Gone shopping?

Gone shopping?
Or has no new shoes changed our habits?

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Lent in Advent?

Lent 08 starts really early, in fact on February 6th. So amidst the Christmas carols, tinsel and parties some of us at Methodist Church House are getting ready for Lent! One season of preparation and penitence clearly isn't enough!

The Methodist Church was so impressed with our efforts last year that we are going to follow up No New Shoes with a campaign called 'Buy Less : Live More'.

During Lent people who sign up will receive a daily email with 2 challenges/ideas one about buying less and one about 'living more'. So as well as reducing your carbon footprint by getting off the consumer treadmill, you can live life in all its fullness.

We are producing Buy Less: Live More 'credit cards', which you can put in your wallet to remind you to think twice before shopping. These will be available from www.mph.org.uk free (plus postage) in the New Year. We will have some pages on the Methodist Church Website and a Facebook site, where you can sign up for email updates - and we'll keep posting on No New Shoes. Watch this space for more details.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Fair trade cotton

It's getting colder, so I went to purchase me a vesty top thingy at M&S. It's not just a vest - it's a fairtrade cotton vest (in fact i bought 2 - one black and one white, layers are so helpful at insulating one). So if you are in the mood for winter warming - give M&S a try and go out with the warm glow of knowing your vest is made from cotton that gives farmers a fair deal.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

In the Bag!

Okay, I don't always remember to take non-plastic bags with me to the supermarket, but mostly I do. Or I take the old plastic bags from the cupboard under the stairs (or the European used plastic bag mountain as it is also known), so they get used a few times before their 400 year wait until nature finally wins.

'Bag for Life' offers at our supermarche are a good idea - but much, much, much better is to use fairly traded jute bags, available from Traidcraft, New Internationlist and other such wonderful places.

I support the campaign to emulate Ireland and begin charging for plaggy bags - we'll soon start to remember to take our trendy fair trade environmentally friendly bags with us. And anyway - your wine bottle's much less likely to fall out of a sturdy jute bag than a thin, poorly made, environmentally disastrous carrier.

visit www.green-england.co.uk/plasticbagpetition to add your name to those who support 'old bags' (you know what I mean) or visit www.mrdf.org.uk for more ideas about tackling climate change.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Please tell me this counts as ethical shopping!

How much do I LOVE Oxfam's new online charity shop!!!!

Check it out at: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/

It came at just the right time for me. Friday was payday and I have been battling a serious urge to splurge. I was just wondering whether I might succumb to the cheap n cheerful lure of Primark and Matalan. Then - ahh! - came Oxfam's online shop.

It has a whole range of clothes, household items, books, music...you name it. The postage is pretty cheap, you can add a cash donation to your order and you can even Giftaid it!! I ordered on Friday and my first purchase (beautiful skirt from Kew) has already arrived.

I couldn't be a happier bunny.

Okay, it's still rampant consumerism, but the fact that it's all for charidee makes me feel a tad better...


Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Don't take away our guilty pleasures, say women with a secret wardrobe

Don't take away our guilty pleasures, say women with a secret wardrobe:



The effort some people will go to for a pair of Jimmy Choos...One of these women actually walks round shops with a red pen so that she can make it look like she bought items on discount when her husband asks.


Saturday, 28 July 2007

Going 'Large'

No new shoes began through a conversation between Anna and myself, after we read about Judith Levine not shopping for a year. It kinda blossomed from there.

It was fun - lots of people were interested and some even left comments on our blog.

But now.... Methodist Conference thinks it's a good idea for ALL, yes, ALL Methodists in Britain to give up shopping for luxuries during Lent 08.

Little things get bigger. That's how we change the world.

Soon we'll think of a way for people to sign up and pledge to reduce their carbon footprint by dropping shopping during Lent next year. So do watch this space, as we gear up to gearing down for Lent 08.

Hey - and if you're not a Methodist, we don't mind - join in anyway.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Methodists to drop shopping for Lent 2008 - hurrah!

Ok, it's a bit late cos I'm on holiday, but exciting none the less...


12 July, 2007

Methodists to drop shopping for Lent 2008

The Methodist Conference is calling on Methodists all over Britain to mark Lent 2008 by only shopping for essential items. They will seek to reduce their carbon footprint and instead focus on the essentials of life, raising awareness of the demands of consumerism on the planet and on daily life.

Lent, the forty days before Easter, is a time when many Christians fast and spend time thinking about the impact of their lifestyles on other people and on creation. During Lent 2007, members of the Church’s Connexional Team marked Lent by shopping for essential items only. They charted their progress, thoughts and temptations on a special blog: www.nonewshoes.blogspot.com, which attracted attention from all over the world.

Michaela Youngson, Secretary for Pastoral Care and Spirituality, says; “The no new shoes project is just one example of how people can use Lent to reduce their carbon footprint and focus on spiritual priorities. It’s about thinking about how each one of us can make a difference in the world and in our own lives. We can’t wait to hear about all the different ways people use Lent 2008 to honour this commitment. Watch this space!”

Supporting this initiative, the Methodist Relief and Development Fund Lent study pack will offer thought-provoking information and suggestions for possible actions for change. For more information, visit www.mrdf.org.uk.

Monday, 4 June 2007


It's been rather a long time since I last posted here, but I've had such a fantastic weekend, I thought I'd log on again. We had 10 people for dinner on Saturday (yes, we were very hungry - ha ha) and after a long lie-in on Sunday went for a nice long walk in the park, cream teas and lazing in the sunshine with friends. Absolute bliss and with the most wonderful company.

I've largely been trying to stick to the no new shoes lifestyle as much as possible lately. Mainly, I confess, because of a distinct lack of funds (in one month I had a triple whammy of Car tax, insurance and MOT) rather than a new-found love of asceticism. That said, much stocking-up had to be done for the weekend, on all the best kinds of things - soft-drinks, wine, snacks and all the necessary ingredients for a decent paella. It wasn't particularly expensive, but not exactly in line with the moderate lifestyle encouraged by no new shoes. But worth every penny. It's not so much the food and drink, but the fact that it provided the setting to enjoy each other's company and share time together, which can be fairly rare.

One great thing about the no new shoes project is that it has helped me to think more about what is actually worth spending money on. Those things that can seem dreadfully self-indulgent (and often have that happy side-effect) are sometimes really worth while. (Of course, often, they're not. I suppose the trick is to know the difference - one I haven't quite mastered yet!).

Friday, 11 May 2007


After getting back the items I bought in New York (and hidden away during Lent so I didn't indulge in them), I feel like I've been suddenly given lots (well, a few) lovely pressies. It feels like the (two) new pairs of boots, the bracelet & the CDs are brand new and give me that lovely post-shopping glow.

This got me wondering whether it's actually the things themselves we desire or the novelty of them. I've heard that some parents keep their children's toys on a 'rotation' so that some are put away for a while and then brought out after a few weeks. The child feels like it's been given a whole load of new toys to play with and the old ones go away to be brought out again later. aside from being super-organised, this seems to demonstrate the desire we have for "new stuff".

Is this simply greed? The constant desire for things I don't yet have. But unless we get rid of the old stuff we just amass a mountain of junk. I am particularly prone to this.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

I'm using The Secret to get Brad Pitt

Well, not actually me - the woman who wrote this article:


I don't know whether it's symptomatic of our society or whether it's always been the case, but I can't seem to get away from this Loreal-type "you're worth it" culture. It's scary that some make their own lust for 'things', 'success' and 'achievements' such a high priority in their lives. As the author of this article says:

"like most secrets, this one is a bit of a let-down; greed dressed up as spirituality. It assumes that we all deserve to have whatever we want. We don't. I suspect that the biggest secret to happiness is realising that and then getting on with life, whatever it throws at you."

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Podcasts and debt

The April Methodist Podcast is now online!! "Hurrah!" I hear you cry. Even better, it features the beautiful dulcet tones of our very own Michaela and Toby, discussing the highs and lows of retail deprivation. Check it out at


There's an interesting debate going on over at The Interface about Fair Trade products and whether they really make a difference. I'm inclined to say yes, but some disagree...

US debtors turn to Bible to make ends meet

This article is rather interesting. It's good that people are getting support from churches when they face financial difficulty. But am I the only one to feel rather uncomfortable about churches charging up to $90 for the service?

Monday, 30 April 2007

Still not shopping!

It's very strange - I still haven't been out to buy my new jeans, hair dye and new shoes. This is not a moral crusade to keep the Lent thing going into the rest of the year it is because of two things. 1. I just haven't had time - ridiculously busy with work, family and writing essays. 2. I'm just not feeling that motivated to shop. It is as though I've broken a habit.

I dare say it won't last but it feels funny now.

Meanwhile - on the good book front, Finding Sanctuary by Abbott Christopher Jamieson (Abbott of Worth Abbey), is a great read. Lots of practical advice and sage wisdom about slowing down a bit and creating space. When I have time I'll finish reading it!

Friday, 27 April 2007

A wife who waddles

I've been slaving away (well, trying to) on an essay about George Eliot (aka Mary Anne Evans), a forerunner of the humanist movement. In my reading, I came across this wonderful passage from her first novel, Adam Bede:

"I have seen many an excellent matron, who could have never in her best days have been handsome, and yet she had a packet of yellow love-letters in a private drawer, and sweet children showered kisses on her sallow cheeks. And I believe there have been plenty of young heroes, or middle stature and feeble beards who have felt quite sure they could never love anything more insignificant than a Diana, and yet have found themselves in middle life happily settled with a wife who waddles. Yes! Thank God: human feeling is like the mighty rivers that bless the earth: it does not wait for beauty - it flows with restless force and brings beauty with it."


Thursday, 19 April 2007

A God For All Seasons...

This is a book I read recently by Sue Haydon-Knowell. It's for Christian women and addresses the different 'seasons' she may experience during her life. It particularly addresses singleness, marriage and motherhood. Now, I am usually very suspicious of books for Christian women, but this has come highly recommended.

Although I don't see exactly eye-to-eye with Sue on issues like male headship and feminist ideas, I found the book really refreshing. She speaks a lot about how we allow our attitudes (good and bad) to influence the way we live in each 'season' of our lives and our relationship with God as a result. She speaks about God's love and acceptance of us just as we are and encourages us to make more time for prayer. Being a person who's completely rubbish at prayer, it really encouraged me to make more of an effort and to think more about the way I pray.

Prayer tips anyone? What do you find helpful?

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

It's not easy being green

Despite me really enjoying (no, really) getting the bus to the station in the morning during Lent, I have returned to my faithful car since Easter. Why? Well, my bus pass expired and they've put the flipping prices up.

Forgive me for having a rant, but why are the Government encouraging us to 'go green' but continuing to make it more and more expensive? I want to get the bus, I really do. It reminds me that I'm part of a community and gives the added bonus of not polluting. But driving is simply much cheaper (and I don't have to panic about missing the bus!).

PS Where has the lovely sunny weather gone?

Friday, 13 April 2007

blogging away

I for one have really enjoyed blogging my experiences throughout the no new shoes project and a couple of people have asked whether the blog would continue post-Lent.

I think it would be a good idea for it to continue, perhaps addressing wider issues of Christian living and whatever thoughts tend to come our way. Posts might not be so frequent, but it's been great to share our thoughts and challenges and it would be a shame if all that ended.

So here's to the next stage in the life of no new shoes!

Watch this space...

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Over and out

Well - I made it. I know than compared to most challenges, this wasn't that hard. But it was thought provoking. I realised just how much I normally snack in a day; how much time I spend mulling books or CDs to buy; how little time I spend thinking about the consequences of what I buy - the effect it has on the world and on me. I don't claim to be a radically new person at the end of this, but I am grateful for the chance to take part and the steadying influence you have all had - I would lasted about a week if it was only up to me.

Next year? Yes.


Sunday, 8 April 2007


Thanks for all the support, during our Lent experiment - do you think we should challenge the whole Methodist Church to have a go next year?

In a pause between mouthfuls of chocolate, I offer you:

When everything was dark
and it seemed that the sun would never shine again,
your love broke through.
Your love was too strong, too wide, too deep for death to hold.
The sparks cast by your love dance and spread
and burst forth with resurrection light.

Gracious God, we praise you for the light of new life
made possible through Jesus.
We praise you for the light of new life
that shone on the first witnesses of resurrection.
We praise you for the light of new life
that continues in our hearts today.
We pray that the Easter light of life, hope and joy
will live in us each day;
and that we will be bearers of that light into the lives of others. Amen.

happy easter everyone!!!

Hurrah! For one thing, we made it, but much more importantly, today we celebrate our Saviour's resurrection and all the hope and joy that that brings into this world.

It's a beautiful, sunny day in Kent which seems more than appropriate for Easter day.

Reflecting on the past 46 days, it has been tough, but perhaps not as tough as I thought it would be (maybe because of the occasional cheating!). I don't feel like my spiritual life has been dramatically changed or that I am now a particularly saintly person, but I don't think was ever the point of the project. I do feel that I've been challenged about the way I spend my money and how self-indulgent I had become without realising it. Mikki's last post has particularly challenged me - I am most definitely a Primark shopper and I always chase after a bargain. But at what cost?

It's easy to forget that everything we have in this life is temporary and that God calls us to do the best we can with it. That's the thing I have felt most challenged about over Lent.

I also feel that no new shoes has really brought some blessings into my life that wouldn't have been there otherwise (at the risk of sounding unbearably twee). For one thing I have made a new friend - Michael. Since I haven't been using my car to get the the station in the morning, I've been catching the bus. Michael also catches the bus, we got chatting about this and that and now it's really nice to see each other in the mornings, sympathise over lack of sleep and and share how our families are.

So, I'm glad we've done it and this certainly won't be the last post on the blog. What can we get up to next Lent I wonder.....?

Have a great Easter weekend everyone!


Friday, 6 April 2007


At the risk of sounding like Victor Meldrew, I just can't believe IT!

Did you see the news last night? A new store opened on Oxford Street and the police had to be called in to control the crowd. I thought it must be a really special designer store and that the people who had camped overnight to be the very first in hoped for amazing bargains. No, it was a new branch of Primark!!

What is going on? You can go to Primark in almost any high street and buy T-shirts for £3. They are likely to be made in a sweatshop and be environmentally damaging (apart from a token couple of ranges that they sell as ethically traded - as if that makes it all okay, like Nestle introducing a fair trade coffee - they don't get the point, if they include a 'fair trade' version, that just proves the rest is not fairly traded. Stop it, I cry.)

Anyway, back to Primark - I think what happened on Oxford street epitamises what No New Shoes is about. We are trying to swim against a tide of shopping for shopping's sake, where the measure of success is how cheaply you get the work of another human being.

I have a shopping list (suprisingly short) for the end of NNS - 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of work trousers, 1 new lipstick and a packet of cotton wool balls. I won't be camping on Oxford street waiting to get them at the cheapest possible price - because if nothing else this Lent, I've rediscovered that there is more to life!

EPILOGUE I hope that you have time to pause this Good Friday (when the shops should be shut!) to remember the man who gave his whole life so that we might know the real cost of love.

Monday, 2 April 2007

No more Rudolph

Victory! I have found my powder compact! It was underneath my desk...what a wally. I am stupidly happy about finding it and shall endeavour to make it last until Sunday.

On another note, this weekend I found the whole no new shoes thing rather difficult. It was the weekend of the Vitality Show (www.thevitalityshow.co.uk), which is a bit like the clothes show but for makeup, beauty, health care, fitness etc.

Yes, it's rather shallow. And yes I love going to it. Every year, I get a girly group together and we hit Olympia for free samples, bargains and general fun.

But not this year. It's not just the shopping and freebies that I love (although that is utterly brilliant as self indulgence goes), but it's the time with my girlfriends, many of whom I don't see very often. Also, as it's usually me that organises it and since I tried to pretend it didn't exist, no one else I know went. So I kinda feel like I let them down too.

But I didn't go. So I'm quite proud of my self-restraint. However, I did go to a gig on Saturday night at which my friend was singing (she was utterly brilliant). Rather than pay for my ticket, I bought my friends a few essential items (bread, milk etc.) and they payed for me. I know that's kinda cheating, but I would have gone anyway.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

On a more serious note...

In the year of the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade, it already feels as if the term 'modern-day slavery' is being over used. But I think that in all this stuff about whether we should apologise for slavery, there is a danger that we forget what's staring us in the face.

West African child labour still feeds the world's insatiable hunger for chocolate

no new shoes has been a bit of fun really (although slightly painful at times), but these kinds of stories remind me that we have a responsibility as consumers. We can't pretend that the way we spend our money has no effect on other people - and I am more guilty of this than most people I know. This project has made me more aware of the issue of stewardship - not just giving money to charity etc, but actually being aware of the impact of the way we use the resources God has given us.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007


I have a very shiny nose. No, I have not had too much to drink. Nor have I been out too long in this glorious March sunshine. I have lost my powder compact. I was eking out the last little crumbly bits and was confident that I could make it last until Easter. But no, I had to go and lose the darn thing.

I know that I am being melodramatic and I am fully aware how silly this sounds. But it is something I use every day and in a sense I don't feel properly dressed without it. I could, if I wanted, replace said item before Lent as Jim has offered to buy it for me. But I am determined not to cheat and use his good intentions to bend the rules.

We went out for dinner last night with friends. Now I know it's not technically allowed, but it was to celebrate a close friend's birthday. I think it would have been completely rubbish of me to back out on account of no new shoes and be a party pooper. (Also, of course, I wanted to go). It was really lovely and although it breaks to rules, I don't really mind doing that for friends. When Levine did her year of not buying, she completely avoided all meals out (except for one or two) and I admire her resolve. But she found it very awkward when havign to turn down invitations. Inevitably people offered to pay, but there's a stage at which it can get rather embarrasing. I'm not very good with social awkwardness, so I took the wimp's way out and just agreed.

So far, so good - part 2

I've been a bit quiet, so I thought I'd offer a quick update.
For me, the two biggest things to give up were buying music and chocolate. Although I admit to having failed on the chocolate front on a couple of occasions, I have for the rest of the time been able to resist, and I do feel better for it. It has helped that Angela has been cooking a lot of yummy biscuits and cakes!

I thought giving up buying music would be harder, but in fact it has been easier. I simply haven't gone to any of the places where I normally browse and buy CDs, and I admit I haven't really missed it. Part of me worries about bargains I might have missed out on, but then again I'd have to be there every day to avoid that, so why worry about a few weeks.

The other challenge was my subscription to eMusic, which gives me 90 downloads a month. Although that is a very green way of buying music, it is still buying music. Not to download anything would be a waste, but just buying my tunes would sort of miss the point of No New Shoes. Eventually I had a brainwave: I bought 87 tracks of children's music for Elizabeth. There is a lot of great kids music that doesn't drive adults mad, and we now own a lot of it. Elizabeth likes it, I like it and I feel good that I used my monthly allowance for someone else.


Sunday, 25 March 2007

Essential Hospitality

My Mum has been staying with us this week - mostly because our childminder is not well and Grandma came to the rescue. This has been great but it is a lot harder 'not to shop' when you have a visitor staying because so much about entertaining and showing gratitude is tied up with spending.

We did take her to the theatre because Sandy was offered free tickets at work - 'great' you might say 'a free night out'. Well it was a fantastic and funny night (we saw JUMP) - but we bought a meal out before the show and the walk along the Strand involved some serious window shopping.

Then (yes there's more....) on Friday I took Mum to Camden Lock Market because she's never been before and I knew she would love it. She did and I was able to buy her Birthday pressie - that's okay, it's in the rules BUT...

Dare I confess? Handing over a credit card to pay for her bed throw must have loosened something in my resolve because I also bought 2 throws for myself - which I will use in worship displays but that's not really a justification, is it?

So I confess before you all that I have fallen. I am now getting back on the wagon and hope to get to the end of Lent without another transgression. Sandy's Mum and Harry arrive tomorrow for the next childcare shift - so temptation may loom large. HELP!

Saturday, 24 March 2007

champagne and buses

I'm afraid I cracked and went to the reception (just for a short time) but I did resist the urge to spend money on myself. All I bought was a birthday gift for my friend Cath, who we're seeing tonight (she's having a pirate party - Arr!!). It was a nice thing to do as well, even if to just get out of the house with Jim for a while - since no new shoes started, we haven't really had much time out together. It was fine when the sun was shining and we could go out for walks, but now the winter has returned with a vengeance! However, the helpful comments have reminded me that I need to make sure that I make more time for God in everything I do. Prayer is often something that I try to fit in on the journey in to work, or just before I close my eyes at night and this project has made me think much more about prioritising my time and resources for God.

One thing I've been doing differently during Lent is that I've been catching the bus to the train station in the morning (rather than driving) so that I don't buy petrol I don't really need to use. I've found it really refreshing because it's reminded me that I'm part of a community. Everyone's going somewhere, but we all travel at least some of the way together and that really changed the way I think about where I live. It's so easy to go about your day almost completely isolated from your neighbours.

Anyway, I'm off - yo ho ho...

Thursday, 22 March 2007

things to buy after Lent...

I was talking to Jim last night and he mentioned that the main downside to the Lent abstinence thing (he's not buying music, games or DVDs) is that he's formulating a list in his mind of all the things he would like to buy after Lent is over. I had to admit that I'm doing exactly the same and makeup & skincare stuff (hardly essential) are at the top of the list.

Does this completely defeat the purpose? The longing for these items hasn't disappeared, and I will certainly buy at least some of the things on the list soon after Easter Sunday. On the other hand, I am thinking a lot more about what I spend my money on and whether something is worth it. I'm also more aware of impact of the way I spend my money - the importance of fairtrade & well-produced items.

Monday, 19 March 2007

ah, sweet temptation...

On Saturday night I returned home from a long day to discover that a cheerful little card had come through my door. It was an invitation. To a champagne reception. For the reopening of my favourite shop. 15% discount on all items purchased on Friday night.

oh dear...

Friday, 16 March 2007


Ok, so I take a break from my desk to get appropriate mothers day gifts, walk down the highstreet for the first time in ages and (somehow) end up in Monsoon. There I spot THE perfect pressie for someone (I'm not naming them in case I crack and buy it) - as soon as I spot it, I think of them and have to contain the impulse to immediately buy it. They don't have a birthday or special occasion any time soon, so I'm not sure the 'rules' allow it.

Now sitting back at my desk thinking I'll probably buy it anyway...advice?

Perhaps it's just the shopping deprevation that's urging me on.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Free Things

I had a lovely day off on Monday - visiting the Tate Modern with friends. I have a year's travelcard for the Underground so getting there and back was free (well already paid for). We began at the crypt at St Paul's Cathedral. We were not paying to get into the main part of the Cathedral - but I had to visit the shop to get a book I need for an essay. This did involve an exchange of currency but as I have to come up with 5,000 words I really do need some resources that you just can't get at the local lending library. Sorry - are you bored yet?! Anyhow, we had a lovely coffee at Cafe 101 in the Salvation Army International HQ - great fairly traded and delicious coffee at a reasonable price (and my friend paid!).

Then the walk to the Tate- but oh dear - the footbridge was shut, so we hiked round via Blackfriars Bridge and finally went into the amazing building that is the Tate. 4 hours later we emerged having done full justice to the free exhibitions.

The best things about the day were: great company, beautiful sunshine, weird and wonderful (and weird again) modern art - none of these things involved retail therapy and I felt more fully human and alive by the end of the day.

So maybe, just maybe, the best things in life are free!


The first payday of no new shoes and I have to say, it feels a bit miserable. On the bright side, it's the first time in ages I haven't been skint before payday, and that's a really nice feeling.

Usually it's my favourite day of the month. But now, the money's sitting in the bank and I can't go shopping. I'm ok most of the time, but I guess I'm so used to being able to buy myself the odd treat or get something to reward myself for surviving a stressful day. I don't think I realised just how overindulged I was before this project.

On a more serious note, I'm beginning to run out of face powder. It sounds silly, but I use it every day and could be traumatic if I can't make it last. It must be a confidence thing.

It's strange, but I don't think I've looked in my wallet since Sunday, and I've got no idea if there's any money in it. Tonight I need to get a mother's day present for my lovely mum, so hopefully that will provide a small amount of retain therapy...

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

So far, so good

Well, we're a couple of weeks in, and so far it is proving easier than I expected. This is partly because I have a rather boring lifestyle that didn't involve lots of drinking and shopping anyway and hardly went out (this is called being a parent). I am missing buying books and CDs, but I am so far able to resist temptation by the stunning strategy of not going to shops that sell them.

What I can't claim yet is to feel any great spiritual benefit. In the past I've always been pretty poor at giving anything up for Lent, so in that sense I'm doing better than ever before, but it doesn't feel like self-denial. The hardest thing has been giving up chocolate on the way home from work, but I am compensating by eating more when I get home, so I don't think that there is any great health benefit.

But then again, Angela is going out for dinner this evening, but has promised to only barely enjoy it.


Sunday, 11 March 2007


Today, in an inspired bit of displacement activity (I should have been writing an essay) I decided to clear out my wardrobe. I'm only halfway through and the bedroom looks like the wardrobe exploded, but it feels good. I have filled to overflowing a bin liner full of skirts, trousers and tops I no longer want or need. And I haven't got round to shoes, bags, jewellery, dresses....man I have a lot of rubbish!

It also reminded me how much stuff I have that I actually like and had forgotten about. Though I really do need some new smart work trousers...


Also, an advance confession...

Some friends from Church are moving to Africa to live and work for the next few years. They're having a farewell party which will involve a takeaway and, to be honest, I didn't have to think twice about it. As well as a chance to pig out, it means I can wholeheartedly take part in their leaving do. I think this will count as a bit of the 'Sunday allowance', but I don't intend to use them frequently.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Life & Debt

Today's supplement in the Times (T2) has a couple of interesting pieces on consumerism:

Life and debt

Consumer resistance? I’m all for it

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

give and take

Only for me, it's mostly take at the moment.

I think the cracks must be starting to show - people keep giving me stuff (I am most definitely not complaining!).

Yesterday it was a big chocolate bar (yay!) from Claire who, frankly, deserves it much more than me. And today - free bag courtesy of Alice (who is gorgeous in many ways). This is a real blessing as the bag I'm currently using for work is literally falling apart. Oh, and the good people at the Daily Express (not a phrase I often use) have clearly heard of my plight as they are now giving away free books ;oD

The other person I'm grateful to (and here I beg forgiveness from those who've heard endlessly about this already) is George Herbert, who through poetry is really encouraging me in my faith - absolutely free.

The only thing is, I feel like I'm becoming a bit of a freeloader. Suggestions on ways to give back without spending cash, please?

Monday, 5 March 2007


I suspected as much... my crisis times are when having to kill time waiting for trains. It's not so bad on my little commuter line home each day, but if I have to kill time at a major station I'm in trouble. Waterloo - shame on you - not only do you tempt me with WH Smiths, numerous forms of coffee and chocolaty croissant shops, but you have a Monsoon, an Accessorise and other fab and definitely out of bounds emporia just trying to lure me in.

I've taken to texting friends for moral support at such moments but I think they are getting a bit bored of 'Help! give me a displacement activity to stop me shopping'. Then... I get on the train and a lovely person comes past pushing a trolley of delicious (well only cos I can't have them) comestibles. These people should be charged with dealing - but only after I've been done for possession of a coffee and a shortbread biccy.

I guess I could just stay home for a few weeks.

the urge to splurge

Until Friday I thought I was doing pretty well on this project. Not really missing all that rubbish I usually spend my money on - perhaps I wasn't as attached to the shopping habit as I thought...

But Friday was a long day at work, and all I wanted on the way home was a little comfort food - a sugar rush to lift my spirits. Then Saturday came and I awoke with an incredible urge to shop. I just wanted to treat myself - get something shiny or slinky or indulgent. We needed to get some fresh air so we took a stroll down to our local high street (I know, asking for trouble) and wandered through the shops. It was a painful experience for us both. Jim has given up buying music, DVDs, videos and video games - all of which can be found in abundance at bargain prices in Rochester's charity shops. I saw the perfect bargain sofabed for our living room and one of my favourite shops is stocking more Green & Black's chocolate than you can shake a stick at.

In the end, we returned with 6 carrots, a sweet potato, local honey and a bag of grapes. ho hum.

Trolleydolly - thanks for the tip about www.pandora.com - what a fab website! Let us know how you get on at Ikea...

Thursday, 1 March 2007


It's Toby's birthday tomorrow, so in keeping with the office tradition I went off to buy the cakes. But I think I may have gone a little overboard. The whole not shopping thing meant that I made up for it in delicious biccies, fruit and cake - and half the office appear to have given up cake for Lent! I think it was simply that I had the opportunity to splurge a bit, and it didn't really matter what I was buying, just that I was buying. It felt good.

After a (long, painful) seminar at university on Tuesday I was given a lovely gift by a friend in my class - a bracelet that she had been given and no longer wanted. She thought it might make me smile during no new shoes. I was really touched that she thought of me and it gave me a replacement bracelet for the gorgeous one I bought in NY but can't wear during Lent. Thanks Sarah - you're a lovely, thoughtful chick ;o)

No new shoes appears to be working in my favour!

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Only 40 days to go...

I have to say that I'm slightly unnerved by the level of speculation concerning my underwear on this blog, but that's not the reason I haven't posted for a few days. Last weekend was a complete family-fest with my brother-in-law(Dan)'s baptism and engagement party and I'm only now remembering where I am.

It's almost a week of no new shoes and yet for some reason it feels much longer! That said, I don't think I've done too badly. Visiting the supermarket was an interesting one, though - I found it all rather depressing. I'm one of those strange people who likes to going to the supermarket (as long as it's not Saturday afternoon). I like to wander dreamily among the ailes, picking-up the odd bargain as I go along, seeing what takes my fancy. This time, no browsing for me. No buy-one-get-one-free-oh-look-it's-a-bargain-let's-have-one-of-those. It was simply a matter of picking-up the necessities, although I did spend for too long debating with Jim whether yoghurt is actually an essential (possibly not, but it's allowed). He even had to have his own basket for all the goodies he wanted to stock-up on.

However, the festivities at the weekend reminded me of that old cliche "the best things in life are free." I took a few minutes to count my blessings and be happy for the brilliant (and slightly quirky) family I'm part of and particularly that my father-in-law, Jeremy is still in good health after recovering from cancer.

If nothing else, I think no new shoes is giving me a little perspective.

Monday, 26 February 2007

Chuck it out!

Michaela's comment about clearing out old and no-longer-worn clothes (made in reference to Anna's underwear, which seems to be the sine qua non of this blog) started me thinking. At nearly a week in, I'm finding it easy to not buy non-essentials, although this might be because so far I haven't really stood face to face with a tempting non-essential item.

But going through our own stuff to see what we no longer need is also worthwhile. It reminds us of just how much stuff we have, and how little we need. A few years ago I moved house and took the opportunity to clear out my stuff. I was stunned by how much I eventually took to the recycling centre: multiple car-loads, all of which also represented a huge quantity of packaging that had long since been thrown away.

So I think we should take up Mickey's challenge: let us also use Lent to look at what we already have, and to rid ourselves of the truly unnecessary. Plus, this way we'll have more shelf space when we start shopping again in April!


Sunday, 25 February 2007

Take something up for Lent

Five days in and missing the Belgium bun with icing and a cherry on top that I like to have at work on my coffee break. Going to find the making my own lunch hard as I'm used to just grabbing something from the staff canteen.
Should say at this point that I don't work for the Methodist Church, although I am a Methodist. I am a nurse working in one of London's Teaching Hospitals.
I have always liked the idea for Lent of taking something up, along with giving up things. So in that vein I have made cookies this week (going 6 weeks without buying biscuits spurs you on) and have just tried making bread again. I used to make bread a lot, but since returning to work after maternity leave I'd got out of the habit. I don't know what happened - it didn't raise and began to burn to the side of the tin. So I'm going to try again later.


Thursday, 22 February 2007

A happy thought for Lent

Despite all this giving up and penitence, it is important (and refreshing) to remember that God thinks we're utterly wonderful and loves us as we are. Here's a poem by George Herbert that I find does just that:


LOVE bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guiltie of dust and sinne.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lack'd any thing.
A guest, I answer'd, worthy to be here:
Love said, you shall be he.

I the unkinde, ungratefull? Ah my deare,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marr'd them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, sayes Love, who bore the blame?
My deare, then I will serve.

You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.
I find it works best read aloud (might make the person at the desk next to you smile as well!).

So, even though we're giving stuff up and remembering our weaknesses, God sees what we're doing & thinks we're gorgeous.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

free coffee!

It's a sign! Starbucks are giving away free fairtrade coffee at participating shops from 2-4pm today. In the spirit of not buying things, myself and some colleagues will be off to get our freebie for the afternoon energy slump.

Mikki - I have forgotten to buy mascara and mine is drying up into a horrible gloopy mess. By the time it gets to my brother-in-law's engagement party on Saturday, I will look like Vampira.

Seriously though, in her blog, Green Patches a rather important point about all this Lent stuff:

"Being comfortably off Western, middle-class citizen, I think one needs to realise that some, less fortunate (and this is said without a hint of condescension) people, don't have the luxury of 'playing' at doing without. Like the disciples (well, Mr Plass's ones anyway!) some of us face a steep learning curve in the search for the proper covering for our 'essentials.'"

(Green Patches - I hope you don't mind me quoting you).

Oh no! Lent's here and I forgot to get....

Yesterday involved a theatre visit, with the usual accompaniments of sweets, souvenir brochures and (less usually) the purchase of a rubber cow for de-stressing. Spamalot was rip-roaringly funny and well worth seeing. Today also includes a theatre visit - booked and paid for long ago, to see 'Underneath the Lintel' with the wonderful Richard Schiff (of West Wing fame). But what are we going to do about those 'little extras'. We can take our own water, we usually do that because West End prices are outrageous, but the sweets? Is it okay to take a bag of dried apricots, because they are part of our usual shop - I hope so! A friend saw the play a couple of weeks okay and passed on the brochure - so that's one temptation less.

Reality kicks in today and I'm somewhat apprehensive. How is it for you?

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Shaving and the first no new shoes competition

Toby, I agree that this blog and project are too girly by far, but what are we to do when so few men join up?! I think we should amend the essentials and non-essentials list a bit to add to the blokiness, but I'm not terribly convinced by the 'golf is an essential' idea.

There are plenty of ways to get exercise for free - a prize to the best idea submitted! (don't expect anything good or expensive).

Also, I have to list shaving as an essential for both boys and girls. Few men are as gifted as Hairy Dave in being able to carry-off a beard. And even fewer women.


Having just returned from what I like to think of as an experiment in consumerism, I have to say that I had forgotten how much FUN shopping for no real reason is. "No I don't need it, but I want it and I shall have it, thank you very much." I suspect this may make Lent feel slightly more tough than I had imagined and I've decided that I will put all my purchases from New York away for Lent, so that I don't rely on them to satisfy my cravings.

It just doesn't seem right to start no new shoes with two new pairs of boots...

Stuff for boys

A quick look at the lists of essentials and non-essentials over there on the left, plus the photo at the top and in fact the design of the entire site might give the impression that this whole site and the idea behind it is entirely aimed at women. (and the name! Sorry, but men do not concern themselves that greatly with shoes). Hair dye? Make up? Alcohol (oh hang on...)

Anyway, to address this balance, and make the point that there are lots of things that men consume.

So I suggest as additions to the non-essentials list:

Sporting events: no going to the football, rugby or anything. Like lots of things on this blog (Anna's cinema, my emusic), this raises the question about season tickets that are already bought and paid for. In which case, go, but remember about the no alcohol bit, and mind your language. And no pie at half time. Also: no Pay-per-view sports, and no going round to a mate's to watch PPV footy there either. Sky Sports is allowed, but only once you've done all the jobs around the house. You can still play sports, so your 5 a side team will not miss you, and you can play golf if you must.

Gadgets: You know what I mean. Stop now.

Shirts: new clothing is out anyway, but shirts (of any kind) are the nearest I can think of as an equivalent to shoes. Wait until after Easter.

Cigarettes: I'm shocked that this isn't on the list anyway, but I'm going to put it on. No booze, no smokes, no intoxicants. You've been meaning to give up anyway. Think of it as a second New Year's Resolution.

Gambling: Why not? No online poker, no national lottery. Give it a break.

Less Internet: I won't say none, because otherwise you wouldn't read this. But give it a break and spend some time talking to a real person who is in the room with you.

Still allowed: exercise (but no driving to the gym, and take a bus to your 5 a side game if you can); talking to your mates; shaving essentials; socks.


Monday, 19 February 2007

Hello, and an ethical issue

After a series of hard stares from Anna "New York, New York" Drew I have decided to sign up to the No New Shoes challenge, and have even persuaded my wife Angela to join in. We could not persuade our daughter Elizabeth to join in as well, as she is only 1 and the one word she says confidently is "no."

For me, going without make up and hair dye will be easy, and going out has been a distant memory since Elizabeth was born. I try to skip bought lunches to save money anyway, but this will require me to really stick to this. Going without snacks will be very hard, but my waistline could do with this bit of discipline. Angela and I have fallen into a Friday night takeaway habit, so that will have to stop. Alcohol will be a bit of a pain because my birthday falls in the middle of Lent, so I am asking you all for a pass on that weekend.

The trickier bit is music, and this is where we get to the ethical question. I buy the majority of my music online as downloads (through the excellent emusic or iTunes), which is a pretty green way of buying it: no packaging, nothing physical at all, no shop lighting or heating, no transport. Just the electricity needed to power the computers and the network. Plus its cheaper.

But I also buy a few second hand CDs a week from the Oxfam near work. This clearly benefits Oxfam, but by providing a means for people to "recycle" CDs it also keeps stuff out of landfills. So, wise people, I ask: if I give up buying CDs from Oxfam, am I hurting Oxfam by trying to do good? Should I carry on buying CDs there, or stop and cause a drop in their income? And no, I don't think I should stop buying CDs and give an equivalent amount to Oxfam. I'd have to go in to see what I'd want to buy and work out what the equivalent should be, and by that stage temptation would be too strong. I love music, and if I get as far as holding a great record in one hand and the cash to pay for it in another then the deal will be done. If I'm going to give up, I'll have to avoid the place all together.

My instinct is to say I'll give up buying CDs from Oxfam, on the grounds that this exercise ought to involve making sacrifices. But if anyone wants to say that its OK to still buy second hand from charity shops, then I will thank them.


Thursday, 15 February 2007

under pressure...

Beginning to realise that as of next Wednesday, I can say farewell to all those little 'luxuries'. I often give stuff up for Lent, but have never written a press release or blog about it. This adds slightly to the imagined pressure of getting it right. Therefore, I feel it's necessary to make a couple of preliminary confessions...

This evening, I will be flying to New York for a short break with my husband Jim, returning on Monday. Being the place to shop, I imagine that I may come back rather skint and therefore unable to purchase non-luxury items anyway, although I don't plan to stock-up in advance of Lent.

Also, many would consider trips to the cinema a non-essential and largely I would agree. But myself and Jim have a monthly ticket that means we can go as often as we like. Since Jim is not participating fully in no new shoes (he is giving some stuff up) the ticket will not be cancelled. Since we're paying for it, I reason it is wasteful not to use it. He has also offered to pay my portion of it so that I will not be paying for this luxury.

Doth the lady protest too much? Let me know...

Monday, 12 February 2007

whose idea was this, anyway?!

To be fair, this is not a new idea and, much as we would like to, we can't claim it as our own. There are various groups of people who have decided to leave shopping behind and opt for the simple life.

But particular inspiration has come in the form of Janet Levine, author of Not Buying It. She spent a whole year shopping only for essential items, not particularly for any spiritual reason, but because she'd simply had enough of the raging consumerism she saw at every turn.

Similarly, we're hoping that no new shoes will help us to think more clearly about what we buy, why we think we need it and where it comes from. It's not about saving money (although I certainly shan't complain). Cutting down on our purchases should also help us to shrink our carbon footprints - we won't be filling our homes with un-recyclable junk and its packaging, and hopefully what we do buy won't have travelled quite so far to be on our tables.

But we'll need some help and advice. We would love it if you would join us in the project and let us know how it's going for you by commenting on this blog.

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

I’m a consumer - get me out of here!

It’s true, I love to shop til’ I drop, especially if the trip to the shopping centre includes lots of breaks in trendy coffee shops. There’s a great sense of satisfaction in taking part in the most popular hobby in the UK today - but just what am I buying into?
Prawns caught in Scotland get flown to Thailand, shelled by hand and then sent back to the UK for sale - how mad is that? Clothes are made in sweatshops, food is processed beyond all recognition and hours are spent online hunting down the latest bargain. There are times when it all feels like a roller-coaster and I want to get off.

Here comes the mad idea…..

46 days without shopping for anything but essentials.
Replace hours of rampant consumerism by

  • going for a walk,
  • flying a kite,
  • buying only fairly traded stuff wherever possible
  • reading the stack of unopened books bought over the last year
  • marking Lent by refocusing on spiritual well-being
  • reducing our carbon footprint
  • using the car less
  • living more generously
  • making bread
  • spending time with loved ones

You can do it too! Get down to what is essential this Lent and let us know how you get on.

Lent is from 21st February - 7th April.