Friday, June 10, 2011

soul food friday ~ redefining "I need..." and a 100 day challenge

Soul food friday posts are written mostly for help me get my head on straight about things that concern me, or sometimes just a bit of fluff about things I've been thinking about. But I do know that sometimes they strike a chord with some of you. Maybe this one will too. See what you think.
I read an article a little while back called 60 small ways to improve your life in the next 100 days. You can find it hereIt's a bit of false advertising if you ask me. I'm not sure that all of those 60 things could be classified as small. For example, keeping a log of your mental chatter (both positive and negative) for the next ten days is not a small ask. It's huuuuuge. Especially if you talk to yourself a lot. Who, me? Don't be silly.
But one of the 60 caught my eye.  It was this: don't buy anything you don't really need for the next 100 days. 
I'm big on concepts. I work with them all the time in my day job. For me, the 'concept' of not buying anything you don't need for 100 days is fine. Will it improve my life? I'm not sure what the evidence is to support that, but I'm happy to give it the benefit of the doubt. But as with all strategies, it's the execution that's the killer (ooh, I think I just made a clever, but unintentional pun!) The execution...and the definitions.
To be more precise, the definition of 'need'. For certain, there are things that we absolutely, positively, definitely need in our lives: love, affection, shelter, food, clothing, appreciation, someone to lean on. But the kitchenaid that I so admire? Perhaps not. Especially when I don't bake.  Which is why I painted this one.
So I thought about whether I would take on this challenge. If I were to examine my possessions closely I'd have to say that I don't really need much of anything. I have furniture, clothing, a reliable car that gets me from A to B, a reasonably equipped kitchen, nice things to look at, good plates to eat off. So, on the face of it, not buying anything I don't really need for 100 days seems an easy enough challenge.
I would have to say though, that all my life I have been, and continue to be a 'consumer' (although probably to a lesser extent now). I have lost count of the number of things that I have bought (and brought into) my life that I didn't need, and perhaps as a result, no longer have. I have bought things out of desire, want, maybe if I'm truly honest, even competition. And many times I've bought things out of need...not for the thing itself, but for the hole in my life I thought it would fill. It invariably didn't.
Why do I want to undertake this challenge? A couple of reasons: to save a bit of money; to not bring anything else into the house until I've had a chance to donate things that I no longer need...and if I'm honest (twice in the one post!)...just to see if I can do it. I've always been ever so slightly competitive :) But probably, most importantly, to find that line between spendthrift and savvy. To know, without question, what purchase will bring pleasure way out of proportion to its cost. Because, there are of course 'things' that can lift us up simply by looking at them. And why would you deny yourself that. That's just crazy talk. It's also probably about defining 'what is enough?'
Here's what I've decided fits into the 'I don't really need' category for me for the next 100 days:
  • magazines (other than the ones I've already subscribed to which are therefore 'free'!!);
  • books (this will be very, very hard for me)...but as I have an entire shelf of books in my bookcase waiting to be read, and I'm a member of the library, and I have friends with books...I think I can do it. Just.
  • appliances (unless it's to replace an essential item that has given up the ghost);
  • clothing, shoes and accessories;
  • music;
  • craft materials (unless it's a gift for someone and it can't be made with what I already have);
  • anything decorative for my house;
  • linen and towels;
  • cosmetics (unless it's to replace a basic that's run out...don't want to scare small children now do we)
  • iPad applications!;
  • anything from an op shop that I don't need even if it is an absolute bargain and I'm helping a charity. If it's that great someone else will snap it up anyway;
  • wine (just kidding...!)
So my friends, it starts from now and according to my quick calculation it will end on 18 September. That's more than a bit scary when you write it down! I'm going to keep a few notes about the things that have enticed me along the way and whether I succumbed or not. Because sure as eggs or little green apples I am likely to fall off the shopping trolley at some point or another!
Caveat: (I'm not silly).. and no, that's not the caveat, although it could be. I'm heading off to Bali next weekend for a writing course run by the Sydney Writers' Centre. It was booked months and months ago so don't go asking me if it's really a need! And in any case, it is. There will be things I see there that I will want to buy. And I will. I know that. Because I have always bought something special back from my travels, and I'm not prepared to stop that for this bit of self imposed nonsense. So, apart from that...let's see how I go. Maybe you'd like to make my list a bit longer so it's more of a challenge. Please don't :) Or just tell me what you think. Or join me if you'd like. I'm happy any which way.
All images found on pinterest. And why all the buddhas? Because that's almost certainly what I'll be buying in Bali :)


  1. What an impressive challenge! I'm really big on cutting down on all things unnecessary. My husband may or may not have hoarder tendencies. But giving up things like real coffee would probably do me in. I hope it's a great experience for you.

  2. Hi kerry,
    This is such a well-timed post as far as I'm concerned. I have been saying exactly the same thing to myself. I do NOT need any more clothes, or furniture, or silly little nick nacks for the home or sunglasses, or make up or well, anything apart from food, drink and birthday presents....the bare essentials.
    I think that I may join you if I may as, I need more stuff like I need a hole in the head !!!! I am going to stay with my sister for 10 days in a couple of weeks while my husband and brother-in law go to Le Man's and drive through Spain so, I might just have to indulge in some good food and wine but, that's OK isn't it ?
    Here's to our 100 day journey and our success with it !! XXXX

  3. Thanks for your inspiring post today, Kerry. So strange, just this morning I was thinking that perhaps it is possible to look at and love many many things without actually succumbing to the urge to buy them. Just appreciate them and move along.
    I wish you luck and look forward to hearing how you go, and you have really made me think today.
    If you're keen to give things away, a good option is Freecycle, which you may have heard of already. Email me if you need details!
    Have a great weekend x

  4. Hmm, you've certainly given me some food for thought! I think we can all cut down on 'stuff', and would probably be better for it. Except for coffee...and friday night drinks...not sure I could manage to give those up. Will be following your adventure with interest my friend! K xx

  5. Interesting post. I agree so much, but as a maker of things, feel so hypocritical supporting it as my art and makings support my family. Dilemma!

  6. thank god you re-thought the wine!! this exercise would be huge for me, more power to you darl. will look forward to reading about how you find it. I could almost probably get there, with the exception of things for the kids and well, magazines, and etsy! i've almost cured the ebay thing - for the moment.

    hope the weekend is tranquil darl xxxx

  7. Good luck with your would be a huge challenge for me. You have given me something to think about I have to say. Now I'm going to check out the entire list. Have a great weekend!

  8. Hmmmm, 18th of September you say? I think I'll join you... Saving to buy our 1st house at the moment. We could have done it years ago if I wasn't such an offender of buying all things unnecessary! I've spent so much time and money buying things to make me happier about our home that I neglected to save enough money to buy a nice home to put it all in!
    Thanks for the timely focus - Have a great time in Bali!
    ps Loving your style!

  9. What a thought provoking post, I may like many of the commentors have to try this. I am sure that it will be a huge chLlenge, as I am addicted to magazines, and buying stuff for other people. Looking forward to hearing about your success.

  10. I am impressed Kerry. 100 days is a long haul. I'm on a super tight buget and for that reason, have to justify to myself every purchase. I find it's a lot easier if you avoid the shops and the internet! Example, I just browsed through my blogs to see Naomi Murrell has a sale on, including a print I have wanted for a long while. Gosh, how do I resist?
    Of course you have to exclude Bali, how wonderful will it be? You lucky thing!

  11. This is such an inspiring challenge, Kerry! I think I will make a list as well. So many times I don't realize that I didn't need something until it is bought. Clothes, make up, decorative things for my home...impulsive things. I know my wants exceed my needs and this is a fun way to herd all those wants in and get some perspective. 100 days, you say?!!

    Have a ball in Bali!


  12. Wow, what a challenge! Sounds very difficult and I look forward to your posts updating us on how you are finding it only buying necessities. 18th of September sounds like miles away, especially as my due date is exactly one month after which is scary! Good luck with the challenge and enjoy your writer's course in Bali, hope you get heaps out of it. Have a great weekend xx

  13. Good luck Kerry, I couldn't do this if I tried. I am weak, so very very weak.... Enjoy Bali lucky girl! ;-)

  14. Good luck with this. I am sure you will be able to do it. You had me worried with the wine. You know that the perfect dress/jumper/whatever will turn up during the 60 days. It is bound to.
    I hope it goes well and you never know, I may be inspired.

  15. Yay! What a great challenge. I'm so keen to see how you go. I might just try and keep up and see what I can do without. Though I do like imagining all the wonderful things I can buy when my children the age yours are ... your shopping list sounds like luxury - books, linen, makeup!

    Have fun in Bali. You could bring home some Australian cattle.

  16. Good luck Kerry. It certainly won't be easy, but I'm sure it will be revealing. I'd join you, but I don't think my will power is strong enough - not right now anyway. And Bali will be so fabulous. Can just see you sitting on the plane next to one of those giant Buddhas coming home. xx

  17. What a challenge! And one I need to take myself. I'll list everything I absolutely HAVE to have, and then spend money on nothing else.

    1. Shelter rags
    2. Any thrifted furniture that would cause me life threatening anxiety if I were to walk away and leave it behind
    3. Books on my iPad

    That's it. My pocketbook is closed to anything else.

    Good luck to you and have a swell time in Bali!

  18. Kerry, you're speaking for all of us here. The internet makes it just too easy to buy, and the postman keeps bringing the cushion covers and hair accessories. Good luck with your challenge, and I hope you save a lot of money and spend it on one wonderful expensive thing that you've wanted for ages and will treasure forever.

  19. Now THAT'S a challenge...good luck and can't wait to hear how it goes!!

  20. Dear Tranquil Townhouse,
    I wish you all the good luck to keep your resolution! A week before, when I reread "Howards End is on the Landing" by Susan Hill, I said to myself: I have so many books (and dvds) - I will for one year only buy ones that are necessary for my job. Well - I feel like a smoker without cigarettes, a woman who does no longer put sugar into her tea (I stopped sugar too, by the way) -weird! So I can feel with you - be strong! And have a brlliant and happy time in Bali! Britta

  21. There is so much in this post that caught my attention- where to begin? At the end I guess- I'm insanely jealous that you're going to Bali! How lovely.

    As for the 100 things I understand the emotional shopping. I do it with clothes and my fail-safe is that I don't take the tags off and keep the receipt so when I look at something in a week and know I don't love it- it can go back.

    Finally, write down everything in my head?! Not possible- I couldn't write or type fast enough. Probably a sign of something requiring professional help but there you have it!

    My first time at your blog but I will be back. Have a wonderful trip!

  22. Good luck, Kerry! My sister is doing this for a WHOLE YEAR and it's just amazing to... watch. I really, really want to do it, but something holds me back. I wish that wasn't the truth, but it is. I think I am a secret hoarder or something... x

  23. I wish you the best of luck...I have tried, really, tried to save but there was just a shoe sale... One small Buddha purchase won't hurt you?

  24. My challenge to myself is not take on any challenges. Not to diminish this idea at all, I think it's fabulous.

    Very best of luck to those who attempt it, though!

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