Ranger Kathryn's Arches

November 30, 2011

463,680 minutes of strength

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:55 am
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I made a bold New Year’s Resolution on January 1 of this year. It’s detailed in the post linked here; in summary, I would refrain from buying any new clothing, shoes, or accessories during 2011. I had seen a girlfriend’s 1/1/11 Facebook status announcing her intention to do this, and it made perfect sense in my pursuit of minimalism. A grand experiment dancing around the fringes of asceticism, at the very least.

All year I’ve eschewed shopping malls, or anything retail-ish. Saved a LOT of money. On track to finish strong.

This would have looked SO cute at a Moab contra dance.

And then, out of the blue, while I was  playing Scrabble on Facebook, minding my own business, a devious little ad popped up from my favorite dress shop. They knew I’d click on their banner, didn’t they? I have pretty good willpower, though, and thought I could “just look.” In five minutes’ time an adorable dress caught my eye. I mean ADORABLE. I mean, very “me,” hard to come by. In another minute’s time I had discovered that their inventory of my size was down to two, and no more would be available. You can’t imagine my mental anguish.

I hadn’t had a new dress in sixteen months. I reasoned that I could order it and put it aside until 2012. Click. Ordered.

Bad choice.

That was a pretty sad ending to my 88%-successful resolution. It doesn’t matter that the dress size was a bit off and it has been tucked into its return box, the siren call silenced. I broke my resolution by buying a new item of clothing. SAD. In the big picture, though, just having tried feels like a big step in the right direction for me. Valuable lesson learned: 463,680 minutes of strength won’t trump one (1) moment of weakness. Paradoxically, that one moment of weakness does not negate the lessons learned in all my minutes of strength.

This post could use some interaction, so leave a comment. Write anything you’re moved to write except “You did great” or “It’s okay, you can take a Mulligan.” Here are a few things to get you thinking:

  • Are all impulsive actions governed by the same mechanisms?
  • Why will it be harder for me to finish out the year without buying?
  • Personal Q: what are the most difficult things to say No to?
  • What needs are being met when we indulge in something we’d rather say No to?
  • What’s your strategy for dealing with unsolicited ads? (Don’t tell me to get up and run away, like Joseph did from Pharaoh’s seductress wife. I HAD to finish the Scrabble game.)
  • Winston Churchill’s assessments: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm” — and — “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Agree? Disagree? Why?

March 1, 2011

New Year’s resolution on track

On January 1 I read a girlfriend’s Facebook status describing her resolution: to refrain from buying any new clothing, shoes, or accessories for one year. It immediately struck a chord in me and I made it my resolution as well. I would begin that day, and there would be no pre-emptive buying “before the starting gun.”

As I stood in my closet on January 1, 2011, I realized that I had enough clothing, shoes, and accessories to last until Jesus comes back. I’ve not shopped necessarily out of need, but out of want — something cute in the latest style or a fresh color. Since contentment and simplicity are stated goals of mine, why not take on a challenge that would expose competing motives?

The first test came when I was meeting girlfriends at the Mall of America — epicenter of ostentatious consumerism — for a rendezvous. Ambling into a store, I’d be approached by a salesperson with “What may I show you today?” “Why, nothing, thank you,” I’d reply. “All our boots are 30% off,” came the enticement. And then I’d state my resolution.

The amazing consistency of retailers’ responses boils down to five words: “I could never do that.” Their answers to my “Why not?” were insightful: “I am addicted to fashion,” “It’s my job to model a certain look,” “I love to shop,” “I need new stuff to feel good about myself.”

Oh, what a tangled web we weave.

My season as a park ranger last year helped begin the weaning process from “stuff.” One had to drive two hours to the nearest mall; I’d rather be hiking in the wilderness. It was easy to scale back my acquisitions to bare necessities.

Now, make no mistake, I love the look and feel of something new and different in my wardrobe. I love the satisfaction of finding just the right piece to pull together an ensemble. But… but… I don’t NEED anything. Globally speaking, surely I have more in my closet than most of earth’s other inhabitants have in theirs — if they even have a closet. It’s incredibly liberating to have NO REASON to enter a mall. To know I am saving time, money, frustration, and natural resources by choosing instead to live with what I already have. To say “No” to the siren song of material items trying to seduce my heart.

What obstacles may arise in my no-shopping year? Would you ever try this? Why, or why not?

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