Thursday, January 31, 2013

Buying (nearly) nothing new - January 2013

I recently read that all social media, especially blogs, are inherently narcissistic. I will be doing a narcissistic post at the end of each month this year in an effort to make myself accountable for my "easy, ethical 2013 resolutions". This month I will focus on "stuff" because that is where I made the most change.

I have purchased two new "things" this month (not including food, drink, services or medication). One was a light globe to replace a blown globe in my storage room, which receives no natural light. I make no apologies for that. I am really proud that I resisted buying anything at the local handmade markets (my shopping Achilles heel), bookstores and post-Christmas sales.

My other purchase was a modem, after my modem stopped working last weekend. I tried to use an old one of my Dad's but it didn't work. I had no idea how best to choose electronics from an ethical perspective, other than avoiding them. I should have chosen to do without a modem. I could have looked for one for sale secondhand or on Freecycle. However, I use my broadband for work and study (plus watching TV and narcissistic blog posts) so decided to replace my modem within a couple of days of it dying. My first instinct was to head to the discount electronics superstore across the road. Instead, I paid a visit to a family-run computer store in the next suburb. The advantage? I saved time choosing which modem to buy, as they only had one model in each speed. I didn't waste time searching product review sites on my phone. I received great service. The whole transaction took about 5 minutes, instead of the 30+ minutes I would have spent agonising over the choices at the chain store. I supported a local business and I saved 30 minutes of my time. (I still have the two useless modems sitting around, waiting for electronics recycling collection time.)

I have been working at my "giving away 7 items per week" goal. I've only given away a few items but I've identified dozens that will be given away shortly. I am in the process of clearing out my wardrobes (that's right, I have a completely unnecessary TWO wardrobes for one person) that are shamefully full of clothes I had forgotten I owned and shoes I have not worn for years. Some of the shoes have only been worn once. I even hoarded some of the empty shoeboxes! I discovered bags full of clothes that I had intended to donate to charity in 2011 and had shoved in the top of my wardrobe, awaiting the annual charity collection. The charity collection never eventuated and the bags are still there, of no use to anyone. Most of the items will go to the Red Cross and I hope some will find a new home at Ready to Work, a local charity that helps disadvantaged women find employment.

Some of my sad, unloved shoes. They want a new home.
I have also been clearing out the kitchen cupboards of tools I never use and discovering products that I should use. It is helping to make my little kitchen work more efficiently and will help me cook more and follow Pollan's Food Rules.

I feel that I haven't challenged myself in January and will try to make more of a difference in February. My parents are getting me a bicycle for my birthday and that will be the topic of my next post. Yippee!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Give it away, give it away, give it away now

I have been asked to clarify one of my New Year resolutions:
Give away at least seven items per week

How is this an ethical move? It is not just about making donations - if so, I would be better off donating cash to help those in the developing world who would benefit most, or selling my items and donating the proceeds. It is not about getting rid of all my possessions and replacing them with "green" or "ethical" items (that would defeat the purpose). It is more about simplifying, having less "stuff" and thinking more about what I consume. It is about changing my priorities from "stuff", to "deeds". It is about having more time (because I am not spending as much time cleaning or looking for lost items or deciding what to wear) to do more important things. My home is not going to become minimalist - just less like it could appear on Hoarders.

Slow Your Home's "52 Reasons to Simplify Your Life" include these reasons that resonate most with me:
  • Less time spent cleaning
  • Less impact on the environment
  • Less time organising your belongings
  • Less likely to inadvertently support child slavery and unfair work conditions through buying cheap, disposable items
  • Feeling more content with what you have
  • Less time (and money) wasted shopping for things you don’t need
  • You need less furniture, which gives you more space
  • No more dreading drop-in visitors

There are endless blogs on the topic of simplifying, downsizing, minimising and generally consuming less. Some of those that I follow include Becoming Minimalist, Be More With Less, The Simple Year, The Clean Bin Project, Simplify Your Life and Buy Nothing New for a Year.

My first item given away for 2013 was my copy of "The 100 Thing Challenge: How I Got Rid of Almost Everything, Remade My Life, and Regained My Soul" by A Guy Named Dave to my friend (also a guy named Dave) and his wife who are embarking on their own quest for a simpler life.  I will periodically update this blog with details of the items I have given away.

Have you tried simplifying your life? Do you have any reading recommendations on the topic?