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Saturday, November 12, 2011

on not not buying new

Earlier in the year a friend and I held a 'swaperoo' (the cool way of saying 'A clothing swap party'). We invited a few friends to come along with clothes they no longer wanted, cooked a cake and had some fun swapping clothes and drinking wine. This morning I got back into the clothing swap groove with a large scale clothing swap fundraiser at a local church. Twenty dollars for coffee, cake and a bag of clothes. I came home with a few practical tops and some awesome vintage dresses I plan to chop and refashion.

Both my forays into clothes swapping fit with a kind of goal I set at the beginning of the year. I decided I wasn't going to buy anything new, for environmental reasons such as sustainability and to buck a global system that pushes me into being a constant consumer.

The year has not been an abject failure, but neither have I stuck entirely by my goal. It has been more of an ideal I've aspired to. Which isn't to say I've run around spending lots of money on new things, because I haven't. There have been many times when I have stopped myself from purchasing items because they were new. I've hunted things up second hand on eBay, borrowed from friends, made do with what I have or made things from what I had at home. Still, I have bought enough new things to run out of fingers counting them. I think I've run out of toes for it too.

So what's my excuse for buying new despite saying I wouldn't? Sometimes it was practical reasons. I walk a lot and wear my shoes into the ground. I needed good shoes that fit properly and would last, so I've bought one pair for work and one for walking and bike riding. (I also bought a second hand pair of eBay, was given a pair and borrowed some fancy shoes for a wedding. That last one wasn't so successful, as they were a size too big and so high heeled that even with tissues in the toe I could barely walk. There was also no joining in the bridal waltz - but on the positive side, they did look amazing!)

Sometimes it was 'weakness'. I just happened to be walking past the local book store and there was a book by a favourite author for $10. So I bought it and gobbled it up. Mostly I have been borrowing books from the library like crazy and reading lots. I have also ordered a couple of books in - they're the kind of books I reckon I will refer to again and again and again. I managed to convince myself I needed them.

Some things just aren't that available in second hand stores. I'm a terrible op-shopper at the best of times, though I am slowly developing a knack for it. But no amount of looking is going to turn up every day long sleeve t-shirts in quality fabric that is going to keep me warm as toast. So I had to buy some Woolerina tops and singlets and a beanie to wear under my helmet for winter bike riding. They're good quality and will last for years, they're a sustainable product and they're Australian so my footprint isn't too huge from them.

The other thing that has really bothered me is the mass exodus of locally owned stores from the streets. It's economically tough in Tasmania at the moment. Not as tough as, say Greece, or even the USA, but compared to the rest of Australia, the government is crying poor and cutting loads jobs in the public service and people are pulling their belts in and spending less. Local shops can't cope with the retail down turn and almost every time I walk into town there is another closing down sale somewhere. It upsets me a lot, because I value buying from people I can develop a relationship. I prefer to avoid corporations and chain stores if I can. I like knowing where my cash is going and where my purchases are from. So if I decide to stop buying new, these local stores have one less person supporting them. Without putting too big a value on my contribution (because what I buy is piddling in the grand scheme of things), my lack of spending is another nail in the coffin of small business.

And if there's a closing down sale where I can buy a few things cheaper, it seems good use of my resources to pick up some bargains. (I am now fully stocked up on stockings and socks for next winter, though very sad to have lost the only locally owned supplier I know of in town)

Supporting the 'little people' of business doesn't stop locally. I love a company called 'Eternal Creation'. They're based in Dharamsala, India and the tailors set their piece price and the pricing of items is worked out from there. I've ordered loads of clothes from this site over the last three years or so, and every piece is a well made, quality product that is true to the size on the website. Since they make up the clothing to your order, I've discovered they are happy to adjust things. I was able to get a dress made with different sizes for the top and bottom. Yay! I heartily recommend their clothes to you. If you think the prices are too high, join the mailing list and receive notification of discounts by email. I've ordered from Eternal Creation this year because I want to support what they do, because their clothes are beautiful and... because I wanted to. (Yes, that is an epic fail on not buying new!) And a month or so ago I won a dress in their recent facebook competition. It arrived two days ago - beautiful, beautiful dress.

I'm still musing on the benefits of not buying new. I guess I'll keep pondering it, and trying to mostly stick to it until the end of the year. It's been worthwhile, it has made me think, and I have developed a pattern of living that will probably carry on into 2012.

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