no retail shopping challenge: 1 year later

It’s the one year anniversary since I finished the no retail shopping challenge.  Why did I do the challenge?  Straight from my original blog post:

I wanted to live differently, meaning finding creative ways to not buy stuff I really don’t need, to share stuff with others, to not be wasteful and to be more environmentally friendly.

So what did this accomplish?  Looking at it one year later, it accomplished a lot more than I could have ever imagined.  Since I blogged it every day for the entire year, I have a great record of how the year progressed and all of the lessons I learned through the challenge that many called crazy.  Let me share a few of the posts with you.

Top 3 blog posts, as chosen by readers:

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last day of the challenge, first day of… [day 365]

Wow!  It’s been a year already.  A year of no retail shopping.  It started off as a year of no retail shopping, however it ended up as a year of so much more than that.  It would be impossible to sum up the year in one blog post, but I can say this.  It’s changed the way I think, not only when it comes to shopping, but how I live my life.

I could write many of the things I learned here, and I started to do that, but it sounded like a way-too-serious, silly infomercial for life transformation.  The truth of the matter is, I’m human and I struggle with all of the same things everyone else does, I’ve just chosen to take a few of those struggles a step further.  I’m not going to go back to retail shopping like I shopped before this year started.  Yes, I will probably start again at some point, but it will be a much different process.  Shopping won’t be a hobby, it won’t be something I do when I’m bored, it won’t be buying on impulse and it won’t be something I do very often.  It will be well thought out when I do make a purchase, always applying the skills and knowledge I’ve acquired through the process.

This might be the last day of the challenge, but it’s the first day of something much bigger.  It’s the first day of whatever I want it to be.  I might do another challenge of some sort because I just do stuff like that.  There are a few things that I plan to do now though.

I’m not going to start shopping or run to the store, but I am going to take a short break from blogging.  I will continue using to do post-challenge updates, including telling you what I have purchased retail.  I can’t even imagine shopping now.  How uncomfortable will that be?!?

I need to take some time to regroup.  One part of that is making my blog into a resource for living differently than the way society says we should.  I also need to take some time and think about moving forward out of the challenge.  I already feel like I’m in some sort of directionless limbo.  I know where I’m not going, but where am I going?

I’ve talked about writing a book, and along with that, I have many other ideas of what I can do with this year of online journaling.  It’s time to seriously ponder that, make some plans and implement them!  This will all be a waste if I don’t take some action on it.

This is not the end of something really great, it’s the beginning of something even greater!  Now that I think about it, this has been my identity over the past year.  It’s been a rare occasion that I would meet someone, or be introduced to someone without the “…she’s doing a year of no retail shopping…”  Explain.  Answer questions.  Give them my blog name.  But now what?  If this has truly been my identity, then in this case, I hope someone steals my identity.  A good case of identity theft?  Redefine bad, rethink good.  :)

tomorrow is the last day! [day 364]

No, I’m not predicting the end of the world.  It’s the last day of the challenge!  It’s been a really good year.  I thought I might look back at the post from day 1.  Wow!  A lot has changed since then!!  Here’s the first post.

Day one of any long time period challenge is more of a normal time than a reality check of the radical decision you just committed to.  I decided to do this challenge very early in the morning, which is the time my monkeys are the most active.  Yeah, I should probably explain that.  My friend Steve says my thoughts are like a bunch of monkeys next to a banana tree, so we frequently refer to the monkeys in my head.  Monkeys are fun and cute, so we’ll go with it.

So I had breakfast with my kids and decided to tell them the news!  We will not be shopping retail for a year.  No new toys, no new video games, no new clothes.  After the silence, then denial, they reluctantly agreed that it was a good plan, although they thought a year was a bit excessive.  Well, with all the excess in our society, why not add a little more excess?  LOL

The ironic thing here is that I still have to shop sometimes for work, and this being the first day of the challenge, I had to go to Ikea for stage set stuff.  I had an Ikea gift card for $50 in my wallet, just to complicate things.  So off I went to shop, placing the stage items in the cart, along with a few things that I could buy with the gift card.  Well, as we all justify the stuff we absolutely need, my justification here was that I should use up the gift card since it probably will get lost or decrease in value over a year.  As I was about to check out, I put the stuff back.  I don’t NEED it and I’m not even sure I WANT it.  I was there, I had ‘Ikea’ money and everyone needs more stuff, right?  I still have the gift card and plan to give it to someone I know that is getting his first apartment and actually has a few basic needs.

I told a few people about my plans, or my challenge.  A few people thought it was a good idea and were not surprised.  (They obviously know me well and there’s not many things I can do to surprise anyone)  Others said it was cool, but they could never do it.  Let me just say here that I like to shop, but not like most people.  I hate malls and I hate spending money.  I like material things though.  There.  I said it.  I have an internal struggle with wanting simple and less fighting with a desire for more.  I was raised in a very materialistic house.  I have to call it a house, not a home, because a much higher value was placed on the material things in the house, not the people living in it.

I suppose I’m doing this to prove to myself that I don’t need a lot of stuff.  I’m also doing this for my kids to teach them about another world, a crazy different world that exists outside this wealthy, affluent bubble we live in.  A world where poverty and hunger exist because 20% of the world has 80% of the stuff, including food and water.  As Gandhi said,“There’s enough for everyone’s need, but there is not enough for everyone’s greed.”

This challenge is a very small step.  I know I have a long way to go here, but if everyone just made some really small sacrifice, our world would change in a radically wonderful way.  The monkeys are still processing all of this, along with my kids.  Off to day 2…

I had an art show several years ago called Excessable, all of the photographs depicting the excess in our society, how accessible it is and how it doesn’t fulfill us.  I’ve used some of these before in my blog posts, but today, they have more meaning to me.

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a sign of peace [day 363]

I decided to take the day off yesterday and spend some time playing.  I haven’t been to a thrift store in a while but I needed to find some flip flops for my boys and boots for all of us.  Yes, I know it’s summer, but I’m tired of ruining shoes on my urban explorations and them when they go hunting with their dad.

I went to Half Price books to look around while waiting for the nail place to open.  What?  It’s my once-a-year pedicure.  It’s a service.  I found this while browsing the store.

Charge Large.  A board game that encourages you to borrow money to buy big and build big.  Ages 12 and up.  First of all, my kids would chew me out for buying something like this, which is good.  Second, isn’t this teaching your kids that credit is good?  And fun?  I can’t believe this even exists.  And the people that buy it, do they put it on credit?  It would seem a little wrong not to.

So I made it to the nail place, started getting my pedicure when the girl asked me, “Do you want me to do your eyebrows?”  I said, “No.”  I don’t tweeze my eyebrows and I sure don’t let anyone else do it.  I like my eyebrows.  She then asked one more time, only this time she said she could fix them.  Fix them?  I had a flashback of a Mary Kay thing I went to for a friend, with the promise that I didn’t have to put on any makeup.  I remember this complicated chart of what my eyebrows are supposed to look like.  I’m pretty sure God knew what he was doing when he made my eyebrows.  I like them, so I’m not ‘fixing’ them with tweezers, string, lasers or any other crazy methods.  If my eyebrows are so hideous that you can’t look at me, just look away.  I really don’t get most of this girl stuff, and although I do participate in a small amount of it, it just seems like a lot of work.

Then I went to the thrift store, found the flip flops, had lunch with Elizabeth, then I decided to visit the Henna Salon.  I turned really old yesterday, so the henna place was to get a tattoo.  A tat that lasts only two weeks is not much of a mid life crisis, but it was something out of the ordinary.

I went inside the Henna Salon, which is typical Frisco, with the addition of an Indian flair.  I asked about the tattoos and they were reasonably priced and it didn’t take a long time to do.  The girl said I could bring my own design or choose from one in their book.  I wasn’t prepared with my own design so I chose one from their photos.  I asked the girl if she could add a peace sign to the middle of the one I chose.  She said that would be no problem.  I sat down and she started working on my henna tattoo.  It was difficult to be still but I managed.  The tat is on the side of my left leg, so I could see her working, but not the work itself.

After a period of time, she looked up and asked if I would like a large peace sign next to the design.  She pointed to the side of it and I said, “Yes, that would be great.”  She went back to work and in a minute or so, she pointed to my leg and asked if I liked my peace sign.

I looked down expecting to find a peace sign, but I had a “P” sign.  ??!!?!?!?!?  Well, something was definitely lost in the translation here!  I now have “P” on my leg.  Actually there’s two P’s…  I wanted to burst out in laughter so I had to rush to get out of there.  I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe!  Good thing it’s not permanent!  So to answer the question most people are asking, no, I didn’t say anything or ask her to fix it.  I decided not to get one on my hand, as there’s no telling what that would have had on it.  As my friend said, “You wouldn’t want “P” on your hand!”

I plan to go back.  I did have someone challenge me on this being a retail purchase.  I see it as a service, tinting my skin.  I didn’t buy some object that will sit around my house, and no, the henna wasn’t used.  I keep laughing every time I look at it though.  You just need a sense of humor in life.  I think I like the “P” better than the peace sign.  My friends are using and emphasizing all “P” words and it’s just a funny story to tell.  Some other person might have been angry or asked them to fix it, but I’m personally enjoying it.  I will go back there again, but next time with my own artwork.  Oh, the possibilities!  Peace is a choice.  I’ll embrace my “P” for two weeks, and who knows, maybe I’ll ask for another “P” sign.

act now! only 3 days left! [day 362]

Okay, so there’s really nothing to act on.  They call this anxiety marketing or pressure marketing.  But I’m not marketing anything.  I’m just letting you know there’s only 3 days left in the no retail shopping challenge, but I don’t plan to change my ways.  I’m not making a list of things to buy.  I have no desire to go shopping.  I might do a little landscaping in my yard eventually, but I have no big plans.  I’m not even buying Windex, but only because a great friend gave me a used bottle of it.  The used part makes it even that much better!  I can’t believe it’s been a year already.  I suppose I need to start planning my next challenge?  Hmmm…

seriously… behind again? [day 361]

Yes, it’s almost the end of the challenge and I’m behind again in blogging.  I have the momentum and the desire to keep up the no shopping thing, but I need a break from the journaling thing.  I want to sleep in one day instead of getting up at 5am.

I scheduled a vacation to spend some time alone to figure out what I want to do with the year of lessons I’ve learned.  I have many ideas, but I need some time to process it all.  I won’t be alone that week, I’ll be with my kids.  I think we’re going to hit the road.  No plans, just see where it takes us.  One week of down time.  I’ll think and process when we return.

This photo kinda says it all.

doing a 360 [day 360]

I guess if you’re changing something in your life, doing a 180° turn is completely changing to the opposite of whatever you were doing.  So, in the case of the no retail shopping challenge, I think I did a 360° turn.  Yes, I made a full circle.  When I started the challenge, I was already doing a lot of the things I’m doing now, like shopping at thrift stores and trying my best not to be wasteful.  It’s like this challenge took me on this amazing journey to keep doing what I’m doing and more of it, while adding new and better ways to shop, or much of the time, not shop.

I was asked today what my last blog post will be and if it will be this big, epic ending.  The answer is I’m not sure what the blog post will be, but it probably won’t have an epic ending, simply because it’s not ending.  The challenge will end, I will take a small break from blogging, but I don’t plan to change the way I shop.  My lifestyle has changed for the better and all of the great things I’ve learned and experienced would be wasted if I went back to my pre-challenge shopping habits.  I’m not saying I won’t buy anything new, but I won’t go to the store when I’m bored and I’ll still look for other options besides buying something new.  There’s only 5 days left in the challenge!  I really don’t need to buy anything, as the Windex fairy came to visit last night and brought me a used bottle of Windex.  He knows me well.  I am getting my new (used) camper repaired and that might involve having to buy a few parts.

No, this is not the end.  I plan to keep on with the 360° turns, but adding new levels to it.  At a recent staff retreat, they gave us Slinky’s to play with.  Our creative team is easily entertained with a spiral of plastic.  Knox was taking cool photos of the insides and I actually talked Jerod into holding one end to his eye, promising I wouldn’t pull the ‘Lucy football’ thing on him.  (It took everything in my being not to let go…)  The slinky makes me think of a 360° turn.  Keep on the journey, adding new levels, revisiting past ideas but looking at new ways to improve upon them.  Sometimes a 180 is needed, but a 360 can be good too if you don’t stop where you started.  Take it up a notch and if you do stop in the same place, start a new circle.

think different [day 359]

This is part of an old Apple shirt that I made into a new shirt.  I like the tagline ‘think different’.  It’s a great slogan and it can be applied to many things.  I didn’t think about this when I was coming up with my new domain name, but it’s the same concept.  Rethink good is thinking differently about what is good in life.  It seems as though society is always looking for better, distracting us from the good things surrounding us.  Today, I’m going to step back and look at everything differently.  I have a crazy busy day ahead of me, but filled with good.  Good work, good friends, good chaos, good kids… I could go on.  Even bad things are blessings and can be good.  It’s all in how you look at it.  Have a really good day.  :)

you can learn a lot from a dummy [day 358]

I get teased pretty often about my use of paper towels, or should I say lack of use?  Over the last year I might have used almost 4 or 5 rolls and 3 of them were in the first part of the year.  I don’t have any now.  When people come over to eat and I did have paper towels, I would tear them into smaller pieces.  Now I use cloth napkins.  I clean my house with dish towels, not paper towels.  If I’m out somewhere and I get extra napkins that I know will be throw away, I take them home.  I might go a little toward the extreme side of things, but there are ways to cut down on disposable paper products, ways that aren’t difficult or time consuming.

When I cleaned out my garage a couple of months ago, I found an individually wrapped paper towel.  I keep this in my (minimalist) junk drawer.  It freaks people out that I would even have something like this.  I don’t know where it came from, but I make jokes about it being my emergency paper towel.  Continue reading