Archive for the ‘Buy Nothing’ Category

Last night I watched Life and Debt, which is a documentary about the effects of globalization on Jamaica, chiefly the effect of IMF’s lending practices on the people and economy.  One of the lines that stuck with me the most was when the spokesperson for the IMF said that people in the so-called third world deserve the same freedom to buy things that the rest of us enjoy.

Say What?

This hits home this year, especially as we’re coming full-speed into the holiday season.  Over the past, let’s say two years, I have gone from a self-confessed shopaholic to a person more able to assess whether I am buying something because I really want it or just because I want to buy something.  But the holidays have always been a sort of glut.  Much of that is wanting to show appreciation for family and friends, because it feels good to give.  But part is getting caught up in a frenzy, or worse, wanting to make sure not to seem cheap.  Meanwhile, my house is already filled with things we use with varying degrees of regularity.  FIlled, in fact, to the point that we regularly need to pass things along to others and I’m sorry to say, filled to the point that every so often we come across things we have forgotten we even own.

It doesn’t make me feel very free.

Lucy has been listening to the Little House on the Prairie audio books for the past several months.  She sits in bed every night and often puts them on first thing in the morning.  She is as in love with them as I was as a little girl when I would play ‘Long Winter’ by piling all of my stuffed animals and dolls onto my bed and pretending we were huddling together for warmth.  For her part, she pretends to take furs to town to trade for jackknives and candy because her ‘cousins are comin’ for Christmas and those can be their Christmas gifts.’  A jackknife and two pieces of candy.  Can you even translate that into today’s holiday extravaganzas?  Are we really happier now?

I don’t know yet what we’re going to do for the holidays.  I really do want to break this notion that it’s a lousy holiday if one doesn’t get enough gifts (for sure, I sat at a former friend’s house one year and listened to his sister stomp about for an hour because she hadn’t gotten as many presents as she had the year prior, and this was a college-aged person, not a child.)  I also don’t want to buy presents simply because we need to spend an equivalent amount as everyone else.  At the same time, I don’t want to seem cheap or worse, not thoughtful.  It’s gotten so complex over the years, and I really have come to dread the holidays in general.

I do know, as I told C when he got home, that we are paying strict attention from now on to what we are buying.  No more running up the street to the Gap because it is convenient, forgetting their sweatshop labor.  I’ve allowed myself to become complacent.  No more spending money just because there’s nothing else to do.  I’ve allowed myself to use shopping as a hobby more often than I’d like.  And this year, I really want to be able to enjoy the holidays instead of freaking out about the shopping or the money or both.  If I have the freedom to buy things, I have the freedom to not buy as well.  I’m going to try to exercise that one a little bit more.


I’m taking the Buy Homemade Pledge again this year.  Hopefully we’ll be making some gifts as well as buying.

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Buy Nothing: Ordinarily on a day like this–rainy Sunday where I was up before the sun with calamity and chaos, that is–I would do my damnedest to justify buying something.  And the temptation is here, trust me.  I have gotten thisclose to ordering some used books for Lucy.  The thing is, as soon as the house emerges from the pall of sick, I’m getting us signed up for a library card (I signed up online last year but managed to not activate the card within the, what, 90 day window I had) and it is totally ludicrous to buy books when it will be quicker to check them out of the library.

I don’t even need to analyze why I have such a strong desire to shop–it’s a gray day, I was up early with poop and nosebleeds and coughing children, the apartment is trashed from focusing on the kids yesterday and sitting on my butt with C watching The Departed last night and I’d rather feel like I’m doing something nice for my family by buying something for us than by getting back on track with the clutter, I kept Chico home from the museum on Friday and I feel like I missed out on my weekly treat.  If I don’t get myself into a project and off of the computer, my wonderful brain will come up with some justification for making a purchase.

Decluttering:  It looks like the Cut the Crap challenge is ending this week.  Which means I have fallen quite short of my personal goals, mostly because my efforts totally petered out last week.  I’ve gotten a lot done, though, and in the areas I used to dread the most.  I have sent out 2 boxes of books, 4-5 of toys, 2 bags of clothes, a huge box of cloth diapering stuff and baby stuff, 2 boxes of gifts that sat in my foyer from before Christmas, the baby swing.  Going later in May will be the co-sleeper and bouncy chair, infant car seat and car seat carrier plus likely another bag of kids clothes, a bag of curtains that are barely used, and all of my size 5 shoes since I my feet grew while pregnant.  There is a box (half full, I’m still working on it) of random picture frames and throw pillows and other ‘decorative objects.’  I have sorted through all of our spice racks and moved them off of the counter.  Lucy’s desk is sorted into inboxes–drawings to finish, blank paper, notebooks, and drawings to give away.  Markers are with markers, crayons with crayons, and pencils with pencils.  There is a workspace.  I went through my file drawer and took everything out of envelopes, unfolded it so it takes up less space, and got rid of all unnecessary paperwork, including sorting through the warranty/manual folder and removing anything we don’t need or no longer own.  And most remarkably, I cleared an entire shelf in Lucy’s closet, unpacking toys Chico will use in the next 6 months and putting them in a basket where we can reach them.  Lucy bagged up some of her stuffed animals to donate.  And I threw in some of my old ones as well.  I ate through some of our less practical and older stored food–a little can of mixed veggies, another of peaches and the boil-in-bag rice we got when Lucy was Chico’s age.  We mixed 2 half-empty boxes of pasta together for dinner one night and discovered 2 opened bags of dried lentils which we fit into the lentil canister.  Now I need to make a pot of soup to use up some of the tomato paste and  the little carton of veggie stock.  Then we’ll have room to store some more practical foods.

There is a lot still to do, most notably my closet, C’s and the hall closet.  I’m hoping to get to my closet tomorrow, though.  It’s a big PITA to empty everything out when so much is going back in, but I need to get it back to keepsies on one side, givesies on the other 🙂

I’m about half of the way through the box of crap from the final junk drawer and would like to have it finished today so that I can get Lucy’s living room toys separated from Chico’s.  Blah blah blah laundry, dishes, trash, recycling, water seedlings, water more seedlings, there are more seedlings  to water.

Growing Challenge: Sometimes I look at the table and wonder why the hell I thought it would be a good idea to grow so many things.  Mostly I’m excited, but it’s a lot of stuff.  Only the chives, parsley, onions and lavender haven’t germinated.  I remember last year being somewhere between freaked out and excited at the prospect of growing food on the balcony; this is a similar feeling but not nearly as dire.  I think it helped that we grew marigolds from seed last year so I knew I could do it.  I have this total fear of getting the seedlings planted and having them all die.  I try to tell myself it’s all about learning how to be more self-sufficient and I can always buy plants if these fail, but I hate when things don’t work out.  Honestly, the goal really is to grow some of our own food, not to become a master gardener person.  Still I have this fantasy of a balcony full of pots overflowing with veggies.  And seed saving.  I’m really into the idea of seed saving.

Riot For Austerity: I have been bad and haven’t tracked anything but spending and I can estimate food.  I’m going to use March’s numbers for everything else, and then May will be the big push to have a 90% reduction month in as many areas as possible.  I’ll even guesstimate water usage and we’ll use our old natural gas bills from the old apartment to estimate that just for accuracy’s sake.  I’m still hoping to get to the greenmarket in May.  If nothing else, I’d love to get us switched from plastic milk bottles to refillable glass.  It’s just tough carrying a full bag while wearing Chico, but I think I can do it once a week.  We’ve also finally cut out almost all packaged frozen foods, and since finding Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, I can honestly say I can live without dairy.  I’m not ready to give up poultry or fish yet, though.  Also, I still need Fresh Direct for laundry detergent for now, but this week’s order is the last for a while.  That’s several fewer cardboard boxes a week, which translates to 3-4 lbs if they aren’t reused.  After the big changes of last year, we’re back to baby steps.  I’d like to cut out paper towels even though most end up in the worm bin.  I’m toying with the idea of a second worm bin because we’ve so many worms and so many food scraps–we could have one fallow while the other was in use.  I air dried sheets last week for the first time, proving it can be done pretty easily.  Mostly I want to get our food to mostly local and bulk, because it’s getting more important than ever.  The other ‘mostly’ is consumer spending, but I’m working on that.  The thing I’ve enjoyed most about Rioting is how much it has made me think, whether it’s as simple as doing dishes and hanging laundry making me take time to slow down or as complex as isolating the ways in which I convince myself to buy things I could do without or get used.

And so we come full circle.  Don’t buy things you don’t need; get rid of the things you already bought that you don’t need; if you don’t buy things you don’t need, you won’t throw as much away.  Know where your things come from, be it food or goods, and know why they’ve come to you.  The key word for me when I started last year was ‘mindful.’  I think I have become more mindful in the past year, and I think I have also been able to let myself shut off my  mind a little bit more than before.  This is the best part.

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I got Snappi-ed

I shopped again.  Much like the Sigg fiasco, I went to put a diaper on Chico yesterday morning and realized we had lost another Snappi.  This is an emergency.  Should we lose the last one, half of our diapers are out of commission.  And so my hand was forced.  Also like the Sigg fiasco, there were other things I needed from the same place, and I am an absolute stickler about getting everything at the same time so…

Swim diapers, diaper covers, and fleece to try at night.  Because I have tried not to complain about it, but Chico suddenly wakes up soaked through every morning and I can’t deal with washing sheets daily.  I’m still going to get my sewing machine fixed to make fleece covers, so this way I have one to check out before making that attempt.

The Buy Nothing challenge has made me reassess a lot of the areas of consumption in which I do poorly.  I have not made a single impulse purchase since the challenge started.  I have been able to get out of the house without going shopping (this seems easy but I live within walking distance of, well, basically a mall.  The purchases I’ve made help me avoid purchasing less environmentally friendly goods.  In other words, I consider them little sins.  I can do better, though.  And more importantly, I want to do better.  On the other hand, even without using the discount matrix for the Riot (50% for Riot expenses and 10% for used goods) my spending for this month is 79% less than last month.  That is pretty huge.  Needs to be better, but still a marked improvement.  In the next week, I hope to go entirely without another purchase so that it ends on a high note!

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I did take Chico to the museum yesterday, and he did enjoy the Jasper Johns exhibit. In fact, he squealed at the first painting, whipped his head around to look at several others, and finally lost it close to the end and had to be whisked to the Courbet exhibit to nurse. Vigorously. He was pretty cranky for a bit, but settled down in time to come home. The downtown 6 wasn’t running so we hoofed it 14 blocks to the F. I could barely stand upright by the time we got home but miraculously, am fine this morning. Which is good because today is another outing.

After that, it’s back home to make necklaces for Lucy’s friends, who are having a birthday party tomorrow. I’ll have to face down my phone-terror again to find out the details. And then I have to launder a batch of diapers so that they are dry tomorrow. And then my MIL is dropping off Lucy’s old Exersaucer for Chico. There is a large pile of dishes in the sink from dinner Thursday and last night. There is baby detritus strewn about the living room. I have not decluttered, nor cleaned, a single item since Thursday. And, frankly, I’m feeling a bit down about it. I like momentum, and I like forward movement. I get very angry with myself when I feel like I’ve been slacking, even though intellectually I know it’s important for me to get out of the house and for the baby to be exposed to new things to look at (I’m not, despite how I may sound, turning into one of those NYC parents who think my 5 month old needs exposure to great works of art and music to get into a proper school; I just like looking at art and taking the baby places with Lucy.)

Sigh. I wish I could believe myself when I say that the house will always look torn up because we have 2 kids, 2 cats, and other shit to do but I still cringe every morning when I walk out and see stuff everywhere.

With that, I’m off to get things picked up and figure out what I’m going to wear. And Lucy. And Chico who has no pants that fit because he won’t stop going through a clothing size every two months. Goodwill on Monday if it’s the last thing I do!


On a side note, I walked Chico through the Museum store yesterday and came to a realization. There is a lot in there that I really like, that is attractive, and I would probably have bought a couple of little things for Lucy a month ago. In light of the Buy Nothing challenge, though, I was able to really think about why I would buy something. Sure, I like getting new things for Lucy because I love her and I love to feed her mind. But we are drowning in ‘educational’ toys. There are many really cool things at the museum store, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I want them in my house. This last part is such a huge deal because for years I have been picking up things for Lucy and then wondering why we have so much crap lying around. And I always blamed it on other people buying so many gifts for her because hello? I’m her mom. I get to buy stuff. It’s not the workbooks I bought her, it’s the ones her grandmother sent home with her. It’s not the picnic set I bought, it’s the one she got from school. Its not the million and a half stuffed animals her father and I have picked out for her, it’s the six rabbits my grandmother sent up because they were so cute together.

I had a talk with the MIL about not buying and Affluenza and decluttering on Thursday, and interestingly enough, she’s also going through a getting rid of period. She’s recognized that she has also contributed to the amount of stuff we have around here and is not bringing anything by. It’s a huge thing for her since, like me, she likes to show she cares by gifting. It’s tougher than it should be to recognize that the best gift is always an experience shared. It’s fun to get gifts and all, but memories are nicer.

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Two boxes of books on the way out tomorrow–donated to a library on LI.  A bag of Lucy’s old clothes to the granddaughter a woman my MIL knows.  Three boxes of toys to store at my MIL–deferred decluttering since the baby toys will go when they come back.  I did in fact bribe Lucy with a new Sigg bottle to send out her old Megabloks, so I’ll be hanging out in the confessional come Sunday.  It’s all good though–another load of plastic out of my house!

And!  yesterday I dug into the grease on the window by the stove and got so excited I did the cabinets and top of refrigerator as well as the part between the floor and lower cabinets.  I highly recommend Sun and Earth cleaner.  It made short work of a chore I’ve been dreading for months.  I still have a bit more to do above the window (hey, I’m short!) but it’s already looking much better.  It feels really good to chip away at my long-term to-do list.

Lastly, we’re starting our seeds, finally.  I’m hoping we’ll be ok starting this late.  Bean knocked a pile of stuff off of the heater (hello, maybe I should pu it away, eh?) onto the mesclun so I’ve got some smooshed sprouts.  It’s like vegetable Darwinism.

And for those of you reading this who don’t particularly care about my crap, I give you baby!

And Lucy dyeing eggs for good measure.  Because even Easter is sp00ky ’round these parts!

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As y’all know, I’m taking part in Crunchy Chicken’s Buy Nothing challenge.  Well, slowly but surely the ‘I need to gets’ have been creeping into my thoughts, and I’ll be honest, I’m the queen of rationalization so I really don’t trust my own assessment of ‘essential’ here.  So here’s the deal:

Lucy’s Sigg bottle cap broke this morning.  We have some cups with straws so that she can take her water to school, but the straws are pretty mangled from when Lucy was chewing on *everything*.  Plus I recently decided that we’re going to use Sigg for Chico when he gets to sippy cup stage so all of these cups are going to eventually end up either at my MIL’s for other grandkids or at Goodwill.  So here’s my quandry.  I can buy a replacement cap for the Sigg, but do I do that now or wait until April is over?  If I buy now, I can send the excess sippies out on Thursday, clearing space in my cabinet. I will want to order a couple of the infant size for Chico to save packaging and transport.

Second issue:  diaper covers.  It has become clear that having 3 diaper covers is not enough.  We only use pockets at night, so if there’s a big soak or, heaven forbid, an explosive poo, I’m having to use more than one cover in a day.  Do I buy now or do I wait?

To be completely honest, I’m probably going to wait on both purchases.  As I’ve been writing this, I’ve realized that I can make do without these things for the next 3 weeks or so.  It’ll just be a little bit less convenient.  And maybe I’ll find out we can make do without for good.  Well, not the bottle cap but maybe the diaper covers.  The funny thing is that I really only have to keep one straw cup for school lunches so I can send the rest out anyway.  I never would have thought of doing that.

I feel much better now.  It’s remarkable how easy it is to just buy something.  This must be how I ended up with a house full of crap.

Speaking of crap, I’ve started in on Lucy’s closet.  There’s a send to grandma pile, a donate box, and a big mound in between.  We did get her dress-up stuff organized, and doll clothes (some old Lucy baby outfits) as well.  Toys Chico will grow into by October have a place to live even though I’m not finished sorting them.  Thankfully I just sorted through her clothes last month.

And!  I am happy to report that the box is going out today if it effing kills me.  I’ve got to get it out of my foyer.  I’ll email you when it goes out, Radical Mama!

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check it out!  this is what I’ve been doing this weekend:

I cleaned off the granite:



I mostly got my nightstand under control:

I accidentally deleted the before picture but trust me, it was heinous and involved everything from Gautier perfume to a rubber squid.

Dresser?  Check!



and tackled 3 of my four junk drawers:

and from those drawers, I ended up with:

A shopping bag full of paper to be torn up for the worms!

It seemed like so much more work before I started.  Two of the junk drawers were boxed up, moved, and then unpacked back into the drawers.  This means I’m coming to the heavy-duty decluttering, though–closets.  It will be good to have it done though!

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The large umbrella turned up after all, so I hauled my 18 pound babylump to the Met.  It wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be–I didn’t get bone-tired until the way home, which meant about 4 hours of fairly easy hanging out.  I ate a salad while Chico flailed at my peas (he still has the tongue-thrust reflex so no solids even if we wanted to start ’em).  I hit the bathroom with him still strapped on (he thought the toilet flush was pretty freaky).  And then we took a walk.  We were  not so into the timepiece exhibit, either of us.  Sure, there were some pretty clocks, but too fancy for my taste.  We enjoyed the medieval icons, or at least I did.  Then again, that’s my favorite section.  No clue why.  Byzantium was a relative success–a couple of ostrogothic brooches caught Chico’s eye and I’m a fan of reliquaries–but nothing anywhere even close to…

Greco-Roman statuary.  After a brief turn through several rooms of Greek pottery (‘look dude!  Another urn.’)  Holy cow, we sidled up to a big marble dude and Chico’s gaze went upward while his jaw dropped.  It must have been the hugest butt he’d ever seen (I keep mine covered.)  And so we spent the bulk of our browsing time meandering between giant  dudes, goddesses, and the biggest hit, disembodied heads.  And I’ll tell you what, folks are pretty amused by a monsterbaby strapped to the chest of a short woman making google eyes at big marble heads.  I took him downstairs to nurse, somehow missing the cavernous Family section and settling instead for a bench in front of which 75 high school students stood minutes after I sat down.  It’s the first time I’ve been self-conscious nursing in public, which is ironic since I don’t think any of them where even paying attention.

We started melting down in the New Guinea section, an acoustical dream for a baby what has something to get off his chest, and held it together until the subway station where I desperately attempted to not be That Mommy whose child screams uncontrollably in the enclosed space of the subway at rush hour.

All in all, it wasn’t half bad.  I had a really good time checking out art with the wee one, and he’s totally manageable in the Baby Bjorn for 4 hours (5 was pushing it.)  Next time I’ll take a little purse instead of the big diaper bag which I ended up checking.  And I felt so free and breezy compared to all of the other moms walking around with huge carriages and bags and the like.

Then when I got home, Chico and I culled a foot-high stack of magazines to be removed from the premises (folks dig through them in the trash rooms so most end up reused before recycled) and moved our to-be-filed papers from an ugly accordion file to a magazine holder thingie which will not make me cringe sitting out on my granite-top.  This means that I am almost done with number 4 on my great cleaning list.  Huzzah!  Still haven’t uploaded the pictures because I was too busy gallivanting through the museum like some sort of person with culture.

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Oh, I’m just so proud of myself though.  A year ago when faced with the prospect of buying a birthday present, I totally would have scoured Amazon or trekked to Scholastic for something, and ended up buying way more than I intended.  This year, I hit Etsy and, using their awesome ‘shop local’ option, picked up two handmade tote bags!  Lucy is going to make each girl a necklace and bracelet, and voila!  All done. It gives me such a sense of accomplishment when I think of how many habits I have changed over the past year, and how the new ones are already second-nature.  I think this was the most important part of the Riot For Austerity for me, and this consumer spending piece is the last big change I need to make.  That is, assuming I can get the veggie containers really going, but that’s a whole ‘nother post that I don’t have time for right now.

And with that, Buy Nothing month commences.   Don’t worry, I won’t be posting every day to brag about how I bought nothing 😉

There’s a really interesting discussion going on over at Thor’s about the judgments surrounding how we feed our babies.  It’s bringing up all sorts of conflicting feelings for me because I am more judgmental of formula feeding than I should be (since that’s how I fed Lucy).  I’d like to explore this more, but I’m still too close to it.  Suffice to say, Lucy is a perfectly intelligent, healthy, beautiful and wonderful child, but I do feel like I am giving Chico a better start by breastfeeding him.  I guess it will even out some since Lucy definitely got more one-on-one time than he will, and was exposed to far fewer germs than he will be.  I do plan to nurse Chico until he wants to stop, and I have been a strong proponent of extended bf-ing since my aunt did it back in the ’80s.  See, it all comes out garbled because the mere thought of it sends me straight into my brain.  I don’t know.  Breast is best, but formula is better than insanity, resenting your child, and a host of other problems.  In order to be able to make a well thought out decision, we have to remove the stigmas and misinformation about both.  And we all have to accept that sometimes nursing is a pain in the ass even when we love it, and that formula-feeding is not akin to child abuse.  And seriously?  If you feel like nursing means you love your child more than someone who formula feeds? That’s something you need to talk about in therapy.

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Despite my roaring failure at Technology Free Day, I’m up for yet another challenge:

Buy Nothing!

That’s right, folks. I’m giving up the shopping cold turkey for the month of April. Wish me luck! I’m off to do the one last purchase I must do–birthday presents for friends of Lucy’s.

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