Self-Care Challenge (Day 10): Buying Nothing

On day 10 of my 366-day self-care challenge, I explored the art of buying nothing — which can be a bit challenging in our consumer-driven culture.

Yesterday I joined my local Buy Nothing group, and here’s why I consider it an act of self-care: In the US, we’re really good at buying stuff. We’re ultimate consumers because we replace things before they really need to be replaced; we buy duplicates (sometimes accidentally — um, not that I know from personal experience or anything); and we tend to accumulate things we didn’t even need in the first place.

Over the years, and especially after reading Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Amazon Associate Link), I’ve downsized a lot, either by consigning items or donating them by the carload to goodwill and other charities.

But after visiting one of these organizations recently, I was shocked at how high the prices were. Honestly, buying new items would not have cost much more. It made me wonder if there were other ways to give more directly to those in need.

And then I learned about the Buy Nothing Project.

Their motto is Buy Nothing. Give Freely. Share Creatively. The project started on Bainbridge Island, WA, which isn’t surprising if you’ve ever been there. It’s a true community of sharing individuals. Buy Nothing’s philosophy is deeply rooted in community connections, something that is captured nicely on their website:

“A gift economy’s real wealth is the people involved and the web of connections that forms to support them.”

Neighborhood groups are organized as closed Facebook groups, and the rules are simple: “Post anything you’d like to give away, lend, or share amongst neighbors. Ask for anything you’d like to receive for free or borrow. Keep it legal. Keep it civil. No buying or selling, no trades or bartering, we’re strictly a gift economy.”

Do you see the difference? No buying. No selling. No trading. No cash is exchanged because it’s a pure giving model.

Jeff Wenker describes it like this: “Someone on my local Buy Nothing Bainbridge Facebook page asked for a toilet paper roll thingy. I’d just seen a toilet paper roll springy thingy in my Junk Drawer (not to be confused with drawers where junk is kept). Later that day I met a total stranger at the Aquatic Center and made her smile by giving her a toilet paper roll springy thingy. I got something almost priceless for something almost worthless. A smile from a stranger is the first step toward friendship.”

I’ve also heard from others in my community that some people even give away extra baked goods when they discover they’ve made more than they needed.

I’ve written a lot about giving as an act of self-care, and while it may seem counter-intuitive since we often view it as something that is self-focused, giving supports both the Relational and Environmental dimensions of our health. When our connections with others form a mutually beneficial relationship, the act of giving becomes self-care. The most obvious environmental impact of giving is that it prevents items from ending up in a landfill, but it also helps declutter our personal space, which makes it easier to focus on the aspects of our life that are most important to us.

The next time you find yourself unsure of what to do with that pile of “stuff” in your garage, join your local Buy Nothing group and share it.

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