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!

A Day Out at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

The Edinburgh International Book Festival is a lively and eclectic mix of books and people.  All sorts of people; all sorts of books.  I was fortunate to be able to attend for the first time this year and I hope it will be the first of many attendances.  I could have easily spent three days in the bookshop, quite apart from the events.

Taking the early train from Inverness was a price worth paying for something that delivers on both quality and content.  The breadth of the programme is truly staggering: politicians, sports personalities and current affairs ‘celebs’ rub shoulders with crime writers, poets, historians and up-and –coming writers of all genres.  I attended on the Thursday as a talented author friend had been selected by the ‘Story Shop’ to read her story that particular day.  Part of Edinburgh City of Literature programme, it gives the opportunity for emerging local writers to showcase their talent.  My event participation was limited by the time available around that event and the train timetable, so I chose Elizabeth Reeder’s workshop exploring Jenny Diski’s creative memoir ‘Skating to Antarctica’, and Alys Conran and Ursula Kovalyk’s ‘Teen Dreams are Made of This’ which discussed their respective coming of age novels.  Both events were lively and inspiring adding plenty to my reading list and plenty of food for thought.

I live in what is designated a ‘remote and rural hamlet’ and would never want to change that by moving to the city, but I must admit to a touch of ‘Edinburgh Envy’ for my friends who live in the city and can spend days, rather than hours, at the book festival!  I would have loved to hear  Carol Ann Duffy, Teju Cole, Nikesh Shukla, and so many more poets, novelists and playwrights enthusing about their work, their inspiration, and the important subjects they deal with through it.  Instead, I contented myself with the sessions I’d chosen, hearing my friend read her excellent story, browsing the bookshops and people watching.  There were the usual suspects – ‘when I used to smoke pot with Ian Rankin….’, ‘when I last spoke to Nicola (Sturgeon)…’- and the extraordinary ordinary people: writers, readers, teachers, poets, lovers, workers, dreamers – enjoying a literary day out, just like me.  I was also pleased to see hordes of school children, who I hope will be inspired to a life-long love of books, if they’ve not already got the bug.  Like I said, all sorts of people, all sorts of books.  A truly international affair based on a love of books rather than on the cult of personality.

The date’s in my diary for next year.  Go if you can.