My pledge not to buy new stuff

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I’ve got a bee in my bonnet.  A plastic one.

But it’s not just plastic.  It is all unnecessary consumerism-gone-mad purchases.

I’m a bit alarmed by the Easter merchandise.

You don’t need a purpose-made basket for collecting chocolate eggs.

You certainly don’t need an Easter-themed hand-towel.

Do you?

So why are the shops and garden centres and newsagents stuffed full of this stuff?

I know, I know, they have to make a living too.

But where is this stuff going to end up?  And who made it?  Under what conditions?

I’m not saying you can’t have fun. Buy eggs.  Cadbury’s and Galaxy have plastic-free packaging.  Decorate real eggs.  Grow cress out of their heads.  Make Easter cards or simnel cake, if that brings you joy.

But please, please, don’t buy tat that you will use once, or others will use once, and then toss into the bin.  Even taking tat to a charity shop seems a bit, well, uncharitable.

If you want to join me, then make a pledge to yourself. I will not buy anything new, unless I know that I will use it regularly, treasure it, and keep it for a long time.

I took this pledge at the beginning of 2018.  I didn’t tell anyone, because I didn’t know whether I could stick to it.  But I have*, so now I am going public.

It has stopped me buying unnecessary summer clothes.  I have a full wardrobe.  It has stopped me buying shower gel. Soap is fine. I’ve torn up a very old towel so that I don’t use so much kitchen roll. And discovered white vinegar and baking soda are better than most cleaning products.

*I did err by buying a mini macro lens for my iPhone.  I regret this now.  It falls off my phone and I don’t have a steady enough hand.  But you have to fall off the wagon once, don’t you?

And whilst I am in confession mode, we have bought a piano.  That is a fairly big purchase, but it is one that I hope we will treasure for many years to come, as both my daughters play enthusiastically, and have proved their commitment for five years.

Because the iPhone macro lens failed, I have put an SLR lens on my Christmas list for next year.  I might take it off.  We’ll see.  I have managed to wean myself off those oh-so-easy purchases on Amazon, by using a wish-list, and then at the end of the month evaluating whether I really need that item.  This so far has saved me £17.96 and four unnecessary purchases.

At the other end of the spectrum from instant-gratification-and-quickly-ditched purchases, I did a little audit of the things in my house I have owned the longest.  I should make it clear that I am a chucker rather than a hoarder (by chuck I mean charity shops) and I have moved country twice, therefore shedding much baggage along the way.  This has helped me know I can live without a lot of stuff.

The things I have had the longest are:

  1. My gran’s watch (20 years)
  2. My food processor (25 years)
  3. My yoga mat (22 years)
  4. A collection of Jane Austin books, from my other gran (30 years)
  5. Photos (some older than me)
  6. My recipe book (25 years)

It turns out that these also happen to be my most treasured possessions.  I get a little tingle of pride from the things I have looked after for a long time.  They are feel-good possessions.

The more recent acquisitions with equal status would be things my children have made, or gifts from friends.  A little elephant pendant given to me by friend Saritha, who died of cancer.  A huge jam jar my friends Lucy and Lasse gave to me filled with home-made blackcurrant jam, and since used for storing baking beans, kitchen utensils, flowers…

I recently discovered a wonderful site called RE-found objects. There are upcycled colanders and graters used as light-fittings or lamps; recycled plastic buckets and basins; reconditioned garden tools and pots…  Friends and family, don’t look, because your next birthday present might be from there.

I am re-thinking everything. We’re having a party in a few weeks, and I’m hoping we can manage without disposable cups, plates, cutlery, straws. I can borrow a couple of tea sets and some extra glasses. I’m going to see if I can borrow fabric bunting, and we won’t have balloons. Instead we’ll have flowers in jam jars. I know some will think I’ve gone bonkers, but it won’t be the first time.

Check out this post from The Physic Blog, which has lots more ideas about reducing plastic waste in the garden.

Are you trying to reduce waste? What would you really want to save from a fire?  Have you tried to reduce your purchases?  Have you got any tips?  Are you going to take the pledge?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

56 Comments Add yours

  1. Omara says:

    I have taken the pledge!!! I used to be a hoarder until I became a chucker hehe. I realised letting go of things that I didn’t use/need/value made me feel so clear-minded and it made me notice the things I value more. And agreed, the sight of those dollar shops with piles of plastic disposable crap is so disheartening (and lethal to the environment).
    I wrote about this too, I’ll drop the link if you’re interested: https://omaraaaa.wordpress.com/2018/03/01/things-an-intimate-history/ . xx

    Like

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Omara, I will enjoy reading your post!

      Like

  2. Claudette says:

    I hope you achieve your goals. I’m on the seesaw a bit – I don’t buy rubbish, but I do love Op Shops for clothes and odd things, and when I buy some I usually donate things I have grown tired of. I’m not going to put any limits on myself, for I do get enjoyment out of buying things sometimes, and I believe myself to be sensible (not having a large disposable income anyway). I definitely don’t buy into the TAT style of thing – drives me bonkers.

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    1. Ali says:

      Yes, I guess it is choosing your indulgences, and knowing where you can pass things on where they will be valued.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on London Cottage Garden and commented:
    Something to think about here – see what you think.

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    1. Ali says:

      Thank you! That’s great.

      Like

  4. I don’t think you’re mad at all – very sensible indeed. I really like what you’ve written and it’s got lots of good ideas. I’m a chucker anyway, can’t bear clutter but buying more stuff is a terrible habit I know. The thing I’ve had the longest is , I think, a sewing box my Dad bought me 42 years ago. It’s falling to pieces but I wouldn’t dream of getting another one. Best wishes, Julie

    Like

    1. Ali says:

      That’s lovely. I used to love my mum’s sewing box, especially her button box!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is such a great decision to make, Ali – thank you for sharing it with everyone.I went down this road some time ago, moving countries certainly helped to clear out a lot of clutter, especially as we moved everything in one transit van! The only treasure I insisted on keeping was my old spinning wheel. I am not a keen shopper so it’s not difficult to resist the temptation and life is certainly more interesting, creative and rewarding when you are making things yourself. Your party will be lovely. Good luck! 🙂

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    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Lis! So impressed by the spinning wheel!

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      1. Honestly, it’s the wonkiest piece of old junk ever but it was given to me by a generous lady and I have such happy times using it. Beats shopping in my book, that’s for certain! 🙂

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      2. Ali says:

        That is gorgeous!

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  6. hey lovely dear..
    your post are so wonderful,and really this is so helpful for me,I’m so happy for that.thanks dear for awesome sharing..

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    1. Ali says:

      Thanks Lukhi!

      Like

  7. Jane Gealy says:

    I’m trying to live a frugal lifestyle. I try to do all my own cooking and baking, and I have a stash of material to make enough clothes to last me the next couple of years. My partner and I live in a very small house, so it’s a strict ‘one in, one out policy’. I totally agree that there is far too much tat to tempt us. I can just about resist, but who needs it?

    Like

    1. Ali says:

      That’s brilliant, Jane! You are an inspiration.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. shazza says:

    Sounds very inspiring. I definitely try and only use my cloth bags now for shopping but thats as far as I have got so far really. Oh , I did have a girls night in/clothes swap party recently. Everyone bought some clothing destined for the charity shop and we chose what we wanted and had some wine and a good natter. Anything surpless went straight to the Cancer Research Shop in town. Xx

    Like

    1. Ali says:

      That’s a brilliant idea, Shazza!

      Like

  9. Cathy says:

    A great pledge – good luck! I am trying to reduce the amount of plastic that enters the house. When you mentioned glasses for a party it reminded me of boxes of them in our attic… a famous brand of mustard in Germany used to sell their product in jars that could be used as glasses afterwards. I think every household has got at least a couple, and we have got dozens, as I could never bear to throw them away! Sadly the company recently changed the design, and now I have to put them in the bottle bank. I suppose at least they get recycled by someone somehow…. but that is one example of when industry has the power for change but abuses it. Sigh….

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    1. Ali says:

      Ah, like Nutella glasses! We use Tate and Lyle treacle jars for everything, and Bon Maman and Miele jars.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This post really resonated with me, we live in such a one-click-purchase, disposable culture. I’ve been trying to downsize for years, and we try to re-use and recycle as much as we can, but I still feel guilty about how much we send to landfill or donate to second-hand shops. I haven’t taken a pledge (yet!), but I try to follow the rule that if I want something new, I have to wait at least a week before buying it to see if I still want it after the initial impulse has worn off, and I ask myself how often I’ll use it, where we’ll store it and how long it’ll last. I’m pretty good with expensive purchases like electronics and appliances but I find it harder with smaller purchases like books. X

    Like

    1. Ali says:

      That’s a really good checklist! I might write it out!

      Like

  11. janesmudgeegarden says:

    We try not to buy things we don’t really really need. We have cut down on the amount of meat we eat by more than half. What I am most pleased about is that we deal with all our organic waste ourselves by putting scraps in the compost, the worm farm or into our very efficient mulcher. Dealing with plastic is much more difficult as supermarket items seem to be over packaged, but we always take our reusable shopping bags.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ali says:

      Yes, we compost most things, and I could definitely cut out more meat, though the rest of the family like it. I manage probably half veggie meals. The plastic packaging is awful. It is really influencing what I (don’t) buy.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve been trying for ages, I don’t like waste so I try to either find another use for it or try to find someone else who could use it. I have until recently made my own laundry powder. I like to know what I’m using and what goes into it. Buying something new is a treat for me but I have just sent a pile of clothes to a charity for the homeless and still got too much in the wardrobe. Unfortunately folk think I actually deliberately collect things and keep giving me their unwanted stuff. I confess I do buy the plastic drinking cups, they are ideal for my tomato seedling and I can recycle them a few times before they give up the ghost.

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    1. Ali says:

      I think just thinking about it more helps, doesn’t it?

      Like

  13. bcparkison says:

    I’m with you. Of course it helps to not have extra money .

    Like

    1. Ali says:

      Yes! There is that!

      Like

  14. Love this post Ali. I too have been trying to do the same being a crafter gives me free rein to Upcycle most things around the house and repurpose them …..and you could make your own bunting ,another way to reuse maybe old pillowcases or other such like only trouble is you start to hoard things just in case it might be useful in the future !

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    1. Ali says:

      Claire, you are possibly the most ingenious person I know! I wish I had the skill to sew. My mum has fortunately passed on her skills to the girls!

      Like

  15. Yes, I’m trying, but not effectively. We’re having our kitchen worked on and there is no kitchen sink until further notice. There’s no bathroom on the first floor either. We’ve been drinking lots of bottled water and canned seltzer, which is making me feel very guilty. At least it’s temporary.

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  16. Lucid Gypsy says:

    I’ve had a year of buyin nearly all my clothes in the charity shops, I’ve been using soap instead of shower gel for years now. Oh and I haven’t bought a KitKat since 2009 when I flew into Borneo and saw huge swathes of palm oil trees and orang utans with barely any habitat left. I chose KitKat because they are one of the most popular bars and nestle are one of the worst culprits!

    Like

    1. Ali says:

      I think it is images like that that really change our behaviour; being confronted and ashamed by what Our thoughtlessness has done. Thank you for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Caro says:

    I love the idea of using Amazon’s wishlist to test if I really want something. I do that in the shops as well (not food, obvs!). I borrow books from the library rather than buying; if I still don’t want to give them back after renewing for the max number of times, I know it’s time to buy! I hate the amount of plastic in supermarket packaging but if the public wants soft fruit, etc, it has to be protected on the shelves. I wouldn’t mind going back to being seasonal, and waiting for pick your own farms in the summer and freezing the excess. As for old stuff, I’ve only just replaced a duvet cover bought twenty years ago (now threadbare in places) and am taking the old one to the local charity ragbag. I also have lots of treasured possessions – a sewing box now 46 years old, a wicker lamp bought for my birthday in the seventies (hah! vintage retro!) and an Edwardian marquetry wooden box given to me by my grandmother. Oh, and a valuable 1930s picnic set/basket which someone had thrown out at my local dump and which I rescued and restored! Yep, I think I can say I’ve taken the pledge …

    Like

    1. Ali says:

      I love all of these things, Caro! Completely agree about seasonal fruit and veg. It really bothers me that you get (tasteless) strawberries year round.

      Like

  18. Robyn Haynes says:

    I think consumerism has gone mad Ali. There is something liberating (and mindful) about doing with less. Lovely blog!

    Like

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Robyn! You are right, it is liberating.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. The back lash against chain garden centres has started has it? I think not. People love those ‘gift ideas’ and the outing which will include a visit to the cafe. Let’s not deny those who like to visit a garden centre their fun instead, lets put pressure on the centres to rethink what is on offer.

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  20. What a timely post Ali! Consumerism has gotten out of control! Too many people spend money they don’t have to buy stuff they don’t really need to impress people they often don’t really know or even like! It’s a vicious cycle. I salute the enlightened souls who “Reduce Reuse Recycle”!

    Like

  21. Josephine Goyvaerts says:

    hi, this blog I came to see after your comment on Gaiainaction, and I like this idea of loving what you have and not just buying things. I too get annoyed at seeing all these things in the shops, I leave them there! Otherwise I am a hoarder I’m afraid, but I try to mend my ways — I mean a hoarder of the things I have, not of buying stuff all the time. But lately I think twice before buying something new or even second-hand. So I want to take this pledge!
    Thankyou! Josephine

    Like

    1. Ali says:

      Thanks Josephine! I’m really pleased you enjoyed this post.

      Like

  22. Anonymous says:

    Great post Ali and thanks so much for the kind mention, so pleased you found us! We agree with your values entirely as you can tell by our store and website – REcycle, REstore, REpurpose, REfind, REuse, it’s our daily mantra and we try as far as possible to stick to it! Good luck with your continued efforts x

    Like

  23. Rowena says:

    I do the same thing on Amazon! Everything goes on the wishlist, and if after 1 or 2 months I feel that they aren’t really necessary, off they go.

    Like

    1. Ali says:

      That’s great to know it works for you too, Rowena.

      Like

  24. Diana Studer says:

    Guilty hoarder. But working at moving stuff on to the charity shops, and NO buying. My oldest? Perhaps the antique silver tea caddy spoon, which came via my grandmother and uncle, to my aunt, to my mother, to me please?
    And I still have my 21st dress – that needs to go to a retro Matric dance girl!

    Like

    1. Ali says:

      Ah, those things sound very special – to be treasured.

      Like

  25. Island Time says:

    Love this post! I completely agree with not purchasing random new stuff; after nearly 60 years on this planet I have accumulated more than enough stuff for one lifetime, and I am not known as a consumer. It gives me great pleasure to take another bag of “stuff” to the thrift (charity) shop. It also gives me great pleasure to make do with what we already have; to re-cycle and re-purpose whatever, whenever possible. Well done.

    Like

    1. Ali says:

      I feel like a weight is being lifted from my shoulders every time I take stuff to the charity shop or give it to a good home. Thank you for your lovely comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Super post Ali! My mum and I made fabric bunting for my wedding 11 years ago from remnants and It has been used over and over not just by ourselves but by friends, family and even borrowed a couple of times for corporate functions. It always makes me happy to see it up or know it’s being used. It also brings back happy memories not just of our wedding but of mum too as she sadly died a few years ago and we had such fun making it. 😊

    Like

    1. Ali says:

      Ah, that is so lovely. I am so sorry for your loss. What a special memory. X

      Liked by 1 person

  27. missb says:

    Also a(n uncertified) chucker here. I haven’t pledged anything but I’ve not been buying a lot of stuff for years, in an effort at minimalism. Would love to hear how you managed waste from the party

    Like

    1. Ali says:

      I will keep you posted – it’s next week!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. missb says:

        Looking forward to it! Have fun at the party

        Like

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