The end of the Nothing New Project

actforchangePIN IT A year ago I had a crazy idea. Not a new idea in the grand scheme of things, but I pretty radical idea in my own world. At the beginning of 2014 I vowed to go one year without buying anything new.  It was a relatively simple thing to do. I’ve never been a big consumer but I certainly have been a mindless one from time to time. Within a few months of the project beginning I discovered something that has actually changed the way that Bo and I live our everyday life – whilst I first started the project as a kind of personal activism against consumerism, it occurred to me quickly that this project was actually about something much bigger. It was about building community. When we have a strong tight knit community of people around us, our need to consume dramatically decreases without us doing much at all. When we have a strong network around us we are suddenly able to borrow things we would have previously bought. We are able to exchange, and with every exchange we have the opportunity to connect, and through those connections we build relationships and with those relationships, communities are born. When we live as a part of a strong community our need to find ‘comfort’ or ’emotional healing’ from purchasing things lessens, because we have people around us to help us shoulder the load.  A community is a place where the desire to share is greater than the desire to own.

We live in a world where suburbs sprawl out as far as the eye can see. Little matching houses in a sea of winding roads. So many people, but so little connection. We spend more time comparing than we do connecting. It’s our greatest downfall I think in our modern world, the fact that we are easily forgetting what it is to connect to other human beings, not through likes or online fan bases, but through real people who live around us. We spend so much time in front of screens where other people parade their lives as if they are perfection and we feel shit about ourselves because we aren’t holding it together. But the truth is, no one has it all together – no matter how perfect they look on the outside. What truly defines is is not how we look on the outside, but instead how we behave when noone is watching. People are imperfect and life is messy, and none of us are immune to that.

Big houses, designer clothes, a constant stream of homewares, new cars, fancy gadgets – our society demands that we follow suit, that we keep up, because this, this is how we show our neighbours that we are successful.

But what is success?

Success, to each of us is probably something quite different. For many people success may be as simply ‘living a happy life.’ I think this is a very valuable definition of success, but not one that can every be found in a shopping mall. Happiness doesn’t come from things. It comes from our relationship with the world around us, and like everything, it starts with our relationship with ourself. Being content to exist outside of competition, outside of comparison, is a very hard goal to reach… it is perhaps the price of privilege. But it is not one a challenge that we can’t overcome. There are many courses out there that will charge you a fortune to try to teach you how to be happy… but the reality is, happiness comes when you least expect it. Happiness comes from engaging positively in the world around you, it comes from having gratitude for what you already have, it comes from being genuinely pleased with other people’s success and it comes from celebrating the little things. Actually trying to DO those things consciously all the time is pretty difficult… but with simple skills in mindfulness it is achievable for all of us. To be successful perhaps is just to be present, to be mindful of the way that we behave, the words that we use and the things that we buy – perhaps being successful is actually seeing ourselves as a part of a world much bigger than us… where everything we do makes a difference not to us, but to the world around us. Because it does. It always makes a difference, however small.

During the first half of this year we shed a lot of our old things in the search for a simpler life. And then in the middle of the year we moved out of our home and started to live with no fixed address. We are still living that way until the end of our final house sit in a few weeks time and when it’s over I will probably talk about it a bit more.

Doing the nothing new project brought me a lot of amazing opportunities, I became a part of a strong, tight knit, imperfect community full of passionate people. I had the honour of speaking about the project at TEDxPerth (and hopefully the talk will actually go online at some point). I was interviewed on a lot of mainstream media (for better, and for worse) and I was faced with a lot of people who challenged the project and my motivations for doing what I have done.

Living without shopping was relatively easy. It was just about changing habits and shifting perspective. Then  as if the year had passed at a million miles an hour, it was over.

It’s been quite a ride, and it’s certainly not a journey that ended on the first of January. There will be more projects relating to it, and plenty of info coming your way to help support you to make some more conscious changes in your own lives. I have purchased a handful of new things in the past few days… very consciously. There was no shopping spree, just a few practical things that we needed, a tee or two, a pair of sandals, a kit to repair something I broke during the year. There is no doubt that elements of this project will continue for the rest of my life.

I’m working on an offline community project that has been like a little baby of mine for the past six months. And I’ll be happy to share it with you when it launches at the end of the month.

I’d love to know, for those of you who have been following along with the project at any time throughout the year, what you got from it (if anything)… and what sort of choices you are making this year.

I’m living 2015 with no direct resolutions, just a commitment to making conscious choices in every area of my life and trying, as always, to make little waves of change.

If not now, then when? If not us, then who?

Happy new year friends. Here is to a wonderful 2015. I hope you will stick around 🙂

thankyouPIN IT

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  • January 8, 2015 - 5:23 am

    Jade - What a beautiful post. This year rather than buying nothing new I’m going to start with buying less. I decided this when I went to the op shop the other day in search of a denim skirt and found one that I LOVED for only $3.25. There was no need to buy a new one. Money is tight this year with 1 income as I have continued to extend my maternity leave for another year to raise my 3 girls under 6.

    The challenge will be birthdays as well. I’m taking a conscious effort to write down all the little things that my girls say that they want for their birthdays and see if I can find it second hand. My 3 yr old said that all she wanted was a flute! Go figure! So I have until May to hunt for one. I’m sure I’ll find a preloved treasure somewhere along the line. Approaching birthdays this way requires much more thought, love and attention.

    Hoping to find some pretty shells today to put in a jar for my little girls for their birthday. Great idea! Thanks xReplyCancel

  • January 8, 2015 - 5:38 am

    Zanni Louise - I have loved following along. You have really changed the way I think about my own consumerist habits. I particularly like your reflections on community and sharing. The world would certainly be a better place if this was implemented.ReplyCancel

  • January 8, 2015 - 7:02 am

    Carly - Your posts nourish and inspire me in so many ways and give me a space to reflect on what I believe in and how to practically make this happen. thanks for putting in words so eloquently how many of us feel. I look forward to reading about your adventures in 2015 🙂ReplyCancel

  • January 8, 2015 - 7:23 am

    Michelle - I have been following your journey and I have found it thoroughly brave and inspiring. I am a stay at home mum with 4 kids and I live in a lovely little community which I am endeavouring to become more involved in even though I am a very quiet and private person usually.
    Each time I get a notification of a new post I get a bit excited as I find your words a welcome break in the world of more.
    Thank you for sharing your journey, please keep the posts coming!

  • January 8, 2015 - 7:33 am

    Jess - I have never been overly consumerist to begin with. I only buy when I need something, only have a couple of things in my wardrobe and I’ve always hated the art of “wandering around a shopping mall”, lol. But what this project has opened me up to is community. A small example of something I did this year, instead of buying new camera equipment and only using it a handful of times (I’m a photographer) I reached out and became friends with a couple of local photographers. We loan each other our gear from time to time, which has saved me thousands of dollars, but more importantly I’ve gotten 2 friends out of it. Not to say I won’t buy anymore equipment in the future, but loaning each other gear eliminates the “what-ifs” and sort of ensures I know what I would be 100% using for the type of work I do.
    Also something that I’ve learned is that, you shouldn’t feel guilty for buying something. I think it’s very easy to read about minimalism and trying to be “anti-consumerist” and feeling terrible when you want something or need something. I think the difference between these two things is that, when you are aware of your buying and your spending, you make better choices. You are in the present. I choose quality over quantity – I don’t own 10 handbags, I own 1. I don’t have 30 dresses, I have 2. There is nothing wrong or bad about needing or even wanting something, but follow a few rules: if you can’t afford it, save for it. will it make your life better/easier/more efficient? do you already have something similar to this? can you borrow/op-shop this item? etc I tend to put things on a wish-list and decide on the item months and months before I actually decide to make a purchase.
    I think what I’d like to do more is be a bit more part of the community (I like supporting local artists and growers etc I love the local markets). Use things, not people!ReplyCancel

  • January 8, 2015 - 11:53 am

    Candice - I wanted to say thank you – I have been following your journey & have been changed permanently by it – so thank you, so much for sharing with all of us – I look forward to continuing to follow your journeyReplyCancel

  • January 14, 2015 - 6:13 am

    Amber - This is so beautiful. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • January 17, 2015 - 1:27 pm

    Amanda whittle - Inspiring words and actions Sash. We had a minimalist Christmas last month and the gifts that were exchanged were home made. This inspired us all to continue the practice for the foreseeable future. Money’s tight this year with my husband and son out of work and supporting another in Perth -a student, so we will really have to consciously priotise our spending and to be honest, I’m looking forward to the challenge. Another thought lately is that the older you get you more you realize that what you really want is nothing you can buy anyway 🙂ReplyCancel

  • January 20, 2015 - 6:34 am

    ashley - I’ve loved popping in a little here and a little there. Your perspective is always spot on and I think you have a clearer mind because you don’t live in a world of facades and are not drowning in stuff. I’ll always turn to you and this little online space of yours for inspiration. You’re doing great things, Sash. Thank you for sharing. So much love for you and Bo. xoReplyCancel

  • January 25, 2015 - 5:15 pm

    becky McIntosh - Beautiful.
    I’m journeying through shedding all my “stuff”. we have just started moving every 3-4months with my love’s work with 2 babes in tow. Each move I’m challenged to let go of more stuff (because we only move with our 2 utes) and it is a frequent reminder to not buy as I don’t want to move it. But it is lovely, and I’m growing so much, although all the moves do mean we currently lack that beautiful community you speak of, I look forward to that when we slow down again.
    Just this week I was thinking about comparisons too. One of my friend’s kids turns out to be really artistic for his age and at first I had a fear of “oh no my child is not as good at that” feeling but as soon as I caught myself I realised its absurdity and was able to let go and just be super excited about the other kid’s art and find joy in my friend’s joy. It has shown me how much I need to stop comparing my self too and just enjoy other’s successes…. its lovely to read and just cement that idea again. Thank you.ReplyCancel

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