Wednesday, October 27, 2010

22 Things That Helped Me Not Buy Anything New All Year

Some of this list is about being inspired, some of it is about finding joy and pleasure in things other than shopping.  Some of it is about TCB (Taking Care of Business), taking care of myself, and some of it was simply funny and/or practical.  Here goes:

1. Being inspired by Trina.  My friend Trina, who lives back in Newfoundland, did this challenge last year.  Every few months when we visited, I found myself wanting to hear more and get an update.  I got a growing sense that this was something that I really wanted for myself this year.  For a lot of reasons.  That may warrant a post all its own, but in a nutshell: to jump off the consumption bandwagon, to be a little kinder to the earth, and to get a grip on my finances were some of my more compelling reasons.

2. Clutter Busting by Brooks Palmer.  Both his book and his blog have helped me to cut the crap (or a lot of it anyway) so to speak out of my life.  And by crap, I mean the stuff I don't need or use anymore that is hanging around taking up valuable real estate in my home.  He is funny and real and I get a lot out of re-reading from time to time.  It makes me less likely to buy things to bring into my home and much more eager and willing to 'let things go'.  So liberating.  Our home is much more lovely and clear thanks to his tutelage.

3. Not Buying it by Judith Levine.  This book was lent to me by the lovely and talented Bougie who just released a new CD with a little help from her friends.  It started me on a trend of borrowing and sharing books from libraries and people that fit well with a No New Stuff year.  It also described Judith and her partner's VERY disciplined year of not buying anything new.  She is already a professional author, so she wrote and researched well on the topic.  They took it much farther than me.  For example, she and her partner both committed to it, and they made it so strict that in addition to not buying anything new, they bought nothing 'non-essential'.  This meant they only went to free entertainment, and only bought basic ingredients for meals (no prepared food or fancy stuff).  Her descriptions of coping with and overcoming boredom really struck a cord.  We often spend money because we are bored.  What a lack of imagination!  Shame on us.  We can do better than that.  For my year, I allowed myself 'experiences', so good food and going out to a show were not off the menu.

4. Consumption Rebellion This blog with a tag line 'consuming without exploiting' and 'joyful consumption' helped me to consider some of the broader issues around consumption in my own life and how I fit into these categories.  I like her way of expressing herself and not being holier than thou.  It is about making conscious choices about how to consume and then when we do consume, doing it with gusto and joy.  Joylessly eating fast food in a rush does NOT fit into this kind of life, nor does buying a lot of disposable crud we don't really like or need.  She also got me started on my initial 'No Spend Week' - more on that later...

5. No Spend Week Thanks again to Consumption Rebellion for this great idea.  A full 7 days of not spending any money (other than automatic bill payments that come out of your account) makes you plan ahead, organize yourself and helps to clarify needs versus wants.  I definitely saved money that week, forced myself to be creative, and also noticed where my bored cravings cropped up.  I hadn't been shopping for stuff, but am guilty as the next person of spending joylessly when a bit bored for a fizzy drink or treat etc.  This week I also cleverly got myself invited to people's houses for food and drinks that I hadn't had the foresight or cash to stock up on (i.e.: salmon and wine at my twin's).  I even got creative about how to do a wedding shower gift.  I got a card in the mail with a little cash prior to the week's start date, and showed up with a re-gift joke gift that got a good laugh.  I plan to do another No Spend Week in November to coincide with Buy Nothing Day (Nov.26), and am hoping some readers will join me!  Stay tuned for more details.

6. How to Be Free by Tom Hodgekinson.  This book was lent to me by the funny and gifted Stella.  She actually told me I could keep it.  That's a good thing because I've marked up a lot.  I love to mark up books.  It makes me feel like I'm absorbing the content better.  She warned me it was funny, but maybe not that practical.  I feel like it was more practical than she led me to believe, but seriously funny.  He is pretty adamant about his manifesto of not buying into the whole consumer culture/big business/government restrictions AND the god given right to enjoy good company, music, food, and drink with impunity.  He talks a lot about returning to basics and simplifying your life and how automation/specialization has made many jobs so uni-dimensional there is no joy in them (versus the natural variety life once held i.e.: taking care of home and growing, and cooking etc. held much satisfaction and pleasure).  He is hilarious and spot on, and reminded me of simple things like to get out of the mindset of being a consumer, I need to make more things, whether it is art, practical, growing stuff, etc.  I need to be more connected to things with my hands.  Crafts and writing have been how this has played out for me.  Also, sitting on the cover on a upside down shopping cart playing a ukulele, he cut a much different figure of an anarchist than I was used to (my only reference being the Sex Pistols song).  Finally, there is a long list of interesting resources in the book.

7. Accountability - Everyone Knows.  It has been helpful to have people know I'm doing this since I would feel a bit funny if I gave up on it now.  Also, this is kind of funny, but in some settings I actually have FORGOTTEN that I'm not buying anything new.  Honestly.  It's happened twice on vacation when I've gone to buy a souvenir for my wife or something and been stopped by my Aunt saying, 'Tara, aren't you not buying anything new?'  And it's not even as if I was cheating, it is just something about being transported out of my everyday environment, I suppose.

8. Avoiding the Malls.  It really helps to stop seeing all the things you can't have.  It stops with cravings, jealousy, feeling deprived, etc.  Going to a mall, much like watching TV, or reading a magazine, or driving by any kind of urban area has basically become a nonstop sensory onslaught of being advertised to.  If you don't see it, you are less likely to want it.  I also found that by avoiding the malls I was less snobby and more appreciative about the wares on offer at Value Village and other used options.

9. The Joy of Not Working.  I've mentioned this book a few times lately.  My mother has a copy and I plan to finish reading it when I visit her at Christmas.  It reminded me of some important values of mine, like a balance of work and play and self-care being vital to my well being.  It also reminded me how lopsided and unbalanced I was getting.  Since reading it a few weeks ago I have made inroads and ongoing efforts and outreach attempts in my non-passive leisure.  It cautions us not to wait to do meaningful leisure until we are retired or have time for it.  We need to do it now.  It will rejuvenate us, and if we wait till we have time, we won't remember how to do it.  This will be particularly important to me as I head into 'semi-retirement' next year (aka going down to only one full time job!).

10. Beg, Borrow, but Don't Steal.  Stealing is wrong.  But begging and borrowing are great fun once you get used to them.  I've been the grateful recipient of the kindness of both strangers and friends this year, and they might not have gotten the pleasure of helping me out if I'd just gone shopping for my own new thing.  My twin has been particularly useful in this.  To date (an incomplete list of takes from her include pillows, clothing, books, a kettle...)

11. Clothing Swaps.  I only went to one clothing swap before this year of nothing new.  Now I have my eyes peeled for them.  I really like that it means perfectly good things are not wasted and that something I no longer use gets a new life as just the ticket for someone else.  It's a great community building event and keeps stuff out of the junk heap and in circulation longer.

12.  Gifts - Receiving them, and Making them.  Having kept open the possibility of receiving gifts has meant a couple of treats this year I could not have had otherwise.  Thanks to my sister, momma, stepmomma, and momma-in-law in particular.  Also, I've gotten more thoughtful and creative about making gifts.  But, I could get even better at it. 

13. Having Specific Financial Goals.  Let's face it, this isn't all altruistic and environmental.  There is a pecuniary upside to not buying anything new for a year.  I've saved a lot of money and channelled it directly into goals of ours.  We've paid down student loan debt, consumer debt, and our mortgage.  We've maximized our RRSPs (retirement savings) and started a cottage fund, and a rainy day fund.  We are working very hard to live a life within our means.  We have just cut Rogers GIANT cable bill out of our lives and are awaiting the axe of our 2 billion channels any day now.  I like to think of us as a work in progress. We are getting there.  I also find that re-reading a couple of financial books from time to time helps keep me focused (i.e.: Smart Couples Finish Rich by David Bach).

14. Shrinking things in the Dryer So they Fit My Short Legs.  This is a sore spot joke.  I shrunk a couple of my much taller wife's pants early on in my year of not buying anything new.  She started to think it might be a ploy to shop from her tall girl pants.  We made up since it was an accident, but nonetheless, more pants for me!

15. Squalkfox Blog.  Her blog is great.  'Where frugal living is sexy, delicious, and fun'.  Case in point, the sexy batch of frugal baked beans I made from her recipes section.  But she also does some great straight talking about money related stuff, and I mentioned before her article (see link) on 'The real reason you're broke'.  She paid off her big student loan in 6 months by, get this, continuing to live like a student.  So simple and yet, so amazing.

16. Stitch & Bitch Nights.  Obviously, since I'm trying so hard not to complain, these are all about the stitch for me.  Ha. My friend Sarah I. invited me to my first one a few years ago and I was so delighted to see so many cool, tattooed girls knitting and sewing.  It has helped me get more creative, socialize, and also to mend and fix things that might have gone on the dung heap a while back.  Keeps things in circulation longer, saves me money, and brings a serious heaping of joy and fun into my life.  It also ended up being a cool way to bond with my grandmothers, getting back into knitting. Thanks Sarah.  Also, thanks to all the sisters (Sarah's and my twin, and Giselle, for being the heart, soul, and funnybone of S & B).

17. The Happiness Project Book and BlogGretchen Rubin has a great, fun, useful blog (and book) with lots of helpful hints, tools and reminders about ways to increase our happiness.  The theme this months is friends and the latest tip was 'show up'.  I was delighted with myself for doing that a couple of weeks ago with a reunion to London that had been long postponed.  It was great.  And, interestingly, she says there is evidence that we are more drawn and attracted to people we see frequently.  So keep showing up and you'll be more liked.  When you're not shopping, you have more time to devote to things like happiness.

18. Upcycling My Favourite Jeans.  Turning my favourite jeans into my favourite skirt was a great motivator.  I have to thank my wife for insisting I stop wearing the jeans, and our friend, Julie for patiently doing most of the work on them at a quiet stitch and bitch night.  They are perfect with everything and I lover them dearly.  They also taught me to use my sewing machine again and to remake things into other things when they are no longer serving me as they are.

19. Value Village 50% Off Sales.  I've been giving a lot of credit to the village lately.  But they are kind of the department store of thrift and I do find it ++ helpful to be able to go straight to a rack with my size and start sifting.  I've also blogged about various trips to the village with my mom, here, here, and here.  It has helped me with updating wardrobe, dressy enough clothes for work, and with keeping things in the cycle of use and out of the dung heap.

20. Writing My Own Blog Regularly. This has given structure to a year long goal that is about NOT doing something.  It has also been a lot of fun to learn a completely new skill and to check out a whole world of information and like minded, or thought provoking other people's blogs.  I have found myself happiest when I am regularly blogging, and it's funny but it's easier to blog daily once you get into the swing of it.  It is also easy to get out of the swing of it, so thanks for people who have been encouraging.  A shout out to Tena, who prods me with friendly reminders if I slack off.  It helps a lot to know someone is reading it.

21.  This is the website of the couple that did this a couple of years ago and inspired my friend Trina, who in turn inspired me.  So, I must tip my hat to them.  They also did the challenge with kids, so harder than for me.

22.  If you haven't seen this amazing 20 or so minute video, take the time to do it.  It really, truly speaks to why it is a good idea to stop buying so much new stuff.  It looks in a realistic, accessible, and even optimistic way at the current cycle of production and how much room for improvement there is.  It literally showed me that I needed to get off the treadmill of work (feel tired), watch tv (see commercial/feel dissatisfied)go to mall/shop/work (feel tired)....repeat. 

So there you have it, my list so far.  I've got 65 days to go to make it to a year.  I'm also working on feeling generally more satisfied by doing things that give me pleasure as opposed to buying things that give me pleasure.  One I can't remember if I mentioned is I hauled out my old novel from Na No Wri Mo (2006) and it is making me laugh out loud.  Such a pleasure to be cracking myself up!

xo Tara


Unknown said...

I think your best blog entry yet!and not because you said I'm gifted:)
I have learned so much from following your journey. Great job Tara!

No New is Good News said...

ha, ha, thanks, Stella! You are also 'gifting' :)

Debbie Bennett Bisbee said...

Tara! I love this. So glad I actually took the time to visit facebook today. I am rarely here. Anyways I think along the same lines . I bought The Happiness Project this summer and liked it. There was another book you might like called Your Money or your Time that I read a long time ago. Saw a documentary about a New York couple who went without consuming anyhting for a year including electricity and biked to work etc.
Good luck with it.

No New is Good News said...

Debbie! how lovely to hear from you! thanks, I'll look up those things too. It's always nice to get more ideas and inspiration. xo Tara

Anonymous said...

Great Post! So much great info! I'm buying it! :)
Also, I wanted to thank you for your post on the nanowrimo over on the happiness project blog. it really encouraged me.