Buy Nothing New – The Conclusion but not the End.

This is my last in my series of ‘buy nothing new’ blogs, although as you will discover, it’s not the end of my ‘buying nothing new’!

12 months ago I decided to give myself the challenge of ‘buying nothing new’ to see if it was possible and if I could save on unnecessary consumption.  I wanted to de-clutter and stop adding to the growing piles of disposable ‘stuff’ that gets accumulated or thrown out every year.  Saving money was a by-product, although not the main aim.

With my wedding booked for half way through the year, it may not have seemed like the ideal time to attempt such an experiment.  As it turns out, it made the planning a more interesting and creative experience.  Although I did have to buy a few things, most were pre-owned, borrowed or made.

So, how did I get on?  For the most part I achieved my objective.  My partner, now ‘the husband’, was encouraging, but also the main culprit in tempting me to buy new things.  Not new things that weren’t required perhaps, but new things nonetheless.  On the flip side he bought a few pre-owned items, like books, which he would probably have purchased new previously.

It’s important to get family and friends on board if you are going to seriously change buying habits. You may not be able to influence their purchases, but if they can see the benefits, they may be more sympathetic to your aims.  The husband is keen to de-clutter so it’s important we don’t continue to accumulate ‘things’.  We live in a small 2-bed cottage and there is literally nowhere else to store anything.  As a ‘tech geek’ he likes to keep abreast of new ‘tech’ , and to some extent has to for his work, but this also means he likes to buy new kit too.  We have numerous laptops, pads and other ‘electronica’ kicking about the place, a lot of which isn’t getting used.  I have to say he doesn’t get a new phone or a new laptop every year, like some in his line of work, but it can still be problematic when you’re wanting to reduce consumption of resources.

I discovered that most things can be purchased pre-owned, or borrowed.  We don’t have a repair café locally, but the husband is pretty handy with electronics and has recently obtained a certificate in ‘plumbing for the householder’ which has come in very useful: a new gasket instead of a new flush for the loo, and a disassemble, clean and re-assemble of a shower part instead of throwing it away and buying a new one (which a commercial plumber would have done).  I also have an old portable radio which he’s purchased a battery for- not a customer replaceable part normally – so I can keep using it instead of buying a new one.

The thing about buying nothing new is that it encourages you to think before you make a purchase, to question if you need the item, and if you do, whether there’s an alternative to buying new.  Sometimes there isn’t.  When you need to make a purchase make sure it’s the best you can afford and has user maintainable parts if it something electrical.  We have a 14 year old bread maker and fortunately can still get a lot of parts for it.  When something recently went wrong we were able to get a 3-D printed component that wouldn’t otherwise have been available.  The bread machine lives on.

The reality is if I never bought another thing I would probably have enough ‘stuff’ to last me the rest of my lifetime – unless I happen to change size drastically – although I do draw the line at underwear!

We are bombarded with messages that we need to buy things on a daily basis.  We don’t.  We need food and consumables and sometimes household items, clothes and shoes – although I suspect the majority of us have enough.  We need less stuff, not more.  We need to take a leaf out of the Swedes book and celebrate the art of ‘Lagom’- having enough.  Most of us have more than ‘sufficient’ and spend time and effort dealing with the clutter that we could better spend doing other things.  It’s not simply about purchases, but an attitude of mind which encourages gratitude and simplicity.  I certainly haven’t learnt this lesson, but I have something to aim at.

The hardest thing about last year for me was not buying new books.  I have lots of author friends who published books and I was desperate to read them.  I didn’t want to borrow the books, or try and find pre-owned copies as the author doesn’t get the revenues for their hard work, so instead I’ve practiced patience for a change.  I bought books as presents at Christmas and now we’re into 2018 will allow myself to buy the books I couldn’t last year.  It’s a concession.  I do buy second hand books, and I do use the library, but neither is going to satisfy my voracious book appetite.  So sue me.

Apart from books, this year will be more of the same.  I found out a lot about my buying habits and about myself and the experiment has become a habit.  Hopefully a good one.

This year I am aiming to reduce plastic in my life: disposable single use plastic, plastic packaging and plastic goods in general.  Wish me luck!

My Cheating Heart -The Third in my Mini Blog Series on ‘Buying Nothing New’

I’m about to make a confession, although not that I’ve taken up Country Music!  When I decided in January that I wasn’t going to buy anything new this year, I didn’t kid myself it would be easy.  I did however believe that I would manage without too much trouble, after all I’m not a shopaholic, I mean I don’t even live close to any shops. It turns out my view was naïve to say the least.

Take birthdays.  I hadn’t thought about them.  Whilst I might be happy not to have a new gift for my birthday, my family and friends might not feel the same.  Is it fair to make them abide by my ‘nothing new’ rules?  Generally I make things for my parents; they’re at an age where they don’t want anything new and always tell my sister and I not to bother with presents.  We do of course, but usually something comestible: cake, sweets, chocolates, or meals out.  What about cards though?  I’m happy to make cards, and most people are happy to receive a handmade creation.  Most people, except my dad, who sees them as a sign of ‘cheapness’.  My partners mother was a bit like that too when she was alive, as if spending time making something didn’t show you cared as much as buying a mass-produced card-confection.  Perhaps they’re not the only ones.

As you know if you’ve been following me, I’ve already excluded the wedding, and now it seems my heart, or my brain, is trying to bargain more exclusions. I’m planning to start swimming again after an absence for health reasons.  My costume is wearing thin and decency demands I get a replacement.  Making one is not within my skill set, so my only option is to buy one.  The idea of buying a second hand one didn’t do much for me, but the idea of breaking my ‘vow’ seemed a lot worse.  So, eventually I packed up my pride and bought a second hand costume. I mean we all have washing machines right?  I was pleasantly surprised.

So, anyway, you can see my tricksy heart is looking for ways to circumvent my good intentions. I’m onwards into month 4.  Any suggestions gratefully received.

 

A month of un-doing

hppy-shopperSo I’m a month in, give or take a day or two and you want to know how it’s going, this ‘not buying anything’ thing, don’t you?  OK, so maybe it wasn’t top of your need to know list for today, but it’s risen to the top of my need to ‘fess list.  I could say it’s going really well.  It wouldn’t be a lie, maybe just not the whole truth.

Since the start of the year I’ve been stuck in bed a few days between colds and migraines, and I’ve only managed to get to anywhere with shops a few times. My shopping opportunities have been limited.  My resources are limited too because I’m not earning any money at the moment: automatic BIG restriction.  It’s like giving up chocolate for Lent when you don’t even like it – not much of a sacrifice.  The thing is, deciding not to buy anything new has made me more aware of how much I actually buy, full stop.  My plastic gets hit routinely, not for anything superfluous or extravagant, simply ‘everyday stuff’: the groceries, the toiletries, the consumables, those odd bits and pieces which you actually ‘need’. I ran out of parcel tape and genuinely couldn’t think of how else to get packages wrapped and sent.  Perhaps I lack imagination, but I’m probably like lots of other people, trying to do the best they can; caring and failing.

I avoided the sales.  Anyone who sent me discount emails and tried to convince me that I really needed new clothes or kitchenware or books, or whatever, has been solemnly unsubscribed from.  Despite the bombardment, I did not succumb.  It’s amazing how much of an offensive there actually is to prise our hard-earned cash from us.

I suppose a lot of us are immune by now, but why subject yourself to such attacks on your good intentions.  As everyone who is addicted to something knows, you need to remove yourself from the environment where you’re likely to encounter temptation, and whilst that might not be wholly possible 100% of the time it is do-able a lot of the time.

I’ve not been able to avoid being on line.  It’s where I hang out with people.  It’s where I engage when I’m stuck in my ‘remote and isolated hamlet’.  So I run the gauntlet of Facebook advertising and pop-ups and articles that pretend to be news, but are actually trying to sell you something.  I’m relatively savvy, although not entirely immune. We were going to make our own favours for the wedding.  Really.  It was all planned.  And then a sneaky little link came from I-know-not-where and hooked me.  So now we’ve bought our favours instead.  It’s all very kosher – a donation to a charity we believe in, a gift that can do good from the purchaser to the recipient – but still unplanned, and in many ways unnecessary. (If you think I’m being obscure here, you’re right. I don’t want any guests to know what we’re planning!)  I’m not beating myself up.  We have a budget for the wedding and I’m not including it in my ‘buy nothing new’ challenge as I don’t need any additional headaches.  As I’ve said before, lots of things are being done by friends and many would-be purchases have been avoided by borrowing, buying second-hand and making.  My point is that I’ve purchased something I didn’t have to.  Nice as it is, beneficial as it may be, it was something I didn’t need to buy.  And that’s how it happens I suppose.  We know what advertisers are like and we brush them off with a laugh, but then something good and worthy and in-line with our values pops up and we’re suckered in.

No, I’m not being overly hard on myself, but neither am I patting myself on the back.  I could definitely ‘do better’.  I might not ‘technically’ be buying anything new – the book I needed for my course was definitely second-hand – but I still have a ‘buying stuff’ wire in my head somewhere that won’t unplug.  I didn’t think this challenge would be easy, a walk-in-the-park of challenges, but I didn’t expect it to tax me greatly, given my disposition and ethics.  Taxing me is exactly what it is doing, however, as I’m thinking more about things, questioning motive, need, intent; questioning myself. I suppose that’s a good thing.  I’ve re-read my original blog, which outlined the whys and wherefores of this challenge and even after a month I think it sounds rather sanctimonious.  That’s life I suppose.  We do literally live and learn.

I’m sure there will be lots more insights over the next 11 months and I will endeavour to share some of them without being censorious or smug.  I probably don’t do ‘humble’ but I’m aiming for ‘real’ at the very least.

Feel free to comment and share your own travels in un-shopping.

The Year of Nothing New

shopping

I’ve never been especially acquisitive or materialistic.  Even as a child I would draw, paint, read, make things out of cardboard and play games rather than buy whatever was the latest craze. As an adult, I’ve espoused the same values, so you would expect my home to be minimalist.  No.  It is burgeoning at the seams with ‘stuff’.

A combination of wanting to de-clutter, and not wanting to contribute, any more than is necessary, to the consumption of the world’s precious and decreasing resources, has led me to this decision: one year, nothing new.

There are caveats.  I’m getting married in June, and whilst it won’t be a hedonistic spend-fest  (most things are being made or borrowed) it is beyond my capabilities to organise an entire wedding without buying anything new. I’ve saved myself the stress and taken the easy option –the wedding is excluded.  Think of me what you will.

I have plenty of old and second hand goods in my home.  In over 35 years of independent living, it is only in the last 12 months that I’ve purchased a new dining set – in a sale last January – for practical reasons.  I feel no guilt for my lovely ethically sourced wooden dining chairs and table.

If you think with such a solid starting point the next 12 months will be easy, you’d be wrong!  For a start I’m an avid reader, and therefore book buyer. I’ve more or less exhausted my local library and their supply of new books is limited.  Sorry author friends, your sequels and new works will not be on my buying list this year – and it grieves me greatly.  Depending on how this year pans out, I may allow myself a limited number of book purchases next year, but first I need to curb my book buying habit!

Shoes are another problem area for me. I’m no Imelda Marcos, but I do have a minor shoe obsession, which is ironic considering I have to wear orthotics and am unable to wear heels or slip-ons!  Second hand shoes are not an option for me. In practice this means that if I see a pair of shoes I like – and can wear – I generally buy them under the guise of ‘practicality’.  This is really a thinly veiled shoe fetish.  So, this year, no new shoes (thankfully I already have my wedding shoes!)

My self-imposed moratorium will not change the world, but I’m hoping it will change me; give me enough space to examine what I buy and why, and whether there are alternatives to the things I do need to buy.

The majority of the things I do own are researched, and bought to last.  Sadly few products are made to be repaired these days, but I’m fortunate to have a fiancé who is happy to roll up his sleeves and get stuck into fixing most things.  The Swedish Government have drawn up plans that will see VAT reduced on repairs, and a new tax break introduced for the people who conduct more expensive repairs on items such as washing machines and dishwashers.  This is a direction I hope we can all head in rather than perpetuate such a disposable society.  This also necessitates building quality products that last and can be repaired, rather than having a built in redundancy.

With burgeoning amounts of waste and increasing possibilities for recycling, we also need to look seriously at using recycled materials in preference to virgin resources, and as consumers being prepared to buy recycled goods.  Legislation is sorely needed.  Our friends the Swedes are also beginning to tackle this, by introducing a “chemicals tax” on white goods and computers, which is designed to recoup costs for items that are difficult to recycle.  Until our Governments catch up, we as consumers need to be the vanguard.

I’m looking forward to the challenge of the next 12 months and hope that you will share my journey with me as I blog about it.

 

 

 

 

 

Independent Article on Swedish Government repairs legislation

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/sweden-repairs-tax-waste-reduction-plan-a7318131.html