unrelated photos from our wander through Wendy Whiteley's garden
Way back in December, I went on one of my annual de-cluttering sprees. I even managed to get my husband on board, and between the two of us we donated more than a carload of things to our local thrift shop. It's truly amazing how much we have managed to accumulate in the 5 and a half years we've been living together, especially considering that I moved here in 2009 with just two suitcases.
Of course, I know that all the de-cluttering in the world is just a temporary solution. I started thinking that to really make a difference, we had to get to the root of the problem: buying stuff. So I decided to spend the month of February buying nothing but the essentials, which I deemed to be food, petrol, and basic household necessities like toilet paper. Now, I wasn't overly strict with myself. As a mum to a baby, most of my social life revolves around catching up with friends over coffee or tea, so I let myself spend money at cafes. I also had to cheat once; my husband's birthday is in February and I figured he wouldn't be thrilled to hear, "Surprise! It's no-buy month so I didn't get you anything!"
But other than that, my project went surprisingly well. One of the things I noticed is that because I knew I couldn't buy anything, I never went into shops (not even thrift shops) and as a result, I saved time and money. I normally have a running list of things I'm on the hunt for and I'll often let myself buy something from my list if I find it on sale. In February I found a pair of sandals that I loved, and they were a steal. I didn't buy them thanks to my commitment to no buy month, and in March, when I could buy them, I resisted. I learned that when I want something, I should write it down and wait, and wait… Often, the urge to buy just goes away. Other times, I'll find what I want for very little money at a thrift shop, which is what happened this month. A candleholder was one of the things on my list, and I spent all of March looking for the perfect one. Eventually I found what I wanted at Vinnie's for $3; it took me over a month but it was worth it.
The no buy month also made me evaluate the difference between wants and needs. About halfway through the month I ran out of one of my moisturisers. I had been using two kinds - extravagant, I know - one for day, one for night. There was a brief moment when I thought I'd just go out and replace it, surely that would count as an essential… But I knew it wasn't essential (not even close) and two months later, I'm still using the one kind.
The other thing I've discovered is the power of the internet to make me want to consume. I had to unsubscribe from all of the newsletters I had subscribed to over the years; if I don't know that Anthropologie is having a sale then I'm not tempted to buy anything. So simple. But I also have to beware of blogs, particularly home and design blogs. Our home is a pretty funky mismatch of furniture we have been given over the years. Until recently we were still using my husband's great-grandmother's couch! It's certainly not a magazine worthy home, but it's comfortable and I think we've done well to make it us while spending very little money. There is a part of me though, that pines for my dream couch and is tempted to spend money whenever I see a beautiful home tour. So I'm staying away from all those beautiful design blogs for now. Call it a breather, good for my sanity and our wallets.
Have you ever done a no buy month? I'd highly recommend it.