The Compact Revisited

When I committed to The Compact in October of 2006, I had no idea how radically it would change my life. I set out on a mission to simply stop buying new stuff...but instead the experiment changed my entire view of our consumerism-obsessed culture, marketing, wants vs. needs, giving vs. selling, the poor...the list goes on and on. While I did not complete the entire year of Compacting by my "rules"... I will be forever changed by this experience. I have blogged in the past about my journey, but here are some effects of The Compact that are still with me today:

  • I LOVE buying used. It's almost physically painful for me to buy things new/full retail cost. I could spend hours and hours at Goodwill...especially if I have a list of things I've been looking for. The thrill of the hunt is so fun. Whenever we need something, whether it be RV related, clothing, kitchen gadgets...we always turn to eBay, Craigslist, or Goodwill first before ever looking for it new. I would have to say that this ONE THING has been the biggest change for us.
  • I've become appalled at the price of things...and have started to realize the crazy profit companies make on our purchases because we are just too lazy to search out the alternative. My current pair of jeans (yes I only have one pair) were 99 cents at Goodwill. Matt found them for me in the men's section and said "here honey...these will be cute on you". I LOVE them! And now, when I go in and I'm browsing the jeans, a tag for $3.99 seems ludicrous! Ha ha! How dare they think they can charge $3.99! :) This also happens when I've been to too many garage sales...I get used to the LOW prices and it's hard to go back to eBay or consignment stores after that!
  • I started to give a lot more stuff away. I think that when you come to the realization that it's the STUFF that is bogging you down emotionally, mentally, and just want to get rid of it! So I got very good at filling boxes and going to Goodwill. Is there anything that feels better than handing over boxes of stuff that has been cluttering your home to the Goodwill attendant in the back of the store? I love it...a natural high!
  • Handmade gifts are where it's at...if it's a handmade/recycled/found object art gift, even better! I think it was during my Compacting days that I discovered Etsy. Oh my goodness. How can you not love Etsy?!
  • I am so much more sensitive to the marketing teams whose main goal is to make me feel like my current state of being is not good enough. They want me to want something. They scheme all day long on the by putting "want creators" on TV, internet, billboards, junk's rampant.
  • Because I am more sensitive to these things...I can hardly stand to set foot in a mall. The bright lights, the busyness, the insane amounts of money being exchanged. It's overload.
  • I can now walk into a Target or any other store and actually only buy what I went in for. Prior to The Compact, I almost felt like a zombie as I walked out of Target...wondering what just happened in there! Last night, we went as a family to buy a few items that we've had on our list for weeks. And it felt so good to come out with just a few things on the receipt.
  • Now that Bella is at the age where she can understand purchasing, money, wants, has become more time consuming to go into stores because I need to discuss everything with her as we go. She amazes me with her self-control though. When we walk by the $1 section in Target, she likes to stop and look, but is not thrown into a frenzy if we decide not to get something there. We talk through it and it becomes a teaching moment about consumerism, money, and priorities. We talk about whether or not we need it...does she already have something similar in the RV? And if we were to get that item, would she be willing to give something else in her toy box away to make room for it? Young minds are hungry for teaching...I try as hard as I can to teach her things that aren't in a normal school syllabus! :) Of course, it's pretty rare that we even go to Target, so I think this is the key to success. Keep children focused on the abundance they DO have...not what they don't have. Gratitude breeds contentment.
  • And oh what JOY will come if we can learn contentment! Pray for it...Christ wants to give it to you!

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:11-13 (New Living Translation)

I would LOVE to hear from all of you who have committed to The Compact at any time (and for any length of time). Let us know how you felt about it and how it has stuck with you even after you were officially "done".

Photo credit: Flickr/Creative Commons: ATIS547

A Compact Christmas

Several of you have asked me to post about buying Christmas gifts while doing the Compact. It's really quite simple. Here are my tips:

  • Shop early.
    • It's pretty much impossible to buy used/barter/trade at the last minute. Well, you could, but even Goodwill is pretty picked over by Christmas eve!
    • I've been slowly collecting gifts from consignment stores and thrift stores..and occasionally trading for photography.
  • Always keep an eye out for a gift...even if you aren't specifically shopping for that person.
    • I have found the greatest gifts when I wasn't really looking. Keep a list of all the people that you are shopping for so you can keep track.
  • Keep a gift "box" under your bed or in a closet so that you can have them all in one place.
    • I love this. Anytime I find a cool gift, I just pop it right into my gift box and know that I can forget about it until Christmas! This is a great thing to have year-round...because as birthdays pop up, you can just grab a gift from the box.
  • Don't buy gifts for everyone.
    • I used to do this...because I LOVE giving gifts. But this year, I am limiting it to family and a few close friends. For Bella, we would like to start the tradition of 3 gifts only...representing the 3 gifts the wise men brought Jesus.
  • Homemade is fun.
    • Last year I made cool magnets. It's always cheaper to do something crafty. I usually do a lot of photo-related gifts, especially for the grandparents. I have some crafty things that I am making this year, but I can't reveal it on my blog...that would ruin the surprise!
  • Don't get stressed. The focus is on Jesus, not gifts. The gifts are just a great symbol of what God gave us in His son.

Giving gifts is so much fun for me. I thought about just not doing any gifts this year...but then I realized how much joy I get from seeing someone's face light up. Compacting this Christmas has been enjoyable and easier than I thought! And I am THRILLED to not be out at the malls. Wheeeee!

Photo courtesy of Nathan Gibbs/

Compact Lessons

It's been 46 days since I took the Compact pledge. It has been a interesting experiment in self-discovery...I have learned so much about myself and my spending habits. A few things...

  • It feels so good to NOT buy something after having the urge to do so. Realizing that I actually demonstrated self-control is exciting.
  • Shopping at Goodwill is fun. It's much more exhilerating to find the exact item I need at a thrift store...than to just run into Target and walk right to it. Less convenient, yes..but more fun.
  • I can overspend just as easily at thrift stores as I can in Target.
  • I am extremely senstitive to how I am feeling when looking at advertisements. I can take the time now to dissect those emotions and realize that they are constructed.
  • There have been several times when I've thought, "I would have totally bought that if I wasn't Compacting!". I started to add up all those things I kept saying that about...and it was several hundred dollars. It's a great feeling to save that money instead of spend it on things that I wouldn't want a few hours later anyway.
  • Doing the Compact seems to make some people upset & confused. Like the fact that I am actually THINKING about my purchases throws their whole existance out of whack. Apparently, compacting is very threatening.
  • I haven't found it to be particularly difficult to buy used, barter/trade, or make do. It's been great!

I have especially enjoyed finding Christmas gifts this year. I thought that it might be difficult, because I am usually a Christmas Eve "hurry up and buy anything!" kind of shopper. Total procrastination. I am happy to say that I am almost done shopping for everyone on my list! Here's to 319 more happy days of Compacting!