The book “A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy” came into my hands at just the right time. The author tells a story through words and art of her year of painting, rather than buying, the things she coveted. There’s much wisdom and humor on consumerism and living with less to be gleaned from these pages. I had been feeling worn out by my own self-imposed restriction of buying nothing new this year and this book picked me up, made me laugh, and renewed my dedication to opting-out of consumerism.
I haven’t been completely successful in my pledge, but I wasn’t ever going for perfection. From the start I wanted to be aware and thoughtful of my buying habits and learn more about the affects buying stuff had on me and the world. For the most part I’ve been pretty good at saying “no” to new stuff, but there have been purchases that fall outside of my list of exceptions. In case you’re curious, here’s my list:
- a pair of reading glasses
- Montana and Wyoming road atlases gifted to my husband for Father’s Day
- an iron to replace a broken one
- 3 pairs of socks, a swim diaper, and a Klean Kanteen water bottle for my toddler
- dorm and college supplies for my daughter, which I can’t even begin to itemize (in hindsight I would have handled this differently)
- some undergarments
- two shower curtains to replace dingy and torn curtains
There may be a few items I’m forgetting, but outside of the dorm/college stuff, the purchases of new things (and used for that matter) have been limited. No doubt I could have sourced most of these items used, or gone without, but admittedly I don’t always have the time, energy or discipline to go that route. I’ve learned a lot this year and wanted to share some of my reflections on buying nothing new.
It takes time to source things used. Con: I sometimes lack the energy to go on the hunt. Pro: This allows a pause in consumption that often results in the realization that the coveted item is really not needed or wanted.
Often the used item isn’t the quality or aesthetic I’m seeking. Con: I often have to settle and sometimes I don’t love what I get. Pro: I’ve come to actually prefer imperfections in objects. A patina tells a story.
The cost of used things are WAY cheaper. Con: It sometimes means I bring home more stuff than really necessary because it’s so cheap. It also makes it easy to throw the item back in the “waste stream” if I’m not in love. Pro: I generally don’t have the same attachment to used items, which makes it easy to declutter. The savings are substantial.
Going without is really the best choice. Con: Opting-out of consumerism is not widely supported and requires (for me) self-imposed rules to stay committed. Pro: Given enough time, which most often isn’t long, I’ve found that the “pretty things” I don’t buy are quickly forgotten about and not really needed.
If you’re interested in reading more about my year of buying nothing new, go here, here, here, here, here and here. If you’re looking for further inspiration, check out my buy nothing new or simple living Pinterest boards and read “A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy.” The benefits of opting-out have surprised me – they might surprise you too.