I recently met a young woman who is buying nothing for a year. Julie Phillips (photo) was giving a talk about how this came to be (serendipity, like many of life’s most remarkable moments) and about her experiences during the first six weeks of being propelled into a #DIYLife.
Julie Phillips is certainly not the first person to spend less money and do more for herself,
but I was struck by several defining aspects of her story: It’s a commitment for a full year, not just an exercise in postponing spending for a month or two. This experiment is structured to require fundamental change, not just giving up some of the superficial niceties. And she’s doing it by choice, not from necessity.
It’s a big change for someone who admittedly is attracted to shoes, jewellery, and pretty dresses. Julie isn’t a back-to-earth do-it-yourselfer who was basically well prepared when she agreed to undertake this experiment. She didn’t spend a lot of time stockpiling things and otherwise preparing for it. This was a case of one thing leading to another and suddenly, there she was, embarking on a year of rigorous “commercial fasting.”
It takes courage to do that, to dive in without knowing the answers. Brené Brown, in her wonderful book The Gifts of Imperfection, says: “Courage is like—it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.”
The original meaning of courage is “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Brown’s book is a guide to Wholehearted living, which we do by engaging in our lives with authenticity, cultivating courage and compassion, and embracing the imperfections of who we really are.
Living wholeheartedly challenges us to let go: of certainty, of being right, of having all the answers, and perhaps of some of the “things” that have been defining us. It’s our chance to discover who we really are, when not propped up by our possessions.
It’s so easy to be mindless and unconscious in a consumer culture. There are products to meet all our needs, even needs we don’t know we have! The consumer system is set up to encourage knee-jerk reaction to cultural values instead of thinking for ourselves to create the kind of lives we want to live. Julie and Geoff’s lifestyle experiment is a grand adventure in becoming conscious and crafting a life. She’s sharing her insights through her blog and I’ll be watching with great interest.