It’s a new year and one that I’m particularly excited about. I’m pledging to buy nothing new for the entire year, with a few exceptions that I’ll share below. I made the same pledge last year with some, but not complete success. I did finish the year feeling empowered and excited to recommit in 2016. Truthfully, I can’t imagine ever going back to consuming like I once did. I may not always be guided by a set of rules of what I can and cannot consume, but what I’ve learned from following the principles of a “buy nothing new” year has been life changing.
There are many reasons to take on the challenge to buy nothing new for a year, but I primarily do it to slow down my consumption. I recognize that it’s an absolute privilege that I can make a choice to buy nothing new. The majority of the world doesn’t have that choice. We’ve all heard the quote, “Live simply so others may simply live.” That’s an excellent reason to consume less. Using fewer of the earth’s resources is another good reason, but the personal benefits are enormous too. Here are the things I’ve learned (given the context of my life) from buying nothing new:
- Buying nothing new is not about deprivation, but it’s about freedom. Freedom from debt, freedom from the burden of owning too much stuff, and freedom from a culture that has us believe consumption equals happiness.
- Buying nothing new is not about going without, but it’s about getting more in life. When you’re not spending your time buying things or time caring for and maintaining all that stuff you’ve purchased, you’re freeing up time for healthy endeavors like connecting with family and nature.
- Buying nothing new isn’t a poor life, but one full of riches. It allows for experiences, rather than things; it contributes to a healthy planet, rather than depleting it of it’s beauty; and it encourages contentment, rather than the constant chase for more.
I’m allowing a few exceptions in my buy nothing new year based on my life and the experience of trying this challenge last year. Other than these exceptions, all purchases must be secondhand or used. If you’d like to participate, I strongly encourage you to make your own rules. Here are the exceptions I’m permitting in my 2016 buy nothing new year:
- Certain consumable goods, like food, household, health, and beauty supplies (i.e. toilet paper, light bulbs, cleaning supplies, shampoo, soap, etc.).
- Paint, fixtures, and supplies needed for repair, maintenance, and improvement on my home. I plan on selling my home in the near future, so I’ll be allowing for new paint and fixtures to increase my property value and prepare it for sale.
- Birthday/Christmas gifts for immediate family members. Friends and extended family will receive handmade or consumable gifts.
- Yarn and knitting needles. Knitting is a new skill that I want to continue working on. I’ll first try to source the supplies secondhand, but I will allow for new materials with the stipulation that a project must be complete before materials are purchased for the next project.
- Parts and supplies needed for repair and maintenance of items used in day to day living (i.e. car, bike, clothing, etc.).
- Necessary items for my kids, such as school supplies. I give my teenagers a quarterly clothing allowance, which allows me to stay within my boundaries but gives them the freedom to make their own choices.
You may not be ready to spend a year following these rules, but I’d encourage you to give it a try for a month. If that feels extreme, you might commit to not buying any new books or new cloths for the year or some other length of time. I’ve been moving towards simple and sustainable living for a long time, and I can assure you it doesn’t happen overnight. The important thing is starting where you can and making a change right now. Let me know in the comments below if you’ll be committing to your own version of buying nothing new. I’ll soon be sharing tips on how to be successful with a buy nothing new year, but in the meantime you may want to visit my “Buy Nothing New” Pinterest board for further inspiration. Let’s get this year off to a good start!