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(Not) Buying All The Things

It’s the first day of 2018 and, like most everyone, I’ve made a list of things I’d like to accomplish this year, habits I’d like to change or acquire, and other things that, if they happened, would make this year insanely awesome.

Most of these things are do-able. I’m not going for lifetime achievements here, though some will require extra grit and willpower. Note that there is no mention of giving up potato chips or beer among these resolutions and intentions; I might be optimistic but I’m also a realist.

That said, I have made a couple of resolutions I’d like to share because I’ve been told that putting your intentions out there for the Universe to hear is a way to bring them to fruition.

The Upanishads, an ancient Sanskrit text, declares, “You are what your deepest desire is. As your desire is, so is your intention. As your intention is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.”

So my first intention is to begin blogging again – ta-dah, I am doing just that right now! I won’t blog all that frequently, just when I feel the need to free-write and have some fun. Much of my day at work is spent writing, something I’ve done for 28 years straight. Through those years, yet more sporadically, I have spent nights and weekends working on the flip side of my writing life: fiction. As the saying goes, all work and no play makes Amy a dull girl so somewhere in between there I need a space to let loose, whether it’s blogging about the intrepid reporting of the Aussies of Northside or some other topic that’s tickling my brain cells. I don’t intend to be prolific or profound. It’s simply a way to amuse myself and maybe give you something to smile about, too.

Among my other resolutions – train for the Flying Pig, eat healthy, finish the damn novel, lose five or ten pounds, send out more short stories, spend more time with friends, clear the clutter blah blah blah – is one that could pose quite the challenge: buy less stuff.

That’s right, folks. Little old me is going to try to do a lot less shopping. Once the smelling salts start working, and you’ve picked yourself up from the floor and told 911 that this is not exactly the kind of emergency first responders are equipped to take care of, let me explain.

A couple of weeks ago, I read an essay by Ann Patchett, a writer I admire. I’ve enjoyed most of her novels, follow her bookstore’s blog along with the “shop dogs” that keep a diary, and dream that I’ll one day own an independent bookstore as cool as Parnassus Books in Nashville. (For those who have made it this far, I’m convinced Seamus would make an excellent shop dog. I’ve told Dave as much but he continues to tell me opening a bookstore is the worst idea since Synder’s came out with Coney Island-flavored potato chips that were supposed to taste like hot dogs with mustard but smelled more like a locker room filled with teenage boys after a soccer game on the hottest day in August.

As busy as she must be, I assumed Ann was one of those writers who would have no time or interest in trolling the interwebs for the latest in cropped-leg jumpsuits at anthropologie or checking out what was on sale at Pottery Barn. Turns out I was wrong. Like me, Ann often finds herself “trawling the sale section of J. Crew in idle moments.” Who knew?

In her essay, she goes on to talk about how she gave up shopping for — gulp — a whole year. The horror, the horror. It would be the end of the world as we know it if the retail therapy goddesses got wind that one of their biggest fans (me) was no longer roaming the racks and shelves and bins and online deals.

As I read on, I couldn’t fathom it. Three hundred and sixty five days without shopping, necessities like food excluded. What about the lonely, unspent gift cards? What about that super cute fit and flare skirt at half price? Not to mention all the books begging to get off my wish list and onto my nightstand. And who doesn’t need a set of adorable plates to replace last year’s adorable plates hanging in the plate holder you bought because . . . well, you can’t recall why you bought it but you’re sure you needed it at the time, most likely when you were procrastinating on a work project.

Admittedly, I’m a shopper. Not the “-aholic” variety but I do love to shop. In high school, I’d go to the mall with girlfriends to browse. As an adult, I became a fan of the retail therapy excuse — there’s nothing like a walk through a rack of marked-down shoes to cure what ails and stresses you. My first theory-excuse is that I’m visual. I like to look at things, touch things. Things, things, things — I like them! I’m the gal in the grocery checking out the new designs on the cereal boxes and paper towels. My second theory-excuse is that it’s genetic. My grandmother was a big shopper, known by the women who worked in Macy’s and Dillard’s. Thing is, my grandma was a brilliant browser-bargain-hunter. She didn’t always buy and, when she did, she made sure she was getting a good deal. I don’t always buy either, but I’ve long recognize I buy more than I need, and I waste precious time browsing.

So maybe there was something important in what Ann was saying, summed up here if you don’t have time for the full article: “The things we buy and buy are like a thick coat of Vaseline smeared on glass: We can see some shapes out there, light and dark, but in our constant craving for what we may still want, we miss life’s details . . . I came to a better understand of money as something we earn and spend and save for things we want and need. Once I was able to get past the want and be honest about the need, it was easier to give more of my money to people who could really use it. . . . I know there is a vast difference between not buying things and not being able to buy things. Not shopping for a year hardly makes me one with the poor, but it has put me on the path of figuring out what I can do to help.”

I read this essay on December 15 and found myself still thinking about it on December 31, so I’ve decided to add “reduce shopping” to my list of resolutions. If I’m interpreting the Sanskrit text correctly, someone might think I am shopping, that it’s my deepest desire. Do I really want that or do I want something far more rewarding, like my name on the cover of my debut novel?

I knew I couldn’t commit to going cold turkey for a year (see earlier comment about potato chips and beer) but I am committing to spending less time clicking through skirts and jackets, and I am committing to buying nothing, except the basics like food, in January, and then attempting to follow some of Ann’s rules of no shopping for the remainder of the year. Goodbye, Quick Shop view. Sayonara, New Arrivals. Arrevederci, BOGO. Until we meet again, Last Chance Markdown.

New research shows it takes at least 66 days to form a good habit, not the 21 days we’ve all heard about (sorry to burst that bubble). I’m easing myself in with a 30-day commitment. I just deleted about 1,000 emails in my junk folder, all pleas to have a look at their sales, deals and new year, new you looks. I could have chosen to take a peek at my favorite places to tab-shop — meaning I’d open a bunch of tabs in Chrome and ping-pong between the 50-off boots and the 70-off scarves — but instead I chose to write this. And, honestly, this feels so much better than saying yes to the bell-sleeved sweater.

Published inRandomly