Becoming a Mindful Consumer

For the past couple of years, I lacked inspiration for this blog. I made every excuse to push it to the side – work, motherhood, exhaustion. Nothing spoke to me and said, “THIS. WRITE ABOUT THIS.”

The last year was rife with opportunities for personal development. I returned to work and reignited the passion I once felt for my career in the agri-food industry. Being a working mother has had its challenges, but I’ve never been the sort of maternal creature that wanted to stay at home with my offspring. I admire women that reach for that calling – you have the patience of a saint, I have no doubt.

Even so, I couldn’t find the inspiration to blog.

Our family was also presented with a number of financial stressors, and with those challenges came an additional opportunity to embrace mindfulness and minimalism – a blessing in disguise, if you will. I had always been frugal with groceries, but I was guilty of making mindless impulse purchases, often courtesy of Amazon Prime. Did I really need an avocado slicer, and did my son need another toy car or another T-shirt? Absolutely not. I also spent hours scrolling through Zulily or Mountain Equipment Co-op, adding items to a virtual shopping cart, but never buying them. I thought these items would make me a better person and add value to my life – a new sweater will make me look SO much more professional, and cool parents take their kids camping, so we needed a new tent. I even priced out luxury vehicles that I would never buy, because a brand new BMW X3 would impress people, right? Compounded with financial difficulties, not being able to purchase these items knocked my confidence down a few pegs, because we live in a consumer culture. Needless to say, I have many sweaters, we haven’t gone camping since 2014, and my current vehicle runs without any issues.

Over the last few months, I’ve come to realize that what was originally borne from necessity has become a secondary sense of purpose, and a couple of weeks ago, a book I reserved months ago, at the library, was finally available.

I was SO excited to read “A Year of Less” by Cait Flanders. When the book first hit store shelves, I stayed true to my financial restrictions and placed a hold at my public library, instead of purchasing a copy online. I was 237th in line, or something like that, but I was prepared for the wait, because I felt this was something I needed to read. When I checked it out and started reading, I couldn’t stop. Cait’s writing style is exactly the kind that grabs and holds me – a casual, down-to-earth, and honest storytelling that makes you feel like she’s right in front of you, telling her story over a cup of coffee.  I finished the book last week, and if there’s only one book you read this year, make it this one.

I’m also even more eager to share my own story – my own #yearofless. I’m not mentally ready to embark on a shopping ban, and I don’t have the same support network. My husband is practically a hoarder – he never donates clothes, and wears approximately 15% of what’s hanging in our closet, on his side. Our basement and garage are both filled with 15 years of his physical baggage – car parts, computer parts, old books, furniture, and other things we could trash or donate, and it wouldn’t affect our quality of life in the slightest. I’m guilty of holding onto knick-knacks, and I’m reluctant to throw out the kid’s clothes, in the event we have another, but otherwise, we’re at odds over the state of clutter in our home.

Fortunately, neither one of us have a habit of racking up consumer debt. I am on the tail end of a consumer proposal, which was the result of an unfortunate real estate deal that cost tens of thousands of dollars, so I am not permitted to hold any unsecured credit. For the last four years, I’ve lived on a cash diet, and it’s been SO liberating. Having to buy baby essentials (diapers, wipes, baby food and formula, and clothes) meant buying non-essentials became an impossibility. I was forced to reduce the number of times I bought coffee outside the home, had to start bringing a lunch to work, and we haven’t taken a vacation since 2015. Well, I took one trip to Austin, Texas, but it was piggy-backed onto a business trip, so it only cost me a couple hundred bucks.

While I was pregnant, I also realized how horribly expensive maternity clothes were, so I only bought a few garments and wore them more frequently. I had two pairs of pants, four shirts, and a couple of summer dresses in my third trimester, when nothing fit anymore. And, things were fine. Actually, they were better than fine. It took me less time to decide on what to wear, and if anybody noticed I rotated between the same five or six outfits, they didn’t say anything. I learned that having an infinite number of options was distracting – it was simply easier to own fewer clothes that could be interchanged to make multiple outfits. Since having my son, I’ve held true to this philosophy. I own far fewer clothes than ever before, and since I work in a meat processing plant, I have two outfits for work. I’ve lost the temptation to buy, buy, and buy. The mall bores me, and if I have to buy something, the trip to the mall is a lot shorter than ever before. I’m still learning to be a more mindful consumer, and I am still learning that I don’t need to be a different kind of person to be valuable.

I do have to purchase an outfit to wear to two weddings later this year. But, before I take a shopping trip, I will make sure that none of my old dresses fit. If they do, my problem is solved, and I save a few bucks. But, if that doesn’t pan out, I will take my time buying one garment that fits me like a glove and also has the versatility to be worn elsewhere. There’s no sense in buying something that can only be worn a couple of times.

The next is decluttering, and I hope to share some of the weirdest things that we’ve acquired over the years. Recently, I read an article, from Beyond Minimalist, suggesting the average American (Canadian) household has 300,000 items. Why do we have so much stuff?

We are also striving to embrace minimalist parenting, where we hope to teach our son that memories are more important than plastic toys and other material items.

Thanks for reading. It’s good to feel good about sharing my life with you, again.