Last spring 2016, my partner and I made the decision to have a baby. Once we decided we were ready, part of my preparation for conception was to go on a gentle Ayurveda cleanse. This is not a trendy juice cleanse or starvation type of diet. The cleanse involved practices like abhyanga (self massage), preparing kichadi fresh for each meal, daily meditation, and limiting travel, social media and screen time. The best time to do a cleanse is usually during the transition between seasons, in the spring or the fall months. I will save the details and guidelines for a later post, so stay tuned for this in the next year.
This fall, since I am still breastfeeding our baby, a cleanse of any kind is contraindicated. Feeding and sustaining another life requires a higher level of nutritional demand on the body. In addition, I am hungry all the time so any sort of cleanse lacks appeal.
As I continue on the quest to simplify our lives and make room for more space, I've decided on an altogether different type of cleanse this fall; a spending cleanse. Here is why:
In the past two years I have Marie Kondo'd my house at least twice, and my wardrobe at least five times. For those who are not familiar with Marie Kondo, she is a Japanese organizing consultant and author most well known for her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up. In Kondo's book, the main principle is simple - organize your living space by only owning things that bring you joy.
Kondo suggests that instead of clearing one space – say your closet, pantry or living room – approaching a specific category would be more efficient as you would see the multiples of the things you own.
"Brilliant!" I thought. "I can do that, no problem."
So every weekend I devoted a few hours to piling clothes, accessories, books, electronics all in a heap, holding each item to see if it sparked joy. The problem is, I found too many items to hold on to, that I hardly ever (ok let's be honest, NEVER) used that still brought me joy.
Desire and attachment.
Two years later and I'm still clearing things out of my wardrobe, off of book shelves, counter spaces, and cabinets.
It is amazing to see how much "stuff" we still manage to accumulate and own, despite the boxes and boxes of items we have donated and given away.
Recently I started listening to Optimal Living Daily, a daily podcast where the creator Justin Malik and his business partner Lee Rankinen narrate the best articles from blogs on personal development, productivity and minimalism. Like a mini audiobook, this is perfect for a busy mom who doesn't always have time to read. There are three really awesome things I love about OLD.
1. Since it's inception in 2015, OLD has expanded to 5 categories. I currently listen to 3 of the 5. Optimal Living Daily, Optimal Finance Daily covering articles on personal finance and Optimal Startup Daily covering articles on entrepreneurship and business.
2. It's a daily podcast, so there's new and fresh content to listen to every day.
3. The posts are short or are divided up in sections that range from 9-12 minutes long.
Again, did I say that this is amazing for a busy, working mama? I can listen to these podcasts while baby takes a short nap, while on neighborhood walks, or right before bedtime to cut back on screen time.
Most recently, I heard a post on Optimal Finance Daily titled "Why I Finally Decided to Do a Spending Cleanse" by Chelsea Herman with Cait Flanders (Like the Motley Fool Money).
This was it! The reason why - despite the fact that we have made a family effort to de-clutter and simplify our lives by owning less – we still managed to accumulate more. It seems so obvious now that going on a spending cleanse has been the missing key to our decluttering and minimalist goals.
I'll also add that when welcoming a new member to your family, in our case our 8 month old baby, minimalist goals can, at times, be derailed.
So now that we have reached the 8 month mark where we have all reached a comfortable routine, baby's essentials have been picked out from the numerous gifts we have received and purchased, I have gone back to decluttering.
But this time, I've added a spending diet to the mix.
The process and rules of my spending diet follow along with those mentioned in Chelsea's post, with a few extra details to accommodate our family's needs.
Every day as the influx of emails from my favorite retailers come flowing in, I have systematically unsubscribed. This way I am less likely to be tempted by new products or the next big sale.
2. The Daily Walk.
I like to walk with my baby every day. Despite the dip in temperature, I am opting to stick to walks in the neighborhood, parks and local museums in order to stay away from downtown shops that may tempt this shopaholic addict into falling off the wagon.
Of course I will be spending money on food over the course of this cleanse. Grocery purchases will focus on whole, unprocessed foods we can prepare easily at home. I've also implemented meal planning which allows us to cut back on food wastage; another benefit to this is less clutter in our fridge and pantry.
4. Daily essentials.
We will only purchase items to replenish the products we use daily, like toothpaste, body wash and shampoo. We all have a pretty minimalist beauty routine so no new purchases on lotions, make-up or other beauty products that we don't currently need to replace.
5. Baby gear.
This one is tough since a baby quickly grows out of her clothes and there are at least a minimal amount of toys that are essential to support cognitive and motor growth. Since grandparents love to give clothes, we are covered on this one. I will assess the need for toys and gear as I continue on the cleanse.
Side note- How many times have you purchased a toy that you thought your baby would enjoy to find that they are much more fascinated by the box the toy came in?
What is our baby's current favorite thing to play with? A colorful box of tissues. She loves using it as a drum and enjoys pulling the tissues out. She is fascinated by the texture, weight and delicate movement the tissue makes as she waves it in her hands. She also really enjoys playing with her socks.
This holiday we plan to focus on experience based gifts rather than material items. Thankfully both my teenage daughters are price tag conscious and minimalists at heart, so this has not invoked any extra grumbling or disappointment.
Sharing this cleanse with our family allows us to be accountable for sticking with it, despite the onslaught of holiday marketing delivered to our mailbox daily.
While I am grateful for living in a culture of plenty, where acquiring material goods is not only easy, but as convenient as one click, I realize more and more that material excess does not equate to overall happiness.
The difference between divine bliss and the happiness we find in the world is that the latter is based on an external cause. When we use or consume objects, we often feel a measure of happiness. This feeling appears when we acquire a particular material... it vanishes sooner or later. It is transitory. - Dr. Shankaranarayana Jois
The most interesting aspect of the practice of letting go and non-attachment is the study of the root of these attachments. This is different for everyone. I found that I have had trouble releasing specific objects because of the memory attached to them.
Releasing the past in order to make more room for the present is not just associated with "stuff." I realize that I also have trouble letting go of memories and events, even when they don't contribute to, or are even harmful to my present contentment. How can we practice santosha or contentment in the the present if we keep holding on to the past?
So in the act of letting go of material items, I release the past and leave it where it belongs.
When we acquire material items, there is a momentary feeling of contentment. Again, this is fleeting and transitory. This contentment we feel is caused by a temporary cessation of the desire itself. But once we have acquired that item we move on to desire something else and the cycle begins again.
Living in constant desire means that we are living in a constant state of scarcity. We feel that we are lacking something rather than appreciating the abundance of what we already own.
Now that I am into week 6 out of 14 weeks of this spending cleanse, I realize that the initial desire to purchase more material items is starting to fade. There have been challenges however. It is easier to not be faced with desire when I avoid shopping in stores. Not being bombarded by emails from retailers is also a major help. The challenge arises when my daughters request to shop for specific items that they want.
Yes, some of the previous desires do come up. However, if I take a pause to ask myself why I desire this item, I realize that I own something very similar already and that my home is still bursting with abundance. Releasing the desire reminds me to practice gratitude for that which I already have. It also reminds me that all of life is ephemeral, fleeting, and no matter how much we want to hold on to something, it will eventually change or fade away.
Desire and non-attachment are intricately connected.
I still have about 8 weeks to go. I'll be checking in again around the halfway mark, until then, I will continue to take small steps towards change every day. One foot in front of the other, small steps.
If you like this post, then please take a moment to comment below, let me know what you think and if there are any topics you'd like me to cover.