UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

My Year of Buying Nothing

An introduction

By Lee Simpson


Making a promise to purchase nothing for 365 days is something I do after both soul-searching and researching. Why would I elect this deprivation? Well, my reasons are more complicated than the vow itself.

Walking down the Christmas toy aisle for the first time in years was a shock — so much stuff! All sponsored and branded, gender-manipulative, manufactured on foreign soil, breakable and guaranteed obsolete upon purchase. What are we doing to our children? Only the same thing we do to ourselves in the appliance department, the linen area, the ever-expanding clothing section and — my personal temptation — the cosmetic department.

Here’s my confession: I once played a big part in the proliferation of these massive amounts of unnecessary stuff. Before becoming a United Chuch minister and staffer at The Observer, I was publisher of Canada’s most successful women’s magazine. There were many positive aspects to this work, of course. Excellent service journalism. Recognition of women writers. Courageous positions taken and political points scored.  I walked with prime ministers, poets, painters — and even a prince! It was exhilarating, and I feel proud of my career.

But part of my job was to promote the purchase of stuff, and the majority was fattening, silly, fragile, fleeting of use and unnecessary to the well-being of the reader. I was an enthusiastic participant in a business that reduced people to their lowest common denominator: consumers.

I remain unhappy about that, but this is the year of my personal mea culpa. This quest is an elongated Lenten reflection. Whenever I purposefully do not buy, I dedicate that moment to God.

That’s enough of the “why.” Now here is the “how.” Because I must still function as a healthy human being upon whom others depend, there are planned exceptions: food for the purposes of feeding myself, family and friends; household bills; prescription medications and charitable donations.

The list of off-limits items? Clothing, shoes, furniture, books, toiletries, cosmetics, gifts and cards, garden and craft supplies, technology and hardware. Nothing new or second-hand.

I don’t own a car, though my husband does. So as a non-driver, not purchasing gas is a sacrifice without cost. But I plan to stick with bus travel and not resort to taxis. My travel exemptions? A plane trip  to see my nonagenarian dad. We’ll also go on our customary family camp vacation by car, but there are five of us plus three dogs in that vehicle, so it doesn't qualify as a "pleasure trip!”

For sanity and sanitation, I did stockpile eco-friendly dishwasher and laundry detergent. Also, I pre-purchased deodorant and bath soap, as I would like those nearest and dearest to remain so. TP is not optional. But cloth hankies await the first sniffle, and my mother kept a clean kitchen for decades without paper towels. Remember “rags?”

Naturally, gifts will be accepted, but preferably for services rather than "stuff:” hair-cuts, pedicures, magazines and craft supplies if I ever run out of the yarn, paper, paints and fabric I’ve hoarded for years.

Please watch for my blog every other Friday as I learn publicly just how difficult it is to journey from the blissful unknown. Meanwhile, join me in chanting my mantra:

Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Or do without.


Author's photo
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/.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Interviews

Courtesy of Pixabay

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.

Promotional Image

Editorials

Jocelyn Bell%

Observations: It’s a long road toward full equality for women

by Jocelyn Bell

'It’s a wonder that we continue to see male ministers as normative and attach shame to female ministers’ biology and sexuality.'

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Playing by Heart

by Observer Staff

United Church music director Kara Shaw was born prematurely, became almost totally blind and was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, the 28-year-old showcases her unique musical ability, performing piano on local and national stages.

Promotional Image

Faith

May 2018

Toronto church builds interfaith friendship

by Vivien Fellegi

Faith

May 2018

This parent found no support for her autistic daughter — and decided to change that

by Kieran Delamont

Suzanne Allen talks about raising a daughter on the autism spectrum and bringing all autistic girls together

Faith

May 2018

Church retreat helps first responders with PTSD

by Joe Martelle

Interviews

May 2018

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.

Ethics

May 2018

Pregnant in the pulpit

by Trisha Elliott

Ministers who take a maternity leave still face discrimination in their own congregations

Interviews

May 2018

The two words Rev. Cheri DiNovo wants to hear from the United Church

by Alex Mlynek

The Toronto minister talks about her disappointment over the church’s silence when she officiated the country’s first legalized same-sex marriage 17 years ago – and why she wants an apology.

Promotional Image