Imagine a world where we buy nothing. (Spoiler: It already exists!)
Imagine a world where we don't have to buy a gosh darn thing because our neighbor has exactly what we need sitting in his house collecting dust, and he's happy to lend it or even just outright give it to us. In reality, this world already exists – and you can be a member of it.
The Buy Nothing Project in a nutshell.
The Buy Nothing Project “is a gift economy based on the simple acts of giving and receiving, no cash involved.” Started in the Pacific Northwest, the project expanded to over 280,000 members in 18 nations in less than three years. Members give and receive items, time, and services to/from their neighbors. It usually happens one of two ways: local group members can post an “ask” for something they would like to have or a “gift” they want to pass along to a new home using their community's Buy Nothing Facebook page. The project describes these local groups as being made up of “random acts of kindness all day long,” and this is not an exaggeration.
During the first week of trying to change my spending habits, I joined the Buy Nothing Facebook Group for our neighborhood. It was an experiment in stretching my dollars by exploring non-traditional (see also, super thrifty) ways of getting goods. Maybe someone would offer up some cute curtains when I was feeling the urge to redecorate or I could borrow a pressure washer next time I needed one. Joining was easy: I had to provide them with my age (it's adults only) and some general information about where I lived. The benefits were much bigger than pennies saved.
You get what you give.
On my first day as a Buy Nothing member, I fulfilled a neighbor's "ask" by giving them an old lampshade taking up space in our garage. That lampshade took on new life as an art project. Later that week, I posted a gift of unopened s’mores supplies leftover from our family camping trip. The goodies became a fun, end-of-summer treat for two young neighbor girls (Extra bonus: I didn’t have to worry about the teenager in our house eating an entire bag of marshmallows in one sitting!). I have organized food drives, made donations to charities, served on boards, and been part of volunteer trails maintenance crews, but the personal nature of the gifts I’ve seen given through our Buy Nothing group is particularly touching. (You can see dozens of touching examples of ways neighbors have helped each other on the Buy Nothing Project’s website.)
One of the huge bonuses for me has been meeting more of my neighbors. As passionate as I am about community involvement, I am often making it happen for other cities and their residents. It’s fun to get to know so many people in the town where I’ve been living for ten years.
The generosity, sense of community, and gratitude that I have witnessed has been humbling. I've seen hardworking, resourceful families reach out with a request for household staples like formula and school supplies. These same families are often frequent contributors in the Buy Nothing group – fulfilling the requests of friends and neighbors and offering up the things they do have for free. They are living proof that we can do more than we think we can with what we have. And they are motivation – The more successfully I can control my spending on meaningless things, the more I will be able to give to others.
Thrifty solutions are good for everyone.
While some members of the group live on tight budgets, neighbors of all kinds giving and receiving is what makes the group work. To encourage everyone to be actively involved, our group has a “Wishful Wednesday” event where everyone is invited to comment with a small wish and a large wish and see if any magic happens.
Not too long ago, I discovered that my brown tights had somehow disappeared since the prior autumn. Many of my cold weather work outfits require brown tights, and I had been wrestling whether this kind of purchase was necessary while I was learning to spend more mindfully. I had decided that it was not even close to a necessary expense, but... brown tights were worth making a Wednesday Wish. Surprisingly, my wish came true! I met a new neighbor (Win for me!) who offered me not one, but TWO unworn pairs of brown tights (Winwin!) which had been taking up valuable space in her home (Win for her!). I picked them up, possibly saving her from having to drive and donate at a thrift store (Win for her!). And they won’t end up in a landfill until they are nice and worn out (Win for the environment!). I also kept my promise to myself to spend less on non-necessities that don’t hold special meaning to me (Winwinwinwinwin!!!).
Declutter in a flash.
If you ever wished you could make a few things disappear with a wave of a wand, Buy Nothing is your pixie dust. When my husband and I took on a big reorganizing project recently, the things we no longer needed were out of our hair almost instantly! No trip to the thrift store required!
Your own local Buy Nothing Group can likely be found with an easy Facebook search. If you don’t find one, you can start one. Make your household clutter disappear, feel a deeper connection to your community, give to a neighbor in need, or just plain be resourceful as a member of a Buy Nothing group. You can participate to your level of comfort. If you don’t like the idea of wearing previously owned tights, you can still borrow that pressure washer, score a free pair of tickets to a local event, or supply someone with the lampshade they need for their art project. You can share your Buy Nothing or Freecycle experience in the comments if you’d like.
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