When I read about a group called The Compact, I knew immediately I wanted to join. Sunset magazine did a profile of a family who lived the group's non-materialistic worldview during a Christmas season. Even with two young sons, they created a meaningful holiday without spending any money on brand-new toys or gadgets.
The San Francisco-based group was started in 2004 by a group of friends who believed that recycling could only go so far to halt the overwhelming commercialism of our modern culture. The group now has almost 10,000 members from all over the world. On their Yahoo Group home page, they list the following aims:
1. To go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of disposable consumer culture and to support local businesses, farms, etc.
2. To reduce clutter and waste in our homes, and
3. To simplify our lives.
When you join the group, you agree not to buy new products of any kind, and to borrow, barter, or buy used instead. This sounded like the perfect philosophy for me at this point in my life and I had a feeling that not buying anything new would let me focus more on things like reading and writing and spending time with friends.
I was thrilled about the money I would save, and even more thrilled about having more time to do the things I loved. But my elation was short-lived and followed almost immediately by the realization that I couldn't go another year wearing my ratty old jeans. And so my resolve to join the Compact paradoxically set off a panicked shopping spree. Truthfully, I didn't end up buying more than a few much-needed pillows, but the seed was planted, and became an obsession.
And now on Christmas Day 2008, the clock is ticking. I have less than a week to find the perfect pair of jeans.