getting over the want: part 3

This is the third and final post on getting over the want aka consumerism. To read Part 1 click here and Part 2 click here.

When was the last occasion that you lost track of time? Were you reading a book, or playing a game with your kids, or lost in a sewing project?

I’m trying to lose track of time more. As a reformed clock watcher this is a challenge. I used to work backwards from a watch for most of my day. If it takes me 20 minutes to walk to work, plus 10 if I stop at Starbucks, thirty minutes to blow dry my hair, 30 minutes for breakfast, shower with hair wash is 15 minutes, want to run 10k and that would be about an hour, 20 minutes to fully wake myself and put on my running gear…. I need to be up by 6am to get to work by 9am.

Last fall we went on a beach vacation and I left my cell phone and watch at home. It was nice. I spent a lot of time just doing and not thinking about what was coming next.

When I think about being less wanty, about being focused on the present and what is great in my life right now, I get back to being engaged. Engaged with myself and engaged with others. When I focus in on the things that bring me joy and contentment, I don’t need the distraction and false high of shopping or things.

Step One was “don’t let it in the door“.

Step Two was create barriers.

Step Three: shift your focus.

It may seem obvious, but there’s so much more to life than new clothes and bigger homes. A while back there was an inspirational list floating around called Regrets of the Dying. This is a list compiled by someone that worked with palliative care patients. Regret #2 is I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. The patients deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

When I start thinking about wanting things, about granite kitchen counter tops and vacations, I give my head a shake. I have great family, good health and all my needs are met. I’m one of the lucky ones.

Here are some ways to shift your focus and get over the want.

  • Hobbies: just because you’re cleaning out closets does not mean you have to give up your hobbies. In fact, by getting rid of the non-essentials you should have more time for the things you really love to do. Engage in that craft project, find some quiet time to work on that novel and join a running group. The high from creative pursuits and the endorphins from exercise will erase any thoughts of buying.
  • Relationships: I always lose track of time when I’m on the phone or Skype with family or friends. I look up and an hour has passed. Engage with people, not your credit card, and you’ll quickly get over the thought that a new handbag will be life changing.
  • Breathe: in stressful moments I look for diversions. Sometimes this is in the form of spending. A particularly difficult jog with a toddler in a stroller, one where I end up holding the toddler and pushing the stroller more than running, and my thoughts turn to a $12 stress relieving lunch at Whole Foods or my favorite pannini place. I’ve found that a couple of deep breaths helps me let go of my frustrations and my stress spending thoughts. If you’re frustrated and ready to do damage with your credit card take a minute for some deep breaths and calm thoughts. Nothing you buy will relieve the stress and frustration of a tough day.

I like to remind myself that the rational side of my brain knows that new things don’t change my life. I change my life.

If you struggle with the want, how do you remove yourself from it? What are your go to happy things that aren’t based in buying?

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  • Organizing is my happy place. When I feel the urge to shop or spend because I’m bored, I get into cleaning and organizing, and I’m too tired to do anything else.

    Getting lost in blogging and interacting with people makes me happy.

    • Can’t believe you could ever be bored. You are the most prolific blogger I follow.
      Just organized my closet yesterday. Easy to do with a small wardrobe and, yes, kept me focused!

  • I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job managing the wants in my life so far this year. It really helps me to blog about my progress and goals. In fact, I think my blog has been the single most helpful thing I’ve engaged in to keep me on track!

    I love to spend time with my friends and family too, it always helps to be with people that can make me laugh.

    I loved the List of the Dying you linked to. I read something similar before, and each time I start to feel really overwhelmed I try to think about if whatever I’m stressed about will matter when I’m on my deathbed. Nine times out of ten it won’t.

    • Blogging has been motivating for me as well. I can’t emphasize enough to people that you need support when making life changes. If you don’t have it at home, or from an IRL friend, find it online. Join a forum, connect with other people that are trying to do the same thing as you.

      Great de-stressing thought there. So true. Good reminder to me about our rent vs. sell choice on our home. I need to stop spending any more mental energy stressing about the what ifs. They will happen or not happen regardless of how much I think about it.

  • Gardening is one place I can really lose track of time. This can be a problem if I get out there and need to go somewhere, like pick up the kids.Gardening is both a hobby and a passion for me. I can get lost in the simple action of weeding.

    • If there is no toddler around, reading is my lose track of time hobby. Should move it outdoors so I get the fresh air benefit of gardening =)

  • I decided not to buy special Easter outfits this year. The kids already have some cute ones and our weather is so unpredictable that, you can buy an outfit and it will be too chilly to wear! It is hard to break habits that are ingrained as “tradition”.

    • Were the outfits just for Easter? I do like traditions but also wonder if you can stretch them into being more practical. Maybe Easter is when you get a new formal outfit, IF you need one.

  • Great post. I really love this series. Getting over want is extremely difficult… (obviously, we are bombarded with advertising at all times.)

    Grocery shopping is my vice too, especially at Whole Foods.

    With the exception of food, if I buy something new, I make myself get rid of something else (or multiple things). At least it keeps the number of items in check.

    Looking forward to more!

  • Right now I’m going through a stage where I don’t feel like I need to buy anything. I don’t want anything either bought or given.
    My mom called me to tell me that she was going to send me… I didn’t even let her finish. I said “please please, don’t send me anything, I don’t want anything.” I don’t want one more thing in this house.
    Actually, a beautiful gift would be for someone to come and take stuff. Take whatever you want! That would be a gift for me right now.
    I have future plans for hobbies which are singing lessons and writing classes. Ha! I’m looking forward to these two. But first, I need to move into my RV. That’s my main focus right now.

    • First, that is great that you’re in a good place with not wanting stuff. I’m getting there myself and noticing a new focus on other areas of my life.
      Singing and writing lessons: yes! This is the ‘pot of gold’ that minimalism brings – more time and money and energy for passions and interests. I took singing lessons once (I can’t carry a tune but wanted to learn a song to sing/play guitar) and loved it. The lessons really stretched a dusty part of my brain and I noticed I felt creative in other areas of my life. Enjoy!

  • I struggled with this one for years, i would even ‘want’ stuff on others people’s behalf, i would just decide that one of my kids would really ‘want’ something and set about pursuing it, and the reality is that my kids don’t care either way. I feel that on the whole my ‘wants’ are getting less and that my real ‘want’ is to have time space and energy to be a good mum, and that doesn’t involve spending money on stuff. I still do struggle from time to time but it’s nothing i can’t talk myself out of. I wish i had learnt theses lessons years ago, we never would have ran up so much debt and then spend years paying it off, time i could have had with my kids.Lesson learnt.
    Great thought provoking post Rachel, well done!
    Lots of Love Sharron

    • Thanks, Sharron. I’ve “wanted” stuff for my son since before he was born. That’s how I got into a mess of having loads of useless baby stuff. And probably why I hit my breaking point and took the plunge into minimalism.
      Couldn’t agree with you more on focusing on the real part of parenting: the stuff that’s harder than going out and buying things for your child. Dealing with meltdowns gracefully and with patience, giving hugs instead of yelling when they accidentally break a lamp, having the time and energy to actually play with them.
      Don’t beat yourself up too much about the debt. I’m trying not to myself. Just work on the plan and actions to get out of debt and never be in it again.

  • Thanks so much for this! These are such great tips that I will be using. I’m really appreciating your blog right now. (I’m a recent new follower!) it is helping me stay motivated to keep getting rid of more stuff!

    I think what helps with my wants now is the image of a simple, clean and completely de-cluttered house! (still a definite work in progress).

    I was proud of myself the other day when I had to walk through a mall, but I stopped nowhere!

    Thanks again for this great post and your awesome blog!

    • Thanks, J-Han. I’m also in the work-in-progress camp myself. Our move overseas is really going to push me to a final pare down of our stuff.
      I’ve found it gets easier to turn off your sale/shopping radar the longer you go without buying.
      Congratulations on taking the leap into simple living =)

  • When my kids were small, they accumulated some Easter stuffies…(a few bunnies, ducks and a few ceramic items). When the easter season was over, I placed them in a plastic bin, and the following easter, instead of getting any new ones, we took out the old ones and spread them on the table along with a few easter goodies. Now the kids are 15, 17, 19 and 21 – and the exact same bin of stuffies comes out and they love seeing the same familiar items. They are aready talking about using the same ones when they have little ones of their own!!!

    • That is adorable! And I love the idea of reusing and passing down items. I sometimes get flack for not keeping the sentimental. I’m all for keeping things as long as they get used – no point in keeping them tucked away for years.

      • Love Lilypad’s idea, but like you I hate keeping stuff. Stuff that gets looked at one time a year. This year for Easter I bought plastic eggs, 2 candy bags and hind the eggs around the house. My kids are 9 and 11 and they seemed very happy with candy in an eggs. They gathered the eggs, played with the eggs, traded for their favorite candy, happy.
        Love this post series, it helps me with my struggling wants, which are mostly cute clothes for my girls. Now that they are older and I see the “cute clothes” time window closing it was been harder lately.

  • I feel similar to Mariza. I am at the stage when I do not need to distract myself from shopping. Looking around in shops is great, however, I am contented with the need of NOT wanting, unless it is something I need and of good quality.

  • There was a great piece on CBC radio about ‘slow fashion’ and calculating the cost per wear of clothing. With all the ‘must have’ items of the season- those ‘cheap’ clothes are actually more expensive than investing in quality pieces that will last a long time.
    Sorry this may be a bit off track, but it speaks to my mind frame now, when I would rather spend more on less and enjoy it more.

    • Thanks, KT. I’ll have a look around CBC Radio’s website and see if I can find it. Would love to have a listen to it myself and link to it here. I’m trying to live by that rule myself – it’s hard! I get panicky investing a lot of money in one item of clothing. Yet… all my cheap clothing has fallen apart after just one season of wear.

  • Great post. I just got back from a week at the beach and had to smile reading this. I had just added a post to my blog as well about loving the simplicity of a beach vacation when I caught up on yours.

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