My Buy Nothing New year officially ended five days ago, but as I said, since doing The Compact has been so rewarding and relatively easy, I’ve decided to continue as a Compacter into 2010, and indefinitely. This blog will document my experiment with making it a feasible permanent lifestyle.

In addition to what I’ve already listed as exceptions (things like food, underwear, running shoes), I’m also going to loosen the rules a bit this year in order to make this workable for myself. I’m not trying to prove any point about how much deprivation I can take, I’m trying to be more conscious about my purchases and practice a more simple lifestyle. And it would be impossible to go back to throwing items into the shopping cart, willy-nilly, just because I wanted them or even thought I needed them.

I do think that the philosophy of buying used, borrowing, or trading is the lightest way to tread on the earth, better even than buying “green” products. I’ve noticed a lot of commerce and advertising in the green industry that attempts to persuade you that you need a certain item, either because it will make your life easier or make you feel like you’re living your values, etc. And sometimes that’s true. But a lot of times you could just buy secondhand or not buy at all.

However, there are a few things I’ll be allowing myself to buy new this year that aren’t strictly on The Compact. The first is books, specifically when they’re written by people I know or a favorite author, or occasionally as a gift. Almost every one of last year’s “falls off the wagon” were in this category. The majority of the time I’ll still be going to the library or buying used.

I’m also going to allow myself an occasional handmade item, especially if it’s also green and local. I want to support local artisans, and the arts in general.

And finally, when we do need new sheets and towels, if I can’t find an alternative, I’m not going to feel bad about buying from a green company that uses organic cotton and US labor.

And for those items that I really do need, but can’t find used, I will practice the Compact/Zen method of “looking out for it.” I’ll put out the word to friends and acquaintances, consult the Compact yahoo group for ideas and possible substitutions, and scour yard sales, thrift stores, and freecycle. But if after six months, nothing has turned up, I will allow myself to buy it new. The same goes for any household items my husband and I agree we need as I don’t want to simply pass the buck to him for home purchases.

So, call it Compact-lite if you want, but that’s the way I can see to make it work longterm. These exceptions will allow me to be a conscious consumer who makes purchases in line with my values.

I’m more interested in carving out a lifestyle that feels right to me and that works for both my husband and myself than I am in calling myself a Compacter. But I don’t think I’ll be kicked off the island for my exceptions, cheats, or whatever you want to call them. On the whole, they’re a remarkably helpful and accomodating group.

Please leave your thoughts, ideas, and questions in the Comments section.


  1. Julia (Color Me Green) says

    hi, i'm new to your blog, but i'm really liking it! i would call compact-lite kind of how i've lived for the past few years…i try not to buy much, but the things i do buy are secondhand, or good quality items i know will last for years, or handmade, and then occasionally unfortunately, new things my boyfriend talks me into getting.

  2. Cate says

    I think these are good exceptions. Books and handmade items are important ones–I wouldn't want to live in a world without art, so I try to make it possible for artists to continue doing what they do.

    I'm SO glad you're continuing writing your blog!

  3. Persuaded says

    Hello! I found your blog a few days ago by Googling "no buy year" (or sumthin' like that!) I am undertaking this challenge this year, and it will indeed be a challenge for me. yeah. My motivation is largely to reduce my own materialism and become a better steward of my own personal resources. I'll be blogging about it- every Thursday I plan on posting about how I'm doing, success, failures, etc. Should be an interesting year, that's for sure☺

    A question for you… I haven't joined the Yahoo group. Did the support of the other compacters there help you through? Wondering if I should join or not, I guess.

  4. Vegan Good Life says

    That's great you are continuing on your path, with a little flexibility.

    I love this blog post "I'm Not a Vegetarian," which talks about the challenges of absolutism, and living by your own rules. I live a largely vegan lifestyle, but I do think it's OK to have my mom's non-vegan Christmas cookies and other occasional indulgences, or wear wool or leather I already own or bought from thrift.

    I don't get overwhelmed with being an ambassador to the cause all the time – that's too much weight for anyone. This is certainly applicable to The Compact.

    I too shop second-hand the majority of the time, but I still like to support my independent record shop for a CD purchase or an indie book store when buying new, and want to support main streets (now over-run with banks, many out of business).

    Most people don't give a second thought to these things. Like the line from 10,000 Maniac's Candy Everbody Wants, "So their minds are soft and lazy." We're trained to be mindless consumers, but you and your readers reject that. – Catherine

  5. Leasmom says

    Hey, your new ways is the way I am approaching starting the Compact, we can't punish ourselves if we absoutley can't find it used. Good luck and I look forward to reading your blog.

  6. frugalista says

    How do you stop kicking yourself when you "fall of the wagon". The anticipated guilt is already killing me.

  7. freshnewday says

    I just found your blog via a friend's email. I am reading from the beginning and have read through April so far. I just wanted to thank you for being an inspiration. I want to be more wise in my purchases, and I hope your example will help me to see clearly to make good decisions. Your posts are so refreshing. My friends have ~WaY~ more than we do. They have lots of new things that they excitedly show me pretty much every week. I start to feel deprived and sad that we can't enjoy those things. You are helping to balance me. I find encouragement through your words.
    Thanks for being you,

  8. Betsy Talbot says

    Angela, isn't it amazing to find out how little you need the things you really think you need?

    After my reverse birthday party last month, I started worrying about what I was going to wear on New Year's Eve. After all, I had just watched all my favorite pieces walk out the door. It even crossed my mind to buy something new – which would be crazy since we're getting rid of everything!

    And then I discovered a beautiful green wrap hidden in the back of my closet. I had completely forgotten about it! So I paired it with basic black and got more compliments that night than I have in months.

    I think we all have these types of things laying around the house – especially clothes – and it just takes a closer look to rediscover them.

  9. Angela says

    I'm overwhelmed by all your kind comments!

    Julia- Welcome, and thanks for making a comment. It sounds like you're on the path- I'm a big believer in baby steps.

    Cate- Thanks Cate- I can't imagine giving up the blog!

    Non Consumer Girl- Yes, I like the phrase although I only watched the show once and didn't like it at all.

    Persuaded- congratulations! Good for you, and best of luck. As far as the Compact yahoo group, I would join. At first I found it hard to follow the threads and there were a lot of tangents, but there are some very kind and helpful people on there. They love to share their ideas and experience, so we don't all have to reinvent the wheel when we start on the Compact. I haven't utilized the group as much as I could have, actually. I've also gotten a lot of support from my readers, a few of them are compacters. And the best was reading my favorite blog- The Non-Consumer Advocate. She really made the lifestyle seem both fun and feasible to me, and not extreme. Thanks for your question.

    Catherine- Thanks so much for that link- I love that post and it fits perfectly for me. I think martyrs to a cause sometimes hurt the cause, especially when they seem superior to other people.

    Leasmom- Thanks, and good luck to you as well!

    Frugalista- I am pretty good at beating myself up, but was very forgiving of myself this year. I would say just give yourself a break, but try as best you can to stick with your commitment. I actually don't feel bad about any of my "falls off the wagon."

    Rebekah- Thank you so much for your kind words. I'm so glad you found my blog and I hope it continues to be an inspiration. I am humbled. I'm not young, and I have known a lot of people with a lot of "things" who were not happy, so I know from experience it's an empty pursuit.

    Betsy- It's so true! And isn't that the limit- you were going to buy something new to wear! Ha! I have had that experience of "finding" something that looks great that I haven't worn in years- it's so much fun! Shopping in your closet.

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