GRETCHEN TRIES STUFF EP. 14: The One Without Amazon

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Over the past 6 month, I’ve felt like I’ve slipped up a lot on my goals to live less wasteful and more environmentally friendly. It has also been a while since I’ve done one of my Gretchen Tries Stuff challenges, so over the summer I planned two month-long challenges to go along with my goals to live more sustainable: For the entire month of June I went without shopping on Amazon (and in August I’ll only be purchasing locally grown/produced food and products so keep an eye out for that in the future). The goal? To retrain my shopping habits to cut down on shipping waste and support more local businesses and farmers.

Why Amazon and not all online shopping? It wasn’t a specific attack on Amazon as a company. In general, I don’t have much problem with Amazon—I really appreciate the two day shipping and they produce some fantastic Amazon Original TV shows for Prime. The reason I only picked Amazon to stop shopping from is because it’s where I do the most online shopping and when it comes to other online shops, I already follow a policy of looking to buy a product locally first. (I like to avoid paying for shipping whenever possible.)

Last November I did my first real shopping-based challenge: no fun shopping at all (I could only purchase food and other necessities like soap, etc). It was a surprisingly tough challenge for me considering how much self-control I have in other aspects of my life. So I expected this to be equally as tough—Much of my non-food shopping happened via Amazon. I have just the worse habit of relying on Amazon to save time. It’s just so much easier than shopping in person sometimes! But that’s exactly why this challenge felt like a very important thing for me to try. The shipping and packaging guilt from all that Amazon-ing was really starting to get to me (I have a horrible guilt complex you guys; it’s real bad).

 

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Okay, so how did my month without Amazon shopping go? Honestly? Way better than I anticipated. I did come very close to screwing up my challenge on the very first day purely because I forgot that a new month had started but I made the realization before doing anything more than just pricing out a few things I was thinking of picking up. After that, it was kind of a breeze. Though I did log on to my Amazon account occasionally to price compare, I was surprisingly not tempted to do any actual shopping during the month of June. Very uncharacteristic for me now days. I even managed to not do any Amazon shopping during my first week of July (I did, over the past weekend, end up ordering something I needed; however, I checked four different local stores beforehand and simply couldn’t find it anywhere in town).

Why was this challenge so much easier than my November-No-Shopping challenge? I have a couple of theories on that:

  1. It wasn’t a strict no-shopping challenge so I had more wiggle room mentally. For example, if I really wanted to buy a book, I could go pick it up from Powell’s City Books. Overall it felt less like I was trying to completely deny myself of any fun purchases, so the challenge didn’t feel like I was punishing myself for anything. I did find that even though these “fun” purchases weren’t forbidden, I did a whole lot less of them anyway. Impulse shopping can get out of control much faster when you can do it with the touch of a button on your phone or laptop. When I have to physically go somewhere to buy something, the impulse factor is taken away, and I found owning certain things became a whole lot less important to me. I think this was better overall than my straight up no-shopping month because it is much more sustainable over time as well.  After my no-shopping month, I had holiday shopping I needed to do and in general, the experience didn’t have any longterm effects on my shopping habits like I was hopping. I’ve come out of this challenge feeling much more like I can just continue to avoid doing so much online shopping.
  2. I’m in a really good place in life mentally/emotionally. Last year (2017), was a pretty tough year for me. I was still adjusting to be back in the country, and I struggled with depression off and on throughout the year. While I wasn’t in the full thick of my depression last November, I was still in the beginning stages of me really getting on a path I’m excited for career-wise and still having to work on getting over an extended bout of depression. The past three to six months have been such a different story for me than the year that proceeded them. Better than simply not being depressed, I can honestly say I’m happy and feeling incredibly optimistic about life. That has a huge impact on other aspects of my life. The self-control when it comes to shopping is one of the hardest for me when I’m depressed (I sometimes find myself thinking things a lot more along the lines of, “maybe if I dress like I’m happy, I’ll feel happy” and that just not true—feeling happy after being depressed is more complicated than wearing a new outfit. It’s also a dangerous mindset for budgeting and being responsible).
  3. My motivation was different. My no-shopping challenge was partially inspired by my desire to fight the urge I have to shop while I was depressed (it almost like I was punishing myself for spending time depressed in the first place). This challenge was brought on by my desire to live more in accordance with my ethical beliefs and be more environmentally friendly. My motivation just felt more honest this time around, which made not shopping on Amazon just so much easier.

Now what? Now that I made it thought my month of not using Amazon, I’m going to just continue with using Amazon as little as possible. My goal by the end of 2018 is to, naturally and without as much mental effort, be much more limited with my online shopping (not just Amazon). Though I know I can technically order things off Amazon now, my urge to do so or even price check on Amazon has gone down substantially. I will still use Amazon and other online shops when I can’t find something locally, but I’m feel more confident than ever in my ability to just not shop online.

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GRETCHEN IS A WRITER-BASED IN PORTLAND, ORE. SHE GOT HER START AS A JOURNALIST WORKING ON THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND RESTAURANT BEAT BEFORE MOVING INTO COPYWRITING AND ADVERTISING WORK. SHE CURRENTLY BLOGS AND WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER.

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