Hooray, it’s a legitimate shopping day !
I was going to a meeting this day and my trousers were just too big. I really needed a belt. I already thought about it & decided to buy a second hand belt. This doesn’t constitute a breach of Buy Nothing Month since, a) It’s an essential. I only own 3 belts, all of them second hand. I needed a black one, a professional one, and b) It wasn’t “NEW”.
Ten bucks. Lovely quality black leather. Minimalist silver buckle. Made in Italy. Salvation Army you rock !
In celebration I also bought a $4 glass toothbrush travel vial. It’s positively glamorous. We are on holidays soon, so am planning to pack light, green and plastic-free as I try to do with most things.
Day considered a success. No more purchases made that day.
Wow, I’ve found my consumption Achilles heel. Feeling a sense of scarcity, rather than abundance.
First it was a feeling of inadequacy about the fact we don’t own our own home (result = house magazine), second it was feeling guilt and towards how we have treated our indigenous brothers & sisters (result = unnecessary postcards) and today it was because I haven’t got a garden (result = veggie seeds).
Man, if I had a veggie garden even half the size of size of my last one, none of these buying slip-ups would occur! I’d be too busy messily pottering around in the dirt!
So I bought seeds. I bought veggie seeds cos’ I’d spent hours in the city running errands and it was a glorious day & I was yearning to be in a large green space. I didn’t need the seeds, but it’s spring & stuff grows in spring & it’s what all the other veggie gardeners are doing. But I am not.
Sure, I’ve got a couple of pots of mint, lemongrass and parsley – but it’s hardly a garden, it’s someone else’s garden and there’s nowhere to make one.
Buying the seeds made me feel better. And in the next couple of seasons I will plant them. They won’t go to waste.
They were organic. They were heirloom. They were bought at the local markets, the packets made from compostable card.
It was only a little purchase, but a purchase all the same.
For the second time in less than 6 days I bought something new ! So much for Buy Nothing New Month !
On the scale of severity though, pretty low…..two postcards.
This week was Kaurna Language Week in Adelaide and I had a few appointments in the city on this Day 6. With a bit of spare time between meetings I made my way to visit (for the first time) Tandanya – Adelaide’s Aboriginal-owned arts centre celebrating their 25th anniversary. After being enthralled by stories from elder artist Bluey Roberts supervising his 50 year-long collection and taken by stunning splashes of colour and social commentary in Kunyi McInerney’s acrylics – I wandered into the gift shop.
Silly girl. I didn’t need to buy anything.
But I was distracted by feelings, daydreams and emotions. The purchase came from a sense of obligation & thanks – I had viewed and enjoyed the modern works and was extremely moved by the early watercolours and observations of first European explorers of Adelaide’s Aboriginal family groups.
So some bright classic dot images seemed like the perfect antidote to my mixed feelings.
Never thought it was going to be so difficult to maintain a daily focus ! My initial expectation for this October’s exercise was to genuinely buy NOTHING new for the whole month, but like an extreme diet, I had to admit this wasn’t working. So now I’ve decided to let a drip-feed of teeny consumption go by un-judged, as long as there’s an element of responsibility.
I’ve since found out Tandanya operates under the Indigenous Art Code, a nation wide code of conduct that means with a purchase a minimum of 60% of the retail price is returned to the artist or art centre. So a bit less of a feeling of failure from the point of this anti-consumption exercise.
In hindsight I should have made a donation to the centre. But it was at least a relatively responsible purchase.
How easy was that ?!
A long weekend Buy Nothing New Month success story.
My husband & I had the long weekend to ourselves in town – our kids were away visiting grandparents. The ONLY purchase made over the entire 3 days was a single bike tyre!
As I said in the first “Adelaide’s Buy Nothing New Month” blog I thought making essential purchases like food, toiletries, medication, etc was a fair exclusion from the exercise – don’t think they need to count. Perhaps next year the rules might change a little for essentials (depending on this month’s efforts).
We definitely considered the tyre to be essential. It was bought to replace a flat I discovered on my bike (of course found once we were an hour out of the city). It was really satisfying to have that tyre be the only “something new” and better still, that the weekend was spent without deliberate restraint, effort or sense of “doing without”.
For the 3 day weekend, we decided to stay local. After looking at websites of quaint rural tourist towns and places on our love-to-see list we realized accommodation would be hard to find, we’d have to jostle with others who were also looking for “a quiet weekend away” and overall we would be just as relaxed and happy having a “staycation“.
We did take a day trip to McLaren Vale (Photo courtesy of Weekend Notes blog). That’s where the bike tyre was purchased. Thanks local bike shop ! We rode for almost 3 hours along some gently rolling trails, through vineyards, suburbs, sometimes with views of the sea. We didn’t feel any time pressure.
Another day we were fortunate enough to go offshore in a friends boat for a few hours, mostly just bobbing about & talking and for half an hour (on the way home) we were lucky enough to pull in a few squid – which we cooked for dinner!
I want to suggest here that shopping is sometimes a convenience, a habit. That sometimes when some people are just not sure what to do with themselves, they shop. Could this be true?
We found by physically removing ourselves from commercial spaces, by being well immersed in “recreation”, by not feeling time-poor, by hanging out with friends in simple locations with a little something to do to keep us occupied, by not looking actively for “entertainment” we were well entertained and the thought of shopping (for anything!) was the furthest thing from our mind.
The easiest way to fall into the consumption trap is to stop thinking. Lose consciousness. Not be in the present moment.
Here’s an example…….
It was only Day 2 of Buy Nothing New Month. I was feeling a sense of scarcity. It’s almost 2 years since we left Canada, and still we have not yet bought a house in Adelaide and it’s starting to frustrate our family. My mind was wandering around, mentally predicting the future, what our new home might be like, how the kids would get to school…….and that’s when it happened.
Strictly speaking, it wasn’t a complete fail. I didn’t BUY anything.
But I consumed. I fell for pure promotion. Walking mindlessly past an real estate agency I snapped up a FREE glossy catalogue of “for sale” houses – a fat book of shiny counter tops and gleaming swimming pools.
I didn’t need this item. It’s life span was a mere 15 minutes. It didn’t give us a house lead, there were only a page of Adelaide houses anyway.
End result – recycled in disgust, and a new vow to try & keep my head out of my thoughts and in the here & now.
Stay tuned !
In the following 30 days of posts we’ll see how much I can try and avoid buying. And what are some of the traps and remedies………
I’m new to Buy Nothing Month, and think it might be an Aussie reincarnation of an idea from North America.
So, here’s a bit of history.
* Buy Nothing Day began its life as a day in Canada in the 1990’s as a protest against consumerism.
* In 1997 it was moved from October to November and the day after the American Thanksgiving. This day, otherwise known as “Black Friday” became known to be a day of major traffic jams and huge chain store discounts.
* In recent times some major US chains began opening their stores at midnight (!) in an effort to stimulate more hype and more sales.
* In 2008 a woman died in a Wal-Mart store due to a customer stampede at opening time. Other disturbing incidents have occurred since then.
The idea behind Australia’s BNM is to encourage us all to move from a consumption-driven society to a community-driven one. What a noble goal.
A 2005 paper from the Australia Institute by Clive Hamilton Richard Denniss and David Baker tells us “Aussies have admitted to spending over $10 billion every year on goods we do not use: clothes and shoes we never wear, CDs we never listen to, DVDs we never watch and food we never eat and each year in Australia nearly 20 million tonnes of waste goes to landfill. By way of comparison, this amount exceeds spending by Australian governments on universities and roads.”
So, I thought I’d give it a whirl.
I will eat, I will purchase essential medication, deodorant, etc. I might buy experiences. I’ll try really hard NOT to buy THINGS (especially new ones). And I will work through how to still enjoy myself, live well and fully without being a miserable scrooge.
The first day presented itself easily. Lots of work to do, phone calls, distractions. Exercised in the lunch-hour which is a great way NOT to be lured into shopping. First day – easy. No purchases.
But I did order a book from a newsagent about collage and they called that afternoon to say it’d arrived.
Hmmmn….what to do, what to do. Well, firstly, I didn’t call them back. The book sold out the first time it was in, so I doubt it will sit on the shelves and cost them. They are a vibrant, local store. Someone else will buy it and I can go in and apologize later.
I’m a bit nuts about collage so immediately I knew I could set aside some time researching collage artists on the net. I could print out favourites if desperate (still paper I know, but it would only be a small selection, like I would only like a small selection from the book). I’ve found that the book is for sale second-hand on Amazon, or I could trawl through the library and see if they have a copy.
So first challenge ! Easily accommodated by deferral of gratification and by simply thinking about possible alternative choices. And the choices sound really quite satisfying ! I’ve not joined my local library, so there’s an immediate “to-do”.
Day one. Easy-peasy.
In 2004, my 5 year old stopped and yelled back to me from his scooter. On seeing his new school in our adopted home of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada he cried “it looks like a gaol”!
It was the first stomach sink for this earnestly biophilic (nature-loving) Mum. The initial view took in blank brick walls, asphalt, fences, barred windows and a grassy field.
So concerned was I that my normally rural, barefoot, tree climbing, tadpole torturing, Aussie outdoor rascals might be restricted by the long winter weather, influenced by sense of cultural appropriateness away from outdoors – I resorted to sneaking in huge limbs from fallen trees into the school yard on weekends…..
After that, there were failed attempts at bringing in “stepping stone” logs into the playground (too dangerous). The veggie garden I laboured in with the Grade 3’s was wipper-snipped completely to the ground one summer by School Board contractors. No murals could be painted on any walls (a union matter), no snowball throwing in winter (eye injuries).
Finally, the mood shifted and I felt a sense of vindication as Richard Louv launched the Children and Nature Network in 2006 following the incredible success of “Last Child in the Woods”. So at last I wasn’t alone. He toured the continent and I furiously scribbled notes. The 2008 US Leave No Child Inside Act was passed, the American NFF came up with “Green Hour“. In the media at least it appeared that the shift was occurring.
But the greatest shift in my family came from a simple concept. Trust. We couldn’t manipulate the thinking of educators at that time, in that place, but we could trust that our family values of outdoors, nature and freedom would endure. It didn’t have to come from a campaign, from education materials, the media or any other external source.
It came from within. Most of all (through yoga, reflection and mindful practice) somehow we learnt to trust that our kids could find genuine wild spaces to occupy and arrange their own company with similarly-interested friends. And as soon as that happened – voila, a local creek emerged and transformed to magical kingdom status.
Without us they met friends, assembled fishing gear and found fish. They discovered (and were smart enough to avoid!) a coyote den. It was our youngest (then just 8) who dragged us down to share a newly beaver-chewed maple grove. We seemed to imperceptibly adopt the creek from then on – I skated on ice sheeted ponds along the water way edges through the grey February “blahs”, they geocached like mad and our dog hauled himself through snow banks twice as deep as he was high. It became “our place”.
Not to fight.
Not to be overly earnest in our neediness to get them back into the bush. Sure we’ve looked at the “51 Things to do before you’re 12″ but none of us can recall the few things that haven’t been completed. I’m sure they’ll be part of our kids lives in times to come.
We have made conscious choices not to be driven by fear nor lament what might be being lost as their childhood years go by. They are but a product of their times. If we conjure up too-strong a sense of neediness or scarcity, this plays right into our modern anxiety-riddled, helicopter-parent psyche. It might directly contribute to holding us back.
I get a sense we shouldn’t make our loss too explicit, though it is very real. I want instead to teach our kids about forgiving what is now and visualizing a preferred future.
So trust. Sit a minute with a child. I guarantee you if you sit for long enough even in the most built-up of city conditions your child can still recognize and delight in the sound of a bird calling. It’s still there, it will always be there. But it’s sound can only be heard if it is truly what YOU value and what you’re willing to do (or not do!) in order to hear its song.