I recently read a blog post by a mum of two toddler girls who has decided not to buy anything new for them, or herself, during 2017. It has got me thinking about challenging myself to do the same thing.
I definitely buy too much, for all of us. Whether it’s popping a cute t-shirt in the trolley as I do the Sainsbury’s shop, or racing straight for my laptop the moment a Boden 30% off voucher pops through the letterbox, or being intrigued by a beautiful outfit by a retailer I’d never come across posted on Instagram and tracking it down, I do love a bit of retail therapy. But. It’s not a great habit to have got into for lots of reasons. Obviously the financial cost is a big one, and now my husband is running his own business we have to live a little (lot) more thriftily. And then there’s the cost to the environment of old things ending up in landfill long before their useful lifespan is passed, and the production of new things consuming fossil fuels and leading to masses of wasted packaging. I also feel there’s an emotional cost; there is an immediate satisfaction in a new pretty dress for me or, more likely, for one of my girls, but it doesn’t always last very long and it can all too easily be replaced by a sense of guilt at my spoilt spendthrift ways. In fact I often find hunting down a bargain on Ebay or my beloved Walthamstow Sell or Swap gives me a feeling of satisfaction which is far deeper and longer lasting.
The idea of abandoning all this consumerism for a year, and getting what we need on Sell or Swap, eBay, from charity shops or as hand-me-downs is very appealing. There would, of course, be exceptions.
Underwear for example. For almost three years now I have been living in maternity/breastfeeding lingerie. Comfortable and appropriate it might be, pretty and sexy it certainly isn’t. As soon as Sophia has stopped breastfeeding I have been promising myself a trip to Debenhams to restock my underwear drawer, and I’m not giving up that for anyone. Neither is there any way my daughters will be wearing second-hand knickers.
Footwear for the children would be another exception. I’ve always been a big believer in having their feet measured regularly and properly, and buying good quality leather shoes. I really think it makes a difference when they have such soft little bones, and I don’t want to store up podiatry problems for them in years to come. Don’t get me wrong, there’s the odd pair of hardly-worn canvas pumps of Anna’s which will be passed on to Sophia, and I’ve got nothing against second-hand wellies or party shoes, but I think that the shoes they wear most of the time should be properly fitted to their feet rather than pre-moulded to the shape of another child’s.
I would also be gracious enough to accept presents of new things, as I think it is a bit much to try and dictate to other people if they have been generous enough to think of getting you or your children a gift. (Hello, Mum. *waves*)
And obviously food. I live in London. I do not have a big garden or green fingers. The limit to my kitchen garden activities is a pot of supermarket basil on the kitchen windowsill (and that’s looking a bit brown and crispy at present), and it is a far bigger leap of imagination than I can possibly make to see me feeding a family of four for a year on what I manage to forage from Epping Forest!
With so many exceptions it really does seem do-able. It would force me to ‘shop my wardrobe’ and discover clothes and combinations I don’t wear enough, or make repairs to things I love but don’t wear because of small tears or missing buttons. It would hopefully prevent the children, especially Anna as she is old enough to be more aware, getting spoilt and thinking that nice things grow on trees or that you need new stuff to be happy. It would cut our spending and our environmental footprint, and maybe serve as a reminder that the best things in life really are free. So really the only question is whether I am strong enough to change my spending habits.
What do you think? Could you say no to new for a whole year? Do you think I should? And what are the rules on frenetic spending in the Boxing Day sales?!