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!

Second-Hand-Jane

It has a dowdy second best ring to it, doesn’t it? When I was younger – much younger – it really was ruinous to street credibility to admit you’d crossed the threshold of an Oxfam shop, never mind done any shopping in one! When I was in my ‘black phase’ I found a very nice trilby and waistcoat in my local Oxfam shop that became part of my look for ages!

Today I have, and wear, apparel that is 30 years old, and am proud to shout it. I’m lucky, I’ve barely changed size in all that time – a genetic and metabolic quirk rather than a boast – and can get away with it. As fashions come and go I plod along mixing and matching dubious styles from the eighties with more recent acquisitions.

I was delighted to find recently a colleague with similar trending notions. On admiring a bold orange print top, I was told it was a dress from the 60’s which had been modified. Go Clare! Unfortunately I don’t have the requisite skills to re-model dresses, but I’m pleased to say there are an increasing number of people out there who do. Oxfam now have their own Vintage brand, breathing new life into faded denim and vintage lace.

Indeed, ‘vintage’ and ‘shabby chic’ whilst not quite de rigueur, have acquired a far more desirable image than the ubiquitous ‘second-hand’ clothes. It’s great seeing the ‘ reduce, reuse, recycle’ theme applied to something both more basic and desirable than recycled glass bottles that no one quite knows know what to do with. All power to the new breed of eco-warriors and second-hand-Jane’s – those old style thrifties like me.

Antiques, paintings, houses, classic cars, they all increase their worth with the patina of age, and it’s certainly time that fashion came of age and was more a matter for individuals and less a product of the high-street factory.

The outdoor brand Patagonia are reclaiming and reusing old polar fleece, and local people like Rag Tag and Textiles and Highland Fairy are up-cycling out of vogue clothes into original creations. Making your mark with your own style may be easier than you think and certainly has a huge impact on global resources and the people who have little choice about what clothes they wear.

Photo credit http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2000