My month of not buying crap – end of month review

Well I have completed my month without buying crap!! It was mostly successful. I did channel my shopping energy into doing all of my Christmas shopping but that doesn’t count against my challenge because the deal was to not buy anything for myself. The challenge also excluded food, misc. consumables like shampoo and cleaning products, and the purchase of experiences. Confession time, though. The three items I was planning to buy at the end of the challenge I actually bought on the last day of the month (yesterday). Doh!! I threw my back out last week and haven’t been able to drive because of the Codeine pain pills I’m been on. My friend offered to take me out yesterday, though, and we ended up going over to Target. I guess that means I failed but oh well, I’m still really proud of what I achieved. I’m planning to do another month without buying crap in August so I’ll have a chance to redeem myself.

I also saw on the news that there is an official “buy nothing new month” movement happening in Australia where you’re encouraged to buy nothing new for the entire month of October. I’ll most definitely be participating so for 2012 I’ll be doing three buy nothing new challenges. The movement has been getting a lot of slack in the media because of the way it essentially encourages people to boycott retailers for a month. I think this is ridiculous, though, because honestly, most Australians aren’t going to be taking part in the challenge and so the retailers are going to be just fine. It brings up a few important issues, though, that are worth talking about.

1. Everything we buy is made from natural resources and has to be disposed of somewhere

We need to remember that the crap we buy and the packaging all that crap comes in doesn’t just magically manifest in the universe and then magically disappear after we’re finished with it. It all comes from natural resources in one way or another. And it all has to go somewhere in the end. It’s worth reminding ourselves that when we put something in the trash can, it doesn’t just disappear into the ether. Scientists estimate that plastic takes between 500 and 1000 years to break down. Plastic has only been around for about 50 years which means that every piece of plastic that has ever been thrown away is still just sitting there, in the land fill or the ocean or wherever the hell it landed. Every diaper, every plastic McDonalds straw, every piece of plastic packaging that ever came into your life or your parents life is still around. It’s pretty disgusting when you actually sit back and think about it.

2. We need to learn that we can’t spend our way out of our problems

How much debt is the United States in? Well, as of 5AM PST on the July 1, 2012, it’s $56,925,015,397,300. We’re broke. In fact we’re so far beyond broke that if we were just broke we’d be really freaking excited. And yet the government still has the nerve to try to tell us what we should be doing with our money?! Like they know what they’re talking about or something?! It’s just stupid. And a lot of us have bought into the bullshit idea that spending your way into debt is a matter of patriotism. DUMB! In life if you want to experience financial peace, you have to stop buying stupid crap you don’t need. Congress would do well to work this out and put an end to their debt crisis. Honestly people, debt never helps anything.

In terms of my challenge, though, and everyone else involved the bigger campaign, we’re just trying to do our part to help the planet a little. I don’t beleive that by setting out on a challenge like this that we’re harming the economy because nothing about this challenge says you can’t spend money on going out to eat, going to movies, or doing other things that cost money but that don’t encourage excessive consumerism. And even if this challenge was taken on by so many people that the retailers did feel it, the future of our forests and oceans is always going to be more important to me than they are. I’m sorry but I just can’t apologise for that.

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My month without buying crap – 22 days in

Many times this month I have seen items in shops that I wanted or for whatever reason I’ve thought to buy different things. Because of this challenge, though, I obviously haven’t been able to. The amazing thing is that within minutes of thinking “oh well, I can always buy it next month” the desire for the item usually left. I realised that, at least for me, the desire for things is strong but fleeting and there aren’t that many things that I really do actually want or need. The desk fountain that I was coveting really bad at the beginning of this challenge I don’t really want any more. I still think it would be cool but I don’t feel like I need to have it. In fact the things I do think I’ll buy at the end of the challenge are so few that I can name them right here.

1. New underwear. Apologies for the TMI but I do need some.
2. New toiletries bag. My old one is showing its age. It’s dirty, it’s faded, I’m sick of looking at it, and I there are so many cute ones for sale right now
3. Large photo album. I am sick of staring at my giant pile of lose photos.
4. Possibly a large yoga mat and bolsters. More on that in a minute.

The really crazy thing that has come out of all of this is that I’m almost getting a little addicted to not having stuff. Rather than focussing on what I can buy when this challenge is over, I’m more focussed on what else I can get rid of. I have donated quite a lot of stuff to thrift stores this month and am enjoying pairing down what I own more and more all the time.

I think part of my desire to get rid of stuff has to do with my wanting to move. I want to move out of state and the less I own, the easier that will be. I’m a bit of a seagull in that way .. before I fly away I like to do a big dump 🙂

Partly inspired by this process I’ve also finally got around to sending a whole lot of stuff back home to my parents (stuff that belongs to them that I have been storing). By doing this I’ve now cleared out a space in my laundry room and I’m thinking of putting my kitchen table in there for the time being. If I do that I can have a large space free where I can put a big yoga mat that can just live there. I really don’t use my kitchen table for eating and so most of the time it’s just a dumping zone. I haven’t been doing any yoga for like a year and my body feels all stiff and creaky. I definitely want to start doing it again and if I don’t have to actually move furniture around to do it, there’s a much better chance I’ll actually do it.

I’m realising mostly that when you have less stuff, you have more room. Room for yoga, room to think, room to not clean, room to save money, room to save planetary resources, and room to appreciate the stuff you have that you actually love.

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My month without buying crap – 11 days in

Well I’m 11 days into my experiment of not buying myself anything this month. So far it is going well. There are only two items that I know for sure I would have purchased had I not been on this challenge.

1. A desk fountain ($50)
2. A new toiletries bag ($20)

So I suppose in 11 days I’ve saved myself $70. Not bad! As I mentioned in my last post, though, this isn’t about saving money as much as non-consumerism.

I’ve found myself really disgusted lately by our consumerist society and as much as possible, I don’t want to be a part of it anymore. People always use the excuse “you can’t take it with you” for why they spend money excessively. But the way I see it, if you can’t take it with you, why buy it in the first place?

Rather than buying more crap I don’t need, I’d rather spend my money on good food, meaningful experiences, movies with friends, donations to causes I care about, and most importantly – to save for emergencies, eliminate debt, and eventually pay for a home.

This isn’t to say that there is anything wrong with buying things. I am already thinking about what I might buy in July or August. I wouldn’t mind a new pair of jeans and a new winter coat. When I do buy these things, though, I will shop purposefully for them and buy quality items that will last a long time – not crap made by underpaid factory workers in some sweat job overseas. And I also won’t get sucked into the impulse purchase trap while I’m out looking for them.

I think our modern society has become incredibly selfish when it comes to money. In so many parts of the world a family is considered rich if they have a place to live, heat, and a reliable source of food. They don’t need two cars, a gigantic flat screen TV, boxy modern furniture, the iPhone4, a fridge full of soda, or a magic bullet. And they certainly don’t feel “entitled” to any of these things.

Here is a passage from the Tao Te Ching that has been a source of inspiration to me for this challenge:

Imagine a small country with few people.
They have weapons but do not employ them;
They enjoy the labor of their hands
and do not waste time inventing laborsaving machines.
They are content with healthy food,
Pleased with useful clothing,
Satisfied in snug homes,
And protective of their way of life.

Wish me luck for the next 19 days! If all goes well I’m thinking of doing it again!

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My month without buying crap

Hi Everybody,

Just a quick update this evening as I’m afraid I have been neglecting this blog a fair bit lately as a result of my day job and my studies. I have enjoyed keeping in touch with everyone via Facebook and Twitter as always, though.

I have endeavoured to spend the greater portion of one month (it would have been a full month if I hadn’t thought of it on the 2nd of June!) without purchasing any personal items. Of course I am allowing myself to buy food and basic toiletries if they run out but that’s about it. No books, no dvds, no clothes, no craft stuff. I’m still allowing myself to purchase experiences (going to the movies, etc.) because this is more a test in non-consumerism than it is in frugality although if at the end of the month I find I’ve spent less than usual, well then that would be terrific.

So far I am only three days in and already it has been tough. I am selling my fish tank (long story – turns out I simply cannot keep fish alive and I get really upset when they die!) and now that the fish tank is going I desperately want to get a little desk fountain to go in its place in my feng shui ‘wealth corner.’ Normally I would have got obsessed with the idea and spent the day prowling through Chinese trinket shops looking for one but alas, this time I must wait three weeks! Can I do it? Who knows. I think so. We shall see. If anyone wants to join me in this challenge (ending July 1st 2012) let me know! I’ve been watching all these documentaries about African tribal communities and our lives looks so wasteful and stupid compared to theirs!

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How cluttered is your life?

As some of you know, I am very passionate about home design and over the past year or so I’ve become fascinated by minimalism. I’ve recently had the opportunity to actually live the minimalist life. I’ve moved to a studio apartment where my entire living and sleeping area is confined to a single room with just two other small rooms – a bathroom and laundry – tacked onto the back.

I wasn’t sure how I’d go with living in such small quarters but it’s actually been really great. I think I would call my little house here a practice in “cozy minimalism”. I have lamps, candles, blankets, and pillows around the place but in no way does it feel cluttered. Eventually I will move out of here and into a larger home but I imagine I will continue to employ a minimalist mentality to any new space I enter.

Most people think of minimalism as the stark, “modern” style of home design that has recently become trendy. I find this style of home design interesting and inspiring in its un-cluttered aesthetic but also somehow at odds with the “live simply” mentality that is the heart of true minimalism. Here in Canberra there are “minimalist” homes going up all over town and a lot of them sit at the $800,000 to million dollar+ price point which is just crazy and totally at odds with the non-consumerist minimalist mentality.

To me minimalism is about living simply, without clutter, and focusing your energy and money on what is important to you rather than on stuff.

Here are a few ideas for any of you interested in moving toward minimalism:

1. Drastically reduce the amount of knick knacks you keep around.
Knick knacks are something many people find difficult to part with because they almost always hold sentimental value. The problem, though, is they clutter up a place like nobody’s business. One trick I’ve come up with is to put all your knick knacks in a box and only put the most important ones back out again. Donate or give away as much of what is left in the box as possible. And for God’ sake – don’t buy any more!!

2. Dare to wear out your best clothes – and chuck the rest.
Don’t save your nicest clothes for a special occasion. Wear them. It’s better to wear things out than to hold onto them for so long that they go out of style and have to be thrown out anyway. Go through your closet and get rid of absolutely everything that you don’t like, doesn’t fit, or that you just don’t wear and never will – and be brutal about it. Whatever is left, wear!

3. Take the time to put your photographs in albums – and chuck the rest.
There’s no point having a gigantic box of lose photos sitting around. Take the time to properly display your memories and get rid of the anything that isn’t worthy of either being framed or going into an album.

4. Eat out your fridge and cupboards before you replenish them.
Food can be a major money sink, especially when you’re routinely buying perishable items that go mouldy before you use them. Throwing out or not using good food is also disrespectful to the farmers and land that was used to create it.

5.Be honest about how many skin and hair care products you really need.
So often our bathrooms are full of samples and random products that we have barely used yet have been sitting there for years. If you’re not going to use them, throw them out. If you are going to use them, use them.

6. Invest $5 in a library card
You really don’t need to be buying books that you will only read once. There’s also no real point in spending money on dvds and cds when the technology will soon become irrelevant anyway. Save your money and start going to the library.

7. When it comes to furniture and other big ticket items, buy things that truly speak to your heart.
The beauty of minimalism is that when you do decide to purchase something, you have the luxury of opting for quality because you haven’t been spending all your money on meaningless crap!

8. Use the time and money you would otherwise spend on the acquisition and care of possessions to better your life.
After you have de-cluttered your space, set to work on de-cluttering your whole life. Get rid of the thought patterns and beliefs that have been tripping you up, clear up your financial mess, let go of those so called friends who do you more harm than good. At the same time, sign up for that art class you have been wanting to take and call up that family member you don’t get to see as much as you’d like. Minimalism is about clearing out what doesn’t matter so you have more time for what does.

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