How to Fill the Void Left Behind By Shopping

It’s February 12th, and I started my buy nothing new challenge back on October 1st. That’s over 4 months ago.

Since I’ve started the challenge, I’ve bought nearly nothing at all, apart from the basics (medicines, foods, basic toiletries, etc.) and:

  • 4 shirts from a thrift store
  • 1 secondhand futon for my guestroom
  • A secondhand winter parka

I’ve also downsized a lot of stuff.

The last time I shopped was a few months ago at a thrift store for the shirts above. I still remember the amazing high that I got spending money and acquiring more clothing.

Thing is, I didn’t end up using the clothing all that much. As ardently as I believed I “really” needed more clothes, I still just use between 5-10 pieces consistently.

After that experience, I stopped “browsing”. I don’t go to thrift stores to check out what might be there. I don’t make lists of things “I need”. I avoid buying things if I possibly can.

Consumerism is like a drug. It gives you an artificial high and is extremely addictive. So I do my best not to partake. I think I’ve finally been able to break out of the addiction.

The last few months have therefore pretty much been a virtual shopping ban. Even though there are things that I’d like to get, the inertia I’ve built up against shopping is stronger than my desire to shop.

It’s a strange place to be. To be honest, it is a bit of a sad place to be as well. I have some depressed days. I’ve been going through some serious existential crisis at times.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking into why. Here’s what I think.

We all suffer from an inner void. It might become apparent through a sudden burst of sadness or meaninglessness. It might come out during the tougher times in life, such as sickness, losing a loved one, or facing one’s own death. I love how Louis CK describes this in this video:

I assumed before that consumerism was the cause of these feelings. But instead, it was simply covering it up. Now that I’ve removed consumerism from my life, the void gnaws at me.

But in our spiritually devoid society, we hardly have ways of dealing with this void. Hardly any ways of even articulating it.

I’ve turned to reading extensively about the spiritual traditions in Buddhism and Islam (my own religion), and I’m starting to realize how very important it is to have spiritual practices in your life.

We all struggle with the intrinsic pain of existence. We are all aging and rushing towards death, losing those we love on the way. As the First Noble Truth of Buddhism states “Life is suffering”.

I’ve started to realize that my happiness should not, and cannot, be tied to the conditions of life. What happens outside of you cannot fill the void.

At least from what I can see from my highly unsophisticated standpoint, the people who I know who are happiest, the most beautiful, the most loving, simply shine with love and acceptance are those who have a highly evolved sense of spirituality.

I honestly thought that minimalism would be the answer to the crisis of meaning which I’d been suffering from. Instead, it’s opened up my eyes to the severity of it.

Which is hard. But also a good thing.

5 thoughts on “How to Fill the Void Left Behind By Shopping

  1. Nice. I think there’s a lot of truth in that clip. So many of us are constantly looking for something to entertain us. I know people who are rarely alone and when they are, they are constantly connected via their phones, Internet and need the noise of tv. When we figure out how to be content with ourselves, we don’t need all of that and they then become healthier relationships and the things are tools rather than crutches.

  2. My shopping ban began two years ago in May 2014. Out of necessity due to a huge debt raise and medical costs. Other then household cleaners (I only buy 2) and toilet paper , toothpaste I buy nothing. Not even food. I cannot afford food so I go to food banks Or food giveaways . I miss buying my own food that I like. I don’t miss buying other things. Walking in a store now bothers me at the senseless spending and consumption. I find stores offensively gross. I rarely go to thrift stores and only if necessary. I get free books and movies at the library. I agree that a amount of depression gnaws at you. It’s a feeling of being less valuable to this materialistic society that feeds people like a giant cancer tumor. I know even if I can somehow hope to buy food again, that I will never return to being a consumer of goods. I know it is of value to my life to not be part of that mindless culture of spending . I am content with my few possessions.

  3. I I, like you have not purchased anything for about 3 months now. Since I work fulltime in a large pharmacy where cosmetics, toiletries, food, etc. is available, when I see something interesting that I would like to try or own- I pause, walk away, ask myself if I really need/want/will use to the fullest this item and usually the answer is no. When I think of the options I will now have with the money I saved- maybe toward a delicious dinner with a friend, savings for a trip…the high from that is better than the “want” of the initial item. I find it freeing! Thank you for the post! I enjoyed it.

  4. I don’t miss shopping! I joined you on the Buy Nothing New for 200 Days, even though I have really been on it for over a year. Well…I decided to do it a little differently…buy nothing new for me. I have purchased both my children presents for their birthdays and Christmas, but only clothes and a camera. They are 22 and 17. I have slipped a couple of times and bought my daughter 2 undershirts, but she said they were the wrong kind and I kept them instead of returning them. I have worn them constantly so I don’t feel too bad. I also bought a $5 skirt last summer because I was on my way to a book club meeting and realized my shorts were dirty. I am sure I will wear it again this summer. That was actually a very hard purchase because I didn’t want to buy anything but I was in a jam – hence the very low price. Where I struggle the most is buying cookbooks! I have purchased 4 new books in the past year! The problem is I don’t really cook! 🙁
    What I have gained… I am completely out of debt and my savings accounts keep growing! I have a sense of security that I have never had my entire adult life. I have saved enough money to bring my kids on a trip to Hawaii this upcoming spring break.

  5. That is a fairly profound realization, Assya. I think as a society as a whole we cover up the void of spiritualism with not just consumerism, but cravings for food, alcohol, drugs, control, acquisition of money, etc. It is all a way of filling the void. I agree with you that the happiest people are those with a highly evolved sense of spirituality.

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