Monday, January 9, 2012

Project 3:11 - Month One

It's like an addiction. The belief that we - that I - need to shop to live.

It sounds ridiculous when you put it that way - buying clothes is not a physical necessity like drinking water or breathing. But if we truly don't believe that we need to buy things to get through, then why would it be a big deal to ask most people to stop?

In response to my announcement of this year long project, most of the reactions have been positive, acknowledging that we probably all do have too much stuff, and applauding my 'bravery'. But why does it need to be a brave thing to not buy clothes? That's the question that is playing on my mind. If we aren't addicted, then why can't we stop?

Addiction - dependence on a substance, thing or activity. dedication to, obsession with, infatuation with,passion for, mania for, enslavement to..... 

And so, in this first month, I'm treating it like it is an addiction. As a semblance of an analogy, if I was an alcoholic I wouldn't be going in to bars right now, or reading the alcohol catalogues, or even drinking virgin versions of my favourite drinks.

 So that means a few things:

- avoiding clothes shops - seems an obvious one.
- unsubscribing from website mailing lists - some days I can find my inbox filled with colourful newsletters reminding me how much I need the stuff they're selling, and look at the bargains! What a deal... So that unsubscribe button is becoming my best friend.
- not reading magazines (which are mostly just glossy books of advertisements)
- not shopping for other things, even if they aren't clothes, shoes or accessories, at least for the first month. Even though it is just one category of things I have committed to for this year, shopping for other things like home wears is just one step removed.

Those are 'Month One' goals - get out of my float down the shopping river, and start to dry off. And while I do that, I'll assess my reactions to being out of the flow. Will it be a relief to not be wet, or will I feel like a fish out of water?

What am I going for here, though? Am I looking for a revolution, where we all become some kind of hippies and consumerist, capitalist society as we know it is torn down? I think people have tried that sort of thing before, and it never really goes well....

And I know little about economics, but I do get that if we all decided to just suddenly stop shopping, the western world we live in would collapse and there would be mayhem. It would be a cruel thing to do to the many people who currently rely on spending for their income and livelihood - which is almost everyone at some point down the line. I certainly don't think any solution to the problems of third world countries lies in turning the whole world into one.

And so completely and permanently removing myself from the ways of the world I live in is not the way to go. I might feel better about myself, but really that does nothing for anyone else. Consequently, I don't plan to never go near a shop again, never look at an ad, or live in fear of magazines.

Somewhere in there is a realistic approach - a way to change our attitudes, perhaps, a way to get us to live consciously and purposefully, with more than ourselves in mind.

I recently read a quote from Gwen Stefani:

“My closest is a work of art. But it needs to be cleared out again. There’s a whole wall of shoes – a shameful amount. But I design them and I do wear them. And I put them up for sale at charity auctions.”

I admire the creativity in design. She does wear them, and she sells them for charity. But even she uses the word 'shameful'.

What do you think of her justification? Is it enough? Is it admirable? Is it shameful? Is it ok? Is it only ok because it's the best we can hope for from someone with her life? 

Do you think you are addicted to buying things - or could you 'stop any time' ;)

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