Friday, November 22, 2013

Breaking the Consumerism Addiction

As we're almost full-swing into the holiday season this year, I've been seeing several posts from friends online each week (since September!) about stores and commercials pushing the Christmas shopping season earlier and earlier. And while we all know what's going on here -- stores trying to get us to spend more money -- we fall for it because we love the holidays and can't wait to get into the "holiday spirit."

Before this year, I would have been a part of that, too. I love the holidays. And there's something about decorating your house and wrapping gifts for other that just feels good. So while I was never the one to go on a big shopping spree for the holiday season, I would definitely find myself in Target or at a street fair looking for some items to add some "holiday cheer" to my home. I mean really, who doesn't need a stuffed reindeer and another box of Christmas lights? (I happen to love both of these things!).

This year has been different, though. Despite all of my friends' updates on the holiday shopping season, I haven't felt even the tiniest bit of desire to go out and buy. In fact, when the husband and I were in Ikea last week (sadly, we caved and went to buy new  curtain rods for the house as part of our mad dash to get the house ready to move this weekend), I was so overwhelmed and grossed out by the mass consumption and cheaply made items all around me that I had to leave the store. Even the smell just seemed too much.

I think it's partly because the Bangladeshi garment factory collapse is still on my mind (Is any cute holiday sweater really worth 1,000 lives?), and partly because I'm so in the habit of getting what I need in other ways. But I think part of it, too, is the fact that I've broken a very real addiction that I and most of the country have with shopping. It's an addiction perpetuated by mass media -- when you see enough commercials for something, no matter how stupid you think it is, there is a part of your brain that becomes convinced that you need it (i.e. the $20-$40 rectangle of cheap felt that started the Snuggie craze). 

Because I haven't been in the habit of buying things, I haven't really been spending any time in stores, and because I don't have television (our TV is only hooked up to a DVD player, but we're thinking of getting rid of both in the move) or listen to commercial radio, I haven't been seeing or hearing any commercials. And you know? With the absence of all of those distractions telling me what I must have and must buy for that low low price, I feel really content with what I have. I don't feel deprived or like I'm fighting any urges to go out and buy. After a few months of removing those distractions from my life, I honestly didn't even notice that they were gone. If it weren't for my friends posts about holiday shopping, I think I probably could have forgotten about that craze altogether. 

Or to put it in pictures, because this post is getting a little long:

Aren't the holidays about this:
 And this:
And these:

Instead of this?:

 I realized last week that I have really broken my addiction. It's a wonderful feeling with less clutter, less envy, less stress, more money, more quality time, and more peace and contentment. Now that's some real holiday cheer.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Progress on the House!

So it turns out that working on a house doesn't leave much time for blogging, but I wanted to give you all a quick update on some of the progress we've made (More detailed before and after posts coming in the next few weeks!):

Original backyard:
Backyard that has been neglected for 15+ years
The backyard was completely filled with ivy, bamboo, and blackberry (a trifecta!) It's definitely still a work in progress -- and I can write a whole post about some of the bizarre and awesome things we discovered while slicing through all of that greenery. I'm saving the after picture for a later post, but in the meantime, here's a picture of us with one of our first trees:
Me and Ellen with the key lime tree!
We've also been patching some walls:

And removing others:

All in all, the only thing we're contracting out is the foundation (I do not want to mess with that!). While it's been taking a lot of work, I have to say it feels good to do this kind of work ourselves -- it really feels like we're building our home together. Also a plus is all the money that we're saving by doing our own work, buying materials used, scavenging for materials on freecycle and craigslist, and the old-fashioned borrowing from your neighbors.

I can't wait to post our next updates! We're moving this week and it's all been a little hectic, but I'll have more pictures soon!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Buy Nothing At All?

This man took the buy nothing new year to the next level: buy nothing at all! And he's been at it for 7 years now. We don't exactly share all of the same ideologies, but regardless, I thought this was an interesting read:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I'm Back!

Hi blog,

I'm sorry I abandoned you for so many months! Just because I wasn't blogging, doesn't mean I fell off the "buy nothing new" bandwagon, it just means I was really busy and neglectful. I work at a school, so come "summer break" I'm typically not on the internet much, and with that combined with getting ready for a wedding, I just didn't have it in me to make the time to blog.

So now that I'm married (Five days in, woo!) and we bought a new-to-us-but-actually-very-old house, I will have a lot to say as far as how we made the wedding work and how we will make the fixing up and remodeling work in a sustainable and responsible way. So stay tuned!

PS: We just got an old clawfoot bathtub on Craigslist to fix up and add to our current disaster of a bathroom and I'm really excited about it! We also got a low flow toilet, bathroom window, and refrigerator from the ReStore, a used building supply store that benefits Habitat for Humanity. I think this might quickly become my new favorite store! 

Bringing home the new toilet. Please note that it is seat belted for safety :)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Responsibly Made Flower Girl Dresses

With only four month until our wedding, planning is definitely in full swing, and I am trying to get more and more creative in order to keep our wedding as affordable and responsibly-sourced as possible. 

Dresses for our three flower girls have been throwing me for a bit of a loop -- I didn't want to buy from a big-box-store dress because of the environmental and social/public health implications, but I also needed to find three matching dresses (because apparently you have to buy young sisters the same dress or they will fight over them). And, of course, I'm on a budget.

This is where Etsy, which continually impresses me with its potential for awesomeness, comes in. I love that Etsy gives me access to artists and tradespeople in my larger community that I wouldn't have necessarily found using google or walking around my neighborhood. (They also have lots of "vintage" -- read: "used" -- finds). I think that often times when we need "stuff," it can feel like there are no other options aside from the big-box-stores or Goodwill, but Etsy is just one of many awesome alternative options for more responsibly sourced items.

After a little searching, I found a woman in LA who will make three flower girl dresses for us from a picture I sent her. And her price is more affordable than the original retail price of the pictured dress. So I saved money, supported a local tradeswoman, and did not support the labor shipping practices that I feel strongly against. I'm going to go ahead and call this a win.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Homemade Organic Furniture, Part Two!

I saw this wooden rocker and foot stool at a garage sale this weekend for $50 so I picked it up. The frame is awesome and sturdy, and will make a great base for an organic armchair! I'm pretty excited.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sure, I want to shop sustainably and responsibly, but how?

In the course of the "buy nothing new" year, I've found that there are some items that are just much, much harder to buy used. In particular, electronics. Sure, there's always craigslist or something from a friend of a friend, but people want to make sure they are buying something that works, and I totally get that. 

The Significant Other and I are both in the market for new phones right now, as our previous ones are just about dead. I bought him a phone off of ebay, which has been working great so far, but then today I just stumbled across this totally awesome alternative option:

ReCellular is a totally awesome, sustainability-conscious company that allows you to sell them old cell phones and also purchase discounted refurbished models (apparently, they also deal in laptops and netbooks). 

Given how damaging our consumer tech culture is, I am super excited about this alternative for purchasing "new" electronics. 

This site is just one of many alternative options out there for people who want to find more sustainable and humane methods of purchasing. I've found that you really can find anything you could possibly need sustainably, it just sometimes requires a little extra research.

Don't have time to research? Check out my growing list of responsible producers and please, suggest any of your own favorites that may be missing!