Having a toddler in tow when you visit the shops, can suddenly make you very much more aware of all the ‘stuff’. And of our seemingly insatiable need or desire for new ‘stuff’ all the time. Or at least it did for me.
It would be easy to say that that’s what all kids do, nag you for stuff, but when I stopped to think about it, I realised that I was acting in very much the same way as a three year old (only with slightly less tantrums…). I was constantly looking for the next bright, new shiny thing. And when I had it, I would play with it (wear it, use it, watch it etc.) for a while, and then be distracted by the next new shiny thing and forget all about it.
So, in what started as a bit of a personal challenge for our family, just to see if we could do it, we embarked upon a year of Buying Nothing New.
I started a blog, called My Make Do and Mend Year, and documented the trials and the triumphs, and the things we learned along the way.
We set some basic ground rules, that we felt would work for us: we could buy food, toiletries, medication, underwear and shoes for the kids new. For everything else, we had to buy second-hand.
So we Made: birthday presents, Christmas presents, and even an egg box Christmas tree…
We Made Do: with things that weren’t quite right, or that were originally intended for other uses. And We Mended: I learned to darn socks, and I patched more pairs of jeans than I care to recall.
We also discovered all kinds of ‘retail outlets’: charity shops, car boots, vintage fairs, auctions houses, online sites like Freegle and Freecycle, flea markets and the good old jumble sale.
It was a brilliant experience. It’s a cliché to say it was life changing, but it really has changed our lives, and changed our attitudes to shopping. The year that started as a personal challenge, just to see if it could be done, turned into so much more. It made me stop and think about the things that we were buying: about what was used to make things, who made the things, where they came from, how they got here, and what would happen to them when we no longer wanted or needed them.
Our year of Buying Nothing New kind of forced me to think about all of these things. It forced me to actually stop and think about what I was buying, and the impact that my choices were having on the world around me.
I’m not suggesting that we all stop buying new things. I’m just putting it out there, that maybe we should all try to shop more consciously. To think a bit more about the impact our choices have. To mis-quote Jane Goodall: What you buy makes a difference, and you have to decide what difference you want to make.
About the Author: Jen Gale is a British crafter and founder of the blog 'My Make Do and Mend Year' where she and her family attempted to buy nothing new for one whole year.