We live in a culture that constantly tells us we don't have enough.
We're bombarded with messages about the latest phone with a better camera, the latest home with a professional kitchen and tons of smart features, and the latest car that can tell us when we're drifting out of our lane. (And are we really unaware of that? Perhaps we shouldn't even get behind the wheel.)
There are ads and sales and notifications to help us locate more stuff to want and buy. And don't worry if you can't pay... this new credit card gives you rewards! Use it to buy more, and you get a few cents per dollar back, or a few more free miles!
Which reminds me, our world also pushes us to increase our bucket lists of places to travel and experiences to have. Exotic travel, once the province of the very rich, is now something everyone wants. Rack up those miles, taste all of the pleasures. Never mind that tourism is one of the things most likely to destroy a local culture and a local ecosystem. Tourism displaces a local way of life and turns people into service providers. It stresses the sites that are packed with visitors, making their preservation more difficult.
But we want more glamor and excitement. We aren't satisfied with the tourist areas that are within driving distance, even if millions come from other parts of the world to see them. Those are too familiar, too dull. They aren't enough. We want more.
There are millions of people in the world who really don't have enough. They go hungry, they don't have adequate shelter, medical care, clean water, or education. But those of us who already have full homes, full garages, full bellies, free schools, and free vaccines don't seem to notice. We seem blind to the fact that we have enough, and more than enough.
If we could just see how much we already possess, how might that perspective change our lives? How might it change our priorities? How might it influence our decisions?
I have enough.
And I'm betting you do too.
So now what should we do?
* * *
For 2022, I'm planning a Buy Nothing Year. I've looked at my house and realized that I have plenty of furniture and décor. I've looked in my closet and realized that I have plenty of clothes to get me through the winter, and even when warm weather arrives, I only need a new pair of capris and a few new tops (I'm down to three short-sleeved tops). Unless something gets broken or damaged, I have plenty of sheets, towels, dishes, and cooking implements. I have a small cache of hobby supplies, a surfeit of office supplies, and both my pantry and the closet that holds personal care items are rather full right now.
We already purchased season tickets for our local theater company, and memberships at the train and science museums (so we can take our grandsons any time and get free admission). Our vacation next summer is already dictated by family obligations (we have a niece getting married).
Of course, I won't actually buy nothing. I'm alive, so I consume. But I will only buy:
- food (once I've used what's in the pantry and freezer)
- personal care items (once I've used what's in the closet)
- items for maintenance and repair
- chiropractic adjustments and therapeutic massage (which enable me to walk without pain)
- medical care as needed
- hobby supplies (only when I've used what I have)
- the clothes I mentioned, plus (possibly) a new outfit for the wedding
- birthday and Christmas gifts for my grandsons
- gifts for friends, colleagues, or family members who have a new baby or get married (so if we get an invitation or an announcement we can be generous)
I don't plan to buy:
- physical books (although I will give myself up to $15 per month for e-book purchases, and I'll use our currently-being-remodeled public library once it reopens)
- entertainment, except for one streaming service (as I said, we already purchased some tickets and memberships)
- a new phone, computer, tech gadgets or apps
- gifts other than those mentioned above
- greeting cards (I already have a box full of notecards)
- home décor, linens, or kitchenware
- seasonal décor
- additional clothes, shoes, purses, jewelry, or other accessories
- additional overnight travel (unless Jon's 93-year-old mother, who now lives in Arizona, becomes ill)
I've also decided on some limits for the food category, since (at least for Jon and me) restaurant meals and takeout coffee can quickly become excessive. I think twice a week for each of those indulgences is plenty, and also allows for going out with friends or family.
What do I expect as a result of my Buy Nothing Year?
- to save some money
- to have fewer things to declutter and donate
- Because of limits on eating and drinking away from home, I might – possibly – lose a little weight.
- to experience some temptation, failure, and boredom
- to become more mindful and selective about my purchases
- to learn to plan ahead a bit more and resist impulses
- to become more resourceful about keeping myself busy and entertained
- to see even more clearly that I have enough for contentment
I'm ready to start right away because I have enough today.
What about you?
Photo by Peter Law on Unsplash