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Buy Nothing New Challenge: It’s Easier Than You Think

Wardobe Sale. Credit: Jennifer Nini
Written by Jennifer Nini

In 2013 I signed up to the Buy Nothing New Challenge. I didn’t have a massive shopping problem like so many fashion people I knew  – I merely wanted to put my sustainability values to the test and challenge myself with this New Year’s resolution. So I vowed not to purchase any new garments or accessories – and if I needed to, would only purchase vintage or second hand. Needless to say I succeeded in the challenge – even wearing vintage jewellery and an impeccable Shag Vintage 50s chiffon dress at my engagement party.

Although I achieved that New Year’s resolution, I know there will be many others attempting it this year. As the first month of 2015 draws to an end, I thought I’d share some advice to help spur on those undertaking the journey – and those who have yet to.

Buy Nothing New Challenge - Jennifer Nini - Ethical Fashion Blogger

Wearing Shag Vintage 50s chiffon dress at our second engagement party in Melbourne

Here’s some advice that helped me not buy anything new:

Make it public

When I committed to buying nothing new, I told everyone about the New Year’s resolution: I wrote a blog post about it, I shared the news on social media and told my family and friends. When you announce your intentions publicly, you are more likely to take it seriously as you’re not just accountable to yourself but to the people you have told. The other reason I chose to go public was to help inspire others and network with others who were doing the same. This journey led me to connect me with people that I still call friends today.

Avoid shopping centres whenever possible

I avoided shopping centres for most of that year with a few notable exceptions: when breakfast with a friend turned into a girls day out in which she shopped, I watched and we both gas-bagged; when another girlfriend dropped into the shopping centre because her daughter needed items for an overseas trip; when a best mate had dropped a few sizes (I was so proud) and needed a stylist to help him put together a new wardrobe; and when mum needed help with her Christmas shopping (hers not mine – I opted out of Christmas shopping years ago). Avoiding shopping centres not only gave me precious time to do other things like writing, but I also rid myself of any temptation to buy something I ‘wanted’.

Get a new hobby

If shopping is your hobby, I can understand it’s a hard habit to break. Thus like many other addictions, instead of going cold-turkey, I recommend replacing the habit with another: one that doesn’t involve ‘browsing’ ‘buying’ ‘purchasing’ ‘shopping’ or ‘window shopping.’ When I gave up buying new, I decided to take up running as I had loved it many years prior. Some friends joined in too and before I knew it, we were running with some regularity. So swapping shopping for my new hobby – running – helped me save money, get fit and strengthen my friendships.

Be aware of your ‘weak’ moments

Find constructive ways to deal with your negative emotions, boredom, stress or hormones because if you don’t, you will likely go shopping to find ‘happiness’ – however short lived. The psychology of modern shopping is similar to the psychology of overeating – we do so to fill a void we consciously or subconsciously know is there. So be mindful of these emotions and address these issues in any of the following ways: seeing your doctor, getting counselling, sharing your feelings with friends, meditating, joining a support group or exercise (increases those ‘feel good’ chemicals in your body). As for me, I dealt with those feelings by running – as well as writing this blog.

Splurge on experiences, not things

Buy Nothing New Challenge - Jennifer Nini - Sustainable Fashion Blogger

Waiting to get my hair styled into cornrows whilst holidaying in Boracay, Philippines, the country of my birth

Indeed we work and earn a pay check so we can acquire the lifestyle we want – otherwise what’s the point of working? However you may have also seen the meme making its rounds on Facebook or Instagram: “Collect moments, not things.” Our society dictates that being successful means acquiring lots of stuff. But a successful life is so much more than buying things. In their book “Everything That Remains” co-authors Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus aka The Minimalists write about living meaningful lives by removing all excess and focussing only on the essential: health, friendships, family and finding what you’re truly passionate about. So take a leaf out of their book and instead of going shopping for useless consumables, invest that money in something that will last: memories, experiences, skills, knowledge and basically anything that will bring real joy into your life. It could be getting a massage, signing up for cooking classes, organising a family day out, hiring a life coach or completing yoga training. My ‘thing’ was attending concerts and travelling. It was money well spent, experiences well documented and memories that will last me a lifetime.

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About the author

Jennifer Nini

Jennifer Nini is a writer, activist and the founding editor of Eco Warrior Princess. In 2010, after studying Fashion Business, she began this blog to explore her interests in fashion, politics, social justice and sustainability. Jennifer is also the founder of The Social Copywriter, a digital agency harnessing the power of copywriting and content marketing to help mindful businesses reach more people. When she's not perfecting a sentence or coaching business clients, you will find her at her certified organic farm reconnecting with nature.

10 Comments

  • You are right about posting publicly to help you follow through on commitments. I just joined Tortoise and Lady Grey’s Sustainable Fashion Challenge and recently wrote about my first week. I’m enjoy the ideas and inspiration the challenge is giving me and it helps make everything manageable by giving you daily tasks to focus on. Instead of feeling overwhelmed about how I’ll repair or alter things I haven’t worn, I feel like I can make weekly arrangements to take on one project at a time. Challenges like these help put everything into perspective.

    • Fanastic! Yes Summer who runs Tortoise & Lady Grey inspires through this challenge – she is a big knitter and I could barely finish a scarf I started years ago. I’ll have to jump on to have a read of how you’re going! x

      • Summer just sent us link to knitting instructions and tutorials. I am also a big knitter and jewelry maker in addition to working as a seamstress, so my craft bins are pretty full. Right now I’m not purchasing any new craft items until I use up what I have, I can only buy new items if they are necessary supplies to finish projects. It’s a goal I’ve set up for myself during and after the challenge. I hope you enjoy my post about the first week, I’m getting ready to set-up a post for week two!

        • Fantastic! Great to hear that you’re enjoying her tutorials – I had been meaning to finish a scarf that I had begun 3 years ago but alas, have failed to do so. I had mentioned to Summer that I should make it my goal to start knitting again – but this year we decided to give up Coles and Woolworths, believing that growing more of our own food and supporting local industry is a much more worthwhile exercise for the entire household. Love connecting with like minded people like yourself – and I’ll jump on and read your blog now xx

          • Hi Jennifer,
            If you need more tutors or patterns, check out Craftsy (www.craftsy.com) for some tutorials. I also just found Wool and the Gang (www.woolandthegang.com), which looks like a great site dedicated to handmade knitted pieces, supplies, and patterns. I have also opted to buy less from chain stores and have found a few local knitting shops that supply fair trade and quality yarns you wouldn’t find at a craft store that is a chain. Always enjoy reading your blog and can’t wait to see what you have in store next!

  • I was planning to take up the challenge before I left Melbourne in 2013. Now I live in Singapore where just finding a thrift store is a real challenge! I like to try things on, so I don’t feel like online shopping is an option. I have settled for just buying less all round and doing a lot of research before making necessary purchases. I have also been investigating clothes swap parties, they seem like a fun option!

    • Great to know that you’re shopping less and making a concerted effort to get informed before making purchases – this is a great start! I’ve been to wardrobe sales (a little more upmarket than a garage sale as my friends like to throw a fancy soiree with canapes to sell their second hand clothes and stuff from their wardrobe they never got around to wearing) but not a clothes swap party yet. Let me know how you go! x

  • I know this is an old post, but I just stumbled across your blog, and though I love all the posts I’ve looked at so far, this is great. I’ve just started this kind of challenge this year, and these tips are really great. I’m sure a lot of your posts will inspire me! I hope eventually everyone hears our Eco Warrior message lol!
    Thanks for the blog, I’ll be following 🙂
    Rhio
    furugi-life.blogspot.jp

  • Hey Jen, Great post! Just wondering..did you include bras and underwear in your “buy nothing new” or is it just clothing, shoes and accessories?

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