More Is Less - Why I'm Going On A "No Buy"

As it became clear to me that Mr. F2P and I were finally reaching a significant financial milestone last year, I started taking my foot off the saving gas for a bit and ramped up my consumption

I won't deny that it was fun at first. You know that feeling that comes from being a more reckless version of yourself, of throwing caution to the wind? Of course, my version of this wasn't so extreme but you get the idea.

We never consumed more than the income we made in a given month during this time, but I had no restrictions on what was “reasonable” as an expenditure. I bought a bunch of stuff that my spoiled brat self wanted to indulge in. And I'll admit it was fun at first.

I have well over a year's worth at this point...some for all seasons and then some.

I have well over a year's worth at this point...some for all seasons and then some.

We've wanted better headphones for a while.

We've wanted better headphones for a while.

Makeup has been a newer hobby.

Makeup has been a newer hobby.

But there’s a catch: it didn't stay as fun as it was during the first few indulgences. The experience lost its "new car smell" rather quickly.

The reality is that, in general, the more we have:

  1. The more we want
  2. The less we appreciate each additional belonging
  3. The less grateful and happy we are with what we have, both new and old

1. More Begets More

The materialism paradox says that when consumers are most hotly in pursuit of nonmaterial meanings, their use of material resources is greatest…We devalue the material world by excessive acquisition and discard of products.
— Juliet B. Schor, "Plenitude" (2010), p. 41.

The appetite for more starts off quite mild. At first, it’s a “this would be nice to have” feeling. And, as long as we don’t indulge, it often goes away, replaced by the next preoccupation or interest. But if we feed it—even a little bit—the appetite for stuff grows. Our desires grow as we fulfill them and they take up more of our psychological space, precious real estate that could definitely be put to better use in other parts of our lives.

I found myself wanting more every time I got more. I found myself filling my head with ideas of grandeur that have little to do with the pragmatism of real life, let alone of a life well lived. Logically, I knew that more of the same would not make me happy(er), but the thought of the delight I’d experience at the time of acquisition was a powerful drug. And the result, if left unchecked, is more stuff still!

2. More Stuff Means Less Appreciation

Minimalists have tapped into an important part of happiness: the uniqueness and value of a single object. As The Little Prince character shared—in the book by the same name—caring for but one single, unique, rose is more meaningful to the caregiver than having thousands of them, despite the fact that having thousands would equate to having “more” or to being more successful. 

And he was overcome with sadness. His flower had told him that she was the only one of her kind in all the universe. And here were five thousand of them, all alike, in one single garden!
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "The Little Prince"

Psychologically, owning a single cherished item is more precious to us than having dozens of similar items that sit on our shelves, in our closets, in storage lockers, all but abandoned in both thought and reality. Having more than we can use—and, more importantly, appreciate—is the most wasteful, miserable thing we can do to both ourselves and to our stuff. (OK, and to Mother Nature too.)

We appreciate less every single similar additional belonging we bring into our space. I've felt that loss of appreciation first hand and can say that I enjoy the experience of acquiring less than I did at the beginning of this consumption escapade.

Looking back at what I’ve been doing, I wonder how much of the purchasing was for the object of my desire and how much of the purchasing was to feel the rush of the act of purchasing itself. (And this applies both to acquiring new and second-hand items. Just because it’s a deal doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to get it.)

I started to better understand why hoarders do what they do. That emotional connection with the act of acquiring can be intoxicating and it can be a great distraction from what else we might be feeling about our lives. And it’s hard to turn that feeling off as it build momentum. Like a drug addict, we can develop the need to intensify it because it takes a bigger buy or a bigger find to experience the same rush.

Damn you, hedonic adaptation!

3. More Stuff, Less Happiness

Getting stuff is WORK. Going from near-zero to sixty, I’ve rediscovered how much effort consumption is! It takes hours to go shopping for anything other than the essentials. We have to research purchases, look for deals, visit stores to see the items in person—never mind making the money to buy the sh*t in the first place! It can turn into full time work if we let it.

Owning the stuff we've acquired is also work. We need to organize it, store it, clean and maintain it, learn how to use it, use it, fix it, and ultimately dispose of it. It can feel overwhelming.

More overwhelming still is to think of everything we could have been doing with the time we spent involved in acquiring, using and disposing of stuff! Looking back at the last number of months, I think of all the books I could have been reading, all the conversations I could have been having with family and friends, all the activities I could have been involved in, including various forms of self care. 

That is the stuff of happiness. Everything else is just noise.

I want more of that stuff back into in my life. Pronto!

Introducing the "NO BUY"

That’s why I’m going on a “no buy.” 

What’s a “No Buy?” It means not buying anything that is a want and not a need (in the strictest sense of the word).

I’ve decided that, from February 1st to August 31st of this year I’m not buying anything that isn’t a regular consumable we need to replenish because we regularly run out (like groceries, and gas).

Why do I say “I” instead of including Mr. F2P? Because I’m the “head of procurement” for this household and, out of the two of us, I’m also the spender. Mr. F2P might as well be called Mr. Frugal. 

Yup. When it comes to spending, the buck stops here.

Here are the rules for this NO BUY: 

  • Buying only as much as we can use
  • Stocking up on staples only, not nice-to-haves and 
  • Making good use of what we already have by “shopping our stash(es)” of current household items instead of looking outside of our current belongings to scratch the itch of wanting to acquire
  • Selling or donating things that don’t serve us (opportunistically...I need to reclaim my time spent managing stuff for a bit)
  • Hopefully not replacing computers and electronics (iMac, MacBook and iPad) that are increasingly going on the fritz until this Fall

I’m hoping this 7-month “NO BUY” will help me return to my regular lifestyle, including my baseline level of appreciation for just how lucky we are to live in constant abundance and that I don't need much of anything I don't already have to be content.

That is how I intend to turn my current more is less back into less is more

And ironically this project and my hopes for it make me feel like a kid at Christmas.

So exciting!

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