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