At the beginning of the year I made a series of resolutions. One of the more challenging ones was to refrain from buying anything new for the first three months of the year. I was sick of being a mindless consumer, buying whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, from where ever in the world I wanted. Instead, I wanted to stop to consider the resources that passed through my hands. I wanted to see if I could do without, make stuff, purchase used items instead. I wanted to abandon the image of myself as “consumer” and replace it with “citizen”.
My exceptions were as follows:
- Toilet paper
- Items to make my own homemade cleaners, cosmetics and soaps
- Things for gardening/composting
- Fabric and notions to make some homemade clothes for my kids
- Used items
So now that today is officially the last day of the three months – how did I do? What did I end up buying? I am here to confess to some cheats and some insights in breaking free from shop-mode.
Here is a list of items I did buy over the last 90 days:
- 2 handmade bars of soap from the Farmer’s Market
- 1 small jar of handmade face cream from the Farmer’s Market
- 1 two-inch bottle of handmade hemp conditioner from… yes, the Farmer’s Market
- Dishwasher detergent – only after trying to make my own with great disastrous results
- Liquid dish soup – only after trying to make my own with somewhat disastrous results
- Flour sifter – to sift the bran from my stone-ground local flour so that I could make a lighter loaf of bread, and also – local bran muffins!
- Candy thermometer – to use when canning, as I am planning to preserve lots of food this summer/fall
- Birthday presents – for two birthday parties my 5 year-old son attended (although I gave my 1 year-old niece a previously loved toy my kids had when they were babies – I think she liked it!)
- Handmade necklace and bracelet from the Farmer’s Market for my mother-in-law for her birthday (I got her 3 used hardcover books as well).
- Rubber boots for my kids – after I had checked out 2 stores for used pairs, I bought ones that were phthalate-free and made in Canada, which is not easy to find! The snow melt is finally on, and there are massive puddles everywhere.
- Tylenol – we ran out and I had a horrible headache one day
- 4 recycled plastic large bins – for storing items in the garage that were previously stored in cardboard boxes in the storage room downstairs. That stuff cannot reside in their existing cardboard boxes as our garage can flood. I am clearing out the storage room to make way for a new shelving unit for… homemade canned goods!
- Emergency supply kit – this is a whole other blog post
- Digital SLR camera – I lost my camera and spent the whole next day calling around and retracing my steps trying to find it. Frustrated, I threw up my hands and decided to buy a camera I plan to have for a really long time. I did not however, purchase a camera case. I did however, purchase a used men’s jacket, from which I plan to sew, and craft into, a custom-made camera case. By the way, I know how weird this sounds. But the camera case for the camera was over $100! The men’s jacket was $7! Besides, it will be much more interesting. Until it is made, my camera is bound to the confines of my house.
That is it. I feel a bit guilty about the 4 (recycled) plastic bins. Who knew a year ago, that I would be sitting here writing this, feeling guilty about buying 4 plastic bins. Under normal circumstances I would feel happy and proud of myself, for taking the initiative to actually organize and clean out the storage room and garage in the same project. Look at me! Cleaning the garage! Now I feel like – look at me! I just bought 4 big ol’ plastic bins when I forgo buying regular bread since I don’t want to waste a little bread bag! It is nonsense, I know. However, there are situations, when a plastic bin does make sense. Like when things are going in the garage, where they could become wet and ruined if they were left in any other type of container – cardboard, wicker basket – these just will not work. Even a homemade wooden box from sustainable timber that I cut down myself using a previously used axe, would not work. Plastic has some uses. For example, I like my plastic laptop. For the most part though, I try to avoid plastic whenever I can. If you really look, plastic is everywhere. So if a non-plastic alternative exists I will normally take it. Despite these justifications, I still have lingering guilt.
The other big glaring item on the list is the camera. Nothing new, and I buy a camera… I justified it as something I was not willing to sacrifice, as it is important to document my children growing up, and also – I need to be able to take pictures for you, dear reader, for this here blog.
Note that I did not buy shampoo. Digging through my bathroom cupboard, I found a stockpile of a brand I don’t really like. Oh well, it is finally getting used up. Eventually I want to learn how to make my own soap, and then by extension, my own liquid soaps, such as dish soap, hand soap and shampoo. I am going to defer this project until next fall, as I feel like I am going to be pretty busy with the whole big new garden plan and all.
The other thing I did not purchase – any clothes or shoes for me, even used. I bought used clothes for my kids and found some really cute stuff. Kids grow and they need bigger clothes, you just cannot get around that. However, I am also getting some hand me downs from friends and my sister, and that helps too.
So what did I learn? I learned that I don’t have to shop for something to do. Have you ever been in a long line up at the till, waiting and waiting to pay, squinting under the fluorescent lights, feeling the energy and life slowly drain out of you, bored, restless and annoyed? Why am I standing here? I did not miss those moments. How about when you get home with all your bags, and the kids are restless and jumpy and loud, and it is well past the time you were supposed to get supper on, so the bags get left by the door in a heap, and at the end of the day after everyone is in bed, you trip over them again, and realize that you have the additional job of taking everything out of the bag, clipping off all the tags, peeling off all the stickers, taking stuff out of the packages, and then putting it all away, into your already full house? I never liked the putting away part. The best part of shopping is the finding, the discovery. After that, it just seems to go downhill.
So what will I do now? I have thought a lot about it, and have decided that I am going to sign up for another three months of Nothing New! I will report any exceptions here at the end of June.
It actually was not that bad, it was liberating really, and I learned quite a few things along the way. I think I also saved about $1,000!
Before I begin though, I think I might buy myself some of those made in Canada rubber boots, to play around in the puddles with my kids, and later, to play around in my future garden. Other than that, my original exceptions will apply, with the addition of shampoo, dishwasher soap and liquid dish soap.
So who is with me? What would your rules be?