More Exceptions to "Buy Nothing New"

Friends keep asking me how my experiment with buying nothing new is going, and I have to admit that it’s not that hard. Really. I’m not having Forever 21 withdrawals or drunk dialing Williams Sonoma or anything.

For one thing, I don’t really go to malls for recreation or even like to go to them at all, so I haven’t really been tempted. For another, as I’ve mentioned, I have so much already. And finally, the more I interact with other members of The Compact, the more I realize that it’s actually feasible to make this a permanent lifestyle.

One reason for that is the EXCEPTIONS. Most Compacters have plenty of them, and most of them give each other a lot of leeway with their own personal choices. The basic motto seems to be: Do the best you can. That’s hardly what I would call dogmatic.

So I’m going to add to my list of exceptions now. First of all, no one recommends buying running shoes used, because that would be really bad for your feet. But I’d already decided I was going to keep buying new running shoes when I need them. Also flip flops can’t really be bought used, and the same for reading glasses. I’m going to add bathing suits to the list as something I can’t imagine buying used, even though I won’t need a new one this year.

The other two things I didn’t think to write down, but had assumed as exceptions are charities, which I’ll continue to support, and services, like the car wash, dry cleaner, and nail salon.

In fact, what I think I like most of all so far about The Compact is that there’s really nothing the group won’t help figure out. So if you feel like there’s just no way you could ever do it because you’re sending a kid to college this year and they’ll need all those supplies, or you’re moving and you’ll need to paint and redecorate, or any other reason, they’ll be there to give you suggestions about how you could do whatever you need to do in a Compact-y way.

So here’s my new list:

1. underwear, bras, and socks
2. hygiene products- deodorant, toothpaste, etc.- plus lotions and prescription drugs
3. expendables- light bulbs, car tires, replacements for air purifier, etc.
4. slippers
5. athletic shoes
6. food, of course
7. flip flops
8. reading glasses
9. bathing suits
10. charities
11. services

This list is getting pretty long. Do you think you could join The Compact if you were allowed to buy all these things new? What exceptions would you need to take to get you to consider it? Tell me your thoughts in the comments section.


  1. Marylyn says

    Having just planted some basil and raspberry bushes in the yard yesterday, I would certainly add seeds and seedlings to the exemption list. If anticipating being in the Compact a second year, one could try to collect seeds from the things already grown, but that’s not always so easy.

  2. WilderMiss says

    This really makes the compact sound approachable.

    I’m not doing the compact – it’s just something that I’ve begun to hear about recently. I’m attracted to it because I’ve become kind of sickened by consumerism (my own and that of society).

    Question: what do compact followers think of gifts? Is it ok for you to recieve gifts that are new? How about giving them?

  3. Angela says

    Gardening supplies, definitely. I’m not a gardener, although many of the Compacters are. Maybe I’ll become one. I just received a lovely pot of fresh herbs for my birthday yesterday and I’m thrilled about it. I’ll post a photo soon.
    I’m trying hard to buy used gifts, and it was actually one of my biggest worries. So far I’ve done well- baking bread and cookies, making mix CDs, buying used books, and going to the Goodwill. I’ve written several posts about gifts already, you can read them in the “gifts” section on the sidebar under “labels.”
    Some Compacters also buy gifts that are handmade. I may consider that in the future if I want a special gift and can’t get it used.

  4. Angela says

    Sorry, I forgot about “is it okay to receive gifts new?” I haven’t thought about that too much, I was thinking more about giving gifts. But then when I was asking the group about slippers and pajamas, someone said “you could always ask for them as a gift.” The same person said there are always people in your life who want to buy new things for you. So I suppose that’s probably true.

  5. WilderMiss says

    I really like the hand made idea. Supporting a small local business seems to work with the philosophy. Etsy would probably be a great resource.

    Thanks for the response! I think what you’re doing is really neat.

  6. Tamara says

    I’ve been toying with the compact since Jan. 1. So far, I’ve spent about $180 on the following (in addition to food and a few services):
    – Pants (made in America, sweatshop free) because I lost a TON of weight and needed something that fit.
    – A scarf (I live in Miami and was going to visit a cold climate, bought at the same time as the pants)
    – Underwear
    – Pillows for the bed. This is one more thing you should add to your list — I can’t imagine buying used pillows to sleep on.
    I, too, have the flip-flop rule…

  7. Angela says

    WilderMiss- I love etsy. I bought two gifts there last holiday season, right before I joined The Compact, and I’m considering adding them to my exceptions. Thanks for the nice comments.

    Tamara- Congrats on losing the weight. I’m new to thrift store shopping, and haven’t done it much since college, but a lot of people find all the clothes they ever need at the Goodwill and consignment shops. Re: pillows- you’re right, I would add that to the list, except that it was one of the items I bought right before I joined the Compact (the other thing was jeans). Thanks for reading and commenting.

  8. KateSommers says

    Angela,I’ve been catching up reading your blog and it’s inspiring me to write!I have a few pages written down already.
    This is some of what I wrote this morning:
    How does one measure success?Is it in how much STUFF we obtain during our lifetime?The one with the most toys wins?Do we need all of this stuff to identify WHO we are or are these things simply baubles we collect for comfort and entertainment.Personally,I measure my own success by noticing how much I am enjoying my life day to day.What is the quality of my relating and am I spending my life doing what I love or at least like?
    Of course this requires that my basic needs are met like food,shelter,clothing etc.
    I feel successful when I notice and acknowledge that I am having fun in life, enjoying what I have and appreciating things like,friends,my health,peace and that I live with freedom of choice.
    I’ve realized that my true treasures aren’t things but experiences,cherished memories of sight,things I’ve seen,sound,things I’ve heard, smells of flowers,fruits and sweet memories of touch.Specific frames of adventure and from spending time with loved ones.Out of all the tangible things I have,the STUFF that makes me the happiest are my photographs that bring back memories in my life,my camera that can capture them,my laptop computer,a few notebooks and pens,a few good books,my nice cotton sheets and a couple of good pillows!Purchasing stuff seems to be a lot like nibbling to me.It fills a desire that could be fulfilled in a much more gratifying way if I take a look at what that might be.
    I think if we all took a look at what it is we really really want then we really really wouldn’t need so much stuff.~

  9. Angela says

    Katie- My oldest friend! Thanks so much for reading. I am so happy the blog is inspiring you to write and to think about these topics. That’s really what I’m trying to do- I don’t think I have that much to teach, but I love the idea of everyone mulling over these questions together.
    Thanks so much for your great comments- so true about thinking about what makes us happy- living day to day, appreciating our friends and our health, and how little STUFF we actually need.
    I feel like since I joined The Compact and started writing this blog, I am so much more aware of what makes me happy- relationships, and doing the work I love, which is writing. For me, it all comes down to work and love, so Freud was right, at least about that one…
    The things you’re talking about are some of the topics I’ll be writing about in future posts…
    Thanks again for stopping by!

  10. Ellen says

    Charities and services are a part of the compact, because you’re supporting local businesses without creating the need for “stuff” that will fill your home and eventually a landfill. The Compact started as being all about the environment, with financial benefits as a side effect.

  11. Angela says

    Yes, Ellen- that’s true. I guess in that case I don’t need to list charities and services as exceptions…

  12. WilliamB says

    Is your goal to spend less money, to have fewer physical items, or to stop contributing to wasteful stuff? If the first, than (some) services should be on the no list. If the second, then replacing worn-out items should be Compact-y. If the third, then getting new things from others should not be considered Compact-y.

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