It's hard to believe I'm here at the end of this project - it's gone oh so fast, with a lot of changes. In summary - there's been ups, there's been downs. I feel that I've failed in some of my original aims, but far exceeded them in others... For reference, you can read my starting post here.
First up, my life feels very different to how it did a year ago. In a practical way, my habits have changed a lot - no more supermarkets, much much less buying of stuff, carsharing etc... My mental attitude to belongings and stuff has changed a lot - I've got rid of a lot of things, and got a lot less possessive of other things (namely my car!). My living situation has changed a lot - the house I live in now is very communal - we cook together, share a lot of food, and generally spend a lot of time together. I don't know how much of this is directly as a result of this project, and how much is a result of a journey I may well have already been on. But I feel it's definitely heavily influenced it.
The biggest change that I didn't expect was the change to my entire way of looking at life. It's made me challenge about what's important in life and what I want. To me, life is about the people you're with and the experiences you have. There is a Mark Boyle quote that I used earlier this year in a post, and it's one that I think about almost daily:
"If you spend your time putting more love into the world, then it is reasonable to believe you are going to benefit from a world with more love in it."
And yes, you can put it down as fluffy hippy crap, but I genuinely believe in it. I started the year thinking that community and relationships were important, and this has just strengthened as the year has gone on. For me, my life is no better if I have the latest DVDs and a widescreen TV, but my friendships and the experiences I have enrich my life beyond words. It's challenged what I want out of life and where I'm heading.
There's no doubt that the first part of the year was full of a lot more enthusiasm and personal challenge than the second half. Maybe that's because I did a lot of the ground work in the first half, but I do feel that I haven't been as hard on myself about decisions as I maybe should have been. For example, I still eat meat when I'm eating out without checking where it's sourced from, drive my car when not 100% necessary, and buy clothes from supermarkets (very occasionally).
The other reason that the second half of this year has been quieter than the first is because it's inspired a new project (yes, what a shocker - I have a new project!). I'm not quite ready to talk about it yet, but it really feels like a natural continuation of this project. As a result, a fair amount of energy has been going into shaping and researching that.
The biggest difficulty has been the battle to find the middle ground of living a good and non-consumerism driven life, but also one that isn't miserable and a constant struggle. I've found time to be a key factor in this - it's generally possible to make better decisions when you have the time. In a normal week, I can manage to not shop at supermarkets and get everything from local shops. However, if I'm going away to a festival or a big weekend away with friends, suddenly this becomes a lot more challenging and if I don't have sufficient time to get everything I need, I've ended up going to the supermarket in a bit of a last minute panic. With more time, I would be able to get to shops and get everything, but sadly fitting it in around a full time job and social life means compromises are sometimes necessary.
So overall how have I done? The definition of consumerism I first used when I started this project was this:
“Consumerism is a social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts”.
I definitely feel like I've stepped away from that. I've stopped buying things without thinking. Yes, I still buy stuff, but a lot of thought goes into what I buy and whether I actually need it. I may not always make the best decisions, but I make better ones. The original aim was "... being aware of what I spend and where it goes, and trying to spend it in the right way", and that's something I feel I've definitely achieved. My whole mindset regarding money and the things I buy has been transformed, and become so integrated into my way of thinking that it has become my normal way of thinking.
Now to keep on down the path I've started on...