This has been an odd week. For reasons that I have yet to fathom I have been in a bit of a daze and struggling to do anything at all, let alone the positive things that I know I should, or could, be doing to get my life moving forwards, even a little bit. Just getting out of bed, taking a shower, brushing my teeth and putting on clothes is a bit like effort. This isn’t a time of noticeable sadness, the black clouds aren’t hovering and I am attending all the plans I have made, I’m just not doing much of anything else. Well, other than watching television. I am very, very good at watching television. Or films. Or YouTube videos. Oh, and eating unhealthy food. Both things involve consuming, and I am very good at that, though with one new, notable, exception.
During the whole of February I managed to spend money on only food and essentials, like petrol and toothpaste. No other items. This may not sound like much of an achievement; I get that this level of spending is a constant necessity for many people. But for me, well, I had slipped into this sort of spending auto-pilot. I would see something that I wanted and get it. Now I am not talking about big ticket stuff like cars, rather things in the under £30 bracket. But those are just the types of things that add up pretty quickly. And, I realised after watching this brilliant documentary about minimalism, that most of them don’t make me happy for more than a few hours at most and then just get added to the piles of clutter in my flat. Sure, it’s nice to have a new top but I have so many already and tend to only cycle through the same favourite ones most weeks. Yes, a new book is always lovely but there are still 15 on my bedside table waiting to be read and heaps in the library and on my bookshelves should that pile ever disappear (it hasn’t in my adult lifetime yet, in fact I don’t think it’s ever been down to single digits).
Once I made the February decision – to avoid all extra spending – I was struck by how much I used shopping as a form of entertainment. Bored on an evening, I would nip to T K Maxx to wander about a bit and hey, everything there is on discount so it never felt all that indulgent plus there was the extra rush of finding a bargain. Wanting to meet up with a friend, let’s go for coffee and do some shopping. Sitting at home watching a DVD, I’ll just have a look at a few clothes websites, in fact the internet browser on my laptop seems to have become little more than a virtual shopping centre (I do most of my looking up on Wikipedia and news websites on my phone for the instant gratification). Within two days I had saved a virtual £200, which was a big wake-up call as I can’t even remember what those things were a month after nearly buying them.
At first I won’t deny that I missed the glossy promise of all that shopping; that under-lying promise that this new item will be the thing that will make your life that bit better and make you like the people in the lovely pictures and adverts. I never, ever thought that I was a shopaholic, and I am glad that I’ve never had that actual addiction, but it was more ingrained in my habits that I had ever realised. There was a need to go and find the next thing that I ‘needed’. But now that need is gone, or at least a lot less vocal. Shopping this week, when I needed to go and find a birthday gift for someone, felt like hard work. I have lost the patience and stamina to walk for miles looking at shiny items that I know I don’t need. I tried a few shops that had formerly always got me, as a test, and came out with nothing and there was no real effort in doing so. This was true even in T K Maxx; I picked up a few items and put them back 10 minutes later before leaving; sure, they were nice and a bargain but I don’t need them. I have more than enough stuff. Now I just need to work out how to quell my other consumption needs too.