Abby Norman (at Accidental Devotional) seems like the kind of person I’d be Mama friends with in real life if we lived closer. She’s a beautiful writer with a graceful take on life. Enjoy her brilliant One Small Change post here…which is completely relatable and packed full of wisdom, particularly for all of us who find ourselves in Target at least once a week.
At the end of every shopping trip, after I have checked my list and made sure I didn’t forget anything, and before I see if our favorite cashier is working, I look in my cart to see what I can put back.
I’ve never gotten through the process without humbling wheeling my buggy down a previously walked aisle and carefully placing whatever it is back where I found it. I worked retail too many years to just abandon things all over the store, however tempting it may be.
I’m not sure when I started putting things back. Maybe it was when my husband and I started actively tracking our purchases and I discovered I was spending a few hundred bucks every month on things that were “just ten dollars.” Maybe it was when I read that store clerks were being given roving check out devices to give shoppers less time to change their minds. It occurred to me then that when I put something in my cart I feel somehow obligated to buy it. Maybe those things collided in my brain one day while I was in line at the Target, but now I do it everywhere. I put stuff back.
As I learn about ethical spending, there is one thing everyone seems to be able to agree on: the most ethical way to spend my money is to buy less stuff. If I don’t really need it, and I don’t really want it, I shouldn’t buy it. So, when I find things in my cart or basket that I don’t really need or even really want, I am learning to put them back.
It is a humbling experience, following my tracks, placing the skirt, the nail polish, the fancy salsa back onto the rack or shelf. I feel like everyone is looking at me. Sometimes I already feel a loss, I already feel like that thing belongs to me. It seems my spending is linked very much to my feelings. The putting back has allowed me to better understand the feelings behind the purchases I make.
I over buy when I am overwhelmed. If I can’t decide between the various colors I get two or three or four. The thought of choosing wrong can paralyze me, so I don’t choose at all. I especially over buy if I am choosing for someone else. Instead of three kinds of cheese for the cheese plate, I get seven. I don’t want to choose wrong, so I don’t. Often I am overwhelmed because I am equating what I buy with who I am. I want to be the perfect host, the trend setter. I am believing the lie that if I don’t get it all right, people won’t love me.
I over buy when I am afraid there is not enough. I put things in my cart that I don’t need or particularly want because they are on sale. Buy one thing I don’t really want and get another one free! How can I resist that? This shower gel that I have never tried is being discontinued? I better buy two! I am afraid that somehow if I don’t get it now, at that price then I will never be able to. When I ask myself if I really need or really want it, I find I am afraid of missing out on stuff I don’t even want.
I over buy to make myself feel better about things that have nothing to do with what I am buying. If my children are having a hard day and I am feeling like everyone is judging me as that mom, the one who cannot control her children, lipstick, candy, a bottle of wine go into the cart. If I am feeling frayed at the edges, like there is simply too much for me to do, t-shirts, a pretty dress, a new pair of shoes. I work hard, I deserve it. When I am lonely, I hit the house-goods. I want my home to be ready for those friends I wish I were hanging out with. The stuff never makes me feel better. It just makes me feel like I over spent.
Putting things back has become not only a way for me to spend less, but a way for me to fight back against the lies that the world is trying to sell me.
So, if you see a lady with two small daughters dropping three bottles of nail polish into her cart, and twenty minutes later sheepishly putting two back, don’t mind her. She is learning to put stuff back, to buy the truth instead.
Abby Norman lives, and loves in the city of Atlanta. She lives with her two hilarious children and a husband that doubles as her biggest fan. When not mothering, teaching, parenting or wifeing, she blogs at accidentaldevotional.com.
She is a lover of all kinds of Girl Scout cookies and carries a book about teaching in her heart. Abby loves to make up words and is excited by the idea that Miriam Webster says you can verb things.