The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


A year without buying

I learned a lot when I didn't shop

I was just tired. Tired of cleaning, dusting, arranging, maintaining, deciding. Tired of giving so much of myself to my things. I didn’t want any more stuff to take care of—so I decided not to shop for a year.

The store where I buy most of my clothing advertised the final stage of its semiannual sale: 25 percent off merchandise already marked down up to 60 percent. I’d gotten some great bargains there, clothing that wears well and fits me and my life. Until recently the store had been on my route home from work, so I could easily take advantage of the sales. During my year of not buying, I drove right past.

The first time, I was surprised. Contrary to any feeling of deprivation or temptation, I felt free. The time it would have taken to park, go in, look around, try something on and pay for it—that time was open. I hadn’t seen until then that possessions take time and attention, not only in having them but also in acquiring them.

It wasn’t just the time that was free: I was free. I didn’t have to stop for the sale. (I hadn’t been aware I thought I had to.) I realized that I had felt under some compulsion—almost obligation—to take advantage of the sale. I came to understand in a visceral way that the sale was taking advantage of me. Contrary to my sense of being a wise and frugal shopper, I was captive to the idea of the sale as an opportunity to beat the price system and maybe have something I might not otherwise.

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February issue


Embracing diversity