“How can I be socially responsiable if unaware that I reside in the top percentage of wealth in the world? (You probably do too: Make $35,000 a year? Top 4 percent. $50,000? Top 1 percent.)”
Half-way point! I’m trotting through a 90-day little social experiment on myself called The Contentment Challenge (click here to read how to do it) where, in a nutshell, I’m fasting from buying clothes, accessories, and home “happies” for 3 months.
Welp, here’s the thing: God gives me an inch, and I run a marathon.
When I first heard about the Contentment Challenge concept, I didn’t think I needed to declare a mutiny on excess of western consumerism, per se. I mean, I hurricaned through our home last fall after reading Marie Kondo’s book, purging our paper files, throwing out hoards of hotel pens I’d had since the Bush administration, and even trapping all the household cords in the second drawer down in an antique chest we have in the living room (Wes has even adapted to that).
But stuff kept coming in.
- A Target run meant a load-up on candles, a fake boxwood arrangement, an Essie nail polish, and gold paperclips.
- A sleepless night meant typing in and clicking ship on anything I could think of that we may need from Amazon Prime (though I will say my silk eye mask I bought on one certain spree is so clutch and I really do sleep better when I block out light).
- A cart close email from an entrepreneur meant I’d buy some new course online, and a $10 off email from Birchbox meant a half-hour of scrolling to find a pick-me-up.
Ya know … just your classic, American dream stuff … right? Hm.
But I’m going-on-50 days of the 90 day Contentment Challenge, and it’s not been as rah-rah youth camp high as I thought it’d be.
(This is a good thing. Stick with me.)
If anything, it’s been more of how you look up to the coast and see you’ve drifted 50 yards from your striped towel.
“Ohhhhh,” you start to crystalize. “What have I been buying? What have I been wasting?”
So, I’m entering the second half of the Contentment Challenge, and can definitely admit I’ve been hoodwinked by the machine of consumerism and Americana. I just … honestly didn’t think twice. When I needed or wanted something, and we had the money, I got it.
Here are the 7 light-bulb moments in Part 1 of my Contentment Challenge:
1. With a $0 shopping budget, I put together and “found” new outfit combinations.
Sure, sure — the months following Christmas are quite the soft spot for a shopping fast to land.
But even though clothes are a neutral topic for me and I didn’t think I bought a lot, I’m having a hard-yet-fun (?) time making up some new combos. I’ve worn clothes that say, “Oh, I missed 2016, but thank you for recalling my immaculate condition.” Forgot about those.
See related: I’ve considered sleuthing out some stylist to help teach me practical magic on clothes-combos, but as of now, I’m skirting by.
2. Lotsa clothes went straight to charity … meaning they bypassed consignment.
I’d just plastered on Facebook asking where the kids these days were selling their clothes on the internet, when I read something Kat wrote how she was challenging herself to give clothes away freely .. without expecting anything in return.
A swaddling of dozens of old J. Crew button downs and sweaters ate space in the hall closet for months, waiting on the day ‘till I figured out some consignment gameplan.
But after I saw Kat’s post, I thought twice. I really don’t need $50 extra bucks. Someone else needs nice clothes, and next thing I new, I found myself in the car with a huge bag of clothes riding shotgun to the Salvation Army.
3. Freshening up the house = rearranging what we already own.
Honest-to-Lord-Jesus, I’m convinced I purchase home goods just for the simple visual switch-up more than anything. Likely culprit? Target (Target must abhor the Contentment Challenge).
My Target routine is a bit of a loose canon: walk in for posterboard or a birthday card, exit with a fake air plant, face mask, and a pretty gold lamp for my desk — see!?!
Target Threshold collection, meet my Contentment Challenge Home Decor rules: last Saturday I clocked quality Pinterest scrolls looking up “coffee table styling” and playing Bunny Williams with wedding gifts buried around the house.
4. My candle budget evaporated to — wait for it — ZERO.
Nary let Wes fool you on this — He’s a candle burning feign as well: my partner-in-crime for devouring 1 large Bath & Body Works candle (and sometimes a Mrs. Myers one!) every 7 days.
Enter essential oils.
I heard about YoungLiving on my friend Jenna Kutcher’s podcast, and thought it may be a good way to tip-toe into health-nuttiness again after eating disorder recovery (girlfriend’s gotta watch it with my obsessive health tendencies). I doled out $160 on the Young Living starter kit, and I’ve been using the 9 oils all. the. time. Toss them in my water, diffuse them through the house, rub them on my wrists, dab Frankincense under my eyes at night, roll Lavender on my wrists, and more.
Sidenote: I must thus confess I did spend another $100 on 5 more oils, since Wes claimed he wanted to vomit over some of the smells that were probably too hippie-fruit-loop for him (he also can’t sit next to people at church with perfume, so … this is a pattern). I conceded and grabbed a few that were more normal smells.
5. I now read voraciously.
It’s as if fifth-grade Ashlyn never left: I tackled 3 books in January, and I’ve already read 2 so far this month (click here to read my 2016 book list and grab my 2017 Trello board reading list). Fairly certain it’s not a “WHOA BABY, just look at all this time I have when I’m not out shopping!” thing as much as a “I have some heart work to do” thing.
The lineup included Simple, Inevitable Wealth by Nick Murray, Nothing to Prove by Jenny Allen, Launch by Jeff Walker, The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, and The Taming of the Queen by Phillipa Gregory.
p.s. That last one was a chunky historical fiction book nabbed of the Target shelves pre-Christmas. I picked it up since I’m trying this new thing called Maybe Read the Books You Already Bought and Haven’t Read, Ashlyn. Verdict? If you’re at all interested in reformation and Biblical literacy, and what the church looked like in Henry VIII’s reign, it’s a page turner. I didn’t expect that. I mean, yeah, there are some classic Phillipa Gregory steamy scenes, but overall, I had zilch idea I’d get theological insights from it. But I mean, she’s a professor and university fellow in London so I guess she knows her history. ????
6. Coupons and catalogs go in the recycling bin.
Birchbox $10 off anything over $50 card in my monthly subscription box? Buh-bye. Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma catalogs? See ya, dude.
WS points, I’ll be back for you in 45 days-ish. Send my love to your new lover.
Pre-Contentment Challenge, I’d hammer away on chips and salsa while flipping through mags while visions of an bigger, better, more subway-tiled house spun in my head. I just don’t even look now. At first it was because I didn’t want the tempation. Now? I honestly don’t give a rat’s patootie. TBH, I don’t think I’m missing anything.
7. My podcast addiction dwindled.
Biggest realization Contentment Challenge-ing? I should borderline answer to some therapist about how I let business make me feel discontent as often as I do.
Trust tree: I constantly feel not enough as a business owner.
In part, being a subscriber to 45 podcasts and listening to them on 2.0x speed (and I wonder why I struggle with anxiety … ) fueled this dangerously.
(Of course I have a media addiction — if you don’t have a slightly obsessive media addiction, you’re not a good journalism major, right? ???? )
Once I realized this, I took about 2 weeks off podcasting. I turned to Spotify. To listening to courses I’d already bought.
I’ve seen my soul fulfilled in small, quiet moments singing in the car, and in calling my family or friends instead of using car time to catch up on fleeting marketing news.
Moving into this second half, I want to read a bit more about living on less. I fell asleep to A Dollar a Day documentary on Netflix last night (which, old Ashlyn watched Reign to satisfy The Crown cravings, so this is new), and watched Minimalism, but I wanna keep learning how Jesus and his teachings are better than anything else in this world.
I want to enjoy God’s abundance rather than slaving away for money and acquiring away with stuff.
Ok, bounce-pass your turn. Are you doing the Contentment Challenge? What are you learning?
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