Friday, July 30, 2010


  The past several years I have been invited to an increasingly large number of parties in which the host or hostess's main intention is to sell me something. Typically, I turn down these invites. The parties are almost always for items that I neither need nor want, but occasionally I find myself attending one of these events for a variety of reasons. This was the case this past Wednesday and I wanted to spend a little time reflecting on what these parties mean to me.

  One of the first things that stands out to me about these parties is the intense feeling of obligation to buy that they seem to illicit in their attendees. Well, maybe I ought to just speak for myself here - if I'm not checking in with myself while at one of these shindigs then it is pretty easy for me to feel obligated to purchase something. I think this feeling comes from a few different factors. To begin with, they're always at a relative or close friend's house where they are not only being kind enough to open their doors to me, but also, usually, providing food and beverages. This sets up in myself a desire to "return the favor" as it were, by buying whatever it is they're selling. (**Sidenote** - this reminds me of a book I read for an anthropology class called The Poison in the Gift.) I think I also feel obligated to buy because while I'm in the person's living room, surrounded by fancy products, friendly faces, good food, etc. I get a general feeling of warmth and camaraderie. I feel the bonding of the group and then I want to be a part of that group - and it seems like to be a part of this group, I need to buy something, because after all, that's what we're all there for. So to not buy at one of these parties means fighting both the completely normal culturally driven desire to return hospitality and the urge to join in a group.  From my perspective that's some tough cultural baggage to put aside.

   Ultimately, I don't have a big problem saying "no" to buying at these parties. Often I've prefaced my attendance by letting the host(ess) know that I won't be spending any money. This past week I also had an opportunity to check in with myself aloud because the hostess invited us to ask any questions we had about the product - in this case jewelry. I asked where it was made and she answered that most of it was made in China and Thailand. That was a good way for me to remind myself about why I don't want to be buying items from these parties. This coming weekend there is a craft show on a nearby street and if I'm going to buy jewelry I'd like it to be from a local artisan who I can actually interact with (link).

   I wonder what value or purpose these parties hold for me really? Should I keep attending them? This week I went because I like to see all the people that were going to be in attendance and I didn't want to seem unfriendly or dismissive of the hostess. But is this enough of a reason? I'm not sure. As I'm writing, I'm leaning towards no.  I still feel like I'm somehow supporting these businesses by going to the parties. I'm supporting them with my presence. It's like I'm saying, "well, I'd buy something if I could, but I'm broke". I am broke, but that's not why I'm not buying.  I think maybe a better option in the future might be to explain thoughtfully to the host why I won't be attending and then make a bigger effort to host events that involve the same people and are not focused on buying/selling.

Also, and maybe finally, I think part of the reason my friends and family want to host these events is because a lot of us really are lacking reasons to gather. So much of our society is focused on shopping in one way or another that it can seem like the only valid reason to spend time together is if it has to do with spending money. But there are so many things to do besides going to the mall or a movie or exchanging currency. Maybe it's time for me to make a bigger effort with my loved ones to spend time engaging with them in things that I find valuable. I'd hate for them to feel like we need to spend money in order to spend time.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Painting and Accessorizing

  The past week or so I've done my fair share of both buying and making. Most of what I bought was to be used for the making of something else. Having just moved into a house, I've purchased a few things focused on home improvement, primarily painting supplies. I decided I wanted to have one wall in one of the rooms covered in chalkboard paint.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

travel mugs and craft books

  To begin with, I have spent A LOT of money the last few days. Most of this has gone towards moving costs though, so I’m not going to spend much time on that here. The biggest expenses were renting a moving truck and hiring movers (because despite my sizeable guns, I just cannot manage my ridiculous wooden furniture). Beyond that, my only superfluous purchases involved pizza and vodka for myself, Jason, and Amanda after a long day of packing. Both were purchased at local shops at least.

  Prior to leaving for Baltimore I did have a shopping purchase that I’d like to reflect on here. The first was a reusable cup. On my way to an orientation for a new job, I realized I was really thirsty and forgot to bring a water bottle. I stopped at Wegmans and spent about ten minutes trying to decide whether or not to buy a bottle of water or buy a cup to put water in. In the end, I decided purchasing the cup would be better. As it is, I now I have one travel mug, one Nalgene water bottle and one reusable cup. I’m going to try to keep it that way. Buying that cup did make me think a little bit about how even purchasing what is intended to be reusable and sustainable items becomes, well, not that. I have a lot of friends with loads and loads of Nalgene bottles. Or close ones with 10 travel mugs. We, myself included, feel really justified with these purchases because the items are reusable. But why am I buying something if I already have it? Because it looks cool? Because I want to buy something? Because I’m too lazy to wash out the other five travel mugs sitting in my car? At some point, I have been guilty of all these excuses and probably more. At the end of the day, I still bought another reusable item that’s real cute, but I don’t need. I am happy that I reflected a bit on it before the purchase was made, but pretty soon I will need to bridge the gap from reflection to (in)action and not buy stuff on a whim. The bottom line is that I will always have a justification for not buying something – or for that matter, I will always have a justification for not acting in accordance with how I want to be.

  Today, I am happy and pained to say, I did not buy something that I really really wanted to buy. On our way home from returning the Penske truck I’d been driving, Jason wanted to stop at Barnes and Noble for some dvd’s he’d had his eye on. Anyway, as per usual, I gravitated towards the craft/sewing section of the store and was drooling over a crochet book. I just recently learned to crochet and really wanted to buy this book as it had a lot of cool patterns, ideas etc. But here’s the deal – part of what was really fun about learning to hook was that a really awesome person taught me. He was great at explaining what to do, was really excited that I wanted to learn, and then (I think) felt sort of accomplished and proud of himself for teaching someone else a great skill. I don’t have access to that person now, as he lives sort of far, but I do have access to both my mom and step-mom who both crochet and would LOVE to spend the time teaching me how to make whatever my crazy brain comes up with. It’s an opportunity to engage and bond with other really cool people rather than dole out some more cash to an author I don’t know. So, I didn’t buy the book. And, oddly/awesomely, when I got home I went to see Bonnie (step-mom) and she had crocheted some examples of granny-squares for me because she knew I wanted to learn how to make them.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

starting off

    To put it simply - I would like to shop less and create more. I'm making this blog to help me along this path because:
a) I think making a blog will help to hold me accountable to my goals if both strangers and those closest to me are following my process.
b) I'm interested in sharing ideas with others and this seems like a great format with which to do so. 

   In general, what I'm going to try to do is shop as little as possible for items that are not necessary for survival. I already follow this rule to some extent, but I guess I'd like to get just a little bit more hard core about it. When I do need to shop, I'd like to follow some guidelines:
1. Shop Locally/Avoid Malls - I'm not going to launch into any long tirades about big box stores or the death of the American Main Street. But I do believe that working on the community level is the best way to affect positive change. Also, mall shopping depresses me and dries out my eyes, bleh!
2. Honesty - Maybe this point ought to come first. I'd like to be as open and honest about this process as possible. No matter how embarrassing or ill conceived my shopping (mis)adventures may be, I'd like to be truthful about them. I really would like to learn from this process and I cannot expect any possible readers of this blog to contribute to my journey if I'm not giving you the whole story.
3. Question - If I do feel I need to buy something that's typically not necessary for survival I am going to try to spend some amount of time honestly reflecting on why I am buying the item and whether or not I would be able to make it myself.

  That's it for the lists (for now). I'm off to clean up my room and make some things out of garbage. I killed the buffalo, it's time I use it.