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Five tips to nail the Buy Nothing New challenge for a whole year 

Photography By Unsplash
Published 21.06.21

The idea began in July 2019, soon after I’d returned from a work trip through northern Namibia. There’s nothing like travelling to a third-world country to make you realise you have too much stuff.

I’d recently watched sustainable fashion writer Clare Press take a three-month Buy Nothing New challenge on Instagram, and post-Namibia I decided I wanted to follow her example.

Because I’m aware of my tendency to overcommit and underdeliver, I started with three months. I made a pledge not to buy clothes, shoes, accessories, books or homewares. Once three months were up though, I was hooked. I extended my embargo on purchases to six months, then 12.

I’m not a huge shopper (although I can’t resist exotic travel treasures and vintage clothes), but once I knew I couldn’t buy anything, I wanted everything. A new pair of jeans seemed suddenly essential to my working life – how could I finish my latest story in a ripped old pair of Levis? And how could I possibly get through yoga without those fuchsia micro-shorts?

Borrowing from friends quickly became a necessary tactic. A pregnant friend lent me a blue and white gingham floor-length Ganni dress that didn’t fit her. I resolved to return it once she’d given birth and I had tired of the dress. Brilliant. I also found that each time I wanted to buy something, if I gave something away instead, I got the same dopamine hit.

Once the year was up, I did buy a few things. However, I thought hard about how they were made and what would happen to them at the end of their life before I bought them. I also gave myself time to appreciate them before buying something else. In a world hellbent on keeping us stuck in a cycle of doing work we don’t love to buy things we don’t need, taking a break from consumption seems to me one of the most radical and liberating things we can do. As far as New Year’s resolutions go, this one’s a cracker.

Five Ways to Make Your ‘No-Buy Year’ Easier

1.Unsubscribe from newsletters and catalogues

We’re desperate to have the newest and the latest, but unsubscribing takes away temptation. Same with buying fashion magazines – easier just not to.

2. Talk about your commitment

Staying accountable is key, so tell everyone – your neighbour, friends, social media followers. It might get more people involved, and there’s nothing like fear of public failure to keep you away from the Buy Now button.

3. Stay off social media

Instagram, especially, is essentially a sales tool. During my No-Buy Year I gave myself 30 minutes a day to post and interact, then I’d delete the app until I needed to post again.

4. Fix what you have

Develop a relationship with your alterationist, or learn to sew. Things like shortening dresses or hemming pants give clothes new life, and usually gives you the same hit as buying something.

5. Replace the habit

Write a list of things you love doing. Every time you want to shop, do one of those instead – reading, hiking, cooking, meditating, anything. You’ll be staggered by how much extra time you have.

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