We are eight months into a year-long buy nothing new project. To write a “lessons learned” post at this point is kind of like Justin Bieber writing his memoir now…it just seems a bit early. But recently, I’ve had a few people reach out to me about their own project. So, in case you are planning a similar project after the confetti has been swept away, I have a few thoughts.
I normally think self-help books are a little sappy and self-righteous. Did, I just say that out loud? But, Steven Covey does have a point when he says, “Begin with the end in mind.” I started with a goal, which was to reduce our consumption. Secondary to that, was to live simply. What do you hope to accomplish, money savings, less clutter, smaller footprint?
Set Your Parameters
Your Simple Year or Frugal Fortnight, whatever you want to call it, is just that–your own. As a bit of a control freak, I find it gratifying that I get to decide the particulars. If you want to completely eradicate plastic–go for it. Live with only 100 things, more power to you. Although, for the life of me, I have no idea how this particular brass ring of minimalism is feasible in a home with kids since mine probably have 100 items in their backpacks alone.
Anyway, I set my own rules, some of which make more sense than others, pick yours as it best fits your lifestyle and your values. If you want somewhere to start, I suggest the Buy Nothing New For A Year website, a well written, thoughtful resource with a page dedicated to guidelines.
You know what is easy to say? “I’m going to take things one day at a time.” Do you know what is hard to actually do? Take things one day at a time.
Looking at a WHOLE YEAR, or whatever time period you chose, is daunting. When I first started to document our project, I remember thinking, “What in the world am I going to write about for an entire year? We are just not that interesting.” I almost didn’t start the blog because of that fear. Now, eight months have passed and we aren’t any more interesting, but I really haven’t had any issues finding topics, one at a time. I think any project like this has to be mentally broken in to manageable chunks. Don’t worry about a year, worry about tomorrow, or next week. When I start the, how-am-I-going-to-do-this-a-whole-year, freak out; I actively redirect myself to just worry about tomorrow.
Create a Plan
Having said that, I think it’s good to have a general plan to deal with potential stumbling blocks. Mine were the holidays and back to school. I also thought about our gift policy, both giving and getting. Incidentally, we have sailed through all of those milestones with no problems. It has been the everyday and unexpected that has caused me consternation, mainly related to my kid’s activities.
Accept small defeats
All the diet experts say that if you cheat on your diet, just accept it and move on. I’m going to have to take their word for it as I have never been able to stay on a diet past noon. What I do know is that I have stumbled this year. Also, I have made some decisions that might be considered questionable, like allowing my kids to pick out new bear hats with the tickets they “won” at one of those indoor arcade type places. But, it doesn’t do any good to beat myself up about it, so I’ll document and move on.
I most frequently get asked if we are saving money. The answer is definitely, yes, but not as much as you might think. Primarily because my goal is reduced consumption not reduced spending. As a result, there are things that have cost more like some repairs, shipping certain items from eBay and probably gas. But, having to buy things used, which is more difficult than popping out to Target, has greatly reduced my family’s consumption and spending. It has caused us to think carefully about the true necessity of EVERY purchase. Although in the beginning, it was difficult not to buy unneeded items at thrift stores just because they were a smoking deal, but time has made it easier.
A Final Note
The military has been a consistent employer for us in this tenuous economy and as a result our financial circumstances have been better than many. I think, generally speaking, in our society if we HAVE the money, we tend to spend it on stuff (and sometimes even when we don’t) particularly when it comes to children. I started this project because I believe our kind can’t continue to maintain this level of consumption and keep our world healthy. I figure all vicissitudes start somewhere. I could stand on a soap box or our family could take action with something small and controllable, because according to all those self help books, all little acts add up– maybe to something grand.