Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Consume-Less Challenge

So, back to the Consumed series...

Normally, our small group meets on Friday nights, and we take turns hosting at our respective homes. We have dinner together from 7-8pm and then start our discussions around 8-8:30. Since my husband and I were supposed to leave for a vacation last Friday, we rescheduled the meeting for Wednesday night last week. Our friends' R & B offered to host everyone at their house in Villa Hills, KY. We had a very nice meal together, and then we cleared the table and moved into the living room to start our discussion. As I was setting out the homemade cookies that I had made, I realized that I hadn't brought the materials for the group discussion. (The materials for each week are sealed, and we're not supposed to open them in advance, so I had no idea what we were supposed to discuss.) I felt so irresponsible-- I was so focussed on providing dessert that I forgot the whole point of why we were getting together that evening.

I placed a couple of desperate phone calls to folks who are on staff at the church, and I was lucky enough to get in touch with one of the guys who works on the Facilities team. He wasn't working at the church that evening, but he's a host for a group too, so he had the materials with him at home, and he read the topics for discussion to me over the phone while I took notes, so I was able to redeem my stupid mistake.

Here's the challenge that was described in the group materials:
What if we could do with less? What if we could simplify our lives by letting go of behaviors that consume us? What if we could better appreciate the things that are free? This is the Consume-Less Challenge - A week to see what it's like to live differently, spend differently, rest, re-prioritize, and maybe discover something you've lost.

Our group had to commit to one of the following levels:

1. Use cash for every purchase. No exceptions.

2. Use cash for every purchase AND eliminate that one thing that consumes your time that you wrote about in your [personal study] guide this week. It could be anything from channel surfing, to driving all over the city, to finding the best sale. But don't quit taking care of your kids or doing regular work and school stuff. This isn't a doctor's note, wise guy.

3. Use cash for everything; eliminate that one thing that consumes your time; AND borrow, barter, or just receive one thing you need or want. For example, cook someone's dinner all week in exchange for landscape help. Need a suit? Borrow your friend's. Need a ride? Carpool. Have extra tickets to a game? Give them to someone in your group, and now they've got free entertainment.

4. Use cash for everything; eliminate that one thing that consumes your time; borrow, barter, or just receive one thing you need; AND don't buy anything except groceries and gas.

5. Eliminate that one thing that consumes your time AND don't buy anything at all. All week. Reduce, reuse, reclaim. (Congratulations on being so hardcore. Now go make sure your Prius isn't double-parked.)

Our group chose to commit to Level 2, although R & B have decided to try to fulfill Level 3 as well. (We tried to imagine what we would have to do for Level 5. Everyone agreed that we had enough food in our pantries to ensure that we would have plenty to eat, but not being able to buy gas for our cars would be a major problem for most of us.) I think we're going to have lots to talk about this week, and I'm looking forward to hearing about everyone's experiences.

The church is open to the public everyday, and volunteers make sure that free coffee is always available. Yesterday, the building also served as a polling site for 6 precincts in Cincinnati, so I volunteered to help keep the coffee flowing for all the people coming to vote. I asked some of the other volunteers what levels their groups had committed to, and one of the women said that her group had opted for Level 5. I'm intrigued.

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