Since our last post, BNNY Burn Out, we have neglected our blog and reframed our rules. We took an amazing family trip up to the Great Barrier Reef and the ancient Daintree Rainforest (see photo below). On the trip, we decided to take the down time to check in again with the kids on how the whole buy nothing new for the year challenge was going.
Our kids are generally so flexible. They’re favorite response is, “I don’t mind.” Which always leaves me thinking, “What does that mean?” Is that the Australian teenage equivalent of, “I don’t care,” or is it “It’s all good,” or even “Either way, it doesn’t really matter?” Anyway, I’m still learning to decipher Australian teenager. But, the take-away is that the kids didn’t seem to be having any major issues with the way we have been living.
We were able to talk about how part of why were able to afford an amazing family holiday (aside from frequent flyer points) was all the not spending on unnecessary items throughout the year. And, they got it. And honestly I think that our kids would be happy (or just obliged) to keep going with this challenge forever if that’s what we decided. So, in some ways, that is what we decided.
As the end of our year-long challenge approached, my husband and I talked and decided that this had worked so surprisingly and incredibly well for all of us. It has really brought our values in alignment with our purchases. And, we are pretty sure we’ve broken some habits that weren’t really about what we wanted but rather what we were used to. Had we really wanted to buy all those things we can’t remember? Had we really wanted to spend every few weeks or even months at the mall? This past year, we went the mall maybe two or three times. And each time we were struck by the messages that told us to buy or consume something we didn’t really need or want.
So, what we decided was rather than end this challenge cold-turkey at the end of our one year mark (in July), we decided to adopt those principles we listed in our last post, BNNY Burn Out. While this initially felt like we were going to fall flat of reaching our one year goal, just two to three months before we reached the finish line, we decided that we are well within our rights to move the rules and stick to the principles. After all, this is our made-up challenge, our made-up rules. So, we edited some of the rules so that they felt like we could live with them indefinitely.
We’re going to continue to opt for experiences over stuff. We’ll continue using the second-hand markets. We’ll re-use things we discovered can be re-used. But, we’ll also buy new things like: running shoes, art supplies, rechargeable batteries, etc. The rigidity of the challenge has disappeared. Essentially, we are ending the task of buying nothing new and instead buying very little new. But what does that mean?
I have to admit, making this transition made me a bit nervous…thinking this might open up the floodgates to go on a buying spree because we don’t have the same rigid rules but rather principles. But, here is what has happened so far.
In the past few months, our end point came and went. We did not lead up to the one-year mark thinking, “awesome, now we can go on a binge!” Instead, because we edited our rules before the deadline, we moved seamlessly through the end of year milestone and continued living with the same principles minus the original rigidity.
We have not even gone out to buy new batteries or running shoes, oddly…things we lamented from the time we started the challenge a year ago. We’ve continued to rotate the batteries we have and are waiting for our next trip to the US to pick up new running shoes. In the meantime, being pregnant again, swimming and pilates (which don’t require running shoes) have taken over from running and jogging. Admittedly and sadly, the other contributor minimizing our need for new running shoes has been that exercise has also taken somewhat of a backseat to everyday life…the life of a young family, I suppose.
We bought a second-hand toddler bed on Gumtree and second-hand toddler bedding that I transformed into a custom-made special blanket full of love by hand stitching over the top of the plain washed blanket. We’ve continued to buy clothes from the op-shops. Our new purchases have included: three jars of finger paints, postcards from our trip to send to the grandparents, a leotard for Charlie’s gymnastics, and Peter’s big new purchase, an iPad. He says he needs it for work. It’s funny how everyone needs a tablet now when they didn’t exist a couple of years ago. Technology is funny like that.
As we allowed ourselves back into the mall, one of the first weekends after changing the rules, we just looked around without the same level of restrictions. We realized that, yes, it does feel like our consumer habits have changed. This may or may not last, but we had a bit of distaste for things and didn’t really want things like we used to. We saw cheap-ish clothes and bedding at Target and wandered the aisles without wanting to go pick things up. It mostly just seemed loud and stressful in there. Joey, our nearly-two-year-old enjoyed picking up soft fuzzy pink bathrobes, asking if we could take it home and then forgetting about it when she saw a red Elmo pillow, which she forgot about when she saw a sticky ball, which was replaced by a doll…and so on. Since then, we have found a beautiful fuzzy pink polk-a-dot bathrobe in her size at the local Salvation Army, and she picked up a number of cool new toys and gifts for her second birthday from family members.
It turns out, there were few real pressing desires we had been suppressing during our nearly-year-long challenge. It’s liberating to know we have flexibility now, but maybe we really have changed. Although our new principles allow us to buy things consciously but new, we have not rushed out to buy plastic wrap, zip lock bags, tupperware, running shoes, batteries, crayons, paper or an ironing board cover…all things we thought we’d be dying to go get once this was over. The reality is that along the way, we did receive some generous donations of art supplies (one from a colleague whose children are all grown and out of university who donated their old reams of butcher paper, colored pencils and pastels, crayons and fun extras from the grandparents, chalk and tape from a friend through mothers group…). Now that people know we’re up for taking second-hand items, we get calls from friends offering things they are going to put in hard rubbish or donate. We often get first look at bags of maternity clothes, old bed frames, housewares, etc. I like that people think of us when they’re doing a spring clean…if we can re-use something headed for the landfill, then that’s awesome.
But, we’ve also reached a limit of ‘stuff’ in our home and are more selective about what we choose to inherit so as not to become hoarders or create an unnecessary house of clutter. As Joey received more gifts for her birthday and Charlie for hers, we went through both of their closets and bundled up toys, books, and clothes to donate and give away. In preparation for the new baby, we have kept some of Joey’s old baby toys and clothes and searched through the garage to see what we had stored. Turns out, we have bought a total of one tiny white jumpsuit for our new baby, who will likely inherit everything else.
As we re-shuffle the bedrooms with another child on the way, we have found awesome second-hand dressers for the kids, a second-hand TV for the kids’ rumpus room, and we’re currently searching for an updated second-hand breastfeeding chair and clothes dryer to make life a bit more comfortable at an affordable price. This is all since we re-framed our rules back in April/May and passed our one-year mark in July. It doesn’t seem strange that we continue to use all of our ‘buy nothing new’ principles to keep going. It’s practical and affordable. And, we’re now accustomed to the buying channels and the principles.
In the past month, we did have an onslaught of 2-year-old birthday parties, and I have to say it was a huge time-saver to duck into K-mart to pick up a few new Lego sets, as opposed to hunting and searching and creating for party after party. Sometimes the convenience wins out.
After our one-year challenge, we found the combination of what we inherited, found in hard rubbish, bought second hand, repurposed and lived without has helped redefine our needs. I’m really proud that although our year-long challenge has ended, we have not run out like mad consumers and bought things because we can (it was a legitimate fear). So, that’s our update for now. I suppose as we continue to learn from our re-invention of living more consciously with our values, we will occasionally continue to post here.
I also have come across some other cool projects people are under-taking that are quite similar, living with less, The Simple Year, and, of course, buy nothing new month, our inspiration that kicked us off on our journey. If you have a similar project, let us know, so we can see what you’re up to and share it here.
To wrap up our year, here’s a video clip from “The New Joneses,” a project started by Tamara DiMattina, the same creative mind behind Buy Nothing New Month. We were lucky enough to participate in sharing our experiences with tour groups of school kids earlier last year. So, if we’re quieter on our activities, know you can find inspiration in this broader community through cool initiatives like this one.