"People buy things they don't need, with money they don't have, to impress people they don't like." (Clive Hamilton)
I am choosing this ultimate celebration of consumerism, Boxing Day, to launch the Less is More Project.
This is not a new fad, but rather a new step toward a life of mindfulness. For a few years now I have had a desire to let go of the material sphere and to take my distance from the ubiquitous consumerist tendencies, for reasons that range from saving the planet to saving my wallet, but mostly because it fits my quest for well-being. You see, I have noticed that the least I own, the lighter I feel. That every time I get rid of something, I acquire freedom. That past the initial high of acquiring stuff lies a much less exciting feeling, of the blasé type: once you've owned something for a little while, you become so accustomed to it that you don't even notice it anymore, let alone derive pleasure from it. What's more, what you are left with is less money in your account (that you could have used for other, more meaningful things) and more clutter in and around your house. Some people even sacrifice free time on the altar of consumerism, as they work longer hours in order to afford the stuff they buy. If those are the rules of the game, I don't want to follow them. More and more, I feel like I don't want to play the game altogether.
This mindset makes me feel a teeny bit like a fringe element of society. After all, that consumerist frensy seems to afflict all socioeconomic groups, with the exception maybe of the ones that struggle the most. Depending on our means (and often regardless of our means), most of us end up buying things we don't need, just because we like them, because the price is good, because the act of purchasing in itself gives us a high... or to keep up with the Joneses. Luckily, there is a growing trend to go back to the basics. It's called minimalism, or frugal living, or voluntary simplicity. Numerous people want to extricate themselves from the nonsense of consumerism. I want to be part of that group. I have already experimented with simplicity, and it has never failed to provide me with a great sense of freedom and meaningfulness. I want to take this further. I am curious to see how far I can go, and what good it will do me.
I also want to share about my experience. The discoveries. The ups and downs. The struggles and challenges, my strategies to overcome them, my successes... and my failures. This blog will be an open book on the whole process. In addition to narrating my Less is More Project, I will retell my past encounters with simplicity. I will include the stories of other people who are making the choice of frugal living. I will share my readings. I will tackle some related - and sometimes hot - topics. I might even explore some frugal, environmentally-friendly alternatives to some of the products we think we cannot live without!
What this project is:
Beginning on January 1, 2015 and ending on December 31, 2015, I will not buy anything unless it answers a true need¸ such as basic groceries (I will have to determine along the way what exactly that encompasses), sunscreen, school supplies and seasonal clothes for the kids as they outgrow them - new winter boots, for example.
I am not expecting to personally need any of the following during the year to come: clothes, accessories, books, music, wine, games, sport equipment, household furnishings big and small, electronics, gadgets, etc. I might want them, but not need them, and that's precisely the point! No need, no buy.
Gifts are still in the air: how am I going to manage loved ones' birthdays, the traditional end-of-year gift to the teachers, etc? Especially given the fact that I do not enjoy making or baking things? We will see as we go.
I will also keep track of the things I get rid of, just to see how much stuff I still owned (after donating a lot already in the past two years) that I did not need.
I will be as honest and well-intentioned as I can throughout this project, e.g. I will not try and make excuses.
This is not a hardcore homesteading project. I am not ready yet for a self-sufficient, off the grid existence, therefore I will keep buying most of the food we consume. However, I will try and be creative with replacing cosmetics, hygiene and household products with a homemade, simple and clean alternative. I have already been going in that direction, so the idea will be to switch almost entirely to those alternatives as the year goes by.
This is not about obtaining for free the things I want no matter what. This is about not acquiring those things in the first place, and being okay with it.
I have been asked if I would renounce luxuries such as professional hairdressing, my gym membership and eating out - after all, none of those fulfills an actual need. For now, however, I want to focus on actual things that I might have bought, as opposed to services. I also value experiences (such as concerts and traveling) much more than objects. That being said, my use of bars, cafes and restaurants will remain very occasional, and I will question my use of other services and entertainment publicly on this blog.
I will not sell everything and move into a tree house or a sailboat... not yet, anyway. Given the fact that we live in the countryside and that D commutes to work downtown, I will also not get rid of the car.
If the house or car require maintenance, I will make sure it gets done. However, there will be no upgrades or renovations.
I will not do an inventory of what I already own before the project starts, and I will not go and stockpile either (something that was reproached to Judith Levine after she published Not Buying It - My Year Without Shopping). I want this project to be the most genuine as possible. Apart from writing this post, I will do absolutely nothing unusual in preparation for the start of the project.
The main goal is not to save money (although that will most certainly be a positive side-effect), but mostly to discover how little I actually need, and the true reasons why we consume.
You are more than welcome to participate in the project in your own unique way! Let's all start where we are, and get where we can. Please share your questions, anecdotes, insights and suggestions in the comments.
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I cannot wait to read your input!