Last night I was working at the library, and talking with some of my friends there about a book I’m currently reading. It’s called Not Buying It – My Year Without Shopping. I waited on the hold list at the library for over two months for this one, as it seems to be a pretty popular book. Anyway, it’s the story of Judith Levine and her domestic partner, Paul, as they spend 2004 without buying anything non-essential. They can buy unprocessed food, toilet paper, work supplies, etc. But movies, clothes, dining out… all the non-essentials are axed for the year. It’s in journal format, and I’m only to April, but it’s very interesting so far.
As we were talking about it, one of the other librarians mentioned that someone should try to go a year without buying anything NEW except for food and other obviously consumable stuff – toilet paper comes to mind. She was musing out loud about whether it would be possible to only buy stuff at thrift stores, garage sales, Craigslist, freecycle, etc. I mentioned that I pretty much do that already, and she said I should write a book. Or I could just blog about it.
As it is, we never buy clothing new, and we rarely buy anything else new. The exceptions are few. I am a runner, and I buy new running shoes every 7 or 8 months. Used running shoes have already formed to someone else’s foot, and if they’re in a thrift store, chances are the shock absorption has seen better days. Since this has an impact (literally) on my knees, I have found over the years that new running shoes are an invaluable investment. Underwear and socks I buy new, although I have been known to buy the occasional pair of socks in a thrift store. I just found a sweet pair of Patagonia hiking socks for $1. Didn’t look like they had ever been worn, and I’ve seen similar socks for $15 in sporting goods stores. We will be buying a new computer in January. We have an on-line insurance agency, and since we work from home, the computer and our phones are really the only infrastructure we need in order to work. We use them pretty intensively, and mine is almost 5 years old. It will be retiring soon. We’re going to buy J’s dad a heart rate monitor this weekend, as he’s recently gotten into biking and is working really hard to get himself in good shape. He’s doing a great job, and we want to encourage him. I go to the scrapbook store every 6 months or so, but I could skip that for several years and probably still have supplies left over – I have enough paper to last the rest of my life.
Other than that, we pretty much buy everything used. Our cars, full suspension mountain bikes, bike shoes, bike jerseys and shorts, clothes, furniture (and no, our house does not look like a college student’s apartment), dishes, pots and pans, comforters, our juicer, even our pets were recycled! (Humane Society). And we’re not into upgrading or replacing stuff just because. We pretty much keep the same stuff until it’s no longer useful. We’re not likely to go buy new furniture or dishes until what we have falls apart. It’s the ultimate recycling – keeping what we’ve got already.
So yes, I think it’s absolutely possible to spend a year only buying used stuff. I can’t imagine buying only new stuff. That would take all the fun out of it, since I’d be worried about the money I was spending, and because I love how thrift stores are like a treasure hunt. You never know what you’re going to find. Not so in Banana Republic or Pottery Barn, where you can pretty much picture what’s in there before you even walk inside.