Reflection: 2.5 months as an intentional shopper

Like many projects that I have embarked on before, I start strong and then, after some time, the great fade comes.

I blogged earlier this year about my goal to become a more intentional shopper after being inspired by Ann Patchett’s “My Year of No Shopping” essay in The New York Times. Many friends shared their own pursuits to live a more minimalist life; to increase support for local business; and to break the habit of instant gratification.

January = I rocked out. I crafted detailed lists when I went to the grocery store and stuck with them 100%. I shifted out of the “I need to buy” mindset; I evaluated what already lined our pantry and freezer shelves and attempted to become creative in the kitchen again, letting go of adhering to recipes. For meetings scheduled at coffee shops, I carried a bag of change from our collection to pay for those 12 and 16 ounce drips. Less reliance on the credit card. Using resources I already had. More shopping at the Farmer’s Market and at Compare Foods. More coupons. One Amazon purchase where I could cash in my points. And, no, I didn’t buy a book.

One month in, and I was winning! 

Then…February.

I’m not sure what happened during those 28 days, but I essentially pulled the rug out from underneath myself. More eating out; less accountability on how and where I was spending my dollars. Now, I didn’t completely fail in my goal for that month; some ways that I tried to be more intentional about my shopping included:

  • Using a gift certificate at The Scrap Exchange to purchase supplies for Valentine’s Day card-making rather than buying cards elsewhere
  • Cleaning out my bookcase and selling more than a dozen to Letters Bookshop in downtown Durham [transparently: yes, I have absolutely leveraged that credit to acquire a new book]
  • Seeking out more free activities/spaces where I felt less pressure to make a purchase.

Yet, I still slipped. Instead of purchasing one item to bring to a meeting, I justified purchasing two. I had more drinks out.

And this is why it is wonderful to have such thoughtful friends. One of my favorite nonprofit & public television rockstars, Sarah, forwarded me another NYT article on March 1st as she checked in on my shopping challenge. One of the “a-ha” moments for me in reading this piece was the advice to “confront your triggers.”

I can definitely be an emotional shopper. Running by the grocery store after finishing a workout or before eating a meal spells trouble for my ability to stick to a plan. I’m hungry and tired; I want to reward myself and that’s when I see my cart filling with items like Ben & Jerry’s vegan ice cream or Kite Hill cheese that are both delicious and unnecessary (and really expensive!).

Another one of my triggers is seeing products and events on social media. I want to do it all! But, I can’t — due to time, money, and capacity. But the desire remains and can propel me into purchasing tickets or showing up to a space where I will no doubt spend money.

Like I reflected in my prior post, none of these actions are inherently bad or wrong. It’s more about recognizing the “why” behind these choices and being at peace that there will always be more. Our world loves to promote scarcity, which is so far from reality.

After taking a few steps back last month, I’m feeling good about getting back on track. It’s about finding a balance between militancy and blowout.

 

Beyond the hype: a Real Life Resume

Every job-seeker’s best friend and worst enemy: the resume. We can thank Leonardo da Vinci for introducing the modern take of selling ourselves on paper.

(What would Leonardo da Vinci’s resume even look like? Thanks to the Internet, my question has been answered.)

As someone who went through the process semi-recently of updating and recasting my resume, I find the entire process laborious and limiting. Sure, you as my future employer want to quickly see how I performed in previous professional experiences. You want to understand the scope of my responsibilities, the actions I took, and how those actions brought growth and achieved goals for the organization.

But, if our workplaces are where we spend the majority of our waking time during a day, and if we’re going to foster authentic relationships with the people we work with, would you want to know things about me beyond my previous titles and functions? 

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Like my love for photos in cut-outs?!

While the interview process opens the door to explore what attributes and skills we would bring to the table (and those darn weaknesses too!), most of us won’t get that far in the process. The employment funnel is narrow. As our sectors continue to emphasize the role of inclusion, diversity, and equity as part of our hiring practices, why not then also re-imagine what we’re asking from applicants in the first place?

Last year, Unilever nixed resumes all together.  Instead, the company starts with LinkedIn profiles (arguably a similar platform to resumes) but then puts applicants through neuroscience-based games. The AI system matches outcomes to key positions available, which has resulted in a more diverse workforce and a shorting hiring window.

Other companies, in step with the digital age, have requested candidates to send them examples of their web presence (i.e. social media accounts) in lieu of resumes. Additionally, online applications offer open-ended questions, such as “What is the best job you’ve ever had?” to learn more about the person’s fit. Many of us can check a lot of the same boxes when we apply for a similar job. What makes us stand out from the pack?

I’d like to throw out the idea of a RLR (Real Life Resume) that could be in addition to a professional CV or as part of an application process. Or really, let’s burn recycle traditional resumes. How many do you have sitting around in old portfolios right now? Different versions saved on your computer? How many did you leave on your former employer’s computer?

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What would we include on our RLR? (Yep, we’re going full acronym now, folks). Well, that depends! As you think about what skills and strengths you’ve picked up in the course of being human, what would you want your next boss to know? What are the learnings that make you the right person for the job?

I’ve thought about this question at random times, like when I’m folding laundry or lose another earring (because if I had to name a real life weakness, it would be maintaining pairs of earrings. How do people do this? I have a drawer full of sad, lonely earrings). Here are some items I would put on my RLR:

  • I like to get things done quickly and efficiently. I refuse to leave one grocery bag behind in the car, no matter the number of bags, the weight of each bag, or that my arms are under threat of losing circulation.  Ethos = leave no one behind. 
  • As an only child growing up on a street filled with many retirees, I learned how to use my imagination, such as inventing other people to join me in a game of Clue and pretending I was the next Shannon Miller competing for Team USA in the Summer Olympics. Although the latter dream was shattered (literally as I went through the glass top table in our living room), I walked away with a more resilient, creative spirit. And some cool scars on my ankles. Creativity is critical for innovation, and having fun. 
  • Being tidy? That’s so passe. I’m a master of making piles. Piles of all sizes. Short piles. Tall piles. Piles of papers. Piles of clothes. A combo pile even! Why put something away that you may need later — tomorrow, six months from now? I have learned the art of piling from my mother; this family tradition may extend back generations. Documentation is a tad fuzzy on the topic, but take my word for it: my craft can transform an empty desk into a sight of wonder. Or, at least busyness. And aren’t optics undervalued in this day and age? Piles project productivity. 
  • At times, my mouth wants to work faster than my brain will allow it. The result? I provide humor and delight through my ability of selecting the wrong word to use.  Aaron has dubbed this skill “word scramble.” For instance, I’ve told Aaron that I look forward to going whaling in Alaska someday. I may have also used the word “undercarriage” during a board game with friends that may have inspired a future tattoo. Despite the initial shock of embarrassment, I am right there laughing along with you. If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?

Whether it’s the realization that my kitchen floors will never be crumb-free or my cats will never sleep past 5:00am ever again, I’ve learned how to let the small things go so I can refocus my energy on what matters. If that’s not a skill from real life to bring into the work place, I don’t know what is.

Other potential candidates to offer up during my next job hunt on what value add I can offer: freestyle rapping; competitive skeeball; making tofu tasty.

What I can’t offer: faking accents; a decent poker face; pretending that I enjoy stuffing envelopes.

What would you on your Real Life Resume?