One of my three main motivations for buying nothing this year is to save time. I would say that is really the most important of the three to me (the other two are saving money and owning less stuff). I realize I have a finite amount of time on this earth, and I don’t think shopping on eBay (or anywhere else) is a great way to use much of it. But the resolution to stop spending that time on eBay is a negative one: don’t do it. So what should I be doing instead? I don’t feel I am neglecting anything in my life in order to shop, but rather filling my free time with meaningless activities like shopping.
Maybe a better resolution would be not to spend less time shopping, but to spend more time doing other things. Just what other things are worthwhile is the question, and it’s a very subjective one. I could be doing practically productive things, like earning money through some type of work. I could be improving my environment by cleaning. I could be doing things to improve myself, like exercising, cooking healthier meals, or learning/practicing a skill. I could be doing things just for fun, like a hobby. I could be doing things to help others, like volunteering. It seems like leisure time can be divided up into these four categories:
- practically productive (cleaning, work)
- self improvement
- other focused
There can obviously be a lot of overlap between these categories. I might have fun while I’m volunteering, and I might learn a new skill at the same time. I might find the work I do fun, and it might be focused on helping others.
I feel OK about how I’m spending my time in the first category. I eat relatively well, exercise, and our apartment is clean (enough). I do think I could spend more time in the second category. I would like to learn to play the piano and to speak another language fluently. I should also really be spending more time reading research for my PhD. I was initially unsure if that would fall into category 1 or 2, but decided on 2 because right now there are not many tangible payoffs to reading more papers and coming up with research ideas, even though there will be payoff in the future.
The last two categories are the ones I think I am missing the most. I want to have more fun, and I want to help others more. I do find online shopping mildly fun and it’s easy to do. The same is true of Facebook. I think that is why I spend so much time doing these things, but I also think I could have a lot more fun doing other things. But what? I enjoy reading, I think, but I seem to pick wasting time on the internet over that often (in the past anyway), so I guess I don’t enjoy it that much. What would I enjoy doing more?
I recently read Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project and she also struggled with finding fun. One of her recommendations (which I think she got from someone else) was to think about what you did for fun as a child as a guide for what you might find fun now. As a kid, I did read a good amount. I also spent a lot of time outdoors in the woods, primarily hoisting myself up into trees with ropes. I liked doing active things, including sports, though I often got frustrated with team sports. I spent lots of time with friends, playing imaginary games probably past the age when that was normal. I sang a lot, in choirs, in shows, to annoy my brother.
How can the things I did for fun as a kid inform what I might find fun now? Well, I do think I could do more active things outdoors. Maybe I would enjoy learning to rock climb. I could join a sports team of some kind. I can’t think of a way to engage in imaginative play that I am interested in trying, but perhaps I am being to judgmental. I have played D&D as an adult a few times and found it mostly fun. I am already in a choir, which I think I find fun. I often do not want to go to rehearsal though, but I am glad I am doing it anyway. I think I would enjoy it more if I was better friends with some of the other singers. It’s a bit strange because the choir is primarily undergraduate students, who seem very young to me now. There are also some older people, much older than me. Not many people seem to be close to my age. I do think I need to work on spending more time with friends and making new friends. Fun often happens with others.
The other category I need to work on is finding a way to help others. My goal in my PhD program is to train myself to do research that will improve the lives of others, but that is a long term commitment and I often don’t feel like I’m accomplishing anything helpful (or anything at all really) on a day-to-day basis. I would like a to do some regular volunteering to fill this gap. I used to volunteer at a thrift store that was attached to and supported a women’s shelter when I lived in another state, and I loved that. However, my commitment to buy nothing means I should avoid thrift store volunteering for the time being. I recently decided to apply to be a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) volunteer in DC. I have completed two of the four training sessions and am a bit overwhelmed by it, so I haven’t decided if it’s for me yet.
I may have the best intentions of spending my time better, but I need to put something in place to make it happen and I haven’t found that yet. I no longer waste vast amounts of time on eBay, but I have found other online activities to fill that gap. It’s like wack-a-mole. eBay is out of the picture, but I can endlessly look up flights online instead. Unfortunately, I don’t think my use of time has improved much in the last two months.