Purchasing Choices Require Existential Deliberation

No Shopping. Day 67.

Technically, I have not been “shopping” for 67 days.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t bought stuff.

As mentioned before, I’ve bought Tom’s sneakers for Portugal (which have proven their worth thirty-fold already). I have bought my weight in supplements and essential oils. I have bought groceries, and while I can honestly say that 97% or so of the groceries I’ve bought have been essential purchases, there have on occasion been a few non-essentials that have made their way in: a $2.00 container of lemonade, a box of Jiffy cornbread mix, a pint of Steve’s Cinnamon Cold Brew dairy-free ice cream (in my defense, I was writing a piece about Steve’s at the time, and it was on sale). I’ve bought birthday presents.

Yesterday, I bought a step stool for my grandparents on Amazon and had it shipped to them, so I could feel like a good granddaughter since I don’t know when I’ll drive up there next (in my defense again, I brought them apple cider donuts last weekend). While I was in the Azores, I didn’t question the food or coffee or tea I bought, because I had no means to cook or even make a cuppa for myself. I bought presents, but the only thing I brought home for myself was a shell; I made memories, instead. Happy sigh.

What I haven’t bought in 67 days: 

  • Books
  • Shoes (other than the Toms), even though I could use new ones for fall.
  • Clothes — even though I could really use some new pants for fall.
  • Makeup! Not even a chapstick. Even though my favorite color Burt’s Bees is on its last few turns. Granted, I did buy a new makeup brush. But it came highly recommended, was only $6 on my vitamin company website, and I more than made up for it in coupons given from all the stupid vitamins I’ve been ordering.
  • Starbucks. It’s been so long, they’re emailing to remind that I have a freebie on my card.
  • Household tchotchkes. I went to my Stars Hollow (Wilton) hometown yard sale and didn’t buy a thing!
  • Extraneous theatre tickets (more on that below)

For the most part, this fast has been easy. Far easier than the social media fast.

Yes, it took some adjustment. But for the most part, that’s only been for the better, like finally downloading and using the library app on my iPad. No, I’m not miraculously saving vast swaths of cash; much of my expenditure has been funneled into trying to manage really crappy new physical symptoms with new drugs and supplements. My insurance isn’t great (and it doesn’t cover supplements at all), so no matter the coupons I throw at them, that’s costing a lot. And when a drug causes side effects I can’t deal with or just doesn’t work and I stop it, that money is lost. Because I’ve been feeling ill, I’m making less than ever, too. So while spending less on unnecessary purchase is definitely helping right now, it’s not the major player when it comes to the greatest impact.

The greatest impact was not bringing more stuff into my space. Instead, I started wanting to get it out.

Instead of buying things at my town sale, I donated: five bags of books, the brand new Subaru hubcap unneeded and lingering in my trunk, empty plastic storage containers from college (15 years!), amplifiers (wallowing in the basement since 2007),  and two massive bags of clothes, handbags, and shoes. I was brutal with myself on this: dresses I adore and rocked in their prime but haven’t worn in years were out. Blazers that were high-quality but not quite femme enough for me to feel empowered in got the boot, too. While I probably should have tried to make some extra scratch by consigning some items, I just wanted them gone. No excuse for anything to stick around. Donated.

The shelves in my basement, the shelves in my childhood bedroom, my closet in the city, the containers underneath my bed, my car trunk… well, they’re not empty. But headway has been made. Letting go without planning on stocking up has felt great.

And looking at what I don’t miss has made it easy to determine what is an unnecessary purchase, and what feels right to spend money on.

  • Buying a cup of coffee because I’m killing time in Brooklyn before the radio show is shopping; chipping in for shots of tequila I’m not drinking for [my brother’s girlfriend’s] 30th birthday is not.
  • Taking a cab to save ten minutes because I’m running late is an unnecessary financial expenditure; taking an Uber because I’m in the suburbs and it’s nighttime and I have night blindness and I’m having a really hard time seeing while I drive is a safety precaution.
  • Buying a big container of lemonade for $2 from Stop & Shop and drinking it in 4oz glasses when I’ve been ill and need boosts of sugar now and then is okay; spending $4 on limeade because there’s a coupon for it when I’m already ordering apple cider and for my writer’s group is definitely not necessary.
  • Buying my roommate and myself $20 tickets (because for one more year I’m 35 and can get them at that price!) for two shows we haven’t seen before — including HOLIDAY INN IN DECEMBER! — is smart theatrical experience. Spending $25 for a silent movie at the cathedral during Halloween weekend — which I’ve done before and love — is not justifiable.

Yes, there are things I’d like to buy that I don’t. And it seems silly to debate whether or not $9 worth of delivery eggs and chorizo is a justifyable expenditure. It’s just $9, dude.

But I think what these 67 days have taught me, as I manage….

…not feeling well. As I manage appreciating quiet. As I manage more nights alone, inside, by myself, rather than nights out with friends (as I wrote for The Lonely Hour somewhat recently). As I manage being so far in debt that I can’t breathe when I think about it (being brutally honest with myself and the five people who will accidentally stumble upon and read this — hi, five people!). As I manage trying to figure out how to make a living and move in a body that is screaming at me to do something to help it feel better. As I manage still loving waking up every day, and living in a world full of such beautiful people and things. As I manage to move from one day to the next..

I think what these 67 days have taught me as that I don’t need more stuff.

What I do need is more space. More time. More comfort. More confidence. More inner peace. More health.

I can’t buy those things. I can only make them for myself. And that’s what this year is. That’s what these ninety days are.

PS: This is an unedited stream of thought this morning, since this is my journal site and not intended as anything more. So other than checking for spelling, no self-editing on this one. Just so ya know. Not trying to be a journalist or an essayist here. Just a human.

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