Nothing New: Final reflections on my attempts at buying nothing new for almost a year

looking for the neighbour

As the autumn is slowly coming to its end and the winter air sneaks into our house through nooks, crannies and keyholes, I am bringing out our old coats, hats, scarves and jumpers and I am bracing us for the winter. In fact I am surprised how long we’ve managed to survive just with our summer jackets, running around with bare necks and heads uncovered. It’s been by all means one of the warmest Novembers I’ve experienced in the UK.

The year is almost over and I’ve been thinking about the journey that I have taken through embracing the Nothing New Project and how much I’ve gained because of it. (Almost) all the goods that I’ve bought this year were not new, but the direction my thoughts have taken me in were new to me. To be truthful, I’ve started liking myself a bit more towards the end of this year as I felt I’ve been a part of something meaningful… maybe even a small part of a big social change. I hope I was. I hope I still am.

If I had to list one thing that I’ve learnt or re-learnt through this project, I would fail at the task, as it’s just impossible to encapsulate the outcome of this project in one line. It would never do it justice. I can hear some of you saying: ‘But come on Alicja, give us three things, three things that you’ve learnt from the Nothing New Project. How would you encourage others to go about it?’ My answer would be: Try to do these things:

1. Engage
2. Maintain
3. Connect

Engage with what you have. More often than not we crave for new things because we forget about the things that we already have. We walk through our rooms oblivious to their contents. There are books that are unread, films not yet watched, CDs hardly ever listened to. Give those items your attention. You have probably bought them with a strong purpose of engaging with them. Give yourself time to do it. The Nothing New Project made it very clear to me that buying is not becoming – that the act of buying something does not change us; it does not make us something else other than just a consumer. To change we need to engage with what we’ve invested in. Only our efforts lead to creations which bring about change. Having a house will never equal having a home if we don’t breathe life into it.

Maintain. This is something that I have had the biggest problem with for as long as my mind can recall. I rush from one job to another, from one project to another, from one occasion to another and my mind is so scattered that I’ve hardly ever given time to the maintenance tasks. Maintenance means to “keep things in being”. To do this we should repair, preserve, clean and conserve what we already have. One thing is to possess something, it’s quite another to give it a long and good life.

Connect with people. Search for or create communities where you can share, swap, circulate items. Enrich others. Sign up to Freecycle or other groups to keep things out of landfill. Use libraries, toy libraries, tool hires. We really don’t need to possess everything. Realistically, we do not have space for everything. In her beautiful post Surrender  Sash Milne, the initiator of the Nothing New Project, wrote “Make every transaction an opportunity for human connection. With connection comes relationships, with relationships comes community.” This to me is the core message of the Nothing New Project. Often we hide in our homes with things that we have, with things that could be shared or offered to others (not only goods but also time and talents). When we show to others what we have, who we are, we realise that we have a lot and collectively we have everything. It’s so easy to feel unloved, it’s so easy to feel lonely when all we do is anonymous shopping, and then hiding and hording.

The Nothing New Project made me reach out and learn. I’ve started two groups in my communities and joined another. One of the two groups is doing really well, the other one… will be too (one day). You don’t always need to start a group, just attend the events that are going on in your area already. You are showing your support and openness for friendship through that. Be ambitious for your communities. Just because it must start from someone. Could it be you?

I’ve been following Sash Milne at Inked in Colour and her Nothing New Project for months now. I’ve embraced her ideas because they are simply great. Pop over to her blog for wonderful insights, great photography and writing.

IMG_0320_life how i like it

IMG_9681_nothing newa house

5 thoughts on “Nothing New: Final reflections on my attempts at buying nothing new for almost a year

  1. Great reflections on trying to change your way of living and thinking about “stuff”. I really like “engage” – so many people have things that they don’t ever use, but they keep them “just because”, “just in case”, etc. Over the past year I have done major purging of our household items. If something doesn’t have a use at this point in our lives, I got rid of it. There are always some exceptions, but I found that living by this idea works for me and keeps the stuff in my life pared down to the near essentials.


  2. This is so spot on. I can only imagine how transformative it must feel actually to see yourself making this change and realize it’s entirely possible and not at all, I dunno, traumatic or awful or dull. And furthermore to realize how much you already have to reconnect with, and ways to interact with your community differently. Brilliant. (Love the photos too!)


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