Buy Nothing New is nothing new. It’s a lifestyle that loads of people have been trying to adopt and follow for years. Basically, instead of buying brand new stuff all the time, you try to source second hand, upcycled, vintage, repurposed, or otherwise not-new stuff instead.
Why? Because the amount of waste we’re creating as humans to maintain our throwaway lifestyle is incredibly unsustainable, and by giving something that already exists a new life, you’re simultaneously lowering the demand for new stuff while reducing the amount of trash going to landfill.
You’re also able to continue functioning as a human who occasionally requires stuff and things in order to exist without having to become a full-blown hermit who lives in a tree. And you can enjoy being a consumer without the guilt – yay!
I’ve low-key been attempting to Buy Nothing New since we moved to London. Not because I wanted to write a show-offy blog about it (well, partly), but because I actually get more satisfaction out of finding second-hand stuff than I do buying new things. And because I like a challenge, especially if it’s one that gives me an excuse to root around in charity shops while repeating the mantra “buy it, you deserve it, you are a magnificent eco-warrior princess”.
So what aren’t I allowed to buy new?
We’re talking about all the stuff you fill your house with – furniture, ornaments, kitchen utensils, clothes, crockery, books, cushions, pots and pans, accessories, lamps, mugs, glasses, shoes. You get the picture. Pictures too, actually.
The sort of stuff that’s supposed to last you a lifetime. The things our ancestors used to care for and treasure, and which nowadays people throw out whenever they fancy a change.
OBVIOUSLY you are allowed to buy food and toiletries and stuff like that. Don’t be so pedantic.
Where the hell am I meant to buy nothing new from then?
- Charity shops
- Vintage shops
- Car boot sales
- Flea markets
- Jumble sales
- School/Church fetes
- Newsagent adverts (yep, this is still a thing)
- Gumtree (I tried Shpock, it was shit, don’t do it)
- Facebook (those For Sale groups in your local area – join them all. Now.)
- Garage sales
- Your family’s old cast-offs
- Clothes swaps (AKA Swishing)
- Upcycled stuff
- Things people leave in front of their house with a nice “Help Yourself” sign (really common in London)
- Swap with your mates
- Borrow things you don’t need very often
- Fix stuff that breaks (or head to a fix-it cafe or pay someone to fix it for you if you have no idea what you’re doing)
- Make it your damn self
If you really want to invest in something new, then try Buy Me Once. It’s a genius website that only sells items which are designed to last a lifetime. Either they’re hardwearing and durable enough to last the test of time, or else the company that manufactures them promises to repair or replace yours once they reach the end of their life. All sustainable, ethical companies too.
Using a combination of the above we have successfully accumulated most of the things we need in our house to live our lives the way we want to. Admittedly the flat was part furnished when we moved in (bed, wardrobe, sofa, chest of drawers, dining table and chairs), and we already had a pretty good amount of stuff between us. But there was also a large amount of things we didn’t have, and had to find:
The Living Room
- Music system (£45 second hand – fixed by a local tech guy for £15)
- Music system stand (Facebook – £10)
- Cabinet (found on the side of the road – free)
- Magazine rack (charity shop £15)
- Coffee table (hand made by Roger out of an old palette – we bought the legs new)
- Books (charity shops – I got the whole ASOIAF set for £12)
- Ornaments, cushions etc (charity shops, car boots, markets)
- Foot rest (donated by Roger’s family)
- Picture frame (charity shop – we discovered it used to belong to my friend’s Nana!)
- Bedside table (car boot – £3)
- Stool (hand-me-down from Roger’s family)
- Bedding (my parents double sheets since they now have King size)
- Clothes, accessories and shoes (charity shops, kilo sales, Ebay, vintage fairs, handmade, my Mum’s old stuff)
- Jewellery box (charity shop – £3)
- Trinket holders (charity shops)
- Mirror (charity shop £6)
- Toaster (stolen from old flat)
- Misc. utensils (also stolen from old flat – sorry not sorry)
- Storage jars (charity shops)
- My awesome collection of vintage china teaware (charity shops)
- Plates (charity shops – got a vintage bone china set for £2)
- Glasses (collected from pubs and beer festivals – free)
- Cutlery (charity shops and donated by Roger’s Mum)
- Fondue set (acquired from Roger’s Mum again – babe)
- Dyson vacuum cleaner (donated by Roger’s grandad who for some reason had three)
- Bench (acquired from Roger’s grandad who has had it since his wedding in 1953)
- A deck chair (donated by Roger’s family)
- A chilli plant (donated by my Mum)
- Various decorative wall hangings from Peru (the old ladies selling them told us they were antiques – maybe they saw us coming, maybe it’s true, we will never know)
The tough parts
The downside to the Buy Nothing New way of life is that it can be difficult when you need something “right now”. In our culture, we’re so conditioned to being able to get whatever we want whenever we want it, that the concept of having to search for something (sometimes for several weeks) is alien at first. I ripped my jeans last week (right along the back of the thigh – no fix-ups there I’m afraid), and I’ve been outbid on Ebay for my favourite Topshop jeans about twelve times since.
On the flip side, this means you quickly get really good at buying things you don’t necessarily need when you see them. I found a beautiful offcut of supple grey suede and had to buy it there and then in preparation for my next sewing project. Now it’s sitting on a chair while I try to work out what I want to make with it.
Things we bought new
- Ironing board
- Drying rack
- Picture frame (it was pretty, leave me alone)
- Smoothie maker
- Tea towels
Although we have bought a handful of new things, mostly I think we’ve done pretty well. We haven’t had to eat our dinner out of vases, or sleep under old curtains. There are still a few items we’re biding our time for, like a sleek Scandi armchair that I’m holding out hope of finding for around £15 at a car boot (I can dream), and some plant pots that match the decor.
Things to think about if you’re inwardly going “ewwww people’s old stuff!”
- You eat at restaurants with cutlery, glasses and plates that have been used by thousands of strangers before you.
- You sleep in hotel beds using sheets which have been used by thousands of strangers before you.
- You breathe the rancid air on public transport which is being breathed by all the people around you.
- It takes 2700 litres of water to make one t-shirt.
- It takes 14 megajoules of energy to make one ceramic cup – that’s enough to power a standard light bulb for over three years.
- Get over yourself.
Anyone can wander into Next and buy a side table. I went to a car boot sale in a church car park, haggled with a scary lady with very few teeth, then carried it home in the rain with a week’s worth of vegetables hoisted over my other shoulder.
Paying peanuts for quirky, vintage and unusual stuff gives me a sense of self-satisfaction, and if that’s how I want to get my kicks then that’s what I’m damn well going to do. If I’m also doing the planet good, then that’s an added bonus. And our flat looks cool as fuck.
Time for some #Instaspiration
If you’re feeling curious and need any further inspiration to join in the BNN revolution, there’s a whole bunch of great bloggers and Instagrammers who are loving living a Buy Nothing New lifestyle.
For second-hand style and fashion tips, go take a look at @nevereverpayretail, who dresses herself in thrift, charity and vintage from head to toe. Then there’s @javamarisa, a sister duo working towards a sustainable wardrobe. Or follow some vintage shops who post great looks, finds and upcoming events and sales. Try @beyondretro and @blue.rinse.vintage, my two favourites.
If you’re thinking you’d like to combine buying nothing new with a brand new hobby, there’s a ton of cool workshops, groups and societies you could join to meet like-minded people and learn some new skills.
@loveandsalvage sell ethically made fashion and run workshops where you can make your own jewellery or clutch bag from salvaged leather offcuts.
@Fabricationshackney can teach you how to work a sewing machine, or how to make a skirt out of old shirts or a bag out of old ties.