How To Not Buy Anything

Apples on an abandoned tree. Another free resource in an abundant universe.

About a month ago I decided to attempt to live with even less and reduce even more the amount of stuff that still somehow abounds in my life, despite rarely buying anything new. This month I have spent money on food and bills, and paying Builder Matt to make me a verandah. Plus I spent $2.20 on a tea towel and two books about pruning from the op-shop. This was an impulse buy as I originally went into the shop to buy some single quilt covers for the girls and there weren't any nice ones..

Here is the best way I have found not to buy anything.... wait for it.... DON'T GO INTO SHOPS. Really, it's much better just to walk past them. Also, it makes trips into town so much more pleasant. I go to the library, I do some tedious admin, I buy some food from little local shops, I enjoy the autumn leaves drifting down in the parks, I say hello to people I know. It all removes that tight feeling I once had in town, that fear that I might be missing some amazing sale, that I somehow needed to buy in order to save?? That covetous feeling of Needing a Thing, a thing that I hadn't needed at all until I went into the shop, and then feeling that I literally could not live without it anymore. For quite some years after I stopped buying new I still coveted lovely lovely things in the shops, but somehow, recently, that feeling has completely gone away. I can't even imagine wanting to buy the things I see in shops now. I think I have unhabituated myself to shopping. It all seems very crass and vulgar and such a terrible waste of precious resources to have shops full of shiny tat that people will cart off to their homes and then send the same amount of stuff from their homes to the op-shop or the tip in order to make room. That is the cycle I see when I look in a shop window now.

Still, needs happen. For instance, this week I discovered I am nearly out of ponytail bands. I thought about this for some time, then made a bunch this afternoon out of bits of leftover elastic from my sewing drawer. When Rosy used to do ballet we had to cut the elastic off her shoes to sew on the satin ribbons. I saved all of that elastic, of course. Today I cut it up the middle then tied a knot in it. Voila, new hair ties. Then I realised I could also tie a knot in my old, broken hairband.

Sometimes I think this could be renamed "Most Boring Blog Ever". I mean, really, hair ties. But, now hair ties are another thing I don't have to buy that uses up something I had in a drawer. It's like living in a slightly different universe. My daughters already think I do that. I think they are right. I used to live in a universe where I 'needed' lots of things that cost money and resources. It was a universe where I often felt slightly deficient because I didn't ever have quite the right stuff. Now I live in a universe where I have enough. I have everything I need and a lot of what I want. If I want or need a thing I can exercise my somewhat atrophied ingenuity muscle to make or remake a thing. Hey, this works for hair ties. It will probably work for lots of things, although most likely not everything. BUT if I encourage my brain to find an alternative way first, then I will leave more of my financial resources for that moment when there is something I really can't cobble together with leftover bits of elastic. Meanwhile, I am loving not going shopping.


Unknown said…
Yes yes! Definitely not a boring post, I read every word as it rang so true. I too tell myself I just dont need to go to the shops (mostly just the op shops anyway) because I actually dont need anything. Takes a bit of convincing sometimes. But yes! :)
simplelife said…
Another great post. I too am finding myself buying less and less, I just don't need it enough. My kids tease me about the way I go to get something specific that I think I need, carry it around the shop, put it back and leave deciding I didn't need it at all. I do still buy more books than I need, but not as many as I used to. I look around our place and feel crippled by stuff, on top of that the global impact of manufacturing and shipping is more than my conscience can bare. I'm not missing out on anything .
Cheers Kate.
jj said…
Terrific post, may there be many more of them! My partner & I have turned talking ourselves out of a purchase of any sort into an minor art form, such fun to see who is going to come up with the most inventive reason not to buy a 'whatever' on the very odd occasion one of us get's in into their head we 'need' a 'whatever', we rarely find we miss that 'whatever' anyway ;)
GretchenJoanna said…
I renewed the subscription I had to a "Farm Box" some years ago. Having those vegetables delivered to my doorstep every other week, combining them with all that has been stashed in the freezer or pantry for months or years, has liberated me from grocery shopping.

Shopping in stores, after the trouble of leaving home with its opportunities to actually create; then driving somewhere, parking, looking around for the object of my desires only to find that it's not there -- creates another problem:

To return empty-handed seems like a waste of all that time and effort, which puts the subtle and often unconscious pressure on to buy something else - anything else! - just to have an accomplishment. I come home with something that turns out sooner or later to be junk.

But I seem to have grown out of that phase, and often will cut short those painful excursions and just come home, with nothing to put away - yay! - but with plenty of satisfaction.

I love hearing about hair ties or anything you grow, find, make, etc :-)
Anonymous said…
Jo, this is the least boring blog I've ever read, and I will keep coming here as long as you keep posting!

It has taken me many years to get past that coveting thing, and it wasn't just wanting things for myself. I used to love buying little treats and treasures for friends and family, and it was hard to give that up. But I managed it eventually, and now it's really not difficult at all to come up with other options.

It has become a little daily exercise to think up creative alternatives to buying stuff. And I have to say that having a husband with a severe allergy to shops of any kind has made it a great deal easier for me to stay out of them!

Linda in NZ
Jo said…
Clarissa, must confess since I wrote this post I have been thinking of various things I actually do want to buy! A camping sleeping mat, a proper torch, warmer sleeping bags.. I will put them on the 'to think about' list.

Kate, I love your shopping ritual, I have been known to do the same. I am hearing you about feeling crippled by stuff. I am still clearing more things out, despite the fact that I have less than half the stuff I once owned before I moved into this place two years ago. And I hear the sentiment often. I think maybe as a society we are beginning to experience peak stuff angst in our own lives? Or is that just the sensible people I hang out with on-line and in real life? I certainly seem to have a lot of kindred spirits here at Blueday:)

jj, that is a wonderful supportive partnership you have here, with both of you agreeing about Not Buying. Many, many couples have a Buyer and a Not Buyer in the relationship which makes it rather hard.

Gretchen Joanna, oh, yes, deliveries, the perfect way to shop! When I read vintage novels I am inordinately jealous of housewives who had the milk delivered and the butcher's boy turn up with the roasting joint. Plus the baker's van. Honestly, if you had a vegie garden you could probably get by without ever leaving the house. Bliss! Mmm, coming home empty handed from the shops - perhaps that feeling of failure stems from hunter-gatherer days! I do find that at op-shops sometimes - the sense of having invested so much time examining everything minutely just in case there was hidden treasure, and then there wasn't. But like you, I am recovering from that. Like Kate above, I am finding that the excess of stuff actually becomes a burden and coming home without a 'thing' makes me feel light. I know that eventually an op-shop somewhere will yield up the perfect thing that I want, and I'm learning to wait..

Linda, I love your line "It has become a little daily exercise to think up creative solutions to buying stuff." Exactly! It is this that makes each day a very interesting enterprise indeed:)
simplelife said…
Many, many couples have a Buyer and a Not Buyer in the relationship which makes it rather hard.
Just an extra challenge. Sigh .
Cheers Kate
Monique said…
Hair ties - cut up old school stockings. :)
Nawm D Gerr said…
I am just starting this journey of not buying. So glad I found your post.
Jo said…
Kate, yes I know all about the Buyer, Not Buyer dynamic. It works as long as you have a good income.. even then it creates friction on both sides..

Monique, yes! I also use those for tying up tomatoes :)

Nawm D Gerr, it takes a while to change the consuming mindset, I find, but actually, I am discovering that I am loving it:)

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