Since 1 January, I’ve been on a secret little mission to make 2014 my year of buying nothing new.
Why haven’t I shared before now?
Because I feared my commitment would be lost amongst the white noise and emptiness of a barrage of New Year’s resolutions.
Because I didn’t want to get all preachy-preachy about it.
Because I wasn’t sure I could sustain it.
The very same reasons why I’m sharing now, in July, when I’m more than half way through. *high five
I set myself some ground rules. Food and normal household consumables were exempt, along with plants and books … because, well, books. Oh, and experiences. So movie tickets, travel, festival entry fees, live performance, dinners out and wine are also exempt. (Date night is safe.)
Even with these exemptions I’ve been more mindful.
Where I can, I’ve avoided the supermarket duopoly (you know who I mean) in favour of my local independent supermarket, butcher and fruit & veg. I’m certain the big supermarket hasn’t missed me one iota. I’m just as certain that my patronage has made a difference to my local shop owners.
We’ve been growing our own vegies and have mostly bought our seedlings from a lovely lady at the local farmers market. They don’t have fancy labels or instructions or brightly coloured plastic pots. They don’t have chemicals either … she raises them organically.
For Mother’s Day I dropped big hints around a pair of dwarf lemon trees for the twin pots near my front verandah. They magically appeared.
And I haven’t ended up buying a new book yet (other than several author-signed copies at author talks/book launches, which I consider payment for experiences).
My Book Club uses multiple book sets provided by the local library and I’ve managed to pick up my other preferred titles second-hand at the market. One Sunday morning, Harper Lee was calling to me at the market and I ended up bringing home a one dollar copy of To Kill A Mockingbird with only a vague intention of re-reading it. The next morning I enrolled in an online course and discovered that To Kill A Mockingbird was the only required reading. Serendipitous.
And it’s been a lot like that, this year of buying nothing new. I’ve found if I step back and think about what I need (or want) there is usually an alternative that doesn’t require me to hand over fists full of dollars to big chain retailers for mass-manufactured items. Very often it’s about making do with what I’ve got, reinventing something to work, repairing something or finding a second-hand alternative. And it’s amazing what you find when you actually put some time into looking.
Don’t think I haven’t been tempted …
When I saw, on super-sale, the Florence Broadhurst bedlinen I’d been envy-eying at my sister’s new house.
When the weather turned wintery and my two-season old black boots were pronounced dead.
When my 12 year old lemon brocade wingback chairs succumbed to severe, uncleanable grubbiness (the professional cleaner even gave them last rites).
That’s just three of dozens.
I survived those three temptations like this:
Slapped myself to the upside of the head for my monkey-see-monkey-want mentality. My old doona cover is perfectly fine (and not so old).
Mr P secretly took my lifeless black boots to the shoemaker who revived them to live again another day. A week later I found a gorgeous, near-new, top brand pair (in black leather) in a thrift shop for $8.
I put one tired wing-backed chair on the footpath of our busy road with a “FREE TO GOOD HOME” sign. It disappeared within ten minutes. Boy Wonder claimed the other as a “reading” chair and seems oblivious to the grubbiness. Within a day I’d found a fabulous vintage recliner in a thrift shop and snapped it up for $90. The following week, Mr P phoned to say he’d seen a matching recliner in the window of another thrift shop as he cycled past on his way to work. I was there when the doors opened and picked that one up for $40.
The only times I’ve surrendered and purchased something new have been for gifts. On both occasions, I’ve headed to local independent retailers, rather than the big chain conglomerates. I’ve taken advantage of free gift-wrapping services and am putting my upcycled gift tags to good use.
At other times I’ve hand made gifts – vintage preserving jars stocked chock-full with home-baked goods, fridge magnets made from rescued vintage scrabble tiles, or stationery sets and bunting I’ve upcycled from vintage atlas pages.
Over half-way through and I’m still enjoying the challenge of stringing together a whole year of buying nothing new. It’s satisfying to know I’m contributing less to landfill and that I’m not wasting money on doodads I don’t need. I’m very much a believer in that maxim: “Stop buying stuff you don’t need with money you don’t have to impress people you don’t know, love or even like”.
Stepping off the consumer bandwagon has been fun and (dare I say it?) empowering. It feels like I’ve broken the back of what was pretty much a habit and I can’t see myself jumping back on that sleek-shiny wagon anytime soon.
Now … how many days until Christmas?