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.

makefixborrow

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.

ladies

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.

It's okay to say no quote

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.

Four fabric napkins from vintage sheets

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.

Hey readers! Men’s content is finally here. Wahooo! All Meadow Rue Men’s posts will be housed in the Meadow Rue Men tab above, so check back often for male related things.

My good friend and classmate, Michael Leventhal, so graciously agreed to undertake this first men’s project with me. He’s an east coaster, a brilliant comic writer (check out his website!), and a serial thrifter. Michael isn’t afraid to sift through racks of used clothing, and you’d never guess his wardrobe is secondhand. He admits though, he has thrifted a few ill-fitting items in his day. Enter Meadow Rue.

Michael and I ventured to our favorite thrift store together and picked up two closet staples for any man. A crisp too-large button up and a pair of too-long no-pleat slacks. Alterations were needed stat.

This shirt was a biggin’. The shoulders were dropped too low, the sides needed taking in and the sleeves were too long. You know how men’s dress shirts billow on the sides? This one was totally doing that. I decided to resize it the “proper” way, by removing the arms, taking up the shoulders, and sewing the sleeves back on. Then, I took in the sleeves and sides.

It was a failure. Can you tell? No? Good, thanks for feeding my ego.

After I finished this alteration, I warned Michael that there was a chance he might not be able to get one arm into the shirt, as I mistakenly cut the arm hole too small, so that the armpit was a good two inches higher than the other. Michael swears the shirt is still pretty comfortable. And, despite the total shirt mess-up, the fit is far better.

See where the shoulder seams lie? One is at least 1/2″ lower than the other. Woops.

The back of the shirt had two pleats towards the shoulder seams. It’s obvious my measurements were not consistent from side to side. Yikes. This is one type of alteration I need much more practice on. Luckily, Michael doesn’t get as attached to his thrifted finds as I do. Thank goodness.

Up next: slacks. Without pleats. Please promise me you’ll never buy pleated slacks, guys. Ladies? Help them out here. Pleats are good in some places on some clothing. Never on the front of pants.

These pants only needed a quick hemming, one alteration I can complete in 20 minutes. I know this because I’ve been timing myself. Yes, I’m a total sewing geek.

It feels good to be honest with you guys about sewing mistakes, because it happens often in my world. I cannot count how many half finished items are sitting around my sewing room because I screwed something up, got frustrated and gave up. But I’m finding, more and more, that most sewing mistakes are easily fixed, ironed out, or really not that noticeable.

Other mistakes? Not so much.