For the past few months, I’ve noticed an old and familiar habit slowly creep back into my life: impulsiveness. Specifically, impulsive spending. It started shortly after I finally found and bought a couch. That was an intentional purchase paid for with money I had set aside for it. But from there, I’ve made a few spending decisions that weren’t very well thought out. I booked a one-way flight and agreed to go on a road trip with someone I had never met before. I bought a rug that I do love but didn’t necessarily need. I picked up my first-ever deck of tarot cards. I bought a piece of wood and convinced myself I would turn it into a shelf or side table. A few books have been added to my shelves. And I’ve been craving more.
None of this has broken the bank, so to speak. I haven’t gone into any debt and I’m not stressed about money (though I am running on a leaner budget, since choosing to stop freelancing). So I don’t feel bad or guilty or any shame about the money I’ve spent. I do, however, feel like it’s out of alignment with who I am. In fact, that’s something I’ve been feeling in many areas of my life.
Looking around my apartment right now, I can tell something isn’t right with me personally. My bookshelves, which are normally organized with everything in its place, are now full of stuff. At a quick glance, I don’t know what half of it is, but I’m sure there’s mail I’ve ignored and sticky notes I’ve misplaced. I can see notebooks and pads of paper I had started writing ideas in hiding under more books and random inanimate objects. Next to the shelves is a stack of books I had planned to donate but is still collecting dust. In my bedroom, my dresser is also disorganized and I know my wardrobe could stand to be pared down a bit. And by the front door, there are no less than four reusable bags full of recycling I have been too lazy to take downstairs.
On top of this physical mess in my home, my digital life looks even worse. Two weeks ago, I stopped ignoring my inbox and accepted the fact that I had more than 200 emails to reply to. Before you ask, yes, they required genuine and thoughtful replies. I’m a veteran when it comes to crossing the easy tasks off a list (including replying to short emails), which makes me feel like I’m still being productive or making progress – but it can get me nowhere and fast. In this case, while I had stayed on top of the weekly duties for my blog and Rockstar Finance, there were emails from mid-May I still hadn’t replied to. Mid-May. All of these things are physical representations of how messy life has been since the dogs passed.
With the trauma and loss that’s occurred this year, it makes sense that I’ve been seeking a little instant gratification here and there – and that includes only tackling the easy tasks, in order to trick myself into feeling like I’m still getting things done. But it’s also gotten me back to a place where I’m feeling overwhelmed and a little lost. I’ve lost touch with my personal goals and don’t know exactly what I’m working towards anymore, which makes it a lot easier to waste money on things I might not need or make decisions that are out of character for me. When I find myself here, I know the best thing I can do is hit pause and check in with myself – and one of the ways I like to do that is with a shopping ban.
You might be wondering why or how a shopping ban could help. I did one for two years, so you would think I had learned all the lessons from the experience that I possibly could by now. But even though I only completed that experiment in July 2016, a lot has changed since then. I’ve celebrated two birthdays. I’ve travelled alone and moved to a new city. I’ve experienced a few major losses. I’ve made new friends. I wrote a book and started some other new projects. And in the past few months, I’ve started going to therapy which has changed my life and also turned it upside down at the same time. A lot has happened since last summer. A lot has changed. I am a different person and, for that reason, I think I have some different goals and values.
That is where the shopping ban comes in. When I did my extended ban, there were multiple parts to it, all of which helped me figure out who I was and what I really wanted. First, I hit pause on my spending. Then I decluttered and took inventory of what I kept. I tidied up my home and my digital life. I did some goals + values exercises. And I finished feeling like the best version of myself, because I finally felt like I knew myself.
I’m missing that feeling. My first shopping ban was not about depriving myself. It helped me switch from feeling like I was merely surviving (both in the financial sense and physical sense) to feeling empowered. It helped me figure out who I was and what I really wanted, and put me back in the control seat of my life. And yes, it also helped me change a few habits and learn some mindfulness techniques, which I think we could all use a refresher on from time-to-time. However, more than anything, it got me to a place where I finally felt like I was in alignment. The current state of my home and my life proves that I’m not there right now, so that is my main goal – but there will be a lot of little goals/tasks to work on along the way.
Here are my intentions for this month’s slow living experiment.
Experiment #7: Slow Consumption!? Sure, let’s go with that. ;)
- complete a 30-day shopping ban (August 3rd – September 1st)
- do a small declutter/purge + take inventory of some of my stuff
- organize my digital life (inbox, blog post drafts folder, files/folders, pictures, etc.)
- do some values + goal-setting exercises
- get back into alignment with myself :)
For this shopping ban, the rules will be the same as always: I can buy groceries, gas for my car and anything I run out of that I need. But honestly, I think I have everything in my home I could possibly need for the next month. I’ll keep you posted on that, of course.
I’ve already started working on my digital clutter. First, I replied to every single one of the emails in my inbox. It took three full work days (about 25 hours) but I’m done and already feel so much better. Oddly enough, I’m genuinely looking forward to cleaning up my phone and desktop files soon.
But the next thing I have to do is this declutter/purge (and finally take out all the recycling). On Saturday, I’m leaving Squamish and won’t be back until the first week of September, so it’s now or never – and like most writers, I always work better on a deadline! So that’s what I’ll be doing this week.
Like I said before, the overall action required of a shopping ban is to simply hit pause and check in with yourself. It’s a timeout from consuming so we can figure out what we actually want in our lives. That’s it.
Do you want to do this 30-day shopping ban with me? Or do you feel like you need to do even one of the exercises? Let me know and I’ll make sure we have some productive conversations about it this month. :)
PS – Don’t forget to enter my current giveaway! As the saying goes, ”what consumes your mind controls your life” – and your finances, in my opinion. This summer, start simplifying both. Learn from some of the most influential people in the minimalism + intentional living spaces and create the simpler life you want. Good luck, friends!