Well, I did it! I went a whole year without shopping.
When I wrote about the start of my no shopping year at the beginning of 2018, I had no idea what was in store (pun intended). I didn’t know how I would react to only buying necessities, and how my year-long shopping fast would affect my life.
I’m here to tell you that I survived the year, and I lived to tell the tale. And not only did I survive– I learned a whole lot. Here are my three biggest takeaways:
1) We constantly buy and consume on automatic pilot.
When I made it a rule to only buy things I needed and only buy things that were on my approved list, I quickly realized how often I buy and use things without thinking. I would catch myself mindlessly browsing online stores– not because I needed anything, but because I had an addiction to online shopping and had the constant urge to chase the next bargain and the next thrill. Although I knew that I had an issue, I had no idea the extent to which I bought and consumed without registering what I was doing. I was wasting time and energy and money I would never get back, shopping and buying thing I didn’t need.
My biggest takeaway from this past year is that we are called by God to use our resources intentionally. All that we have and all that we are is from God– we cannot squander this gift. God cares about how we spend our money and our God-given resources. As it says in Hebrews 13:5, “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for God has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.'” We are called to live our lives using our resources deliberately, rather than buying and consuming without thought and on automatic pilot.
2) We regularly mix up our needs vs. our wants.
At the beginning of my no shopping year, I honestly thought that I would end up breaking the shopping fast regularly because I would “need” things. I worried that this fast would be too restrictive, and I would have to change my rules in the middle of the year. But what actually happened was that I found the rules to be in tune with exactly what I needed, and no more. What I thought I needed (new shoes/clothes/household items, etc.) was actually what I wanted, and it’s easy to get the two mixed up when we give in to our sinful nature and listen to consumer society’s flawed messages.
Jesus is clear: we are not to worry about having our needs met, because God provides what we need. In Luke 12:22-31, Jesus reminds us that if God takes care of the lilies in the fields and the birds, how much more will God care for us! Knowing what we need vs. what we want is a good step in becoming more of who God wants us to be.
And, for the record: I only broke my shopping fast once, when I bought a $10 laundry backpack after we moved into our 3-floor house in Philadelphia (they tend to build up, not out, in big cities since there is less space and more people). I was having a hard time carrying laundry up three flights of stairs. And let me tell you, that backpack adds immense value to my life every week when I do laundry!
3) We need a lot less than we think we do.
At first, not shopping was really hard. But over time, I figured out what I actually needed. And it was way less than I expected.
For example, I used to constantly buy toiletries so that I’d have enough for when I ran out. But when one of my rules for the year was not to buy toiletries unless I ran out, I got to see how much I actually use. Turns out, I use so much less than I thought. I only needed to replace my shampoo, conditioner, and soap ONCE in the whole year. And I only had to replace deodorant three times. Stockpiling toiletries (and other consumables) is just plain silly and adds to the clutter around us.
Jesus tells the story of a man (usually called the Parable of the Rich Fool) in Luke 12:13-21. This man decides to stockpile food and drinks and other goods, and builds bigger barns and storehouse to house it all. But then he dies, and Jesus says to him: “And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” And then Jesus turns to the disciples and says, “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
Jesus reminds us that we shouldn’t stockpile material goods to the detriment of our relationship with him. We are called to a better life than that. We need way less than we think we do.
*Another No Shopping Year!*
In order to continue the good work God is doing in my life through my shopping fast, I’ve determined that God is calling me to do another year of no shopping for 2019! The rules will stay the same, and I will continue to notice how God is helping me to be more intentional with my buying and consuming.
What do you think– is God calling YOU to do a shopping fast for a month? Three months? Six months? A year? How could God be helping you grow more into God’s image by doing a time of no shopping?