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Friday, March 6, 2009

Less is More

By Guest Blogger Dara Kurtz

Dear Smarty Moms: I asked Dara to submit this guest blog because she has recently written a book titled Less Is More: How a Shopping Fast Can Help You Find Your Family. It is based on an amazing journey she and her family just completed. She was also just featured on WXII last night. I thought the concept was very Smarty, and asked her to share her story with you as well. Enjoy! – Katie M.

This past year, from February 15, 2008 – February 15, 2009, my family has been on a shopping fast. The goal was simple. I wanted to shift our focus from “stuff” to each other. It all started when I became fed up with our fixation on materialism, and recruited my kids and husband to go on a shopping fast. I wanted to teach my husband, Jon, and our kids, Zoe 9 and Avi, 6, what was really important: our family.

I felt like we had become too focused on materialism, and it was taking away from our time as a family. We spent too much time thinking about what ever it was we thought we needed, and wasted time running around trying to find those must have items. I knew that if I wanted to make a lasting impression on my kids, the change had to be significant. That’s when the brilliant idea of a shopping fast came to me. We had a lot and were very blessed, and if we were really going to feel the fast, we’d have to do it for a year.

For one year we purchased nothing but necessities like food and the kids’ school clothes. No luxury goods, no toys, no “stuff.” Objects. Things we could hold in our hands. We followed a strict set of rules, to see what changes we could make while shifting our focus from consumption to each other.

It wasn’t easy at first. What child wants to be told they won’t be getting anything new for a year? And my husband, a man who loves the latest gadgets, wasn’t completely excited about the prospect of not buying for a year. But overtime, my family adjusted, and the results have been remarkable.

We’ve learned a lot and grown as a family. Our weekends aren’t about going to the mall and trying to score the latest items. In fact, we really don’t even care what the latest “must have” item even is. We’ve found each other. We’ve learned the true value of people and experiences versus “things.” Family time is about being together: taking walks, being out in nature, watching a movie, talking – and it’s enough. We don’t need “stuff” to make us happy. The kids don’t ask for much anymore, and they’ve learned to appreciate what they have. When they do get something new, it’s special. While our goal wasn’t to see how much money we could save, we ended up saving quite a bit. And that wasn’t so bad either!

Sometimes I wonder how the girls will look back on this experience, and I think about what they’ll remember from this year. I hope they look back and recognize this was the year our family finally got it. When we came together, worked hard to change, and realized our goal. Mostly I hope they know how much they mean to Jon and I, and that we did this for them. Although the shopping fast is now over, the lessons learned will be around for a long time. We’ll get things we need, sometimes even things we don’t need, but the importance of “stuff” will never take center stage to what really matters: each other.

I’ve written a book, titled Less Is More: How a Shopping Fast Can Help You Find Your Family. The book shares what we learned in our transformation from a family of buyers into a family who realized how much more we could be with less. It can help many families, particularly in these challenging economic times, and includes simple steps to help readers make similar changes in their own lives. My agent in NYC is currently pitching it to editors. To learn more about our story, visit WXII’s website, to view the story that aired Thursday, March 5th. In addition, we will be on Fox 8, in a Buckley Report, on March 15th. Stay tuned for more information regarding the book. And remember, the best things in life don’t come with a price tag.

Thanks, Dara, for sharing this with us. The concept of "less is more" is very timely. Please comment if you have also recently cut back on your "stuff" and how it's impacted your life and your family!

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Summer said...

Dara, This is an amazing idea. I am awed by your family's commitment for a whole year!! Congratulations, and I hope the book deals work out.

RLR said...

We participated in Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University at our church - this time last year, we were halfway through the classes. It's amazing how much money you can save when you stop filling your life with stuff, and how much fun you can have with each other without spending a dime. Some of my favorite times with my kids are simple things like going on a picnic or doing arts and crafts (with supplies that came from grandma's leftovers).

Anonymous said...

I happened to catch this on WXII last night and thought this was the most ridiculous story. Stating that you saved a thousand dollars on a flat screen TV when you already had a functioning TV for a childrens room is not considered saving. It seems that this family has highly overindulged in the past and for the past year didn't spend unnecessarily (SAVED is quite questionable and relative). Taking a 3 day cruise might be considered saving, taking a 9 day is extreme. Chlesea Handler could have fun with this.

Anonymous said...

I think this story is brilliant I wish I could do it and hope the book comes out because I'll buy one. Good luck!

Stacy D said...

I saw the news story, too, and although some of the things this family "saved" on are things that are "splurges" to my family, I still thought they made a good attempt to change their lifestyle for the better.

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