Image: Carrie Bradshaw’s closet in Sex and the City. Image source.
The start of a new year can bring on feelings of ennui about the amount of stuff we own. Which makes sense, really, being that it follows directly after the craziest shopping season of the year. But for one writer, that consumption weariness spurred her into real action. In a recent essay for The New York Times, author Ann Patchett writes about her decision to commit to a year of no shopping. And her experience has got us feeling kind of inspired about the freedom that comes with consuming less.
Patchett’s no-shopping year was actually an idea she borrowed from a friend, after experimenting with giving up shopping for Lent. “The unspoken question of shopping is ‘What do I need?’” she writes. “What I needed was less.” But unlike her friend – who gave up clothing and accessories for a year – Patchett also extended this mission into electronics and even some gifts. Because “the idea that our affection and esteem must manifest itself in yet another sweater is reductive,” she explains.
Even household and beauty products were only purchased when she ran out or absolutely needed them. “I ran out of lip balm early on and before making a decision about whether lip balm constituted a need, I looked in my desk drawers and coat pockets. I found five lip balms,” Patchett recalls. So, steadfast in her goal, she forced herself to use up all of the discarded bottles of lotion under the sink as well and to avoid stores as much as possible.
Suffice to say that Patchett realised consuming less isn’t as hard as it seems. “Once I got the hang of giving shopping up, it wasn’t much of a trick,” she says. “The trickier part was living with the startling abundance that had become glaringly obvious when I stopped trying to get more. Once I could see what I already had, and what actually mattered, I was left with a feeling that was somewhere between sickened and humbled. When did I amass so many things, and did someone else need them?” If nothing else, then, Patchett’s experience serves as inspiration to keep it simple and buy less of what we don’t need.
You can read Patchett’s full essay over on The New York Times
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