11 Feb My Experience (So Far) With no-spend February
We are 11 days into our no-spend February, and it feels really good. Before I get into our experience with a no-spend month, a little background for you: Around Christmas, my husband, Joe, suggested we watch a documentary on minimalism. And while he brought it up in an off-hand way, I knew what he was doing: He wanted me to watch the film, see the minimalism light, and declutter our house ASAP.
Because while I strive to make purchases that are safe for my family and our planet, I am 100% guilty of buying more than we need. I also have a hard time letting go of some of the kids’ belongings. My children are now 4 and 2 and there are very clearly things in our playroom they’ve outgrown. But when I see those items, all I see is a time when they were smaller and loved those toys. I’m surrounded with sweet memories of them being babies and sitting up for the first time, ready to play their musical Noah’s Ark. When you have those memories attached to something, it becomes extremely hard to acknowledge that the beloved Ark hasn’t been played with in months (and if I’m being really honest, it’s been longer than that).
Leading up to the documentary suggestion, Joe had begun commenting on how much stuff we had. There was too much in the playroom. There was too much furniture. There were too many clothes packed into Reagan’s (my daughter) closet. It was also coming during the holidays – a time when we’d most certainly accumulate even more stuff. While he commented on us having too much, I thought we had the perfect amount. Everything was used and needed – plus, who wants a house that’s been stripped down to its bones?
I agreed to watch the documentary, mainly to argue throughout that we didn’t have too much. That we had the perfect amount and he needed to let it go. But as we watched, my arguments never came. Within the first few minutes, I was enamored with minimalism and instantly began to see the connection between it and one of my biggest passions: sustainability. Producing items takes a toll on the planet. Consuming too much takes a toll on the planet. Throwing away stuff that’s no longer used also takes a toll on the planet. Even if you’re consuming the right types of things and supporting companies that are ethical and sustainable, if you’re buying more than you need, it’s still harming our planet.
Beyond the clear link between sustainability and minimalism, I also saw how beautiful a simplified way of living is. The idea that you keep what brings you joy and eliminate the rest is inspiring. On the other hand, working to buy more stuff seems like a sad and silly way to spend our time here. Long story short, Joe was right. We did have too much. It became clear that we needed to get rid of the stuff that we didn’t use and then put an end to the “buying just to buy” mentality. As we decluttered, we discussed two new family rules: 1. We don’t bring anything new into the house unless there is truly a need for it, and 2. If we buy something new, we must also remove an item from our house. Basically when one item comes in, one item goes out. And we have to find a good home for the item we’re getting rid of because I can’t stand the thought of it sitting in a landfill simply because it is no longer of use to us.
One other thought on minimalism: Parting with an item that’s no longer used does not mean you’re parting with the memories attached to it. I ended up donating the Noah’s Ark toy that my children once loved. It no longer resides in our playroom, but I still have the happy memories of my babies sitting up and playing with the little animals and musical keyboard. Once I accepted that my memories would always exist, even if an item was no longer with us, it made decluttering far easier.
Circling back, the movie and the discussion Joe and I had after watching it, prompted us to commit to a no-spend February. Only the essentials – things such as food and gas – can be purchased during this month. So far, so good. It’ll be interesting to see what my perspective is at the end of the month, but my thoughts thus far are that it’s pretty freeing to commit to not spending and then stick with it. It’s caused us to not get take-out one night (healthier for us and our wallets), and it helped me avoid looking at a clearance sale that one of my favorite brands was having. More than that though, it’s helped me realize how connected minimalism and sustainability truly are. Committing to a life in which you are happy with what you have and only purchase what you need is a lifestyle that is healthy for us and this beautiful world we inhabit. I know that at the end of my journey, I want amazing memories of the time I spent with my family and friends. I will never sit back and reflect on the stuff that I owned. To take that a step further, I don’t want to ever regret having my husband or myself work simply to buy stuff.
If you’re considering a no-spend month, I’d highly recommend it. It’s one month – not forever. And I promise that any items you might want to purchase during your no-spend timeframe will still exist when the month is over. Letting go of the idea that we “need stuff” is just another step in my sustainability journey. There will be roadblocks, of course, and I’m certain I’ll still fall prey to a sale at some point. But minimalism and sustainability are not about perfection. They’re about doing the very best you can do.
I’ll leave you with this: “I hope these simple things are what I forever love about life, for then I will be happy no matter where I find myself.”
― R. YS Perez, I Hope You Fall in Love: Poetry Collection