30 Days Of Nothing

I read an amazing blog post on Intent  – 30 Days of Nothing.  Go read it if you haven’t yet.  Her experiment appeals to me, partly because of my time in Ethiopia.  While there, I was humbled by the poverty I saw.   One of the most indelible images in my mind was of Flip Flop Girl.  It is hard for me to imagine being so poor that I could not buy my child a pair of $2 flip flops. 

My husband and I want our children to grow up thinking of others, not enslaved by the materialistic culture we live in.   But that’s a tall order, made even tougher by the fact that we are not free of it ourselves.

I blogged recently, amazed that Oprah magazine talked about spending $5000 on a fall wardrobe. But guess what? The other day I wandered into Gymboree  ‘just for fun’ (yeah, right..) and left $80 poorer.  If you compare my income to Oprah’s, guess what? Proportionally I probably splurged bigger than she did.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. My intent here is not to be all holy and pious.  I don’t feel jealousy or anger towards people who can afford $5000 for clothing.  And I am not trying to prescribe what YOU do with YOUR money.   That is between you and God.

What I really wonder is, how free am I from materialism?  How tough would it be for me to not buy an item of clothing, or a McDonald’s burger, or a new hair doodad, or, heaven help me, a BOOK, for a month?  (Me and Amazon are TIGHT, baby!) 

If we chose to give this experiment a go, how much money would we have for something worthwhile?   Our adoption agency has a child sponsorship program for children in Ethiopia that is $15 a month.   This helps a family keep their children, helps the children stay in school, helps the children get the health care they need.   $15 a month.

John and I are not sure to what degree we can participate in this experiment, but we are giving it some serious thought.  For our children.   For ourselves.  And maybe even for some child somewhere else.

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  1. loved what you wrote. I struggle with the "gimmes" From my kids and from myself. I wish there were a switch we could flip that would make us NOT want more, even when we have enough.

    Speaking of Oprah, did you see her on CNN, building the school in Soweto…fabulous footage and the amazing contribution she's making. $40 million commited thus far for the school and the education of those kids.

  2. awesome!! I love this idea. We had decided to do this as a family for a month anyway but this article puts it better then I did. Here is what we are doing.

    I work with a charity in Africa that focuses on family based orphan care. I just returned from there a few months ago. A few people that work with me in the charity started a micro loan project/experiment. We identified a town in Western Kenya and identified 30 families that are either already supporting orphans in their home or would like to be. We will buy each of these families a bike that can be used to earn income (as a taxi or a delivery service type thing). Each bike costs 60$$, but it allows the owners to make about 3$ a day and keep if all for their family instead of RENTING a bike and and paying 2$ in rent and taking 1$ for the family. We are selling them the bikes at half price and the rules are that they have to continue to support at least two orphaned children in the home (as well as committing to doing other things like helping teach the HIV prevention program in the schools and talking their children about the disease…). I comitted to find funding for 30 bikes. We decided as a family to see how many "extras" we could go without and see how many bikes we could buy before we solicited outside funds. Sadly, we will make a dent in the number. It helps me realize how tied to commercialism I am. The month starts next week and I will have to let you know how we did. I like that my kids can see how their "going without" directly and immediatly means that someone else will get opportunities. Each of these families has a name and a picture on our wall. We will have quarterly updates on how it is going. I hope this will help them make the connection.

    This is a great idea. You can pick something to go without and put that money towards something else. Your agency lets you sponsor a child, you can buy a bike, you can sponser a child via many other reputable agencies, you can donate the money to Second Harvest, you can buy schools supplies and donate them to a shelter, you can find a family that you see needs a little something and buy them a Safeway gift card and leave it in the mail box. You can bring your neighbor dinner. It doesn't have to be Africa, it doesn't have to be a lot but it does make a difference.

    Thanks for this post. I am going to put that one in the permanent file.

  3. Wow. Simply wow. It's an excellent idea. I'm going to talk to my husband about it tomorrow when he gets home.


    I think we could use a serious spending recalibration anyway.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Very very interesting and a frequent topic of conversation at our house. — how to raise our child to not worship at the alter of materialism while living on that very altar. I'm going to check out the 30 days link.

  5. i'm checking out the link, too.

    we don't have kids; so it's just the gimmes my husband and i have. and especially when i take an honest look at the clothes and shoes i have, i think, 'there are people who have one set of clothes. one. a pair of pants and a shirt. and they have shoes if they're LUCKY. i feel embarassed and ungrateful for the way i have used the resources i have.

    not all the time, obviously, or i'd have done something about it sooner. but still. thanks for linking this.

  6. I ask myself that same question, "How free am I from materialism?"

    I have tired to live by the idea that as one thing (bought) comes into the house, something needs to leave. But really, how much better to not have bought the item in the first place (of course within reason).

    I am also going on this fast and am interested to see "where" it leads me.


  1. […] When we began this 30 Days Of Nothing experiment, we knew we wanted to save enough money to make a difference for someone.  Though I wasn’t willing to be an utter fanatic about it, I did want to make a good attempt at saving a fair bit of money. […]