For an entire year I set myself the task of buying nothing brand new…its been over a year since that challenge began. Did I succeed…what did I learn…and most importantly what did I gain.
I chose Anzac day to publish this “end of the challenge” blog post. Even though the anniversary of my 1 year has been and gone today is far more significant. Anzac day is a day of remembrance, remembering those brave young men and woman who fell defending our country and our freedom, those men and woman who returned from war never to be the same again. I think of both my grandfathers and what they must of seen on the bloody battle fields, in the red sky and on the shaky seas. I think about what life was like for them in that day in age. My grandmothers retell stories of survival, of make do, of creative achievement born from necessity and need, of a completely different focus on life, family and bread on the table. Our generation is so far removed from that old way of life, our focus has changed, our community, our needs and desires. So much so that when Channel 3 ran a segment on my “No Brand New Challenge” it got 46,000 views on their Facebook page and hundreds of comments from "this is disgusting I bet her makeup is brand new" to "She doesn't look like she needs anything new anyway. So what's the big deal" An embarrassing truth that the way my grandparents would of lived their entire life “minimization and buying nothing brand new” was now in this day in age causing a stir in the media. Also a sad truth about modern society...classed as an easy, hard, effective or non effective challenge its safe to say most people missed the point. Check out the TV interview below.
Why did I want to step away from the social standard of consumerism? It started because of a conflicting desire to stay at home with my 1 year old son yet a deep sense of wanting to remain stimulated intellectually and the need to contribute financially. You could say that like most Gen Y’s I wanted it all, I found it hard giving up my pre baby lifestyle, my career and what I defined as personal success. As feminists would argue, I can actually have it all. Break the glass ceiling, live the way I want too and raise a happy healthy family but the big question was did I really want it all? I wanted to slow down and relish in every moment good and bad of my sons short infancy. In the moment of realization I came up with a way that I could fight the stay at home mum humdrum and contribute financially to the modern challenges of a one income family. So I vowed to not buy brand new for an entire year and write about the journey. I made exceptions to the "no brand new" including consumables, underwear and toiletries. Nothing else could enter our home or dent our bank balance unless it was second hand, re styled, re invented, hand made from recycled materials, handed down, or gifted.
8 months pregnant wearing my complete $19.50 op shop outfit including my husbands t.shirt.
Did I do it? Did I go an entire year? And here comes the anti climax... No I didn’t. I brought a brand new toilet. I brought some merino clothing for my son because it was 50% off. I brought 2 maternity dresses online as I was swamped with images of hundreds of “stylish” pregnant ladies and I was wearing my husbands t.shirts. I tried to argue on numerous occasions that stationery was classed as a consumable oh and if you check my blog there will be a few other random small pieces that I brought brand new that I shouldn’t of. Before you judge my lack of discipline, or whether or not I ultimately succeeded or failed in my challenge let me assure you that at times I found this challenge hard. There were those mentioned times when my Gen Y brain couldn’t see any other option other than buying brand new, where I felt I didn’t have the time nor patience to find a second hand alternative, where effectively executed advertising told me that the best and cheapest option was purchasing in that 50% off sale. I can positively say however that I didn’t fail in my challenge, my family saved thousands and most importantly we have adopted a more minimalist way of life. It has changed the way I consume, and the way I disposed of things, my creativity, my appreciation, It changed my attitude towards money, and why we make it. It reinforced the fact that someones excess was someones treasure and with the collective help of others inspired by my journey we managed to donate hundreds of quality items to those in need without once pulling out a credit card.
Upcycling projects and second hand threads
The desire to take on this challenge (dear I say it) didn’t stem from a passion to change the world one second hand item at a time, to persuade people to live zero waste and look down upon people who still use plastic bags, indulge in fast fashion and buy bottled water. Although this challenge did teach me a lot about a circular economy and ways I will continue to contribute to a sustainable world. More than ever it has deepened my love and passion for the reinvention process and connected me with hundreds of talented New Zealanders who see such potential in our so called waste. As I have experienced its the love, passion and creativity that goes into the reinvention, restoring, re loving, re purposing, up cycling or recycling process that gives an object more value. It carries all the charm of the past and can suddenly reinvent it self into the future. Call it reinventing the wheel or recasting old ideas, but these contemporary versions have a spirit and style all on their own. Up Cyclers or those involved in the art of giving something a second life are playing a huge role in our society. A combined talent of creativity, practicability and invention they have the answer to how we can ultimately live in a circular economy and how objects in the first place can be designed to be used again and again. They don’t only reinvent our excess which greatly helps our planet but they have the key to reinvent consumption and fast consumerism. They can teach us to slow down and change our instant gratification mentality as like our ancestors they hold the skills of making things by hand, mending, fixing, and creating. And as we know good things take time, quality takes time, the creative process takes work, talent, and patience.
Heke Design rescues fabrics and pieces of clothing at the end of their "so called" life before hitting landfill. The reusable elements are then sewn together to create warm, quality and one off garments.
Unfortunately in this day and age we are losing these creative skills rapidly, and the patience that accompanies it. We have everything at our finger tips, a click away, an online shopping cart, pumped out from overworked Chinese factories, new…better…modern…trendy yet void of meaning, value, long lasting happiness and they are ultimately effecting our overall health. We live in a rapidly evolving world where we work much longer hours yet not as physically hard. We are confident, outspoken and believe we are entitled to it all however we are struggling financially, our depression and anxiety rates are at an all time high, and our youth are suffering under the pressure. According to Sociologist Jean Twenge, the author of Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – and More Miserable Than Ever Before, the number of young people who’ve struggled with mental health issues over the last 80 years has increased steadily. Her research had led her to conclude that “modern life is not good for mental health”. By measuring the frequency of symptoms associated with anxiety and depression – poor sleep, memory problems, concentration problems, and difficulty learning – Twenge came to believe that our forefathers and mothers were much happier that we are today. Or, at least, that they were less depressed and anxious.
According to Twenge “There’s a dark space between the ever-mounting expectations of the everlasting dream – to be better, to have more – and the actual truth: life is always a bit disappointing. Perhaps our ancestors were less burdened by disappointment because they weren’t socialized to expect as much”
And in that statement lies the problem... in this digital age the entire marketing and advertising industry invents new needs we didn’t know we had. Our levels of consumption and excess is frightening, products are designed and made for fast use to meet trends. We are being buried in material objects, and striving to keep up with the Kardashians, our money is not being put to its best use to ease financial pressure and its causing a huge strain on us, our families, our communities and planet. We don’t pay for things with money we pay for them with hours of our life. So why don’t we make sure that our time and effort go to something that really matters, the planet, to a local family owned business, to a second life, to a handmade creative achievement, to the reinvention of consumerism?
I came to a realization on this No Brand New journey that the answer does not lie in returning to our ancestors way of life yet we need to learn from its simplicity, we need re shift our focus and hang on dearly to using our hands to create. Combining this with our modern technologies, our modern day inventors…the upcyclers, vintage & second hand lovers, choosing to shop local, quality over quantity, tailor made, supporting our creative talent, and ultimately minimizing our consumption we can simply yet profoundly not only make a huge change to our individual happiness, our families but our planet. I can proudly say that due to my No Brand New journey the “No Brand New Directory” was created to help change the way we consume check it out here:
Just like Buddhism and all living things, the respect and appreciation that we can have for a material object has huge power. If we can learn to really respect and find everlasting joy in an a material object then it may never be discarded. When it sadly reaches the end of its purposeand you can’t bear to see it go, you reinvent it or you contact one of our No Brand New vendors to upcycle it for you, to give it new meaning, a second life, reincarnation if you will. If Buddhists are really one of the happiest groups of people in the world with one of the smallest carbon footprints then they can teach us a lot. Why buy Brand New?
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