Tuesday, 23 June 2015

The Stop Shopping Challenge


On 1 December 2014, I started a one year challenge to Stop Shopping, but the experience has been so rewarding for me that I am planning to extend it further, to encompass at least the entire duration of my PhD. As with all things in life that are challenging and rewarding, it does require some commitment and perseverance, but I can guarantee that it is totally worth it!

At first the challenge was to simply stop buying anything in any kind of shop, but during my challenge I managed to eliminate all of my other expenses as well, including rent! It may sound like an impossible task, but it completely worked out for me. And it could work out for you too (at least as a start the stop-shopping part)! I will describe the basics of the challenge here.

Are you ready to challenge yourself or challenge a friend? Then join the Stop Shopping Movement!

My main resources and how I got started:

1. To prepare for my challenge, I did a lot of research on alternative ways to do things for free that normally cost money. I learned about dumpster diving and did it regularly for about six months before starting my challenge. I found out about alternatives to toilet paper (family cloth) in case I would run out. And I stopped using deodorant and regular tooth paste. Instead I use limes to smell nice and oils for cleaning my teeth (at the moment I am using coconut oil), both without toxic chemicals, unlike their store-bought equivalents. Also, I got a menstrual cup, which saves me the hassle of having to buy pads and is much better for the environment too.


2. To start out, the most important skill that I needed to have was Dumpster Diving, as food was one of my biggest expenses. Dumpsters proved to be a real good resource for me (and not nearly as dirty as I thought, as almost everything was neatly packaged in cardboard and/or plastic, or stuffed in garbage bags). I have found EVERYTHING in dumpsters. Not just all kinds of foods (including baking oils, pasta and rice, fresh and dried herbs, and tons of chocolate) but also flowers, cleaning products, huge amounts of laundry detergent, shampoo and all kinds of soaps.... Literally everything I needed. After a few months of intensive diving, I only had to go once or twice a week for fruits and veggies to sustain myself, although I usually went more often for fun.

3. Picking up food directly from the supermarkets, to give away to charities was the next logical step. Knowing that so much food was being thrown away, I just couldn't stand by and do nothing. So I decided to search for shop managers who were willing to donate their food waste. Many of them were not willing to do this, but some of them were. I found two shops via a charity organization (Folkekj√łkken) that I could help out with. However, charities usually don't take food that has expired and only vegan food, so that meant a lot of the food was still homeless. I could definitely not eat all of it myself, so I started searching for more people to donate food to. I started advertising the free food on a local (free) website, with pictures and a short description. And it did not take long before I had several people (single moms, unemployed people, foreign workers) who picked up food on a regular basis. They are always incredibly grateful and this has made me even more committed to the food rescue. Plus it is a great way to give back to society and to show my gratitude for getting everything for free.

4. I also use the local website (Finn.no) for finding free stuff; things that other people give away. Anything can be found here, including flatscreen TVs, fridges, complete kitchens, etc. I got a bicycle trailer from there and some bikes. And later I got another bike trailer from a friend who was moving and no longer needed it. The bike trailer is definitely a must-have for me, because often I get so much food from the shops that I cannot carry it in one backpack (and not even two). Sometimes the trailer is so full that I have to walk, or go back and forth several times.


5. I also have a prepaid phone but I never use it. I only have it so that others can contact me. I don’t like being on the phone anyway. I know all the wifi hotspots and use them for sending messages and staying up to date. If I do want to speak with friends or family, I just ring them and hang up. They know that I will be available on Skype then and if they are available, they will call me back via Skype.


6. I bike and walk everywhere. I no longer own a car. This is such a relief! And it saves me a lot of money. Plus I don't need to go to the gym anymore (which I actually never did; I much prefer going somewhere). Since starting my challenge I have gotten rid of a lot of stuff that I thought I needed and it has been wonderful to simplify my life. Once I got rid of it I realized what a burden it is to have all this stuff. Everything you own brings forth worries and complications, especially things that need insurance and regular payments such as a car.


7. Trading. Trading is a last resort if I really need something but can’t get it in any other way. I can trade my time, skills, possessions, or anything else for what I need. This is how I finally got rid of my last expense: rent. Yes, I found a free place to live, in exchange for free food. My host family is amazing; they said they were just very inspired by the way I live and they wanted to help out somehow so they offered me a room and practically private bathroom in their house for free, even without being concerned about the details
at all or about what they might get back. This shows how generous and kind-hearted people can be.

The benefits of my challenge for myself, others and for the earth seem quite obvious, but I will list them here anyway:

1. I do not finance any corporations or silently condone the further destruction of our planet by buying products that may have those kinds of side effects. It is often difficult to know what to buy without contributing to destruction, as there are so many things that consumers don't know about the products they buy and about the companies that create the products, so by completely removing yourself as a consumer you can stop the madness and stop feeding money-hungry individuals and corporations until you find out what you truly need and which products are truly sustainable..

2. I have found that since I started my challenge, I have become very creative and resourceful in finding ways to do things for free. This is rewarding in itself, because it makes me feel wealthy with much less and it makes me appreciate the little things. My life has also simplified a lot because I realized that I did not need as much stuff as I previously thought.

3. Since I am living off of other people's waste, I am not producing any waste by consumerism. I also contribute to the environment by recycling waste that was previously unsorted. Supermarket dumpsters do not separate their trash and most of the food that is thrown out is still packaged. By rescuing the food, I can make sure that the items get separated into their correct waste bins. Another benefit is that by diving I can prevent still-useful items from ending up in landfills. Again, this helps the environment and it helps me (and sometimes others too).

4. I redistribute good food and other useful products and help a lot of people that way. I save them money and encourage them to also spend less money in supermarkets, thereby creating ripples of positivity. This also helps reduce global waste levels. Even though we are rarely confronted with the existence or the effects of waste, the problem is very real. There is an abundance on one end and a shortage on another end. Bringing those two ends together solves two structural problems.


5. I have learned a lot about food and about what happens behind the scenes in the places where food is sold. I use common sense, my eyes and my nose when checking food for edibility. I have also learned how much packaging stores really use to wrap products, as most of the products I find are packaged. It is absolutely mind boggling. Even the tiny portion of food that I keep for myself leaves so much plastic wrapping that it is often too much for our recycling bin. This is definitely something I do not want to support and I will no longer pay for packaged products after my challenge. In fact, there are a lot of products that I will no longer pay for (and thus support financially), such as meat, fish and dairy products.

6. I have discovered the true value of life, which has nothing to do with money. I have also discovered that there are many people who still help others for different reasons than financial gain and that alone has restored my faith in humanity. It means so much more if someone helps you unconditionally, and it also means a lot more if I am able to help another person without getting anything in return. It is what life is all about, and it is something we tend to forget when being caught-up in the money system.

6. I save lots of money. This is obviously a great benefit and it was my main motivation to get started with this challenge. However, almost one year into the challenge, it has become more of a side-benefit than a main motivator. I have gained so much from this challenge that it is difficult to put it all into words. I have especially gained a great sense of freedom and a deep-rooted sense of security through my new perspective and lifestyle. It is like learning modern-day survival skills. But it is also true that I am now able to save 100% of my income. With the money I save, I plan to build a self-sustainable, environmentally friendly eco-home one day; probably after I finish my PhD.

The final challenge:

Updated: As mentioned before, my final challenge was finding a free place to live, but even that has worked out! I hope this post shows that it is possible to start living more freely, and that anything is possible with some persistence, dedication and conviction. I hope it will inspire others who want to do the same. If you feel inspired, then join me on this challenge! You can also challenge a friend or challenge each other and do it together.

If you choose to join me on the Stop Shopping Challenge, I would love to hear more about your progress and experiences!


(For a related post about this challenge, check out robgreenfield.tv/liselotte: the post that started this blog. Also check out my tips for moneyless living here!)
Show Comments: OR

3 comments:

  1. I just wanted to say that I find this very well written and informative! I like that you included a solution to the pad and tampon problem that every moneyless woman will face. Thank you for the great resource :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Jenna, I am glad you found it helpful.
      Are you also living moneyless? Hope you are enjoying the journey! :)

      Delete
  2. Have a look at this. Howard why to scale gifting: http://theqse.tumblr.com

    ReplyDelete