Gone shopping?

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

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.