Can my buying nothing transform our cities?

This year I’m buying nothing new for a year. I tried it last year and lasted until the end of April. Last year I saw buying nothing as a hardship filled with doom and gloom. Like a year of punishment. This year I’m seeing ‘a year without shopping’ as an awesome opportunity.

‘A year without buying anything new’… 1 month done, 11 to go. Last month I found/received/acquired 4 pre-loved books & 2 ice cube trays (from kerbside, which I’ve soaked in bleach!). I politely declined, after much deliberation, 1 juicer & 1 table, in fear I’d end up as ‘The Hoarder of 2014’.

About me and stuff, I’ve learned this.

  • I’m using up what I already have. I used to travel a lot. I discovered 20 5g tubes of high brand toothpaste lurking in the back of the bathroom cupboard, so I’m using them up now, not saving them for ‘later’. Psychotherapist Stelios Kiosses, who works with extreme hoarders, says there’s a little bit of hoarder in all of us and even I questioned my sanity when I counted 84 bars of hotel soap.
  • I’m making better of use of my existing assets. I’m no Imelda Marcos but like most western women, if I’m honest, I only wear 50% of the clothes that I own. So I got ‘it’ all out  – the entire contents of my wardrobe that is – I looked, pondered, sorted, re-arranged and put it all back and now I’ll vow to wear all of it for all of this year. And the things I really don’t like. Well, I’m hosting the World’s Largest Clothes Swapping Party with my new mate Edda in March!
  • I like sharing. A book “Who stole my mojo” I had wanted to read for ages turned up on the share shelf at my block of units. I’ll read it, I’ll give it back and then I’ll start to swap and share the books I already own with neighbours, friends and colleagues. Like Rachel Botsman says “we don’t need to own a drill we just want a hole in the wall”.
  • I’ve got more time. Most of all I’ve learned that lots of people spend a lot of time managing their stuff and it seems they’re desperate to share their pain. My friend Julie told me how she spent all weekend moving the stuff she doesn’t use around her garage. My bestie Sarah in the UK emailed with tales of finally clearing out ‘under the stairs’ whilst my colleague Jodie tells me it’s her family’s lifelong ambition to ‘downsize their junk’.

“So can your buying nothing new for a year really transform our cities?” I hear you ask.

Yes I believe it can.

Imagine a world where we really ‘sweat our existing assets’. Imagine if rail station and city centre commuter car parks were rented out at weekends for festivals, concerts and community events. Imagine if school bus buses were used for tourism transport in the school holidays and if pub or church car parks were used as the start/meet point for the ‘walking to school bus’ each morning.

Picture a city where we use what we already have. Picture office block and factory roofs transformed into urban gardens, suburban grass verges changed into kitchen gardens and unused play parks converted into urban allotments.

Visualise a share shed and ‘community car’ at the end of every suburban street and as part of every new inner city high-rise residential development.

Envisage a world where we own less and do more – where we have time to play in the park and to chat on the street. Envisage a world where cities are made of people and not of heaps of unwanted and unused ‘stuff’.

 

NOTES:

World’s biggest clothes swapping party. Edda Hamar dreams of a world where people choose sustainable fashion. She tells people to take their clothes off and she loves to High Five complete strangers. Rachel Smith is passionate about cycling and cities. She dreams of floating bikeways made out of waste plastic and old coke cans and she’s buying nothing new for a year. They met at TEDxKurilpa rehearsing their TED talks and discovered shared passions; clothes, sharing, talking and meeting new people. They’ve set themselves a challenge…. To host the World’s largest Clothes Swapping Party within 56 days of their 1st meeting. Details to follow.