On Consuming Less
Backstory: Last summer, my husband and I packed up all our earthly possessions, sold our house, and moved 1000 miles back to our home state, where we had lived almost our whole lives, except for the previous 5 years. We are now living in the house my husband grew up in, a lovely lake house that I refer to as “the camp”, in homage to its more “rustic” amenities. This is a temporary spot, where we have lived for much longer than I imagined we would, as we seek our imaginary dream perfect spot in la-la-land.
On a good day, I categorize this season of our life as a sort of Sabbath, where we have few social obligations, financial responsibilities, extracurricular activities, etc etc etc. (On a bad day, more like wreckless laziness, disorder, chaos, aimless wandering. Let’s not go there right now.) This Sabbath is a time where we are more free to make big decisions in our life, to intentionally shape it how we want it to be. We’re less connected, less plugged in, more available. Our life is like a blank chalkboard. (Therein lies my struggle to write blog posts these days. Blank space anybody?)
So I have all these thoughts swirling through my brain about who our family is, where our life is headed, how we should spend our money, and so forth. All these topics are tangled together and connected on all different levels.
Last month a book crossed my path that seemed to be directed right at me. Perfect for this season of our life. The book was 7: An experimental mutiny against excess, by Jen Hatmaker. Jen spent seven different months dedicating each one to reducing excess in different area:
- Food. Only eat 7 foods.
- Clothes. Only wear 7 pieces of clothing.
- Spending. Shop in only 7 stores.
The seven foods were: chicken, eggs, bread, sweet potatoes, spinach, avocados, and apples. For “possessions”, she and her family donated seven items per day to others in need. And so forth. The book is a quick read, written sort of in “journal” style in the midst of each of the 7 months, and I do recommend it. I identified with so much of Jen’s motivation for the project. Her struggles to complete it were just what you’d expect yet thought provoking at the same time. In the end, the author didn’t do much in the way of offering any long-term life solutions. This was a little dissatisfying because I guess I want someone to tell me what to do! But in reality, these are highly personal choices and they should really be based on individual convictions. No easy answers to this subject.
Each of Jen’s 7 “fasts” was connected to something I’ve pondered myself. I struggle to keep the clutter in its proper bin, to keep Ransom from spending too much time in front of the internet, to keep myself of wasting time on facebook, to eat less junk, to spend less money, to be more intentional, on and on and on. As I’ve mulled these thoughts over and over, I am making some small changes here and there in my own life. Each of these could (and very likely will) end up as a whole post, so I’ll just throw ’em out there to the universe for now:
- Only going to the grocery store and the wal-mart/target/etc store once per week.
- Setting a budget for crafts/hobbies/misc purchases and keeping to it.
- Buying less clothing.
- SERIOUSLY evaluating all purchases of items for actual level of need… i.e Is there any way to get by without that thing?
- Cooking more from scratch. Fewer restaurants. Fewer pop tarts.
- Spending more money on experiences, museums, activities.
These are just a few small steps towards a larger goal of consuming less… less mindlessness.. more intention. Small steps indeed but already a breath of fresh air.