My eyes darted feverishly in the store. “How can this be all that there is?!” “When will they restock the shelves?” “How can we live an entire year like this?”
“It’s okay,” I thought, “we’ll just use Amazon.”
Later at home on the computer, I read the dreaded words:
“Does not ship to Romania”
Without realizing it, my husband and I put ourselves on an Amazon diet for a year. We didn’t embark on this journey as a way to test our willpower. Instead, we did this by moving to Romania. While I know several people who still use Amazon here- and in fact, Amazon is piloting delivery options in Bucharest- the Post Office can never find our address, so we had to go without Amazon for an entire year. While I do not recommend going to such extremes by moving to a new country as a way to curb your Amazon addiction, we found that living life Amazon-free is pretty nice. Here are some of the things I learned along the way…
- I saved a lot of money. I don’t know for sure, but I would estimate we saved many hundreds, if not thousands of dollars by avoiding Amazon. When purchases required more time and effort to obtain, I learned to only purchase what I *really* wanted. My purchases are now much more thoughtful and are no longer impulsive. It’s so easy to convince yourself that you need something, but when you have to commit time to finding it, buying it and bringing it back home, you will think twice about that purchase.
- I learned to love shopping in a mall all over again. The last time I was in a mall this often, I had Manic Panic in my hair and had zero concern about the calories in my delicious Cinnabon. The typical retail design in Europe is to have stores on the first floor and residential apartments above it. The shops are often convenient for the neighborhood, but the specialty stores are few and far between. Because of the convenience of having several stores in a compact area, we’ve learned to love shopping in the mall again. Who knew it would take moving to Bucharest to learn to love the mall again?
- I learned to stop relying on consumer reviews for purchases. Instead of spending hours getting lost in the morass of consumer reviews, I learned to trust my gut when making a purchase. Most all goods are available for inspection in the store, and we’ve learned to take the time choosing the product that fits our needs best. At first it was a little scary that I couldn’t rely on the opinions of people I never met nor the bots that were hired to post favorable reviews, but in the end, I learned to trust my own intuition.
- Having fewer options for purchase makes life all that much easier. When I go to the grocery store, there are two types of pasta sauces available for purchase. The simplicity of having two options means that I am not bogged down by decision fatigue. I make my decision and go. Easy peasy.
- Shop owners know me. Everything here is relationship based. The shop owners now know me and are happy to help me with my needs. I’m continually amazed at the level of personalized attention I receive at the store. They actually remember what I purchased last time and make recommendations that matter. There’s something nice about creating relationships with the people as opposed to the algorithm that “knows” what I really want. I guess we can call shop owners “Analog Algorithms.”
- Less clutter in my house. Now that I actually have to think about my purchases, I have less clutter to clean and worry about. Rather than having a fleeting thought (“I need an organizer!), purchasing the item for the fleeting thought (opens amazon, adds to cart, purchases product), then realizing I don’t really want my purchase (“Why did I buy this thing again?”). I enjoy the minimalist life.
The real test will be when we return to the States in 6 weeks. Can we maintain this momentum? Will our local shops continue to receive our patronage or will we give into the one-click purchase button again? We won’t know for sure until we’re actually living in Chicago again, but I know that this Amazon-free year has taught us a lot about my “needs” versus “wants.”