Return to Real Life (Minimalist Challenges Part 10)
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might remember that I'm in the middle of a Buy Nothing Year (check out the details and a previous update here). I've been learning that my impulses to shop are rarely inspired by actual need, since I plainly have enough already.
Of course, we're alive, so we must consume. We need shelter, food, clothing, medical care, and transportation. We need opportunities to learn and to work. And we need rest and recreation. In fact, a huge part of human culture through the ages has grown out of our need for entertainment: storytelling, music, art, dance, games, and sports.
But never before have we been so passive or so addicted to consumption. Consider these statistics:
- According to Statistic Brain Research Institute (as reported by Glamour), the average woman spends more time shopping than she does socializing, even when you add in time spent on the phone. At 1.3 hours per day, time spent shopping adds up to over 470 hours per year, or more than 9 hours every week.
- Psychology Today reports that Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches every year than they do on higher education.
- A December 2015 survey by Bankrate.com found that 63% of Americans didn't have enough savings to cover a $1000 emergency.
- According to a 2022 report by Lendingtree.com, the average credit card debt for each adult in the U.S. is $6,569, with a national total of $841 billion.
These numbers paint an awful picture of excessive consumption. If only it was making us happier! But it's painfully obvious that if buying something new actually improved our lives, we wouldn't need to keep doing it week in and week out.
Let's try something different.
Each of the following three experiments is meant to be conducted over a 24-hour period. They will challenge habits that have become widespread in our culture within the past 60 to 70 years. The purpose is to make us more aware of how we spend our time and money and to inspire us to take a more active and independent role in our own lives.
1. Turn off TV/streaming/videos today.
Use the time to read, enjoy a hobby, take a walk, talk with a loved one, or something else.
2. Stop shopping.
Don't buy anything – not lunch, not a latte, not a lipstick – nothing. Don't add anything to an online shopping cart – in fact, don't even browse. Plan ahead so you have enough diapers, formula, toilet paper, and prescription medicines. If you run out of milk, drink something else. If you run out of cereal, make toast or eggs instead. No exceptions and no excuses!
Now pay attention. Notice when ads or promotions make you feel like you "need" to shop, or when you simply feel an impulse to spend your money. How much of our shopping is mindless or habitual? (The morning Starbucks run, anyone?) How can we become more aware and intentional about shopping?
3. Stay offline.
I love the internet. I wouldn't have this blog without it. We wouldn't connect via social media, email, Skype, or Zoom either. The internet makes research easier and opens up tons of news and entertainment options.
But we need to get away from the internet sometimes. It's open 24/7/365, and we're not. We can't be.
So you'll need to prepare a bit for this one, because it means you won't be logging on to check email or news stories. You won't browse social media or search for random information. You won't shop or play online games. Take a sabbatical from the Internet and instead do something IRL (In Real Life).
Do more things that make you forget to check your phone.