Seeing Hammy on his little boat reminded me of a saying that has always inspired me. I’ve seen many version of this quote and its been attributed to many people, including the Dalai Lama. No matter who said it first and how, it’s just as inspirational.
“Many drops an ocean make”
As much as you might like to, you don’t have to change the world. You don’t have to fix the problem. All you have to do is something. Just a small change. Just be one voice. You are never alone, and with enough voices and people making small changes just like you, we can change the world together. And if not.. well… at least you made a ripple.
Have you seen Finding Nemo? I’m amazed at just how inspirational that movie is. Particularly this scene:
Nemo was just a drop in the ocean, just one fish. But when he rallied others to swim with her, she became an ocean. All the little fish together became as powerful as a shark.
I often find myself muttering a sing-song “Just keep swimming.. Just keep swimming…” That’s really all you need to do. Just make one small step at a time. Try and convince others to make one small step at a time too. Small actions can achieve great things.
There’s quite a lot out there saying that long-term change is best achieved through setting small goals, or through building small habits. Once that new habit becomes second nature, you can add one more little habit to it – it’s called habit stacking. And that’s how you get your ripple.
I’m on a mission to simplify my life and to save the environment (including living a zero-waste life). That’s a pretty big ocean. Here are some my drops; here’s how I keep swimming:
Swap a disposable item for a reusable one, one thing at a time – buy a reusable bag, a reusable coffee cup, a reusable water bottle.
Say no to buying that item you’re looking; you don’t need it.
Choose one thing to declutter.
Put away one thing where it belongs.
Tidy/organise one space.
Ask for one drink to be served without the straw
Choose one item from your to do list and do it or ditch it.
Fix one thing (and be glad you don’t have to buy a replacement)
Remember your reusable bag on this shopping trip.
Put the plastic-packaged item you’re holding back on the store shelf and reach for another product with cardboard/glass/recycled packaging instead.
Learn to make one thing from scratch.
Have one conversation about reducing waste
What are your drops in the ocean? Are you taking small steps towards anything big? Have you ever made a ripple? I’d love to hear your stories!
The ideal situation is not to consume.
“That’s the fundamental answer, don’t buy this stuff to begin with. But if you chose to buy, as many do, the best thing is to buy things that you can reuse.”
This article is a great synopsis of my zero waste inspiration.
I first became aware of the problems of consumption and waste when I did a Living Smart course. Of the 8-week course what really cemented itself in my mind was the short video we watched on the first day – The Story of Stuff. I really do think those 20 minutes marked a big change in my life, or at least the way I thought about it.
My great awakening was in 2012 when I discovered Plastic Free July. My supermarket visits changed completely. All of a sudden I saw myself in a sea of plastic, surrounded by ‘trapped’ and inaccessible food. I was overjoyed when, a couple of years later, I found a growers market that sold LOOSE cherry tomatoes!
After Plastic Free July came Buy Nothing New Month (October), but I was unprepared and shopped up a storm. At the start of 2013 I was pondering my new year’s resolutions when the guilt of having shopped through October came back to haunt me. I decided to embark on a delayed Buy Nothing New Month. But I’m the kind of person who tends to get carried away with new projects, and soon it became ‘Buy Nothing New Year‘, from February to February.
Buy Nothing New Year was surprisingly easy, but probably because I allowed myself the exception of buying new things for my wedding that year. And when I visited Brisbane, Queensland and found an amazing dress – the last one, and just my size! – I instantly created a new exception: the postcode rule. So with wedding and travel purchases allowed, I made it through Buy Nothing New Year with a changed attitude toward consumption and a new addiction to buying secondhand.
In late 2013 I made my first career change and got a job in waste management. Now, getting people to waste less and recycle more is my full-time job. Ironically, the demands of the job all-too-often push me to sacrifice my values for convenience, especially when it comes to plastic-wrapped, palm-oil laden frozen pizza… but some change is better than no change, right? As I learn to reduce my consumption and waste I also learn to forgive my transgressions.
Now, I’m most of the way through Buy Nothing (at all) Year. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the inspirational Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home at a conference. I’m proud to consider myself a loyal shopper at the Wasteless Pantry in the hills of Perth, Western Australia. I never leave home without a reusable shopping bag, fruit and veg bags, a travel cutlery kit, a bamboo straw, a reusable water bottle and usually a reusable coffee cup too (which sometimes doubles as a doggy bag!). I’ve discovered minimalism. I question every purchase and usually decide to go without or borrow instead. I’m on a massive decluttering spree. And I’m considering my options for how I may work less so I might waste less (bye bye frozen pizza!) and live a life closer aligned with my values.
I’m on a journey. It’s such a cliche, but it really is a journey. It takes time to find new inspiration, switch to different products, change your habits and learn new ways of thinking and doing things.
I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever reach the end of this journey. Probably not… but that doesn’t matter, because I’m proud of how far I’ve come and I’m excited about how far I still have to go.PS:
That dress I bought in Brisbane during Buy Nothing New Year survived my massive wardrobe declutter and proudly hangs in my minimalist wardrobe with a dozen other dresses. I love it.
I do wish he were clothed in all his photos… they will haunt me for days now… but it sure is interesting seeing what he can’t live without.
More importantly, it makes you think what he can live without and what I could and couldn’t live without.
It’s funny. I often think men have an unfair advantage when it comes to minimalism. Have you ever noticed that all the famous minimalists are men?
How many more items would a woman carry? Bras, hairbrush, makeup, sanitary items, pills, clothes and shoes for special occasions…
I guess many of the material possessions women have aren’t really necessities, but feel like they are because of society’s expectations of women to be pretty and feminine. Could we ever do without these items without being called a lesbian or butch? Could we still be successful socially and professionally? Or would we be judged?
Yes, this is my first post in a while. A long while. Have I been shameful hiding because I went on a shopping spree and broke my Buy Nothing Year pledge?
I must confess I did buy something yesterday. Something I already own and that I don’t actually need. Something that definitely breaks the rules. But something I just wanted to buy SO MUCH that temptation got the better of me. What would break you?
For me, it was a yoga mat. And also, in a way, the reason I haven’t posted in a few months.
When I started this blog, I was mindful that I’m a pathological action addict. I do too much. I overcommit, I underestimate the effort required to do things and I overestimate my ability to do them. I start up a project and quickly burn out, because it’s just one of too many.
I didn’t want this blog to be another burn-out project. I didn’t want it becoming an energy-sucking chore. I started this blog because I wanted to document my Buy Nothing Year challenge and because I enjoy writing and have long wanted to try blogging. But I had to make a rule that if life got too hard, I would give myself permission to stop.
Life got too hard.
And I did give myself permission to stop. I’m quite proud of myself for doing this, as it’s an achievement in itself. I allowed myself to take a break, to set my own rules for what I ‘should’ do, to look after myself, and to not feel guilty about it.
So much so, that in 10 days I’m hopping on a plane to Bali for 10 days of massages, spa treatments, naps, books and yoga…. on my new yoga mat! It’s in the mail at the moment and I’m so excited to get it.
Now, I’m sure I could have gotten by without a new mat. I’m sure you can borrow or hire a yoga mat in Bali. I mean.. it’s Bali! But….
Yes. There’s always a ‘but’. Here’s why I bought a yoga mat during Buy Nothing Year:
The only yoga mat I’ve ever bought is about 15 years old now. It’s ripped, warped, stretched and squashed into random waves (no longer unfurls flat).
I’ve been thinking about buying a new one for a few years now, but haven’t because I go to classes in a martial arts dojo that has the entire floor covered in thick matting (no at required at all!). I’d probably need a new mat if I ever changed yoga studios.
My current mat is too thin for my dodgy knees, meaning I have to borrow a mat to double up with or to bring a towel or jumper to fold up under my knees for each kneeling or lunging pose.
My current yoga mat has always annoyed me. The colours are too bright for class (I stand out like a sore, and very pink, thumb) and it’s way too short and narrow. I’m always having to adjust my poses just to fit onto the mat. It interrupts my flow and my focus, and frustration is not something you want to bring into your practice.
Are these reasons or justifications for buying a new mat?
The purpose of Buy Nothing Year is to help declutter by stopping the inflow of stuff into my life, to make me reassess what I really need, to break shopping habits, to change my relationship with stuff and to shift from mindless consumerism to intentional purchases.
It’s ok to own things. It’s ok to buy things. So long as they are the right things.
This will be the only yoga mat I buy for years. So I made sure it was a good one. One that is as ethical and sustainable as possible. I scoured the internet for yoga mats made of natural, biodegradable or compostable materials, made with minimal chemicals and packaging, made by a socially sustainable, ethical brand and one that is durable, high quality and enjoyable to own.
I bought a ‘Grounded’ Mukti Mat, made from natural (not petroleum derived) rubber and jute. And it’s even a local brand!
My yoga mat is an intentional purchase. A mat is essential for home practice, which I want to do much more of. The mat will bring more yoga into my life, and yoga makes me happy and helathy. It is good for me physically, emotionally and mentally. The yoga mat will improve my life.
Of course, this is exactly the kind of thinking that results in ‘aspirational purchases’. “If I buy good running shoes, I will get fit”. “If I buy this treadmill, I will use it all the time”. Wrong. You’ll use it a couple of times and then it will gather dust for a few years until you finally chuck it out.
But in this case, I’ve been practicing yoga for nearly 15 years. I realised last year that my relationship with yoga has changed from something I try to do to something I can do. I no longer watch other people with envy and awe, wondering how they can bend like that. I am now comfortable enough with my practice to call myself a yogini and not feel like a fraud. I love yoga. I need yoga in my life. I am a yogini. I am going to Bali to practice yoga for 10 days. I am taking my new yoga mat. I will keep using my yoga many for many more years to come. And when it is old and worn and no longer usable, I will use it on my garden as weed matting, where it will slowly biodegrade and became part of the soil.
This is a good purchase. I am happy I’ve made it.
But what have I been up to the last few months? What have and haven’t I bought? Have I failed at my challenge or am I still going strong? You’ll just have to wait until my next post to find out.. if I write one 😉
Although when I thought about it, it’s been much longer than that, more like 5 or 6 years.
“Yeah, in dribs and drabs. We need to make a real dent in it. We need to be free”.
He’s completely right. I’ve been decluttering forever and I still feel completely buried by stuff. It’s overwhelming. As soon as I get rid of one carload at a swap meet, I start throwing things in boxes and piles until I have a messy spare room and another carload of stuff to get rid of.
How does that happen? Why is decluttering a neverending process? Is decluttering like a ‘to do list’, always promising to one day be empty, but always being overwhelmingly full? Judging by the growing minimalist movement, I’d say I’m not the only one struggling with this problem.
One reason for starting Buy Nothing Year was to stop new stuff coming into my life so I could actually have less stuff. It’s not ‘less’ if you get rid of three things in a week but buy five.
Buy Nothing Year is going well, but it’s only half of the equation. It’s time to start another challenge. It’s time to get serious about decluttering. It’s time to tackle this head on.
Stay tuned for my post on my decluttering challenge!
Oh, but it needs a catchy name. If my first challenge was Buy Nothing Year, maybe this should be Give Away Everything Year? Ditch All the Things Year? Clearly, I need help naming this challenge – what would you name it?
I’d love to hear from you.Are you decluttering? How are you doing it? What’s your best tip? What’s the hardest thing about decluttering? Or, if you’re not doing it – what’s stopping you?
Buy Nothing Year really should be called Acquire Nothing Year, but that’s not as catchy.
The goal of Buy Nothing New Year is to have less stuff. To have fewer distractions, less to clean or maintain, less clutter, less to worry about. Buy Nothing New Year is about realising that I do not need more stuff to be happy. It’s about reducing my environmental footprint by consuming less resources and generating less waste.
Saving money is not the goal, but it is a rather obvious benefit of buying nothing. Because it is just a side-effect, not the goal, this means I can’t just hop on freecycle and still acquire loads of stuff this year. The same rules apply to stuff at any price: retail, cheap or free. It’s still stuff, and the rules apply equally.
The rules for Buy Nothing New Year
My Buy Nothing New Year goes from 21 July 2015 until 20 July 2016.
In a word: consumables – the stuff that I need to live and that won’t stay in my life permanently. But even these I’ll try to keep to a minimum.
Specifically, I am allowed:
Food & drink but I will try to use up my pantry and freezer contents first, wherever possible.
Toiletries and cleaning supplies only once all supplies are used up.
Cosmetics, but only foundation and mascara (I have too much of everything else).
I will also allow some non-consumables:
Dog stuff – things like a new dog bed, harness, collar, toys… but within reasonable limits. Really, I should only buy new things once the old things no longer do their job (e.g. her harness is starting to wear through and her bed is flat and lumpy).
Gifts – because the challenge is about acquiring stuff, not just buying it, this one applies to giving and receiving gifts. As hard as I may try to convince people not to buy me stuff, and to buy my friends and family experiences instead of material possessions, gifts will remain a part of my life.
Furniture and house renovation items – hubby and I have lived in our house for 5 years now, and we’ve been waiting until we finish renovating before buying furniture. Renovating and furnishing our home is one of my main priorities, so it would not make sense to put it off for a sixth year. I really hope to have a new kitchen and floor tiles before this challenge is over.
Materials needed to repair, upcycle or create items that will prevent me from buying new stuff.
What’s not allowed:
Kitchen equipment or supplies like glad wrap or aluminium foil (dishwashing tabs count as ‘cleaning products’ and are allowed).
Clothes, shoes, handbags & accessories.
Unnecessary makeup, cosmetics, cleaning products or toiletries (this includes more than you think! More on this later…).
Decorative items and nick-nacks.
Books or jigsaw puzzles (though I may borrow them from friends or the library, provided they are returned or passed on).
If I genuinely need something, like if a shoe fetishist were to break into my house while I slept and take off with every single pair I own, then I may allow myself to buy something. But it wouldn’t be much of a challenge without a few restrictions, would it?
If I decide that I need something:
I will ‘shop on paper’ and write it down. Unless the purchase is urgent (damn you, shoe thief!), I will only be allowed to buy items off the list after 20 July 2016. This will allow me to re-evaluate the list after some time has passed. I bet half the items I ‘need’ will turn out to be ‘wants’.
Before letting any new item into my life, I must rehome three other items. This means completely removing them from my life, not just throwing them on a decluttering pile to be dealt with later (my tendency thus far!). This will guarantee that, no matter what happens, I will have fewer things in my life at the end of the challenge than at the start.
I will first try to borrow the item, then try to buy it second-hand, and only buy new if I can’t get it any other way. This will keep my environmental footprint and waste generation to a minimum.
That’s it for now! What do you think? I’d love to hear what rules you would add to the challenge, or what dilemmas you think I might face! Is there anything you might try doing too? Or did you maybe read something and think “Impossible! I could never do that!”?
I’ve been happily surprised to have followers and people reading and commenting on my blog already. I really didn’t expect such an encouraging reaction. Thank you! I look forward to getting to know you.
I’m just popping in to say hi. It’s been a very busy and stressful week, leaving me little time to focus on Buy Nothing Year.
Today, I realised in horror that I’d forgotten all about my challenge! But when I wracked my brain going over the past week, I realised I’m winning anyway. Still nothing bought! I’ve even managed to throw a few things on my decluttering pile.
Maybe being busy is the key. Focusing on the important things leaves little time for distractions, and that’s all that shopping is, isn’t it?