My Buying Nothing for 1 Year. My journey so far

This year I’m undertaking a lifestyle choice and a experiment.

I’ve been calling myself a revolutionary because I’m buying nothing new (or second hand) for a whole year.

This ‘journey’ began in December 2012 on my way to India for the Mumbai leg of the BMW Guggenheim Lab. I read an article in the airport lounge about an Aussie family who had only bought ‘things and stuff’ from Op shops and second hand stores for a year.

I spent the run-up to the most consumerist time of year in one of the poorest places on earth, Dharavi SlumMumbai. On the streets and in the slums of Mumbai I saw people with next to nothing who really and truly valued everything that they had and owned and to be bluntly honest it made me feel guilty and deeply ashamed about our western world consumption. That same week @_sarahwilson_  tweeted e“of the $50 billion we will spend on gifts in Australia this Christmas $700 million will be in landfill by February 2013”.

On New Years Eve 2012 my friends and I sat on the beach in Hawaii and made our New Years Resolutions. Whilst the others choose going to yoga once a week, exercising daily and leaving work on time for 2013, I announced I was “Buying nothing new or second hand for a year”. And so this non-conventional journey began.

Yes I tried it last year (2013) 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.

  • As Rhonda Byrne says in the book The Secret ‘Negativity creates negativity’. I failed, in Hastings Street in Noosa, with a pair of trousers which, ironically and ashamedly, I’ve worn less than 10 times.

This year (2014) I’m seeing ‘a year without buying’ as an awesome opportunity, an adventure and a whole new way of life – and I am LOVING it!

I’ve even created some ‘rules’:

  • Yes, I’m ‘allowed’ to buy food and absolutely essential toiletries
  • Yes I can buy ‘experiences’. Going to the movies, horse riding and dinners out is fine. It’s not ‘stuff’
  • I’m not buying any new or second-hand clothes, shoes, books, itunes, computer things, newspapers, magazines, toiletries, perfumes, bubble baths, home wares, kitchen wares, household items or any general ‘stuff’

About me and ‘buying 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. FYI I always used the soap during my hotel stay and then wrapped them up and brought them home ‘cos I knew the hotel cleaners would just throw the soap away – and that’s a complete waste of a bar of soap. Now I am using them all up, rather than buying shower gel!
  • 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 ‘them’ all out  –  the entire contents of my wardrobe that is – I looked, pondered, sorted, re-arranged and put it all back and now I’m wearing them all this year. And the things I really don’t like. Well, I’m taking part in Clothes Swapping Parties with my friends. Apparently the average American buys 67 items of brand new clothes each year
  • 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 flats. I read it, I gave it back and now I’m swapping and sharing 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 – and cash – to spend on awesome days out. 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’
  • We need to really value what we have. When I was growing up you only got new things on birthdays and at Christmas. You got second hand clothes from older cousins and neighbours (that was exciting and cool!). I got my first job two weeks after my 13th birthday. I worked hard and saved even harder. I made lists of what I wanted and when I had enough saved, and only then, did that item become mine. Now credit cards, debit cards, pay pass and instant credit means anyone and everyone can have everything right now. (NB: Australia has the highest personal and credit card debt in the world, accounting to AUD$60,000 per person). The saving, the wanting and the waiting has gone – We get what we want when we want it whether we want or need it or not.
  • We don’t need much to happy. My sister Louise always laughed – I’ve always been a bit frugal – because I would write down what I wanted to buy on a ‘3 month waiting list’. If I still wanted and needed said item when the 3 months passed I’d buy the item. 9 times out of 10 I no longer wanted or needed it. This experiment has really reinforced that we need very little to be happy.

And, if I succeed this year – and I’m determined I will – I’m writing a book.

“Underspent – 7 steps to break your impulse shopping addiction and buying ‘stuff’ habit without dramatically changing your life” (working title)

… and my DREAM is to turn this experiment into a free e-book and an e-business with a 12 week on-line ‘no buying’ support program

Here’s a Twitter summary of my year (2014) so far

A year without buying anything new… 1 month done, 11 to go. Last month (January) 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′.

A year without buying anything new’… Month 2 (February) done, 10 to go. Last month I received 3 pre-loved books, 2 brand new books, 5 magazines, 1 Leadership course & 1 blogging seminar. Awesome!! And so to month 3….

A year without buying anything new. Month 3 (March) done, 9 to go. Last month I received a bag of clothes from my friend & former colleague Kylie & 2 magazines from Qantas business class crew. Awesome! And so to Month 4…

A year without buying anything new. Beat my Personal Best! Month 4 done, 8 left. April = found a chair, 1 book swap & received a book from @AGAuthor. Sadly,1 North Face fleece left on a Qantas flight. Now to Month 5.

A year without buying anything new. Month 5 done, 7 left. May = nothing bought/received. Shoes 100% worn out! & savings growing.  Now to Month 6


A year without buying anything new. 6 months done. Halfway! June = nothing purchased & 2 book swaps. Huge gratitude to my family for giving me a horse riding helmet for my birthday…. first birthday in absolutely ages when I really REALLY appreciated receiving something new…. it felt like it did at Christmas as a kid, when new things were a real treat!   I’m writing a 7 step ‘How to’ book & 12 week online program for kicking the buying habit! Now to month 7

Since 28 December 2013 the only things I have purchased are: food, toothpaste, shampoo and Tampax

A year without buying anything new. Month 7 done, 5 left. It’s now such a part of normal life that I forgot to send an update! To Month 8…

A year without buying anything new or 2nd hand. Month 8 done. 4 months of my ‘experimental living’ to go! And so to Month 9…

A year without buying anything new or 2nd hand. Month 9 done. No purchases, no swaps but sold ‘clutter’ on Gumtree = $180! and so to Month 10… 

A year without buying anything new or 2nd hand. 10 MONTHS DONE!!! 2 months left… that said I want/need nothing so = life changing experience. And so to Month 11…

A year without buying anything new or 2nd hand. 11 months DONE! 1 mth left. Nothing I need/want = life changing year. Now Month 12

A year without buying anything new or 2nd hand. Today (Dec 28) marks 365 days of me buying nothing new or 2nd hand for 1 year. It’s been an interesting experimental year of #wapping & sharing

Since 28 December 2013  to 30th December 2014 the only things I have purchased were: food, toothpaste, shampoo and Tampax


I made to Elephant Journal… 7 things to love about quitting consumerism

I’m now in the ‘Extreme Saver’ category!  – Big thanks to ‘Hey, little spender!’ @bargainthrills for profiling my buying nothing new or 2nd hand for a year


Resources from others:

In a shopping centre full of sale signs in Broadmeadows, a Melbourne suburb with 27 per cent unemployment, Soney Kul is struggling to shift half-price jewelry. “People don’t want to spend,” the 27-year-old said, gesturing at the sparsely-filled display cases in his family-owned store, Altinbas. “They’re too scared to spend because they don’t know what the next day will hold.” Read more:

Stuffocation: are we facing a clutter crisis? @RadioNational Jonathan Green talks to @JamesWallman. I didn’t buy anything in 2014 & saved 38% of my salary. My book “Underspent” released late March

Are Australians financially reckless? Australians are heavy debtors and gamblers – does that make them irresponsible? Aussies love a punt and research shows we wager more, and lose more, than any other country in the world. A report, published in The Economist, puts Australian gambling losses at about $1144 per resident. Australia also reportedly has highest household debt to disposable income ratio in world.

“The overwhelmed employee” Why you need to simplify your life now. Focus and simplicity

7 Reasons We Buy More Stuff Than We Need

Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed – 40-hour workweek as the normal lifestyle. Our free time is so scarce. We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have. We buy so much because it always seems like something is still missing

Every day I write down 10 things I am grateful for in my Gratitude notebook. It’s awesome. This talk sums how awesome it is to do. Worth the 12 minute watch/listen

Australians struggle with rising prices no matter what your income….

9 places unhappy people look for happiness – buying is one of them


Living with less. The Aussie lady who threw away 20,000 items of stuff

A Perth lady & her daughter also buying nothing new for 1 year.

Do what you love

The urge to purge

Not What We Possess, But What We Pursue

The share conference

Break the habit of satisfying discontentment with acquisitions

How to de-clutter and de-own

We had the Yuppies now we’ve got ‘Endies’… Same issues in Australia as in London, hence my “Buying nothing new or 2nd hand” experiment… and on-line participation programs to follow

Others who have bought nothing new for a year

Paris letters – Quit your job and save money

The age of entitlement: how wealth breeds narcissism. As people get richer, they are more likely to feel entitled, to exploit others, and to cheat. That extends to politics too.

3 reasons to have a crack at buying nothing new for 1 month

Things you should stop paying for now

Being minimalist

How to Save Money (and the World) by Minimizing Your Life

The Urge to Purge. Feng Shui Advice.

Consume, consume, consume with the false promise of happiness