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.
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
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.