I have spent the past few months feeling guilty about not posting an update for a very long time on my Nothing New Project that I started at the beginning of this year. To anyone who was curious to know how things have been travelling, I’m sorry to have been so inconsistent! There has been a niggling voice in the back of my mind for the last few months telling me to post an update, but my procrastination was on a winning streak.
When I last posted about the project, we had just returned from our wedding in France and I discussed the nothing new wins I had while over there (namely wearing my secondhand wedding dress on our special day and my success in deflecting gifts and buying hardly anything for the duration of the trip). I also shared that I bought some brand new shoes out of desperation when the morning of our wedding day turned out to be very rainy and the ground, very muddy. After my little slip-up with the shoes, I decided to continue with the project with renewed resolve.
Shortly after we got back from France, I bought something new…again. My sister-in-law decided to fly in from France to visit the beautiful country we call home and I felt very unprepared. Luckily we had a sofa bed for her to sleep on (which we had been using as a couch), but no duvet or mattress protector to actually make it usable as a bed! So I grudgingly went out and bought one of each with not much time to spare before her arrival. Then our trusty frying pan, which we had had for years and years, finally carked it due to the lining peeling away. When my Gumtree searches yielded nothing but really crappy or really expensive secondhand pans, none of which were even remotely close to our neighbourhood, I decided that it was more important to keep eating dinner every night so I caved and bought one new. Sigh…
Well, I am glad to have shared this information with you on the blog. I would much prefer to be here telling you how easy it has been to live with nothing but the things I already own (now I cringe at my naive optimism when I first started the project!), but the reality is that it has been difficult, more difficult than I first imagined. Things have broken and have worn out over the course of the year and I’m getting tired of spending so much time in op shops, scouring every shelf for the exact things I need – sometimes with success and sometimes not.
I previously shared some things this project has taught me, but at this point in time I think the biggest takeaway so far has not been how little I need to get by, but actually how much I need to get by. My attention has been brought to the sheer quantity of stuff needed to furnish a first-worlder with the (ostensibly) essential items for everyday living. To have failed at this project is to have realised just how much of a consumer I really am and just how much of a throwaway society I live in. Our things are designed to wear out quickly, and our privileged lifestyles are designed to require a darn whole lot of things. While I like to think I reject the rampant consumerism that the majority of my fellow Australians embrace, the reality is that my life is still centred around convenience and, as hard as I might try to live sustainably, given my social context I am still a much bigger consumer and polluter than the vast majority of the world’s population.
Where to from here?
Firstly, I think at this stage I need to remind myself how many new things I have avoided buying rather than dwell on the small number of new things I have actually purchased. I know for a fact that even disregarding my few little blunders, my purchasing habits have definitely changed for the better this year and I have purchased many more secondhand items that I previously might have bought new, and have also made do on a number of occasions in order to avoid making a purchase altogether (eg. our kettle recently broke and we decided to not replace it but just heat water in a small saucepan instead, and I haven’t bought an item of clothing – secondhand or otherwise – in well over 6 months now).
Since the project will be wrapping up in February 2018, I also need to plan what my strategy will be until then to try and make these last few months as successful as possible. When I look back on my new purchases this year, I realise that in theory they could have been avoided if I had had more time to seek out secondhand versions of those items. In practice, life throws little surprises at us and doesn’t give us the time to plan everything out carefully, but at the very least I can try to keep looking ahead to anticipate any purchases I may need to make. For example, at the moment all my work shoes are looking very worn out and I think by the start of next year, I will definitely be in need of at least one new pair. Since I’m about to go on holidays, knowing this now allows me plenty of time to start looking for secondhand pairs of shoes before going back to work.
Well, we’ll see how I go for the remaining few months. I am hoping to check in at least a few more times before the end of the project! Thanks for reading!