Closing Loopholes: Sticking with the Shopping Ban

A QUICK DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY USE AFFILIATE LINKS.

I’ve been requesting books almost compulsively from the library, and they’re coming in faster than I can read them.

I told myself that it wouldn’t be too difficult to give up buying books as part of our 2019 shopping ban because I’ve become such good friends with my local library branch. And that’s mostly been true. Mostly. Because some books are designed to be kept or journaled in or referred to again and again.

No renewals allowed

six library books on a shelf

I was on the waiting list for Julia Cameron’s seminal The Artist’s Way for weeks before a copy was available. And though I was delighted to get it and start reading, I soon realized that her process is intended to be followed over 12 weeks. I only got to keep the library’s copy for three weeks and—because it’s wonderful and lots of other people are waiting for it—no renewals allowed. Unless I wanted to fork over 30 cents a day for three months (and irk plenty of library employees and patrons in the meantime), I would have to give it up before I finished it.

The search for a loophole began.

Essential to my work

This could ostensibly be considered a work-related purchase! Exploring creative processes and improving my writing are essential to my work! I told myself when we started the shopping ban that things needed for the continued operation of my business would be allowed. Plus, it’s just one book. And I think I really do need it!

But I had already convinced myself not to buy new file folders last month just because they were pretty and had stopped myself from buying new wall art just to fill up blank space. I don’t need this book. If we’re being honest, I probably don’t even have time in the next 12 weeks to fully commit to the process. It’s okay to wait.

So with only a little bit of grumpiness I added it to my “for later” book list and moved on. I’ve got plenty to read—including Cameron’s The Right to Write, which is its own delight, and Notes from a Public Typewriter, pictured above and my favorite book of 2019 so far—and more than enough to do until I’m ready to dig into The Artist’s Way with the time it deserves.

2019 Shopping Ban: Why I’m Not Shopping This Year

I was searching for a pair of boots in the back of the closet—ones I usually just wear around the holidays—when I found it. A plastic bag from Kohl’s with a pair of boot socks and a couple of shirts that still had their tags, the receipt crumpled up in one of the sleeves. I had no idea how long they’d been stuck back there and I was too embarrassed to check the date on the receipt.

A common problem

I know I’m not the only one who’s been here.

bags-black-friday-christmas

One of the books that really stuck with me in 2018 was The Year of Less from Cait Flanders. I’ve had my moments of minimalism over the years, but mostly my tendencies lean more toward packrat. I buy things on an impulse, I like to “take advantage” of a good sale, and I get sentimental about the things around me.

I’ve flirted with the Container Store method (buying my way toward organizational salvation), the KonMari method (keeping only what sparks joy), the cash-only method (put those credit cards away), the wait-30-days method (don’t shop on impulses). None has been an outright failure, and yet . . .

What I liked about Cait’s book is that it points to something beyond the stuff itself—and also the money itself. It’s not exactly that the things I like to buy are terrible or extravagant or regrettable. It’s just that it’s become a habit. I didn’t have any trouble spending my money before, but now I have the Amazon app in my pocket and find myself looking at Target’s clearance endcaps more than weekly. Yikes.

So much stuff

My apartment houses two adults and a cat but it’s stuffed to the brim with stuff: stuff we don’t really need, stuff we don’t actually use, brand-new stuff we don’t even know exists in the back of our closet.

So we’re going to stop.

My husband and I are doing a 2019 shopping ban.

We can buy groceries, fresh flowers, birthday cards. We can buy household and personal care items like laundry detergent and shampoo, but only when they run out. We can buy cold medicine and cat food.

But no books. No clothes. No trinkets or gadgets. No throw pillows or vinyl records or scarves or impossibly adorable baby clothes for our niece and nephew.

It’s going to be tough: I love to shop and to find clever things and to support local makers and to send gifts to my loved ones.

But it also already feels like a relief. There’s a line in the sand and an opportunity to reset that impulse. I hope that by the time this year comes to a close, the biggest thing I’ve bought myself this year is some mindfulness.