This Fall I heard Judith Levine when she was interviewed on National Public Radio about her latest book, Not Buying It: My Year Without ShoppingNot Buying It: My Year Without Shopping. In both the book and the interview she detailed her year in which she and her partner bought nothing but heat, water, garbage service, and the ingredients for home cooked meals. No magazines. No movies. No Gifts. No clothes. Nothing.
Ironically, I rushed out and immediately purchased a copy of Not Buying It. (In my defense I did try to get it from the library, but there were 163 people ahead of me on the library hold list.)
The book is spare and simply written, a piece of non-fiction describing a project. (Now fully worth-it in paperback!) I had to laugh a little that Levineâ€™s â€œbuy nothingâ€ year did not extend to anything she needed for work, or to the remodel that they were doing on their second home in upstate New York. (Something Levine giggles at about herself as well.) Still, the woman isnâ€™t angling for sainthood here â€“ just some personal growthâ€”and maybe a nice sustaining book contract.
In the end I was inspired by Levine, and by what stepping off the hamster wheel of consumerism revealed to her about herself, and by extraction what the experiment reveals to us about ourselves. I recognized myself when she quipped, â€œwhat if I discover my authentic self and my authentic self is shopper?â€ I agreed with her about marketing when she asserted, â€œalmost nothing that is advertised is actually necessary.â€ (Except for the Swiffer. I mean, have you tried that thing?!) Most of all, I was struck when Levine observed this danger in our consumer society:
â€œâ€¦just as it promises to buy us love, the marketplace also frees us from relationship, releases us from needing other people. As long as youâ€™ve got a credit card in your pocket, you can go it alone.â€
(Hmmm. Methinks weâ€™ll need to unpack that quote in a later post, nâ€™cest pas?)
After discovering Judith, I had big plans to go the no consumer route — for 30 days. I thought I could take November as a sort of a mini-attempt, like running a 5K before training for a marathon. But Christmas loomed ever-so-near, and right about that time I moved into my studio so I could justify buying just about anything â€œfor work.â€ (Bookshelves? Hand printed wrapping paper for drawer liners? Beads, buttons, bangles, a goldfish, a bag of crystallized ginger? Definitely all work related.) But it did get me thinking heady things about transformational theology; and whether we find ourselves or create ourselves; and what it means to make New Yearâ€™s resolutions or Lenten promises. And I thought, wouldnâ€™t it be interesting to try one good deed a month (or most months) of the year? Thirty days seems imminently doable, and I might pick up a few much needed good habits. Not to mention, the generation of good writing material and possible worldwide fame. (Look what happened to the gal from the Brown Dress Project â€“ she ended up hanging with Good Morning America!) And maybe, just maybe, I could work up to 30 days without buying anything.
So, much to my husbandâ€™s chagrin (â€œWhat have you signed me up for now?!), Habitude â€“ The 30 Days Project was born. Here is my proposition my friends. You and I, and maybe a couple of others, weâ€™ll take on one mildly transforming life habit a month. None of them will be too challenging, and itâ€™s totally fine if you flub up. Weâ€™ll moan and groan to each it to each other on this website (my comments es su comments) or on your websites. And maybe, just maybe weâ€™ll get a little more Zen in the process. (After we briefly act all bitchy and complain-y.)
Curious? Confused? Mildly intrigued? Stay tuned for the announcement of the February Habitute!