On January 1st, I began my first 31-day challenge of the year. The goal: to not watch TV for an entire month. On the first day, I quickly realized that the toughest habit to break would be watching TV while I ate, so I decided I would allow myself to watch one TED Talk during dinner. Five or six days into the challenge, I realized why I’d been able to get through so many seasons of TV on Netflix last year: it wasn’t that I actually wanted to watch it all, I just wanted some noise to fill the silence. So, on top of watching my one TED Talk, I started listening to a lot of podcasts, in an attempt to break the silence.
For the first 10 or 12 days, I was going strong. In that time, I read two books – Yes, Please (hilarious) and Nudge (a must-read) – watched some fantastic TED Talks (this one continues to be my favourite) and listened to entire seasons of old podcasts. I also wrote two chapters for my book and mapped out more, and had a great breakfast meeting with a friend about a couple projects we’re going to work on this year. Oh, and I started helping out another friend with one of his side projects. I was doing great, and my productivity was through the roof! But I began to waver mid-month, and eventually caved…
It’s been 6 months and 20 days since I started my yearlong shopping ban. That’s 204 days of not buying clothes, shoes, books, notebooks, electronics, household items, nail polish… or takeout coffee (other than when I’m travelling). I’ve purchased a few of the things from the approved shopping list I created at the beginning, as well as groceries and toiletries – and that’s it. Even though I’ve only recently crossed the halfway mark in this 365-day journey, I don’t think it’s too soon for me to tell you: it’s changed me forever – and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to being the type of consumer I was before.
First, remember that I’ve never identified with being a shopaholic. I recently did an interview for a newspaper in Germany (so cool!) and the reporter asked me repeatedly if I’d racked up my old debt by purchasing lots of new clothes, shoes, etc. “Surely, you have lots of shoes,” she said. Nope! That’s never been my style. I’ve always been someone who paid for experiences, not things. Most of my credit card debt was from dinners and nights out at the bar (mostly nights out at the bar). And even though I stopped drinking a couple years ago, I continued to spend a lot of money on coffee and meals out.
My brain was scattered this week. The results of the private MRI I paid for last month came in (“Orthopedic surgical consultation is advised.”), which caused me to tailspin – not out of control, I just haven’t been able to focus or tackle my to-do list. I caught myself jumping between subjects in conversations, losing my train of thought and forgetting what I was doing altogether, more than once.
But I was conscious of these things and, therefore, I actively tried to get back on track. I still got up each morning, made coffee and wrote in my journal. I did some batch cooking, cleaned my place, folded and put away all my laundry. I spent some time with friends and made fun plans for the weekend. And I slept. (Seriously, I slept for almost 11 hours on Wednesday night.)