I Don’t Want To Be A Banana Fish

This time last year as I was walking home with Fausto, a thought hit me.  So I turned to him and said “I’ve decided to give up shopping for a year, starting tomorrow”.  I am pretty sure he thought I was just joking.

Rug shopping in Fez, Morocco

Rug shopping in Fez, Morocco

Leading up to this momentous event was the fact that I started to realize that I have too much stuff that I don’t need. Which one of us doesn’t have a closet, room, or basement full of stuff that you bought but don’t really need? Because we live in a small apartment in New York, some of those buying urges are already curtailed, but it’s still not enough.  I’ve found clothes/shoes/purses in my closet that I haven’t worn since I bought them, convinced at the time that it was the perfect piece that would go with everything and complete my wardrobe (it was not).

Today the world is saturated with advertisements, and we are inundated with all kinds of shiny flashy things that are designed to make us want to consume more and more. Living in New York – the land of sample sales – it’s even harder to say “no”, especially when everything is 80% off! This makes me think of a story I read in high school about an imaginary creature, a banana fish, that swam into a cave and gorged itself on bananas and became so big that it couldn’t get out and ended up dying of banana fever. That story is a perfect allegory for our current state of over consumption.

So last year in the spur of the moment, I made a decision to stop being a banana fish.  I decided that I don’t need to buy things to make me happy, especially when that feeling of happiness is fleeting anyways. I re-examined my life to figure out what’s important to me and focus on things that truly make me happy, the kind of happiness that lasts longer than a season. For me, it’s traveling, so I embarked on my self-imposed “fasting”, determined to save the money I would have spent and use it to travel instead.  I lasted 6 months until my will power gave away, but it was probably longer than a lot of people would have thought, and definitely longer than I thought I would last.

This year I am determined to try again and see if I can last a whole year this time.  In case there are other people out there who want to try this out with me, here are the criteria:

  • No more shopping, except for essentials.  Determine for yourself what is essential: if you have a pair of shoes that just broke, then it’s a no-brainer that you will need a new pair.  There is no point in cheating at this because you’re doing it for yourself.
  • You can buy gifts for others.  Again, this is your journey, you don’t have to impose your experiment on others.
  • You can accept gifts from other people.  Don’t use it as an excuse to ask your family or friends to buy things for you that you “can’t” buy.

That’s it, it’s pretty simple and straight forward. Next time you watch TV, peruse a magazine, or walk through a mall, don’t automatically think that you have to buy that shiny thing in front of you. Instead of spending money on stuff you don’t need, save it for something that will make you really happy. Tomorrow, on June 1st, I’ll once again say goodbye to shopping.  I’ll periodically post my progress here on this blog, if you decide to do the challenge with me, drop me a comment and let me know how you do.





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