Buying nothing can seem extreme. But it will change your outlook in more ways than you can imagine.
How do we make ourselves feel better? I’m guessing the majority of answers today would focus on some kind of treat- a new pair of shoes, a haircut, a new book, a shopping trip. I was exactly the same-until I decided to buy nothing for a year.
I was forced to change my focus- if I was feeling bad or in need of a pick me up I had to think of another way to make myself feel better.
It’s a strange experience; buying nothing. It bares our very souls and forces us to look deeper than we’d have ever thought to do. It obliges us to begin the process of discovering who we really are, to know ourselves on a whole new level. No crutches. No easy fix.
Beyond the shoes, bags and cd’s. Beyond the hair colour, coffees and books. Beyond the consumer… Who was I? Who AM I? What do I care about- what makes me feel good?
And all that while we’re trying to figure this out, society is fighting it’s damnedest to re-capture us, to make us spend once more. “You’re odd” society screams. “It’s not normal to buy nothing. Come on back to us, come back to the real world“.
No wonder we flounder.
But a funny thing starts to happen, over time. It’s like an addiction, this relentless consumerism. Once we get over the inevitable cravings to buy, once we’ve mastered the knee-jerk purchase response… a new world cautiously starts to peek its head out. It’s hard to welcome it. After all, we’ve felt lost without turning to consuming. I know I felt like an empty space for a while. I’d removed something that was such a big part of me that once it was gone, well, I just didn’t know what to fill this new void with. I’d lost a big chunk of my self and I felt I was falling.
I learnt, slowly, that I’m not defined by my shoe collection or my shelves of books. I discovered my happiness is outdoors in the wild rain and wind, in a UK storm, whipping in my hair and feeling more alive than I’ve ever felt, rain coursing in rivulets down my freezing skin, laughing up to the sky. THAT is who I am. And that’s more than a pair of shoes could ever be.
Consumerism is a mask. Not buying anything is a relentlessly brave act, an inevitable road to deeper questions, to new layers. Sometimes we’re scared of this. What if there really isn’t anything underneath those layers, once we’ve peeled them slowly back? Having lived decades defining ourselves with image, with purchases, with progression along the consumer path of the Western world, it’s hard to even realise there may just be someone else living inside us, smothered by layers of clothing and clutter.
Buying nothing is hard. Probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But simultaneously it’s one of the easiest things too. Once we connect with our true selves, once we realise who we are behind the consumer façade, we’ve got the best base from which to leap into a new future.
My favourite things are the new memories I’ve created, free from ‘stuff’. A secret 30th birthday with my dad and my husband, exploring southern Spain and stunning views, picking feet over hot sand on the way into the clear, slow cadence of the Mediterranean. Feet submerged in a freezing canal, banks burst, hailstones needling into my icy skin, face red and burning. Drinking so much wine and attempting to pick out melodies on the piano, seeing 3 of middle C and finding it hilarious. My mum borrowing a bright pink 2CV, along with it’s owner, for our wedding car and it being the best time ever. Times with friends, times with family, times with self, times with this amazing planet.
Buying nothing will change your life. Yes it’s extreme, but it’s also our best-kept secret. Yes, it will change you. But shhh- it’s the guaranteed way to a stronger self, to someone who knows, really knows their own self and being. A focused mind. A respect for the world.
And a whole new life.