Buy Nothing New: January

This year I have challenged myself to buy nothing new, as a way to simplify and break some bad habits like hoarding and buying things ‘just in case’.  The first month is up now and it’s really been surprisingly easy.  Although perhaps that is to be expected after the extravagance and shopping-fest that is Christmas.  Of the few things I have bought new, most have been on my exceptions list (e.g. wool to finish a crochet baby blanket, nursing bras).  The only other things I have bought new have been things that would have been impossible to find used, like a pair of toddler-safe scissors (as my little girl was distraught when hers broke) and home birth essentials like a birth pool liner.  I did very nearly cheat as we decided to get a single sofa bed (for guests and possibly hubby).  I thought it would be too difficult or time consuming to find one as I wanted to make sure we bought it before baby arrives, but I was lucky enough to find someone selling a good-quality one second-hand in my village, and we were able to pick it up the next day!  So I have learnt that I shouldn’t jump to conclusions, and at least try to find things used.

There have also been some things that I have made a conscious decision *not* to buy, used or otherwise.  Our kitchen tongs and turkey baster have both broken, and I reckon we can survive without those – a knife and fork will do for turning sausages and a spoon for the rare occasions we will be roasting something that needs basting.  I also decided not to buy any more things for the baby, even though I felt that we needed some more bedding just to be on the safe side.  I am noticing this is a really bad habit that will take some work to break, but at least I am becoming more aware of it now.  As it turns out, a friend had a clear out and gave us some more baby clothes and blankets, so we probably still have more than we need, but less than what I would have bought ordinarily.  Next, my husband has one of those book clubs at his work and we often get sucked into buying whatever kids’ books they have on offer because they always seem like such a good deal.  However, I would guess that we already have at least 100 children’s books, and we go to the library regularly, so there is really no need to buy anything more.  And finally, I have resisted buying any children’s magazines (a walk to the shop to buy a magazine and then read it together is a good way to fill an afternoon that is dragging).  I have kept all the ones we have bought in the past so we have re-read them and discovered that there are activities in them that my 3-year-old can now do that were too difficult before, or ones that we just never got around to doing, so we have kept ourselves busy doing those instead.

On the flipside I have been taking advantage of my nesting urges and cleared out even more clutter.  The amount of stuff I have found, and am continuing to find, that I can get rid of so easily, is a real eye-opener.  I’ve managed to get rid of so much junk that we’ve even been able to get rid of an entire piece of furniture that we were using for storage!  It’s making me realise how much we have bought mindlessly in the past, which is reinforcing my determination not to buy anything new.

Looking forward to February, I think the biggest challenge will be lack of time and energy, as our baby is due any day now.  This could be an advantage, as I’m pretty sure I’ll be too tired and busy to think about shopping.  But it could also be a disadvantage, as I might suddenly decide after yet another poo-nami explosion that actually, we do need more sheets (am I a little obsessed with sheets right now???), and will I have the energy to resist and just do yet another load of washing and drying?

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In Limbo

So, my freezer is full of home cooked meals, the baby clothes are all washed and put away, the home birth kit is ready to go… My due date is fast approaching and there is nothing left to do but wait.  I feel like I’m in a strange kind of limbo land, 40 weeks of pregnancy is nearly up but there have been no signs that baby wants to leave her comfy home just yet.  I’ve done all the jobs I wanted to do, and for the first time in my adult life I don’t have a to-do list.  It’s freeing but also a little unsettling, I am a person who likes to Get Things Done and I’m not very good at sitting around.  I have one project left to finish, which is the baby blanket I have been crocheting for the past 6 months or so (it’s my first ever crochet project), I’m almost scared to finish it because then what will I do with myself!

I also feel heavy with the weight of everyone else’s expectations.  When we go to playgroup or preschool, or even answer my phone, other people seem a little disappointed.  They are excited too so they are hoping I won’t be there because I am in labour!  My first was induced at 40+10 after my waters broke, so I was expecting to be late with this one as well, but it’s much harder this time because I can’t just hide from the world at home watching movies and reading or taking naps (oh how I miss naps right now!).  Personally I don’t consider the baby to be truly overdue until 42 weeks, so until then I’m just waiting for her to decide she’s ready.  What I will do if I’m still pregnant at 42 weeks I don’t know, hopefully I won’t have to find out!

I was getting a bit fed up and grumpy until I found that someone else has given the last few days (or weeks) of pregnancy a name: Zwischen, which is German for ‘between’.  Just reading that other people feel like this at this time has made me feel so much better, and made it easier to accept.  I definitely feel like I am not quite in this world at the moment, not quite one thing or the other, just waiting…and waiting.

How Much Stuff is Enough?

I’m 36 weeks pregnant and nesting instinct has well and truly kicked in.  Over the Christmas break we have brought all the baby stuff (from our first daughter) down from the loft and I’ve been getting the nursery ready.  It’s really made me realise how much unnecessary stuff we acquired first time around.  And it’s also made me rethink my ideas about what is ‘enough’, both in terms of baby stuff and in general.

For my first daughter, one of my friends had had a daughter 6 months previously and she very kindly lent us lots of baby clothes as her little girl grew out of them.  We also bought some clothes for our baby ourselves, of course, and we were given some as presents too.  We have since returned all the clothes that we borrowed, and yet we still have more than enough baby clothes left, without needing to buy a single thing!

I also found that we have lost a bag of baby sheets and blankets somewhere in the mists of time loft.  My first urge was to rush out and buy some more, but I can’t do that because I have challenged myself to buy nothing new this year.  And under my self-imposed rules, even buying second hand is the last resort.  So I have looked again at what we have.  We did manage to find some bedding, and we have been lent some more.  And I’ve realised that actually, we probably do have just about enough already, it’s just not in matching sets.  So I’m going to let go of my perfectionism and make do with what we’ve got.

It’s a baby step in the right direction I think, but I need to apply it to all areas of my life and home.  I have a terrible habit of buying things ‘just in case’ and hoarding things I don’t really need because they might come in handy one day.  This applies to food, clothes, craft materials, stationery, all sorts.  I have been decluttering the past few months but I’ve still got a long way to go.  I’ve got rid of a lot of the pre-baby clutter (abandoned craft projects and materials, clothes and shoes I no longer wear, hundreds of books and CDs, etc), but slowly and surely our house is filling up again with new, kid-related clutter, mainly toys, toys and more toys.

There are some people who manage to live with just 100 (or less) personal possessions, like Leo Baubuta and A Guy Named Dave.  I was going to say this is unachievable when you have young kids but then I discovered Single Mom Enough.  Wow.  So inspiring, and makes me realise that I’m just a beginner when it come to simplicity and being content with what you have.

What is ‘enough’ for you?  Do you/could you live with just 100 things?

Enjoy More With Less in 2014

I’m not a big fan of new year’s resolutions – I think if you want to make a change in your life, do it now instead of waiting for a day on the calendar to arrive – but I have some changes I want to make that happens to coincide with the start of the new year.

I’ve read 2 books recently, Simplicity Parenting and Buddhism for Mothers, which have really given me a renewed interest in living simply, as I feel it will benefit my whole family. I’m also a regular reader of 2 blogs I find really inspiring, Miss Minimalist, which shares stories from people who live a minimalist lifestyle (or are working towards it) and Zen Habits, which has practical advice for living simply. However the Christmas season and all its excesses have made me realise that I’m living far from my ideals.

So I’d like 2014 to be a year of less – buying less and doing less, in order to enjoy more. I live in a house full of stuff with a head full of distractions, with physical and mental clutter taking up too much of my time and energy.

I’d like to do The Compact again. This is a commitment to buy nothing new, for an entire year (with some exceptions). I’ve done it before, several years ago (for 6 months) and it really reset my attitude towards buying stuff. I don’t go shopping a lot, but since having K I’ve got into bad habits of buying too much stuff for her, too many toys, clothes, books etc, and often too much food (for some reason, having lots of food in the cupboard makes me feel secure). I want to teach her that materialism is not a path to happiness, and instead the way to contentment is being satisfied with what you have. It’s also partly down to environmental concerns, I just don’t think our constant need to buy more and more stuff is sustainable (watch The Story of Stuff). And it will make things a little easier financially, while I’m not at work and with another mouth to feed.

I’m also going to stop using distractions, which just eat up so much time, and as a mother ‘time’ is something that is in short supply, so I want to use it more wisely. For me, distractions include Facebook and blogs. I’ve already had to delete the Facebook app on my phone because I just find it too tempting and end up checking it on those long afternoons indoors when I really would rather be paying attention to my little girl. But often in the evening I go on it, with the intention of looking for 5-10 minutes, and end up on there for hours. Same with blogs, I use The Old Reader (an RSS reader) to keep up with all my favourite blogs, but I subscribe to so many blogs I never catch up! Another distraction is TV, I tend to plonk myself down on the sofa in the evening just out of habit, even if there’s nothing I really want to watch.

Instead I’m planning to prioritise my time, energy and money into two things, firstly working on my self (through the practices suggested in Buddhism for Mothers, and The Little Book of Contentment and other spiritual crap like that). Secondly I’d like to prioritise creativity (inspired by another book, The Rainbow Way, and a good friend of mine who blogs at Attachment Feminism, whose writing is going from strength to strength). I’ve *always* wanted to be a writer (when I started school I told my teacher that I wanted to go to university to study English and Maths, so that I could write books and then work out how much money I had made!), and although I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do it professionally right at the moment, I’d like to practise now to build up my skills so I can start working when I’m ready. I also love doing arts and crafts with K, and I like to do the odd craft project myself (currently crocheting a baby blanket). I’m also much happier and fulfilled when I have time to be creative, which I feel makes me a better mother.

What changes are you making in the new year?