The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.

'I lived a year without shopping': the experience of a famous American writer


Source: Womo

Many of us every year on December 31 decide to start living in the coming year according to new principles. For example, go on a diet, play sports, start meditating. The writer Anne Patchett, author of the bestselling books "On the Threshold of Miracles", "Commonwealth", "Belcanto", a friend of the no less famous writer Elizabeth Gilbert, decided to live a year without shopping. What are the results of this "heroic" act, says Womo.

Photo: Shutterstock

The idea was first voiced in February during lunch with my friend Elissa, whom I love very much but rarely see. She walked into a restaurant, and she was wearing an insanely beautiful black coat with a high collar.

“Wow! - I said admiringly. - That coat! She stroked her sleeve. “Yes. I bought it at the end of my no-shopping year. And I'm still embarrassed for this incident. "

Elissa said that she had been traveling all year, and at the end she realized that she had accumulated enough things, even too much. And she decided not to buy shoes, clothes, handbags and jewelry for the next 12 months. I was amazed at her fortitude, and she dismissed: "It's not difficult at all!"

A little bit is not considered?

At first, I did a few small experiments, say, giving up shopping during Lent for several years in a row. And every time I was pleasantly surprised by how much better I felt. But it wasn't until last New Year that I decided to follow my friend's example. At the end of 2016, our country fell into a chaotic, ecstatic celebration of “billionaire” and I couldn't sleep.

Without noticing it, I started flipping through catalogs on sites with handbags, shoes, dresses - I tried to distract myself, but this is the same as smoking cigars and drinking gin in a bar late at night - they don't make you more fun, but only worse.

The hidden shopping question is "what do I need?" I needed to own less.

I planned to follow Elissa's example and not buy clothes and accessories, but a week after the start of my "year without shopping" I bought a bluetooth speaker. I brought it home, and doubts overwhelmed me: can't you buy electronics either?

On the subject: 'The nation of consumption', or Why Americans buy so much: the opinion of an immigrant

My year - my rules

I have developed my own rules for this year. I wanted to draw up a serious, but not draconian plan, which was finally formed by February: no clothes and bluetooth speakers, but you can buy whatever you want at the grocery store, including flowers. Necessary items such as shampoo, printer ink and batteries can be purchased when the old ones have already run out / are completely discharged. You can buy plane tickets and eat in restaurants. You can buy books, because I write them, I am a co-owner of a bookstore, and in general, books are my business. Could I have lived a year without buying books? Undoubtedly. I could have borrowed them from the library or read the ones that I had, but I did not do that, but allowed myself to buy them.

The most difficult thing was with the gifts. I love giving gifts, but going to the store for them can very quickly turn you into a whirlpool of uncontrolled shopping. I decided to donate books, but it didn't always work out. For example, my publisher got married in 2017 and I didn't really envision the book as a wedding present.

However, shopping for the needs of others should also be limited. The idea that you can express your love and respect by donating another sweater somehow belittles them. Elissa said that she gave people “certificates from the time bank”: so much of her time to sit with their children, help clean the house, and so on.

“This, by the way, is difficult, because, it turns out, time is really precious,” she said.

I grew up in a catholic family plus 12 years studied in a Catholic school for girls only. If children who go to music school grow up to be connoisseurs of classical music, and those who grow up in mixed language families are more likely to be fluent in two languages, many children brought up in the Catholic faith will eventually develop a talent for self-restraint. Even now, my sister and I are planning Lent, how other people are planning New Year's holiday: what will we do good? What we say goodbye?

Year of discovery wonderful

The first months of my "no shopping year" were filled with dazzling discoveries. One day I ran out of lip balm, and by that time I had not yet had time to decide whether lip balm was a necessity: I looked in my pockets and in drawers of the table and found five tubes of lip balm. And when I started rummaging in the cabinet under the sink, I realized that I could not buy lotions, soap, or dental floss for three years.

It turns out that I bought different creams and hair masks, tried them, but I didn't like them, and I threw them into the cabinet under the sink. Now I open them, smear them - and everything is fine.

In March, I really wanted to buy myself a new Fitbit, which looked like a bracelet and did not need to be connected to a smartphone. I thought about him for exactly 4 days. And then - bam! - and I got too sick. I remember how my parents used to say when I was little: if you want something, wait, most likely you won't feel like it.

Secret tricks

The secret of "no shopping" is not just not buying something, but not shopping. For example, do not follow the "Promotional Products" link on any of the sites you see. If they put some directories in your mailbox, don't open them, throw them in the trash right away: the eye does not see - the tooth is numb. A couple of times this year I went shopping with my mom and sister when they asked me to tell them if their chosen dress suits them or not. And I didn't want to spin around with them in the fitting room.

Giving up shopping, it turns out, saves a huge amount of time. In October, I interviewed Tom Hanks about his storybook, we were supposed to speak in front of 1700 people at the Washington theater. Before, I had no idea that I could not spend at least two days looking for a new dress for such an occasion. In general, Tom Hanks never saw any of my dresses, and neither did the people in the audience. I just went over and took out of the closet what was appropriate for the event. That's all.

I did one favor to a friend, and she bought me sneakers in return. This simple gesture of kindness amazed me. When I stopped buying things, I began to feel immense gratitude for the things that were presented to me.

If I continued shopping and my friend gave me sneakers, she would simply say to her: “Why, I didn't have to!”

The main thing is to start

One has only to give up shopping - and then it is not difficult at all. It was difficult to start living in such an obvious abundance, which I only realized when I gave up shopping. When I saw how much and what I already have and what was really important to have, a mixed feeling of shame and nausea never left me: when did I manage to collect so much, and did someone else really need these things?

If you stop thinking about what you might want, then it becomes much easier to see what other people do not have. That is why many religions claim that material savings are an obstacle to peace in the soul. That is why Siddhartha left his palace to become a Buddha. That is why Jesus said: "Blessed are the poor in spirit." That's why my friend, sister Nena, an 85-year-old Catholic nun, took the oath of poverty when she began serving in the monastery of an 18-year-old girl.

On the subject: 'Shopping' in the trash: who are freegans and what can be found in trash cans in the USA

Vaseline on glass

All these things that we buy, buy, buy - they are like a thick layer of Vaseline on glass: we see through it some silhouettes, light, darkness, but constantly tormenting us with the question "what else would you want?" hides important details of life from us. I don’t want to say: it was necessary not to buy perfume for myself, but rather to distribute money to the poor. I realized that money is what we earn and spend or save for what we need and what we want. But only by overcoming the itchy desire to acquire and becoming more honest about my real needs, it became easier for me to part with money, giving it to those people who really needed it.

By the way, I still have a lot more than I need. And I understand the fundamental difference between "not buying things" and "not being able to afford them."

Giving up shopping for a year is unlikely to make someone poor, but it helped me realize how I can help others. I also understand that trade is the backbone of the economy, that these are jobs in the end. I adore all the people who shop at my bookstore.

But if we all give up consumerism at least for a short time, the financial market will not collapse. And if you think that this would decide about the new life in the new year, I highly recommend you my experience.

What I am not yet very clear on is how the experiment ends. Can I go shopping again? Buy less? I called Elissa, we haven't seen each other for several years. She said that having bought the black “that coat,” she decided to extend her experiment for another year.

“I realized that this decision can be important for many things in my life. There are people who need help, there are things that need to be solved. Avoiding shopping frees up a lot of brain space, ”she said.

So for now, I decided to continue this experiment of mine. Who knows where he might lead me. After all, as Dorothy Day, a wonderful journalist and public figure, once said: "The best thing you can do with the best that you have is to give it away."

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