No Shopping: Raissa Alvero’s Experience

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We are so excited to announce our Recloseted No Shopping Challenge! We are officially challenging you to stop shopping from January - June 2019 to end unnecessary consumption and help us right the harmful fashion industry. Sign up and accept the challenge.

To inspire you to sign up for the challenge and show you that it can be done, we are thrilled to have Raissa Alvero guest write about her no spend year! Raissa currently lives in Vancouver, works as a full-time gallerist, and has multiple side hustles. If you’d like to get in touch with Raissa, you can reach her at: raissa.alvero@gmail.com.


My No Spend Year

My decision to do a no spend year was an emotional one. After moving three times in one year, and subjecting myself to pack, unpack and purge three times over, I felt overwhelmed. Each time I purged, I cursed myself. Why hadn’t I gotten rid of that itchy sweater I never wore? Why did I keep that box of useless broken headphones? I was burdened by the sheer volume of stuff that weighed down my life. A year of traveling to Southeast Asia and North America helped me gain perspective. I was forced to pack everything I needed into one large backpack. And so when I went to gather my things to pack, and it didn’t fit, I cut down. I eventually whittled down my belongings to the bare essentials and pledged only to buy things on-the-go for the next fifteen months.

Define the parameters of your spending: Define what matters to you.

After I returned from traveling, I relocated back to Vancouver and subleased a friend’s apartment. The apartment came equipped with everything I needed to live and take care of myself for the next two years: furniture, linen, and cookware. I unpacked the belongings I had shipped from my old apartment, and it dawned on me how heavy it felt to unpack things that felt like remnants of my past. It was the feeling of lightness and freedom while traveling that I missed most. In Season 3, Episode 3 of Issa Rae’s Insecure, Issa’s best friend Molly helps Issa move into her new apartment after a break-up. They crack open a bottle of whiskey as they go through boxes of Issa’s stuff. Issa digs up old CDs, old photos and beams, overcome with nostalgia. Molly rolls her eyes and says to Issa, “you can’t have a new you if you’re surrounded by the old you.”

I didn’t want to be surrounded by the old me any longer in my temporary home. From then on, I pledged not to spend any more money on things: no more clothing, accessories, books, home decor, or designer candles. This meant I could focus on quality, quantity, and experiences rather than items.

Step 1: Take inventory of what you have

As I purged, I took stock of everything in my possession from household cleaning products to camping gear to my arts and crafts bin. I tackled each room, closet, shelf, drawer and cabinet, and questioned why I had each item. I sorted everything into three separate bins: one for gifting, one for donating, and one for keeping. I took photos of my most beloved trinkets and books, stored the photos on iCloud and promptly donated those belongings to Salvation Army.  

The Keep Bin helped me survey my belongings and familiarize myself with what I had to work with over the course of my no spend year. After I reduced my wardrobe to my most prized garments, I wound up with a capsule wardrobe that established what was to be my signature style - comprised mostly of monochromatic clothing in good quality knits, wool and silk tops, and two nice pair of jeans.


Step 2: Anticipate what you’ll need in the next 6-12 months

After I reviewed my inventory of stuff, I wrote down a list of things I anticipated I’d need in the next 6-12 months and stored the list in my Notes app. For example, my running shoes had been worn-in to a sad and sorry state from traveling the year prior. I also had a close friend’s wedding and a few trips lined up. I added running shoes, a cocktail dress, and luggage to my list of needs, next to my list of essentials.

The Needs List was especially useful every time I had an open shopping cart on my web browser, or when I was about to check out at a store. I gave myself permission to buy the things on the list. For everything else in the cart, I asked myself the following questions: “Do I really need this? What would life look like without this? Is there a no-cost or low-cost alternative? Can I borrow or rent it from somewhere or someone else? - this question, by the way, saved me from buying a cocktail dress - turns out you can rent one from Rent the Runway instead! This exercise kept me on track every time I felt tempted to indulge in a new face mask, or cute throw pillow.

Whenever I felt tempted to spend, I diverted my attention to my local library’s digital catalogue. In addition to books, audiobooks and magazines, some libraries offer free digital streams, workshops, and even access to complimentary museum passes. Oddly enough, browsing and checking out books (for free!) felt even more satisfying than buying them.

Step 3: Strip down your bare essentials

Over the course of my no-spend year, I learned about the Zero Waste movement. I learned creative ways to maximize the utility of everything I owned through continual re-use and repair. I also discovered local businesses in my community that were mindful of the circular economy ethos and put it front and center in their design and business models.

I sourced household essentials from local and organic produce shops and package-free grocery stores that allowed me to refill bulk items in my own containers. I became well acquainted with Vancouver-based Nada for groceries, snacks and produce, and The Soap Dispensary for household toiletries, cleaning essentials and pantry staples, and Repair Matters, a Vancouver-based initiative that empowers people to take part in repair and creative problem solving.

As I cut down on shopping, I also reduced the amount of overall waste I brought into my home in the form of plastic and single-use containers. Instead of leisure shopping, I carved out designated times to shop for essentials a few times a month, and my needs three times a year. This helped to curb impulse buying and the temptation to aimlessly wander in shopping malls.

Step 4: Share your intention with your community

I shared my intention to friends and family and converted a few people along the way. I sent a simple message by text and email, or shared my intention in person. This was an opportunity to spread this idea, but also ask for understanding and invite others to engage in no-cost activities. “I’m making a pledge not to spend this year. In this time, I ask for your support by joining me for a hike, hosting a potluck, or volunteering with me.”

 
 

Confront yourself

Cait Flanders’ The Year of Less challenged my personal relationship to shopping. In her book, Cait shares her experience with spending thousands of dollars on the aspirational versions of herself: the creative self who takes travel pictures with a DSLR, the intellectual self who reads obscure books about German philosophy, the trendy self who can accessorize any outfit. Cait encouraged me to confront my aspirational self versus my true self. I learned to discern which self was present each time I made a decision to buy something.

It turned out, there were a lot of unconscious behaviours and thought patterns that drove my spending. I reflected on my compulsion to shop and learned that it was borne out of a deep desire to be seen as beautiful or interesting to others. I thought about all the time and money I had spent searching and buying clothes and cosmetics because I was concerned about creating or upholding an image, or simply because I felt bored, restless, or lonely.

Adopting a minimalist lifestyle and spending less in general helped me cultivate new and better habits for self-care. I discovered new podcasts, went on long walks, visited galleries, and went to free talks and events. As the thrill of bargain hunting became less exciting, I found a newfound lightness. I scoured the library weekly, I volunteered, I developed my joy of cooking and enjoyed long, drawn-out phone calls with my long distance bestie. I was surprised by the space - both physical and mental -  I created from simply having less stuff. The space allowed for more time and attention to create deeper connections with others, and ultimately with myself.


Self-care and intentional living

Though my No Spend Year started with a purge, it ends with renewal. I feel grounded by the outer order of my home environment and the inner calm it cultivates within me.

Through this process I discovered how to align my actions with my values. We also spend our attention like we spend our time and money. By taking back my attention, time and money, I learned how to live with intention. As an individual, it can be difficult to assess our individual impact on the planet. The decision to consume less, and support businesses that apply a circular business model are two places to start. As challenging and inconvenient as it may to curb our spending by 75% or to lug around a produce bag and a mason jar wherever we go, collectively, we can exercise our agency and lessen the burden on ourselves and our planet.


Thank you so much to Raissa for her insightful guest post!

If this inspired you not to shop, make sure you sign up and accept the Recloseted No Shopping Challenge. Let’s start 2019 right and work together to fix the harmful fashion industry.