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Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Less is More Project: Week 00 - Setting the stage

JSM


"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.

What this project is not:

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 goal:

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.

Your participation: 

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. 

To ensure you will not miss a post, become a Follower (top left corner of the page). 

You can also follow me on Facebook: 
https://www.facebook.com/happinesssavouredhot

To subscribe by email, write to mleuxj@gmail.com

I cannot wait to read your input!





42 comments:

  1. I will be very interested to see how this goes... I think it will be a challenge, but very eye opening. I'm surprised you are including wine-I would have put that as a 'grocery item'

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    1. You are right: wine - and so many other things - could fit into the category "grocery items". But it's not a challenge if it's easy. :-)

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  2. C,est drole .j'ai commencer un peu ce truc sans trop m'en rendre compte.. En fait, j'ai commencer un gros ménage. Tout d'abord épurer énormement mon espace de vie ( appartement). J'ai débuter par le salon. J'ai peinture balnc et j'ai sortie tout ce dont je n'avais plus de besoin ou ce qui était pasée date. (genre vieux papier) ! Un bien énorme et est ressortie de cette expérience . Attendant de me voir aller dans le reste de l'appart

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    1. Ça fait tellement de bien! Je sais exactement comment tu t'es sentie! Donne-nous des nouvelles à mesure que tu avances.

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  3. Bon courage! how the girls are accepting?

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    1. Ah, I can hear the mother in you talking. ;-) My only answer for now is: we will see! :-) I do not want to scar anyone for life, and the challenge is primarily mine, but I imagine my family will have to participate... to a certain extent!

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  4. Tres interessant.... tu es courageuse..... je le pense pour vrai.... j'ai hate de voir...

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    1. Je ne me sens pas courageuse... plutôt enthousiaste... c'est peut-être parce que je ne saisis pas encore l'ampleur de cette décision! haha

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  5. Quelle bonne idée et sûrement une belle aventure qui commence ;-)

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  6. Thanks for stopping by my blog :) I love what you have just written - this is basically how I live my life! I hate buying anything just for the sake of it and am always mindful of every single thing I buy. I hate how society has become so focused on spending and shopping! It's not that I'm poor, the opposite in fact, but I know the value of money and hate to see it wasted.

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    1. I'm so glad you stopped by and wrote this comment! Voluntary simplicity is a choice, the name says it. :-)

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  7. bravo! C'est pas du tout une mauvaise idée et j'pourrais probablement moi aussi réduire mes envies Bonne année et gardes nous à jour sur ton projet!

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    1. Je suis sûre qu'au bout de l'année, on sera prêtes à aller encore plus loin. Tiens-moi au courant de tes progrès aussi Nat!

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  8. Shoot! You're right! The books! I won't make it... Someone would have to take over my computer, tablet, credit and debit cards, and phone, cuz I sometimes even use the Kindle App there... Gulp! Bon courage!

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    1. Haha, some parts of this project might prove to be more challenging than others. But I ain't afraid! :-)

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  9. Well there goes shopping therapy out the window :-)

    Seriously, I commend your goal! I can't think of anything I can offer that would help you more than you already know. I'll be the student here as I learn from you over the year.

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    1. Haha! :-) Luckily I know running therapy, lifting weight therapy, chatting with friends therapy, petting an animal therapy, taking a walk in nature therapy, meditation therapy, and so on.

      I'm sure you have interesting insight on this kind of project. :-)

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  10. Oh, wow! This sounds like such an interesting year. I'm more than happy to follow along! Is GFC the only way to connect? I'll add you on there, but have to admit I don't use it too regularly.

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    1. Hmm, I'm not sure. Thank you for pointing this out. I might need to work on my Facebook and Twitter accounts to facilitate the connection! :-)

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  11. I've been working on this myself however, mine is a less formal approach. I try to donate a monthly bag of stuff I don't use and have been working on converting to making and using my own cleaning products. I'm also limiting TV, and that has made the biggest difference in my consumer habits because I'm not bombarded by commercials all the time. I'm looking forward to following along on your year of mindful consumerism.

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    1. I like your ideas, Karen! Donating is a big part of decluttering, and I've been doing it regularly. Maybe we can share ideas about cleaning products. As for TV, I don't watch it much, but I do spend too much time on the web... Thanks for coming by!

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    2. A hint on commercial cleaning products: if you use a third or quarter the amount they say to use, the product cleans just as well, so a single bottle will last much longer. I have a bottle of Cream Cleanser in my bathroom, I use a couple of drips to clean my basin and taps. On a damp sponge the stuff foams up nicely and my bottle is probably three years old now and still half full. Washing powders? One heaped tablespoonful cleans a full load.

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    3. Thank you for the super hint, River! :-)

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  12. I typically do not impulsively buy things - and I think I am going to need to adopt this less is more project in the new year too because I am going to NZ and AUS tomorrow, and man this trip is racking up the bills, ha ha! I feel guilty - but I know it's worth it, so I will go back to my not buying things impulsively mind-set when I return ;)

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    1. Oh, what a lovely project! Traveling is worth the money, way more than any object we can buy! Enjoy GiGi!

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  13. I'm pretty minimalist in my living, even the groceries. However, I have been thinking of giving up coffee. It is definitely not something I need. Even though I spend a premium for responsibly grown and harvested coffee, it is still an indulgence and comes with a heavy carbon footprint since coffee doesn't grow in the mainland US. Just not sure if I'm ready yet. :)

    Also, I can't find where to subscribe to this blog by email. Can you add me? GreenGirlSuccess @ gmail

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    1. Coffee is a good example! Thank you for sharing that. I don't know if I'm ready to give up on it either. The thing is, I only have one cup of homemade coffee a day. We will see! :-)

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  14. I have been evolving towards this. I made the announcement earlier in December that $50 would be the limit for any gift for anyone, children included. It ended up making it the happiest Xmas for me in a very very long time. There was so much more focus on the other fun aspects, and the holy ones, of the holiday. I will never go back. I am also planning to incorporate much less frivolous spend for 2015. I am having my acrylics removed from my nails at my next appointment. That is going to save me over $1000 per year. I've had them on for over 25 years; this is a BIG deal for me. But I can no longer justify the spend. We aren't going to AZ for a baseball spring training this year, to save money. (we have a big 3 week graduation vacation gift planned for my eldest grandson in 2016; I'm saving towards that. It will take us across the continent, and into Canada, to visit the baseball, football, and hockey halls of fame with him.)

    Anyhow, splendid idea, and I'll look forward to following your journey. Kudos to you!

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    1. Wow, those are great examples! Thank you for sharing, Gwen! :-)

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  15. C'est vraiment une drôle de coincidence que tu commences ce projet! De mon côté, je comptais commencer un défi alimentaire pour 2015 - vivre sur les réserves déjà stockées à la maison (je suis une vraie maman-écureuil) et n'acheter que les ingrédients de base pour préparer les produits à la maison (mayo, pain...). Mais j'aime beaucoup de concept et après avoir lu ton message hier, ton projet me tente beaucoup! J'ai bien hâte de voir comment ça tournera!

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    1. Quelle bonne idée! J'espère que tu reviendras partager tes découvertes! :-)

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  16. This is good. As a career minimalist, I will definitely be watching, and helping if needed. I wish you the best. I admire your resolve, and I look forward to positive things!

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    1. Thank you so much, Roy. I am certain that you have a lot to share on that kind of topic. :-)

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  17. wow, this is amazing! this is definitely what i want to aspire to. i had a serious shopping problem and after tracking my spending for a couple months i got it really under control but i still want to get to the point where i only buy needs and not wants.

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    1. Tracking the spending sounds like a good way to get it under control. Don't hesitate to share your tricks! :-)

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  18. Just stopping by to wish you well - look forward to reading about how things go.

    Enjoy the last few days of 2014 and all good wishes for the New Year

    All the best Jan

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  19. This sounds like a great challenge! I completely agree with you that our culture encourages us to buy things we don't need, which is not the way to happiness. I didn't buy any clothes in 2014, which was a wonderful project for me and one that I might continue into 2015. I wish you the best of luck! Happy New Year!

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    1. Nice! Not buying clothes for a year is a challenge in itself. I wish you a very happy new year! :-)

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