to me and I’m worried about what if I ever want one again and have to spend money on buying one. But the truth is that I’m unlikely to want ever one again and, if I find I absolutely can’t live without it in the future, I can always save up and buy one again.

Focus on the benefits

I’ve started to sell my unwanted clothes and other items online, have got rid of the DVD collection I never watched and gave away the books I knew I was unlikely to want to re-read. I really love having less stuff around.

Knowing how great de-cluttering makes me feel has inspired me to continue to shed and simplify my life. The items I’ve sold have funded some lovely trips out with my son and I enjoy having a house that is less cluttered. It is so great to live with less – it makes me feel lighter and keen to keep on shedding stuff I don’t really need.

These are a few things I’ve done to simplify my life. I’d love to hear any ideas you have.

And I want to toast with you, dear friend, to a simple life. One with less stuff and more space. With money spent on experiences with loved ones, not on unneeded possessions. Where everything we own fills us with joy instead of weighing us down.