Well, it’s already April and I haven’t done an update on our Buy Nothing Challenge for a while. March came, and then shortly after that the pandemic. It almost seemed silly to give an update considering all that is happening, and the fact that a lot of people are struggling financially. My husband was able to continue his full-time job from home, which is a huge blessing, but my heart goes out to all who are not in that same circumstance.
My family’s purpose for this challenge is not centered on finances, but on consumption, which can reach all of us, no matter our circumstances. If you’d like to read more about why we are doing this challenge, click here. Consumption is such a large part of our culture that we don’t even see at times how deeply rooted it is in our actions, our way of thinking, and how we feel. So it it because of this that I decided to continue with our challenge updates, despite how silly is may seem.
February & March
February was 2 months in to the challenge, and I was definitely starting to feel it. In my month 1 update I anticipated that the real challenge would come after 2+ months. Despite starting to feel it more, I am loving it! We have had great success since January. I did buy a pair of shoes, which I could easily justify as an essential, although I could have waited to purchase them when this challenge was over, but who can resist 40% off???!!!.
This month we figured out some of grey areas mentioned in my month 1 update. We decided that eating out would be allowed, as well as experienced-based activities. It really helped for my husband and I to get more on the same page and work those things out. Obviously currently we are not going out and not spending money on those things!
February I hosted a clothing swap with some friends at my house, which was a ton of fun. I was able to add a couple of tops and a super comfy pair of pants to my closet without having to purchase anything. This event really got me thinking about swapping items beyond clothing, and how great it would be to have this kind of event open to the community. My instinct is to buy first, so this challenge is stretching my thinking around seeking out other options, and getting creative.
This has been the most difficult area of temptation so far, to my surprise. Going without clothing – so far, meh! Without make up or beauty items – no problem! Toys though has been a struggle. As my son grows I get very excited about his interests and love watching him engage with toys or other kinds of kid activities. Majority of the time I buy toys second hand with the awareness of mass superfluous consumption in this area in our society, so I did not anticipate this to be a challenge for me.
So, I’ve had to get creative. Thanks to a suggestion from my sister, I am taking a portion of my sons toys and hiding them for a time, then reintroducing them. It has worked! My son plays with these toys as if they are new. I am also reusing recyclable items for crafts more than before, partially due to the staying home social isolation, and partially due to this challenge. So I am slowly letting go of bringing home “new to us” toys as a necessity. I am very thankful for a plethora of ideas on the internet that have inspired me to get more creative.
Some of the reused craft/activities:
- toilet paper rolls & small box put together to make a dinosaur
- used tape on the floor to create train tracks
- I found an old bag of unused balloons, drew a dinosaur on one, and that entertained him for days
- used a large box to make a car for my son to sit inside & drive
- broke out his puddle jumper to wear around the house, which he did…A LOT
- used an old toothbrush & ladle in a bin of soapy water to “wash” his toys
- a bin of uncooked rice, beans & pasta to pour into different containers
Most of the items in our home (furniture, lamps, wall pieces, etc.) are second-hand, hand-me-downs, or gifts. We have felt truly thankful that we have family and friends that have poured out their generosity on us to fill our home. Like toys, I also feel the draw of needing to further fill our home with more. Like clothing, home decor follows trends, and they seem to be having shorter and shorter life spans. I understand the draw and want to have beautiful things in our home too.
I started sitting in different rooms in my home and asking myself: “What if this room looked the exact same way 20 years from now? How would I feel? Why?” I highly recommend doing this! I had some good feelings and some very uncomfortable feelings, but the point is I gained awareness of feelings in connection to stuff. It helped me put into perspective the reasons behind my motives for buying and decorating. And it helped develop gratitude for what matters most: having a beautiful home shared with my favorite people. Cheesy, I know, but not any less true.
So far, taking on the same philosophy as toys, instead of buying anything new for the home, I started to move some of the items I have to new areas in the home, and found in a closet some forgotten pieces. Switching things around has given new life to my home, without having to buy anything!
Lend & Borrow
A lot of items we probably would have bought this year, specifically related to camping, as we are now starting to do this annually. These items would only get use the one week per year we go camping though. It got me thinking, what if we could have a library of things in our community (other than books), such as camping equipment, kitchen supplies, tools or toys – items that would only be used for a smaller amount of time. I love this idea, and there are a lot of these kinds of libraries popping up around the globe, like this one. What an awesome and creative way to help slow down consumption, reduce our waste, and build community connection.
The truth is things do not define us, they do not control us, and they don’t matter, even though marketing wants you to feel differently. Once our world gets back to normalcy (assuming that happens), I can guarantee that marketing is going to try to draw people back into a rhythm of buying.
This challenge has continued to push me to question why I buy, why I have attachment to physical items, and why I become dissatisfied with the items I already own. Sometimes the “why” is clear, and other times it’s not. But what I do know is if life isn’t about stuff, then what better time to rediscover this joy than right now with the time we have. Let’s refocus our priorities, activities, and routines on what matters most.