A client of mine in her late 20’s showed up for her session half a year ago and said she planned to begin a year of buying nothing. Excluding food and seeds for her garden, she planned to go for an entire year without buying anything. No clothes, no tools, no appliances, no books, no iTunes. If her clothes started to wear out, she’d patch and/or repair them. If she needed a tool, she’d borrow it (from a neighbor or a friend or from the Tool Library). She’d repair the appliances, use the library, and do without new music on her iPod (actually, I don’t think she even owns an iPod).
I was inspired, and now Garth and I are toying with a similar idea – kind of, Buy Nothing, Lite. We plan, for six months, to try and buy Nothing New. We have some exclusions to that goal. Food, of course, is icky if previously used. I also want to be able to get my kids new shoes, and if we can’t find a needed used jacket or the like in our kids’ sizes, we’d like to be able to get it new. Besides that, nothing new is the goal.
Yesterday, I realized that what appeals to me about this idea is the way it has the potential to reset us. Just like some people try to reset their relationship to food by going on a fast or a “cleanse”, our hope is to do the same with buying stuff. We have too much stuff already, and for me, at least, I fear there is some creeping immorality that comes from getting myself almost anything I want. I want to reconnect with the self that delights in the simple. I remember reading Little House on the Prairie for the first time. Christmas that year felt tenuous because Mr. Edwards was bringing gifts, and he had to ford a river that had risen past its banks. Of course, he makes it by the skin of his teeth and offers to Laura, Mary and Carrie a peppermint stick and a shiny penny each. I was entranced, reading this as a 10-year-old.
Since when do I need a shiny something new in order to be entranced?
Not to mention there is also the not-so-creeping impact on our environment from all the unnecessary stuff that so many of us buy. (If you haven’t seen The Story of Stuff, here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLBE5QAYXp8.)
As for my client, so far, so good. She is loving the way her year of buying nothing has stretched her. It has helped her to see she is more capable than she ever imagined, and she knows she is taking steps to lessen her impact on the planet. Buying nothing has helped add to her confidence and her sense of integrity. A lot of people would pay big bucks for results for that.