By Noortje Tyrell
‘She Lives Simply’: an interesting title considering what I was like before. It’s not that I spent an excessive (well, relatively) amount of money on lavish things I didn’t need, but I always found some reason to justify my spending habits. At the end of last year (after a rather long walk with my helpful hubby, discussing resolutions for 2017), I decided that I would give up shopping for a year. No more “I need an extra pair of flats”, no more “that gold nail polish is pretty” and certainly no more “that washi tape is so cute – I need it for my journal.”
Are you ready for my confessions as a shopaholic? Well, I’ve had strange phases when it comes to spending money – I’ve enjoyed buying clothes, shoes, jewellery, beauty products and more recently stationery(!). There were several points in my life where shopping was used for celebrations and consolations. However, the fact that I love a good deal has been a real (if not the biggest) obstacle to decreasing how much I shop. Sounds crazy, right? But you see, if I was getting an item in a sale or at a reduced cost, I automatically felt justified in my purchase even if I didn’t need it.
Why the sudden change in heart, you ask? A very wise woman, a.k.a. my mother, always used to remind me that I could only wear one outfit and one pair of shoes at a time. Surprisingly, despite my shopping habits, that phrase used to niggle at me, especially when I’d look at my full-to-overflowing wardrobe and claim out of frustration that I had nothing to wear. This was compounded by the fact that I began to feel as if shopping was no longer the sport for me and that I was really gaining nothing from spending money unnecessarily. The feelings of accomplishment I once had after bagging a great deal didn’t appeal to me in the same way they did 3 years ago. Lastly, I had already had this mind-boggling idea of giving up shopping a couple of years ago but after considering the events I had to attend during that timeframe, I persuaded myself against it.
So here I am, three and half months into no shopping (apart from for food, necessities and presents for other people) and it hasn’t been plain-sailing but it is getting easier. One day in early February, I realised on my way to work that I had no earrings to accompany my updo hairstyle; when I had placed them on the bookshelf to finish packing my bag, I did not return to collect them. Two months earlier, I would have popped into a rather large supermarket on the way to work and bought a pair just to wear for the day but that was no longer a choice (which I remembered on the escalator moving towards the clothing section). As I left the store and waited at the bus stop it bothered me, but as I looked at my to-do list for the day and considered the day that was ahead of me, my unadorned ears became of little significance. Only when I got home that evening and saw the earrings on the bookshelf did it occur to me that I had managed just fine without them and the additional purchase.
Funnily enough, Sanctuary (the fresh expressions congregation for young professionals that I attend) recently ran a series entitled ‘God and Money’ where we delved into Old and New Testament economics, wealth creation, generosity and stewardship. It was extremely refreshing and I was encouraged that what I am trying to do this year is a step in the right direction. Whilst listening to one of our guest speakers, it occurred to me (and many others who were present) that generosity has to begin even when we have a little. As we discussed the Bible event commonly known as The Widow’s Offering found in Luke 21:1-4, we were challenged to give to God even when it seems like we have too little to share. One of the main personal challenges that I have taken away from the series is to consider how I can be more generous to those around me rather than waiting for the ‘well-off’ members of society to share their wealth. It is increasing clear that there is far more to life than the pretty skirt with matching accessories and believe me, I’ve always known this. However, there is something slightly enchanting when you rediscover the truth; life, including our time and our money, is to be shared with people.
With that in mind, I’m beginning to be more creative with what I have and I care less about society’s standards for me. Most importantly, I’m now beginning to consider how I can be a good steward of what God has provided for me, sharing what I have (and what I’m saving) with others. Simplicity provides a freedom and weightlessness to life that I have only begun to experience. I’m not where I’d like to be yet but it’s a journey I know will be worthwhile and somewhat enjoyable. What could you give up in order to be more of a blessing to others?
Noortje Tyrell is a teacher, and a children’s church leader in south west London.