Six months without buying anything new seems like a long period of time, but it is not. It is just six months, not six years, not sixteen and not sixty. It is just six odd months of reusing, borrowing, repairing and buying second-hand. Nothing new hasn’t defined my lifetime. But it has and will be defining the lifetime of others.
I must admit I had a moment of panic when I started the nothing new project. It wasn’t about not being able to buy things but it was about losing friends, losing opportunities to socialise and hang around together. I felt trapped. You see… one of the things that I decided to give up was coffee and you know how the world looks like these days – you meet at a coffee shop, you chat and giggle over a steamy black or frothy white drink. It’s isolating not to be able to have a cup of coffee with a friend, isn’t it?
I think this fear was triggered by the memories of my first year in the UK, when as a student I wasn’t really able to afford cups of coffee or dinners. It was serious. I was studying as well as working many hours per week as a waitress in pubs or restaurants. I wasn’t earning much, had no student loan, paid my rent and food from what I earned as a waitress so I really couldn’t afford many indulgences. If I had spent my money on those things I wouldn’t have been able to pay for my electricity bill in winter, the flight back home for Christmas or books for studying. I remember I used to do overtime just to be able to go for a coffee with a friend to discuss essays and literature. Tough time. Glad that it’s over. More than over. Now I have a choice. I have a choice to buy or not to buy and I am making the choice not to buy almost nonchalantly. Just because I can.
It doesn’t make me proud. Very often it makes me feel uncomfortable. “To buy or not to buy?” is not a question that offers two options to everyone. For many, “to buy” is just a matter of upgrading, changing or improving. For others, “to buy” means choosing between two or more necessities, two or more human rights: the right to study, the right to sleep, the right to have warm food, the right to socialise, and even the right to go to work. It feels comfortable and snug to be in the first group. It feels alienating and vulnerable to be in the second one. ‘Nothing new’ is not their choice. It’s not a lifestyle. It’s survival.