2020 ‘buy-nothing’ year update

In the hours before sitting down to write this blog post in November, I bought sweaters and dresses from Asos, an outfit from Aritzia and two dresses from Grass-fields. Did I mention this was supposed to be my ‘buy-nothing’ year?

I don’t need to tell you how challenging 2020 was: like me, you lived it. Every month presented new twists and turns, ups and downs, mask mandates and widespread closures. Not all of it has been bad (more about that later), but it hasn’t been easy. A few months ago, I shared an update on my buy-nothing journey with Brette Ehalt of The Women We Know, an Instagram page chronicling the everyday lives of everyday women. I began this journey inspired by another journalist who’d declared 2020 a ‘buy-nothing’ year. The rules were that you identified specific days—I chose my birthday in May and Black Friday—where I’d splurge on anything wardrobe-related. I unsubscribed from mailing lists, got rid of sales notifications and tried to shift my attention away from retail. Seemed easy enough, right?

When the pandemic hit, I was still ok. I didn’t fall off the wagon in March or April. As my birthday drew near, I began to plan for the things I wanted to buy. Then, the week of my birthday, George Floyd was killed and my life was turned upside down. His death is still having a profound impact on the work I do for the Canadian Association of Black Journalists: it was the catalyst for long overdue conservations about race and racism in journalism. Those conversations are still ongoing. I’m proud of the work the CABJ is doing and humbled by the folks I get to work alongside (like, CJOC) as we lead these important conversations.

For me, so-called retail therapy has always been my version of self-care and stress management. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised that, when things got crazy, I returned to what I’d always known. Much of what I purchased still has the tags on it now (because where am I actually going? Where are we going?? smh). I fell off the wagon in July and August. As for September and October…I mean…what wagon? Who said anything about a wagon?

The past ten months made me realize this attachment is about more than sales and the solace I find in them. This is as much a spiritual transformation as it is a physical one, so I’ve been praying into this fervently over the last several weeks. There is, after all, grace for those who try and refuse to give up.

So, that brings me to where I’m at now. Before declaring 2021 ‘buy-nothing’ year 2.0, I wanted to reflect on what this is actually about: buying less or becoming more? What I’ve learned is that if I just focus on buying less, then I won’t actually overcome this. After all, the buying is a symptom of something deeper; not a deeper problem but a deeper, unmet need. So, this year, instead of relying on willpower, I’m praying for the grace to simply overcome.

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