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My Year of Buying Nothing

That time I start(ed) to sweat the small stuff

By Lee Simpson

If you suffer from the back-to-school-nightmare - the one where you are back in Grade 10, wearing PJs and completely unprepared for a math test - you will already have been reminded of the chilled breath of autumn. I feel the fall season coming and, while it brings nature’s best, the end of summer has a weightier meaning for me now. My Year of Buying Nothing (YBN) is coming to a close, too, and I have now reached a level of commitment to the project that means I can't blow it in the final months.

This doesn’t imply that I'm fearful of succumbing to a sudden urge to own diamond studs or a 2015 Lincoln Continental. No, it's the little things that are getting to me now. More accurately, it's my previous inability to predict the use of certain items.

Last December, when I started preparing for my YBN, I forecast my needs and those of our household. Then I scoured cupboards and storage closets; the back of dresser drawers; and old handbags and suitcases for all of those items put away unused, half-used or deselected as domestically inappropriate due to brand, colour, scent, ply, grade or “feel” (as in, “this dish-towel feels weird.”). Finally, I donated anything totally hopeless (for us) and committed to using up the rest as the year progressed.

This worked quite well, with some hilarious missteps, of course. The congregational thank-you gift of CFL Rough Rider Body Wash makes a great liquid soap for the garage. But you can’t substitute bubble bath for dishwasher detergent unless you intend to recreate an “I Love Lucy” episode. Also, those lacy cloth hankies you inherited from Nana are a brilliant alternative to banned facial tissues until your two-year old grandson gets his first, real doozy of a cold. And rags cut from fabric blended with polyester spandex aren't a useful way to dust, clean, wipe up or dry anything. Period.

An area I really couldn't foresee is my vision care. I miscalculated the number of contact lenses I go through by 50 percent and had to buy more. But my prescription changed, too, so under my YBN rules, it was a legitimate purchase. I also started the year with three pairs of sunglasses. I lost the first pair in March, broke the second in May and by mid-July, the third was so scratched from living rough in my purse that I needed to peer over the tops of them in order to recognize family members. But God provides! Last week, I found a pair discarded on a rock on an empty beach. I washed them, tried them on and discovered that they were a perfect fit!

Now, I know that the cluckers among you are clucking. I suppose I could have scrupulously posted the find online or in a newspaper to see if they were claimed. But I recognized them straight away as the cheap-and-cheerful $10 brand from the drug store. So no one’s mourning these guys, and my problem is solved. Now if I could only figure out a hygienic way to make my own saline solution.

Rev. Lee Simpson is a writer in Lunenburg, N.S. New posts of YBN will appear every other Friday. You can also check out a short documentary about Lee at http://www.ucobserver.org/video/2014/04/ybn/.
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