My 90 day pledge to not buy any more crap (consumer detox – day 1)

Since getting back from the Hayhouse South Pacific Cruise (which was AMAZING!) I’ve spent most of my time doing two things.

1. Bragging incessantly about my new amazing tan
2. Thinking about how much CRAP I’ve accumulated!

I didn’t actually buy that much stuff on the cruise – mostly books – but the week before the cruise I was working at a big folk festival and somehow managed to purchase not one, not two, but SIX new dresses and within a couple of days realised that I didn’t even like two of them. Doh! And in the month before that I had bought so many new summer clothes and other random crap despite the fact that I was unemployed and didn’t know how long I would have to make my savings last for. It was idiotic. Luckily I’ve already been able to find a few little profitable things which I think will allow me to not even bother with a ‘real’ job anyway (yay!) but still, I don’t know what came over me.

And seriously, my bedroom looks like the aftermath of Hiroshima at the moment because of this sudden new influx (did you see the pic for this post?). Gah!!

Anyway, it’s time for a detox. A consumer detox. Some of you would know that twice in the past year I went a month without buying anything. Well, almost. The first time I was mostly successful but on the eve of the final day of the challenge I cracked and bought a few things. And the second time I was totally successful but it wasn’t something worth patting my back about too much because I was in the middle of getting ready to move and so getting rid of crap came easy to me at that time.

Right now resisting the urge to buy stuff is more of a challenge because I’ve recently moved to a new state. It would be so easy to begin that natural accumulation of things – to allow that proverbial moss to start to grow on the rock that has stopped rolling (aka me). Ahh, but as I’ve talked about a million times, an excess of stuff does more harm than good. It clutters up your home and (for me at least) your headspace. It also costs you financially (more than you realise) and worst of all, it is so damaging to the planet. Dave Bruno, who started the infamous 100 Thing Challenge movement calls this phenomenon “American-style consumerism”. It’s yucky and despite the fact that I am a part of it, I hate it.

So .. I’m going to try to walk my talk for a while. I’m going on a 3 month consumer detox, ending April 11th 2013. What does that mean? Well, it’s pretty simple. Following the same rules I placed on myself during my former one month challenges, I won’t be buying anything for myself for the duration of the challenge. I can still buy presents for other people if I want although these challenges have inspired me to start buying people gift cards for experiences rather than adding to their personal crap-loads. The only other things I can buy are the essentials like food, petrol, shampoo, deodorant, etc.

Right now the only thing I really want is some deep ‘celestial’ blue wool to knit a pouch for my new Angel Tarot cards that I bought last week on the cruise. I don’t really want to wait until April to buy it so my friend is going to see if she might be able to get me some free wool for me from her work .. that might be cheating, slightly, but oh well 🙂 Don’t worry – I won’t make a habit of jumping through loop holes. I might also be opening a market stall here in Brisbane soon to do henna body art so if that happens I’ll have to be creative about how to set up and decorate my stall. But I’ll worry about that when/if the time comes.

Wish me luck, peeps and if anyone wants to join me, please do! And let me know!

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.

Photo credit

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!

Photo credit

Want to help the environment? Be a little cheap!

To decrease my spending and wasteful ways I have come to appreciate SO MUCH all the free things in life like the radio, the library, free podcasts, and hand holding (aww).

Another thing that I’m learning to love is thrift stores! I still have a slight aversion to buying clothes at thrift stores although I’m starting to get over that. I’ve always, though, been really into them when it comes to furniture (not couches – yuck – but old wooden hutches, book cases, etc). Every single piece of hard furniture that I own was either given to me or purchased at a thrift store – and I have some killer pieces! I’m also really into buying old kitchen stuff from thrift stores – casserole dishes, teapots, china, wine glasses, etc.

I really like the look of sexy, modern pieces mixed with really old, interesting pieces. There is something sort of sterile about a house (or wardrobe) made up completely of brand new stuff. And similarly, someone who hasn’t bought a new item since 1974 is just weird. I think you need a mix.

Also, I have been gifted some unwanted cosmetics/bath goods and clothes, lately (thanks Shaz and Lesh!) and that has been just awesome. If I didn’t constantly throw stuff out (and therefore had stuff I didn’t want) I would throw a clothes swap with my friends. It’d be fun to put on a chick flick, order a pizza, and have everyone throw their old frocks and purses and things in a pile for people to try on.

It all got me thinking – the environmental impact of keeping up with the Jonses’ .. or Kardashians, for that matter – is just huge!

All the new stuff we buy costs energy and resources to make and then has to be packaged in disposable plastic crap, and shipped in big, dirty trucks around the country or world to get to us. Actually, there are so many more costly, energy-zapping, resource-squelching steps than just that. Most things are manufactured in one area (with all the supplies similarly manufactured and trucked into that area) and then shipped somewhere else for labeling, then shipped somewhere else for packaging, then shipped to a storage warehouse, then eventually shipped to a store where you will buy it and then throw it away five minutes later.

OMG we are wasteful!

Imagine what the environmental impact would be if we all acquired 20% of our possessions from “second hand” sources. It’d be massive! I know, I know .. the word “second hand” sucks! I cringe at it myself at but hey, “vintage” is second hand, right! “Antique” is second hand! It can be cool.

So .. my point, what is my point? Ah yes. Free community resources and cheap, used stuff is awesome! It not only helps you get your finances under control but it makes a huge positive environmental impact, too. This probably seems obvious to most of you but I think we could all do with bringing less new crap into our homes.