We’re stuck in a cycle of consumption. Addicted to the dopamine hit of a new purchase, bombarded with messages telling us we’ll be happier if we have new things. But do we really need so much ‘stuff’?
Here’s what happened when one member of the VerseFirst HQ took on this week’s Open Hands challenge…
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…”
Here’s my confession. I am not great with money. I don’t like having to think about it and plan around it. And though I don’t think I’m extravagant, I spend when I don’t need to. A random online purchase that could have waited for a birthday or Christmas. A bag … when I went out to buy a pair of jeans. A travel mug when I have three already. None of which is a crime, just a quiet and unnecessary addiction to ‘stuff’.
Taking on the challenge of a buy-nothing (unnecessary) week was a chance for me to observe my relationship with money and things, to pay more attention. What do I value? What do I hold most tightly to?
So how did the challenge go?
The first days aren’t so hard, but then it gets more interesting. There’s a book I’ve been looking forward to buying, and the publishing date arrives. Everyone on my timeline is tweeting about it and posting pictures of their copies, and my finger is immediately hovering over my Amazon app. It makes no difference if I don’t buy it this week – I have a whole pile of new books I haven’t started, I’m not going to read it before the end of the week. But I feel disappointed anyway, I’m not used to waiting. And I feel on the outside of the buzz because everyone else has it, and I want to be one of that crowd. I am what I own.
I also miss the physical experience of buying things, of browsing shops and spending money. I know I feel the urge to spend when I’m bored, when I’m sad, and when I need to feel better about life and myself. Spending is an easy distraction, an instant dopamine hit, maybe even a weird attempt at self-care. But maybe I am buying the consumerist myth that spending money will make me happy, and owning things will make me a different and a better person. If I don’t pay attention, I am using my spending power to build my sense of my own identity and worth.
Finally, my week of not buying anything coincides with a friend’s birthday. Fortunately, I have a small stash of things I’ve bought because I thought they might make good gifts sometime, so this should be easy. But I realise I’ve had this stash for AGES. I just like knowing it’s there, and I’ve never given any of the hoard away. I really do find some sense of security in all my stuff.
All through the week, this verse from the Sermon on the Mount circles in my head – not as a condemnation, but as a quiet and welcome challenge. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I’m not going to keep the buy-nothing challenge up indefinitely, but I hope I can take some steps to be more mindful about how and why I spend money. I want to centre my life on more than things, to value myself and others beyond what I own, to hold more lightly to the things that I have … to live with open hands.
What about you? What might you learn from a week of buying nothing? What new steps might you be invited to take?
P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, in a moment of forgetfulness I did buy The Greatest Showman on DVD. I have no explanation. No judging …