Updated: Jan 12, 2019
A few years back I decided to challenge myself to a “buy nothing year”. I made it four months, which in the end, I was quite happy with. I learned a lot and while I didn’t meet my goal, it still felt like no small feat.
As the new year approached this year, I had a similar itch -- to shake things up, to try something hard. I wanted to take a run at buy nothing year again, but honestly it didn't feel like enough. Many of the patterns that I sought to change, I changed with that first "failed" attempt. Now, at least most of the time, I seriously consider if I need something before reaching for my wallet and on the whole I spend a lot less. But I’ve slipped back into some old habits: fast food drive thrus, take away coffees, and those pesky dollar hot dogs from IKEA. Bottom line, I could use a refresher. So I decided to do try buy nothing year again in 2019 with more or less the same rules and see if I can’t make it all the way to the end of the year this time.
I will talk about exactly what I mean by “buying nothing” in a later post, but right now I want to focus on my other major goal for 2019. The one that, if I’m honest, scares me a little.
You see, I have a bigger problem than how I spend my money -- how I spend my time. I have big goals for 2019 -- books to finish writing, a screenplay I'm working on, I want to connect more with friends -- and to put it plainly, I watch too much TV. How much is too much? Too much for my own liking generally, but when it’s at its most extreme I’ve been known to do things like watch all of Dexter in two weeks, seriously (more on that later). What’s worse, I mostly rewatch things I’ve already seen. For as long as I can remember, this was my comfort -- re-runs, in bed, with snacks = HEAVEN. To be clear, I’m not giving up snacks. Life is way to short for that and food too tied up in my enjoyment of it. But T.V. lately has been less of a pleasure and more of a burden, an escape, a place I go when I feel stuck and staring at the screen feels easier than facing that stuckness.
When I attempted buy nothing year the first time many people reacted with a mild horror. The most common response was a disbelief that I could make it and in fairness, those people turned out to be right. But the point was never to “make it,” at least not the whole point. The point was to disrupt my well-worn patterns of consumerism. The point was to give myself strategies for spending less on unimportant things mindlessly, so that I had more left for the things that matter to me. As extreme as the reactions were to my buy nothing year attempt, people’s reactions to a year with no TV have been even more intense—one friend exclaiming, “Dear God, Why?” Perhaps it’s because anyone who knows me knows that I’ve fallen asleep with the TV on for the vast majority my life. Perhaps it’s partially because trying to maintain anything for a year that is hard enough for a week seems like a kind of self-inflicted torture that is unnecessarily drastic. But I can say that as I type this early in the morning on Jan 1st, I’m genuinely excited about this challenge. I’m excited to find out what I will do when I can’t just turn the TV on, or endlessly burro
w into You Tube, or watch Dirty Dancing for the 1000th time on Netflix (yes, all of those things count as TV for the purposes of this challenge). I’m excited for the books I’ll read and the increased face time and Facetime with loved ones. I’m excited to learn to play the piano that is collecting dust in my living room and if I’m honest, I am a little scared to face the void that I know I rely on TV to fill.
So I’m starting a blog. As a way to hold myself accountable and keep a record of what this year felt like, what changed, what I learned, and just how much I missed Michael Scott.