How do you sum up a year? A year that changed you, that delivered you an entirely different person. You don’t. You ramble. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Yesterday marked my one Year of Nothing New anniversary. It passed almost unknowingly, as I was making the long trek from my family’s cabin back to my summer residence. I was heading back from a most marvelous second annual Sew Weekend. It passed quietly because buying nothing new wasn’t my daily focus anymore, even though I was sticking to my self-defined rules of not buying a single new thing (save for food and toiletries) for twelve whole months.
I reflected, I thought about what 365 days of nothing new has taught me. How to articulately put into words how changed I am. But I can’t. Why? Well, I think maybe its because I created a habit…possibly. My buying habits, even my day-to-day habits are vastly different from last year at this time. But I barely notice that anymore, because it became my norm. I have seen a giant shift in my values, but I’m still the same person.
People often ask me what is the first thing that I am going to buy. Last night at midnight, I purchased these sandals I’ve been eyeing for months. I am coveting a pair of Banana Republic sunglasses, and homegirl needs some new undies like nobody’s business.
But I have come away from 365 days of Nothing New with a new understanding of our country’s “throw-away” culture. I realized just how blind we are to the impacts of purchasing and discarding. I’m saddened to learn how employees in some foreign factories work in deadly environments. I’m horrified to know how many chemicals are getting pumped into foreign rivers and how much pollution is being released in our precious air. We are killing our planet, and ourselves, by over consuming.
But who can we blame? Consumption is an addiction akin to smoking a pack a day. It’s hard to stop buying, when it feels so good. We shop to cheer ourselves up. And it works.
I can’t say that I won’t buy anything new ever again, but I’m choosing to be a bit smarter with my shopping choices. My top five new consumption commandments are:
- Buy Made in the US. When possible, which can be rare. Despite the high price tags, you can be sure that these items were produced with regard to people and places. US regulation ensures it. To top it off, US made goods are usually higher quality so they’ll last longer!
- Thrift shop. Macklemore totally trendied up thrift shopping, but he’s on to something. People in thrift stores seem happier (from my experience), and thrift shopping will get your creative juices flowing. Plus, for me, it’s an even better substitute that shopping-for-new-things rush.
- Borrow shit. For real. Especially borrow the stuff you rarely need. If you need an air mattress ask your friend if you can borrow hers. Because more than likely you won’t find a domestically made air mattress on the market, and who really needs an air mattress more than a few times per year?
- Wait. If you identify an item that you’re coveting like a madwoman, wait. Wait a few weeks to make sure it’s something you really want. If you’re still thinking about those jeans a month later, you have permission to buy them. You’re welcome.
- Say no. We live in a culture where people really want to pawn their stuff off on other people. Their thrifted clothes, old furniture, water bottles…junk in general. Even if something looks exciting, if it has never crossed your mind to purchasing it, don’t accept it. You’ll just end up taking it to the thrift stores weeks later. Trust me.
So I’m sticking with parts of this nothing new thing, but not entirely. Things I will continue to acquire secondhand:
- Most clothing. Because I’m still passionate about repurposing.
- Dishware. Because thrift stores have some awesome vintage dishes.
- Furniture. *Crossing my fingers* Because upholstery is fun, and because I’m still not a grown up with grown up furniture. This may change in the coming years.
- Vintage sheets. Because I’m addicted.
There are some things we just need to buy new. Things I will probably buy new from here on out:
- Shoes. At the thrift store they’ve been worn. It’s usually gross. And the pickings are slim. Luckily, us Americans are blessed with some great domestically made shoe companies (like Oakstreet Bootmakers!).
- Bras and underwear. Obvious. At least I hope. I have yet to find a Made in the US bra, so I’d love to hear suggestions!
- Paper products. Cards, envelopes, and printer paper is next to impossible to find at the thrift store. Also, sometimes you just really need a paper towel.
- Craft supplies. Same as above. And I can justify buying new thread, fabric and paint if I’m creating something that I’d otherwise be buying. Sustainability will still be a focus here.
I don’t feel like I’ve been released from the theoretical shackles of this project. Not at all. But I am excited to explore some new manufacturers doing things the right way. I’m excited to settle into life with a clearer vision of my values.
But what I’m most excited for? New underwear.