So we finished buy nothing new in October a few days ago and it was an interesting experience.
In some ways enlightening in a lot of ways quite scary.
Yes we ended up using our exemptions. Andrea got all her bee equipment and I ended up getting a roll of bird netting other than that there were a few items we purchased that fell out of the exemption but not many but they are listed below.
- Plastic cups for the kids
- New sandals for the kids for the hot weather we had
- Potting mix for seedlings
I found it easy once I got into the rhythm of it and found that I actually enjoyed the way it made me sit back and think about things. I can be a bit (LOT) driven to get things done and sometimes rather than finding something I already have I will like most people rush forward to bunnings or another store to get the items to get the job done to rush around some more. I very quickly realized all that the time spent charging around to get the items was greater than the time saved and I got more done by not running off to buy things ‘to save time’.
One of the main examples of this was pots. October is a major seedling time in our part of the world leading into summer September/October is the busiest time for us. As I couldn’t buy any trays or pots this year I had to go looking and find the ones I had and find new ways to grow things.
When I went looking a just kept finding plastic pots, in the back yard, in my shed, under my house. I am not only setup for this year but next and onward. I also trialed using old toilet rolls and other small cardboard items as seedling posts which has worked out brilliantly and will be repeated every year. I may or may not have done these without the buy nothing new month but it brought it into clarity and made me try things.
Equally we have tended to buy a lot of plastic box’s to store stuff and use the cardboard box’s as either weed suppressant in the back yard or it goes into recycling. Using them to store things while cleaning up the spare room (read old storage room/son’s new room) has been good we have looked at the boxes now as a resource for reuse. And as we have bought nothing new these are from work or family or friends. We now look at boxes and go ‘ooh that is a good one for this or that’. I also stored things in boxes freeing up the plastic boxes for better uses. It is quite ridiculous what we waste in this society and what can be reused.
While I enjoyed it and so did A. She found it a little harder particularly with the children but she admitted it was good to not go looking in shops for stuff. In time I think she would have got into the rhythm of second hand stores but at the end of the day the buy nothing new month is a short time we have enough that we don’t really need to buy things for a month in this rich society.
I have built both my garden shed and the chicken run out second hand materials found as hard waste. It took time as you are not working with standard materials and this will seem odd to many when you can just duck down to the store and buy a tin shed and put it up pretty quickly. In a lot of countries what I have built from is better than what many people have to build their homes.
I saw a show on a refugee camp and one of the things that really struck me was the bucket repairer. A plastic bucket here in Australia cost me about 40 seconds of earning time. If they break most people here would just throw them out. But this guy reworked them and repaired them and kept parts to repair another. Given the embodied energy in the item yet again the third world through necessity is doing what the rest of us should be doing by default.
This is not for everyone and it will be a long time before most Australians are forced to do it by cost (and I hope we never really get there as by that stage the already dire situation for the guy repairing buckets is going to be terminal) but it is something we should be doing as we have the greatest impact on the planet through our profligate and stupidly wasteful ways.
Perhaps a better way for us in the first world is to use our wealth to purchase items that last longer and are more ethical and really show the value of that embodied energy and resources. We purchased handmade Italian leather boots some time ago. Yes they were expensive but they have lasted through our daughter and now our son and looking like they will last should the plan of a third come to fruition and then go to friends or family. Put your value into that embodied energy and allow those not so wealthy in the world to do what they need to do to get by.
At the end I was a bit surprised that we didn’t rush out and buy stuff. We didn’t seem to need to. Yes A. bought some clothes but that more to do with a giant growing baby and a wedding we had to attend than just shopping withdrawal symptoms.
So where to from here?
I enjoyed it and would like to do this for a quarter next time and see how it goes but it will require careful negotiation at the end of the day I am in a family and a relationship and forcing your own views on people is just being a zealot and that does not help change anything.
What I can do is to work on myself and fixing that up first. I am not sure if I will ever get to the point of my neighbor who would not spend by his own accounting more than 10% of his wage on new stuff and I will most certainly never ever get to the guy who repairs buckets but as I play peekaboo and chasey with my son in between writing this post I am reminded that is what I personally have many reasons to try.