Recently my friend and colleague Lizzie told me that after reading our blog she was thinking about taking on a buy nothing new challenge of her own. She asked me for my top five tips for starting a journey such as ours. I told her it might take me a day or two to compile a top five, but when I pressed, this is what I came up with. I feel like this top five is the kind of list that would be completely different for every person undertaking the challenge – how it is done varies so much from person to person. I often find my passion for this project again when talking to someone new about it. So to celebrate that burst of renewed buy nothing energy for 2015, here is the Fearsian “Lizzie List”: top five (read: ten) tips for buying nothing new for a year.
1. Know your limits. Make your own rules. You can read ours here.
2. Stop going to the shops.
3: Stock up on stuff used to repair things. We used heaps of glue, electrical tape, packing tape, sticky tape, gaffa tape, nails, fabric etc. Alternatively, make this an exception. If you are going to avoid buying new things you will need to repair your old things when they break down. This is all a part of the overall philosophy. If repairing stuff becomes hard you’ll be more inclined to try and find second hand replacements, which still leaves you with the issue of ethically discarding the original. Repair, repair, remodel, redesign, repair!
4: Build up your resources. Join your local buy/swap/sell groups, join Freecycle, join your local Buy Nothing group (or start your own – I highly recommend this), lose any shame you have in asking people for their unused or unwanted goods. Interestingly this is one of the biggest criticisms I’ve read of people doing challenges like us – that they are leaning on others to resource them when they are unable to purchase something new. I find this a really narrow view point of how we work as a society and I like to think that we can be much more generous and connected to each other if we stop putting a force field over our stuff and start seeing them as resources to be shared and used, rather than symbols of who we are and what status we have in society.
5: Delay gratification. When you think you need something, put off buying it (second hand, of course), for at least a week. Nine times out of ten you find you no longer need or want it. Find a second use for all the stuff you already have and you’ll probably discover that broken / missing item is unnecessary anyway.
6: (Because all top 5s should have a 6??) Really look at what you have. Pare back – use this as an opportunity to get rid of all the excess stuff in your life that you don’t need. Find the best new home for stuff, not just any new home.
7: If you buy new, buy the best. I’m not talking the most expensive here (though sometimes it’s the case). Find it made locally, or artist designed, or super durable, or ethically sourced, or buy it from a charity. Find a way to buy stuff that also helps another individual, not just a corporation.
(Ok…it’s going to be ten.)
8: Don’t beat yourself up. If you buy something new, or you find you have to, learn from the situation. Last week we bought a new litter tray for our kitten because we were disorganised and didn’t seek out one second hand early enough. Shit happens.
9: Enjoy what you have. Stop bemoaning what you don’t have. Having that stuff won’t make you complete. There will always be other stuff you don’t have.
10: Be open and tell others what you’re doing. It helps explain why gifts might be a little different for now on, or that you can’t go shopping with mates any more. It also helps keep you accountable. Allow others to have an opinion about your philosophy (you can’t prevent it!) but don’t let people bully you. You make your own rules. Make your life your own.
I hope that Lizzie will take up the challenge. If she blogs about it, I’ll let you know.