5 Things I've Learned from 7 Months of No Shopping

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Pure holy simplicity confounds all the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of the flesh. 

                                -From the writings of St. Francis of Assisi

I’m halfway through my year of no-shopping and I am becoming an accidental minimalist. It's also making me bipolar.
While minimalists are cool, I never intended to become one when I started this project. I just wanted to reign in my spending, be honest about my attachment to material things (I'm sooooo attached) and to see if I could do it.
Yet, seven months in, minimalism is taking a hold of me. I've realized intentions work that way. We start a commitment with a particular intention. But at some point, our intention takes on a life of its own. A single action begins to transform our life in broad, unpredictable ways. Here are five ways that No Shopping is changing me.

1.  Purging Addiction: I now have a purging addiction.  I thought that when I stopped buying clothes, I would horde my remaining fibers, hovering in my closet like Gollum from The Hobbit, whispering to my precious one white sweater. Instead, I've become protective of the white space in my closet.  The space in between clothes. It feels like freedom. As I purge my closet, I'm also purging my obligation to wear something, just because it is on my shelves.

And as the white space increases, it's easier to see what no longer works in my closet and to effortlessly dethrone it, no matter who gave it to me or how much it costIt is mirroring in my life as well.  As there is less clutter, it's easier to see what I want to step into.

2.  The Generosity of the Universe:  This project has convinced me of the generosity of the universe.  If I really need something, an article of clothing, a bit of caffeine, it somehow magically appears.  A friend might offer to loan me a top.  A gift or hand-me-down arrives unexpectedly.  The Starbucks barista takes pity and donates an ice tea to my cause.  It's as if I was constantly buying things before because I did not trust that the universe had my back.  It does.

3. Whack a Mole - Lest you think that this has be easy, effortless resolution, let me confess otherwise. 
Do you remember the carnival game where you hit a mole and it keeps popping up in different places?  I've avoided the mall, but lingered in the specialty aisle at the grocery store, convinced we could not make it through the week without fig jam and marcona almonds.  I stopped shopping for clothes, shoes, and accessories and suddenly found my make-up collection had doubled.  Amazon delivers a new book to me almost every week (and no, I am not even close to reading them all).   While it's not cheating,  I am clearly funneling my dopamine hits into new categories. 

It makes me feel bi-polar.  I am purging my wardrobe while stockpiling reading material.  Which brings me back to accidental minimalism.  As I've catch myself in loopholes, I become acutely aware of the other places in my life that have excess.   The local library just received my  donation of books.

4.  Integrity and the Mistress of Trickery:   I like cheating the system, which means that I even try to find loopholes in my own system.  Which is weird, right? I mean, I've created the system, why would I cheat it. And yet, I do it. I think, "If I buy this for my son and I get a second one free for me, does that count? " As if I won’t notice how I am sneaking around the edges of my moral conscience. It’s like eating food from someone else’s plate and thinking those calories won’t count because no one saw it.
It's made me reflect on what Integrity is. Perhaps, integrity is less a core value, but rather a continual choosing in each moment. It’s not one decision (To run a marathon) but rather the collection of choices made every single day to become who we want to be. The training every day, even when you don't want to. There lies integrity...and will power.
And it's made me ponder on how quickly integrity can erode through the small, seemingly insignificant slips. I've hit moments where I could feel that one small, indirect purchase would erode the entire foundation of my resolution. Over and over I see how easy it would be to close my eyes, cover my ears and to not choose integrity. I have stayed with this resolution, but I haven't always looked pretty along the way (and that's not because of my clothes).

5.  Creativity and the Joy of Sharing the Journey: When we don’t have to work for something, we tend to operate in very routine ways. When we really, really want something, we get creative. Because of my non-habit, I’ve gotten really creative about how to add to my wardrobe. My favorite event was holding a clothing swap with a host of fabulous women. Bring five items and go home with five replacements. Win-win-win. An opportunity to purge closets and the glee of new clothes for free. The best part? Most women left with 2-3 items instead of five. When pressed, they expressed a sense of accomplishment in purging more than they acquired.
Friends have said they are inspired and are doing their own version of No Shopping. Others are eyeing it for 2019. It was meant to be a personal journey, but I've got to be honest, it feels AWESOME to do something that inspires people towards their own journey. It makes it so worthwhile.


So we will see where the final stretch takes me. So far, I love it.  
With the simplicity of love,
Jennifer