To start with, my usual spiel:
Why not buy new? In a word, externalities. All of us who can access the internet on an electronic device, are more or less the 1% of the world's population who benefit unfairly from the sweat, habitat destruction, pollution, ill health, exploitation and death of the 99% whose lives are degraded in some way so that we can have machines to wash our clothes and make our toast, and have access to cheap t-shirts and chocolate.
One day I woke up and the invisible wake of destruction that trails behind my trips to Target suddenly became unbearable, so I have started on a different path to providing for my needs and wants, and those of my lovely children, dog, two cats and two budgies.
Here are my guidelines:
1 Make do with what I have.
2 Try to find what I need second hand - there is a world of stuff out there that needs to be rescued and used again.
3 Buy from a local craftsperson.
4 As a last resort, buy from a local, independent store, so that at least my money stays in my community.
Clearly, although I might be devoted to not buying new, I am not devoted to regular reporting, although I am quite a devoted record keeper, and write down everything I spend so that now I can provide a belated, boring, but accurate report of my purchases of 'stuff' over the last half of the year.
In August I bought... nothing. That is not to say I didn't spend any money - we spent a ridiculous amount on groceries, went bowling, The Girl had her wisdom teeth out, I paid bills, but no stuff. Awesome.
Bought new: Paintbrushes, paints and canvases from the local art supply shop for Posy's birthday.
Zips from the local fabric shop for Rosy who has been making pencil cases for her friends as gifts all year.
Chicken wire and some timber for the chicken palace.
A new vacuum cleaner head for the pool, but I found a local pool shop to buy this from, so it was more expensive, but so much better quality than our old Bunnings one. It actually stays attached to the pool hose without duct tape..
Bought second hand: Books, clothes and certain bits and pieces which I put away for Christmas.
Teaset, blackboard, scarf and letters for Rosy.
Bought new: Paint for the front fence, batteries for gizmos and torches.
Two pairs of shoes for Posy from a local shoe store, which is such a relaxing place, and the service is exquisite. The owner, who served us, kindly put an extra hole in the straps of Posy's sandals to accommodate her narrow feet.
Bought second hand: More books, clothes for the children, and doodads for Christmas.
A wee, vintage pudding bowl for The Girl..
...and a wee Chinese plate
Bought new: A magazine, New Philosopher. I found it at the airport bookshop. Love, love it. Might buy more.
A battery for my old, defunct laptop, which I bought from a little shop that sells batteries for everything. Now Posy has her own electronic device, apart from her dad's old phone that she uses as an ipod. She is very happy. She might write a novel.
Bought new: Socks and undies for the children. From Target. Yes, I know. Damn. Reason being, Rosy was going on school camp, and didn't have enough underwear for nine days in the wilderness, and I hadn't had enough forethought to order any from an on-line ethical undie supplier. While I was there, I bought enough for everyone. Also for camp I bought Rosy some clothes from independent local camping suppliers, and a new bed mat as ours died. We borrowed a backpack, as I couldn't find ours - later I discovered it underneath all the Christmas decorations in the shed.
But, here is the evil thing about department stores - while I was in the belly of the beast I discovered that I also needed to buy a dress and t-shirts for Posy for Christmas, also PJs for The Girl. And while I was on a roll of destructive behaviour I also went and bought a top for Rosy at Myer, and three shirts for The Boy for Christmas. Candles and stickers for Christmas stockings. Guilty binge shopping!
Just before Christmas a Typo store opened up down town. Our girls have been spending all their pocket money in this delicious faux-vintage stationery store for years whenever they can get to Hobart or Melbourne, so I was coerced into spending some money there on Christmas presents. A calendar, a gift card, a box of wooden letters for card-making, a pen that is also a fan(!), you know, things that are vital to the advancement of the species.
I also bought some clothes for my dad for Christmas from a lovely local menswear store. You know, the old-fashioned kind where a nice old man who looks rather like a gnome, in black pants, white shirt, black waistcoat, with a tape measure slung around his neck, comes and asks if he can help you. I found a shirt that was actually made in Australia. Extraordinary.
Two new books, one for me, one for my brother. Because, you know, books.
Mineral make up and make up brush from The Body Shop
A fold-up, reusable bag and a reusable travel mug for The Girl for Christmas from a little kitchen shop in town.
Kitchen bits and bobs and Christmas decorations for gifts from the Oxfam shop.
Drawing pencils for Posy for Christmas from our art supply shop.
A saving grace for Christmas was the regular, local, pre-Christmas craft fair. I bought pretty things for each girl (and they bought something nice for me), plus some gifts for birthday party presents.
A framed print for Rosy, and a cactus in a home-cast concrete pot for Posy from the craft fair.
Bought second hand: More Christmas knick-knacks, of course. Including some for me:)
A new flower tin. Now there are two, it is officially a collection:)
Thoughts. Apart from my Christmas panic buying, I think this year went quite well. What I have learned is that shopping at those big box stores is all about convenience. We can get what we what at the moment we think about it. Any other option requires more planning, and that seems like an outrageous inconvenience to those of us who believe we should be able to have what we want whenever we want it. On the other hand, is that a character trait we want to encourage in ourselves and our children? Really, no.
On the other, other hand - yes, I have more than two hands because I am a mother - organisation and forward planning are just not my thing, so this method of acquiring 'stuff' is quite painful. Actually going out the door to go to the shops is like... well... do you remember The Little House on the Prairie books, when during the Long Winter Almanzo rides out in the teeth of a blizzard to find enough wheat to save the town until Spring? That is how I feel every time I am faced with the thought of shopping. Up until this year, the only way I could bear to keep my children in clothes and shoes was to brace myself, race around town for two hours, acquire everything I needed in one fell swoop, then limp home exhausted, thankful that I didn't have to do that again for at least six months.
Sometimes I went second hand shopping, but not often enough for it to be a reliable source of stuff. I think that in order to dress everyone mostly second hand (which I thoroughly approve of) I would need to pop into a couple of op shops at least every fortnight, with a list of needs that is at least six months ahead of when those things are actually needed. For instance, I finally found a new (second hand) rash vest for Posy this Spring.. only nine months after I started looking.
Other thoughts. Shopping at small, independently owned stores is the best. I love talking to the owners about where their stock comes from, and discovering how passionate and knowledgeable they are about books/fabric/ukeleles/shoes/computer batteries. Amazing people. And I want to live in a city filled with tiny retail spaces run by passionate, knowledgeable people who can make stuff, alter stuff, source the best stuff, and provide impeccable service, and also provide dignified jobs for our children and fellow townsfolk.
So am I going to continue Buying Nothing New - yes, and I will be kicking it up another notch. I believe there is a way to revitalise our urban and suburban communities, and it starts with the way you and I live our lives every day. Stay tuned for the 2016 project..