How to (try) to Buy Less this Year

To have – or not to have – that is an important question to ponder right now. Around here, and in all homes around the world where there are people engaged in preserving earth and humanity, this question is up on the agenda a lot.

Let's all do it: Buy LESS things you don't need this year

I think that we’re all thinking about consumerism – maybe more than we’re aware of. I know that you as a reader of this blog is a proficient person who wants to work towards a better world and a cleaner environment (and probably wish for a healthier and more generous political climate as well, right?). And to own less might be to be able to breath easier for some?

For me, I’m at war…

I’ve been in a personal war against consumerism for the past 20 years or so, mostly my own consumerism behavior. Maybe you could even call it a war against myself… At least that’s how it feels sometimes.

Right now, a few weeks after Christmas, I am thinking about these issues even more. How often do we buy things we don’t need but really, really want to own, to have, to play with or simply use for a few moments of excitement? If you’ve ever tried to take note of all the “extra stuff” you buy (beyond food, toiletries, electricity and such), you know what I mean. It’s a lot.

Personally I’ve been photographing my own “excess buys” for years, and although most of it comes from thrift shops and will not effect the environment in a negative way (rather in a positive way perhaps) it’s not all Gold Stars for me either. Items/things/stuff take up space in my home (and in my head because I need to decide how & whento handle it), creates clutter, needs to be organized – and ultimately it forces me to try to find room for it all. This inner fight sometimes feels like a heavy burden on my small shoulders.

How to stop our collective over consumption

To go thrift shopping is a hobby and a life style for me, but as it has grown it also became part of the personal “problem”, eating up more money than it should as well as cluttering up my environment.

Creating waste in the long run

In 2019 I think we must all know about the impact we are all making by buying way, way too much stuff. Some digs their head deep down in the sand and chose to ignore that knowledge, but I think everyone with a television knows that this is the reality we’re all living with. I don’t think we need to shame people who buy more than us, or reflect less on what they need vs. what they want, no not at all. I think we need to start small, by reflecting every time we feel cravings after “things”….

For example, it seams that many kids born into this world is getting a thousand new things that they, within sometimes months, won’t need ever again. Just the amount of plastic toys, sometimes staying in their first home less than a year, is overwhelming Unimaginable. Unbelievable. And scary! All you need to do is visit your local car boot sale and you’ll see what I mean…

Kids, sometimes as young as five or six, is (trying to) sell at flea markets toys that look brand new, that they probably never needed in the first place. And we can’t blame the kids of course. Who was it that invested money in all those Happy Meals and Collectibles and Surprise bags and plastic toys packaged in plastics upon plastic? Sadly of all the people it’s a very low percentage that donate or sell stuff they no longer want. Most of the unwanted plastic toys, gadgets, play mats, books, and kid cutlery, will end up in the trash, most of them not made to ever decompose or disappear unless burnt. It’s sad, isn’t it?

Unwanted toys at the thrift shop

I doubt we ever will turn this crazy trend of buying stuff as soon as we’ve got any money, around, not entirely. But imagine if everyone, all of us, thought twice before investing our money and bringing new stuff out of a store and into our homes? Imagine if you taught your kids the value of things, and to only get things they will love for a long time? To have one loved teddy bear or doll would probably feel so so so much better and more satisfying than having 25 LOL dolls that you never had time to play with, right? Or what ever the thing you’re into is.

Try this technique: Wait and Think

Imagine if you yourself had a personal rule for shopping… It would state that it is okay to look and crave, online or in shops, but you’ll only buy something when and if you go back a second time. Give yourself at last 24 hours before purchasing anything, get it if or when you feel you really can’t live without that item. Try to imagine:

  • Where and how you’ll store it
  • How long you’ll keep it
  • What the purchase will do for your happiness level
  • If you have something similar at home that you could put to use instead? Or that you could DIY to look cooler/newer or better?

Stop with the impulse buying, stop with getting things because they’re cheap or on sale, stop falling in love with a color or pattern. Do you really need new cushions, more candles, another cooking book, or to own that DVD? Could you borrow the book at the library, rent the video, find it on a streaming service?

Or imagine if you had to decide what to do with the cushion covers you already own before you bought new ones, and even sell them on before you buy new one? Then maybe you’d hesitate because of all the work the buy would entail.

At the Dollarstore in Sweden

Sorry if it sounds too difficult or impossible, I’m not preaching, I’m just thinking out load – in text. I feel like I’m constantly battling with these questions myself. Now I’m so low on money that it’s not a very big issue around here, but it has been and will be in the future. And when you’ve got no money the items that clutter your home feels really strange to look at. I have all this stuff – but I can’t afford to buy any foods I want or crave right now?

Anyway. I do think these are first world problems we should all be thinking about right now, how to be thoughtful consumers, slow down and love what we already have. And I know a lot of people are thinking about these issues right now too, but not enough of us just yet. So I hope you’ll join us if you haven’t already.

Inspiration for a No-Buy-Year

Most recently I discovered Cinzia, a YouTuber that successfully finished a No Buy Year in 2019, and was so happy about it that she will continue to live that way in 2020. I think it is such an impressive thing to accomplish, don’t you?

Here’s Cinzia’s video (in her Personal Philosophy Project) How Much Money I Saved on My No Buy Year:

I found this video in December and I have been thinking about it a lot since. I hope it gives you some food for thought too. What ever reason we have for buying less I think it is something to consider, not only for the environment – but for our own sanity!

Inspiring talks about owning Less

Here’s Elizabeth Dulemba’s talk on Is your stuff stopping you?

And Cassandra Aarssen talking about The Clutter Connection:

Personal Finance Journalist Michelle McGagh talking about her No Spend Year. Michelle’s challenge to stop “squandering” money saved her £22,000 and became the book The No Spend Year:

I did try to go through January without any unnecessary consumption, but it was not a hundred percent successful (but almost – and I’m happy with that result for now). Would you dare to try it yourself? Or have you ever even considered having a No Spend Month or Year?

Wishing you a lovely weekend!

6 Responses

  1. Hi Hanna
    I like your rules for shopping especially where you’ll store it, how long you will keep it and making do with something you already own.

    For me what to do with the old thing is big question too. We’ve just moved continents and down-sized. Selling on takes a lot of time and effort and is not always possible. And putting it in the bin simply adds to the ever-growing piles of rubbish that accumulate around our cities. Unfortunately recycling deals with only a small portion of what we ‘throw out’.

    I enjoyed reading your thoughtful ideas on becoming more aware of what we buy and what happens to it. Great post!

    • Thanks, I’m glad that my blog post resonated with you. I feel like I am constantly down-sizing, probably because I can’t help but always looking for new art material in thrift shops. It’s a lot of work to sort through and store “the stuff”, right?

  2. This is a great post, one I needed to read. I’ve seen the dozens and dozens of toys and plastics in my grandsons rooms that went into the trash after just a few months of having them. I cringe at that. Then there’s me: I don’t buy a lot of unnecessary stuff because money is already tight. But when I do, I feel guilty. Did I REALLY need that book, even if it was only $3.50 on ebay? Did I really need that bag of books and magazines from the library book store, even though they were only $5.00 for all? As you can see, there’s a trend here: books, magazines. They are my downfall. I want to try the idea of a no-buy month but, probably not this month. There’s a book sale coming up at the library next week: $5.00 for a full bag of books. (I don’t think I’ve learned ANYthing!) :-( I really appreciate the honesty, openness of your blog article though. It needs to be heard by the world, starting with me.

    • Thanks for your comment Terry, I hope you can help your grankids grow up to be part of the new conscious youth that will inherit the planet after us. I don’t want to make anyone feel worse about buying what they need, and taking care of books on sale or the ones sorted out from the library does sound like a good thing to me (because I’m the same). You know you’ll read or use them, right?


  3. Very good blogpost, Hanna. I am still decluttering my home but on the other side, I keep on buying new things. Especially when it comes to my most favorite category: art journaling stuff. This year I want to do a no spend for this category (again, like 2 years ago). First I should take a dive into my drawers for my treasures that are tucked away and play with them.

    Oh, and I disagree on the candles. I do keep buying candles, but the small waxine candles.

    About the fact you say it is not necessary items we often buy. I had to think of a Japanse bookkeeping style: Kakebo. It is a very easy way to keep track of your spending in 4 categories: 1 necessities (food, pets), 2 non necessities (shopping), 3 leisure, fun, 4 repairs, vacation.

  4. Thanks Cindy! My bank has these categories (and a few more) so I can see instantly where my money ends up, at least in hindsight haha.

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