January 28, 2009

My Compact Exceptions

Okay- it's been almost a month since I started this experiment. For now, these are my exceptions to the rule "buy nothing new":

1. underwear, bras, and socks
2. hygiene products- deodorant, toothpaste, etc.- plus lotions and prescription drugs
3. expendables- light bulbs, car tires, replacements for air purifier, etc.
4. slippers
5. athletic shoes
6. food, of course

I reserve the right to add to this list throughout the year, while doing my best to stick to the philosophy of borrowing, bartering, or buying used.

On March 23rd, I added:
7. flip flops
8. reading glasses
9. bathing suits
10. charities
11. services

Although it's been pointed out to me that charities and services are part of The Compact, because the group was originally formed to go beyond recycling, and so charities and services have always been exempt.

January 22, 2009

My first fall off the wagon

Last Saturday night was the 12th Annual Jane Austen Ball. I've been going since the very first one, and have only missed two due to work. It's an excuse for people to dress up and dance to the music of Jane Austen's lifetime, and it's one of the geekiest and most wonderful things I do.

After years of wearing an old bridesmaid dress that was vaguely Regency in style, and several more years of running around the week before the Ball trying to rent a gown, this year I finally had a dress made, and it was gorgeous. The only problem was that whenever I've rented a dress in the past, it comes with the long white dress gloves. So with just two days to spare, I realized I needed to find some gloves quick.

Which leads me to my slip. I went to the Goodwill, and they had NO gloves, much less stretchy white dress gloves. Next, I looked online for thrift stores in the area and made a list of ten. After three or four of them had absolutely nothing except some 70s tan suede that looked perfect for a Foxy Brown Halloween costume, I was beginning to worry I wouldn't find any gloves anywhere, new or used. I should explain it's considered very gauche to neglect the gloves. Some people take them off once they're dancing, but I didn't want to make an appearance bare-armed.

And so, when I walked into a store that I realized was actually a discount store, not a secondhand store, and asked if they had any gloves, and she literally pulled out a brand new pair of the exact gloves I needed, and she said they were $7, I caved. I could have kept looking, and possibly end up gloveless, but I didn't. I decided I wanted those gloves, and I knew I'd be wearing them for the rest of my ball-going days. So there you have it. I think it's actually more of a slip than a tumble, because it's a small item that won't end up in a landfill. They'll be in my armoire for many years.

What I learned was that buying used is all about thinking ahead. If I'd thought of it sooner, I would have had the time to look in more secondhand shops. I might have even called ahead so I wouldn't be using up so much time and energy, not to mention gasoline, searching for just what I needed.

Whew- I feel a lot better getting that off my chest. Do you have any good tips for buying specific items used or at secondhand shops?

January 15, 2009

Day 15 without shopping

So far so good. Since I'm not a big shopper, it hasn't been that difficult so far. But I am a big worrier, so I keep thinking of things that might come up. Like slippers- you can't buy those used. Yuck. And I will definitely be needing new ones. I guess I'll have to add them to the list of exceptions I'll eventually post. I've been reading a lot of articles about The Compact, and they don't have a formal list of exceptions to the rule of not buying anything new. They let their members make them up themselves and deal with their own conscience. Most people have underwear, hygiene products, and expendables on their list. Some people add socks, tires, and handmade items. I only read about two people who don't buy new underwear- a guy who buys used boxer shorts (I don't know where) and a woman who makes her own underwear out of old t-shirts. Those must be really sexy. I'm not planning on becoming a nun or a martyr with this, I'm just trying not to buy a bunch of new stuff. So my exceptions will definitely include underwear, bras, socks, hygiene products and lotions. And probably slippers.

A couple of days ago when I told my friend what The Compact was all about, the first thing she said was, "You won't be able to buy lightbulbs!" That really threw me off at the time, but I assume that would come under the category of expendables. I don't think there's an alternative to lightbulbs, except candles, and I don't think anyone in this group is advocating going back to the days before electricity. The point is that most of us buy way too much new stuff, spend too much money on it, and then have to find ways to dispose of it. So I'm not worried about buying a few new lightbulbs this year. And I'll try to use cloth napkins more often, but I'm not going off toilet paper. That just goes way too far for me.

Most of the Compacters are big into Freecycle and Craigslist, so I suppose when I need something I'll start by looking there. I'll also go into the Goodwill instead of just dropping off. But I don't think I'll be needing any clothes or household items for a long time. We'll see what does come up.

Any ideas on the slippers?

January 8, 2009

An addition to the family

We have a new member in our household, and he lives in the living room. He's a 52-inch LCD television. People refer to their cars as "she," but this is a very male appliance. It was purchased by my husband, and it actually arrived just before the new year. But he did not buy it during a last minute panicked shopping spree before joining The Compact, because he's not joining me on this venture. He's supporting me and getting rid of things and welcomes the idea of trying to spend less, but he's not going to go whole hog and make the pact. Which is fine. But it does bring up a sort of paradox: I'm not buying anything new, but he's bringing a huge state-of-the-art piece of equipment into the house. And I'm not complaining--the picture is gorgeous and it's going to be fantastic to watch movies on this thing. The problem goes something like this: "Am I really sacrificing anything if my husband can go out and buy anything new that we need?"

This issue came up for me yesterday when I saw that my favorite boutique in our little town is going out of business. It made me really sad because this woman sells really creative, beautiful stuff that's recycled in some way. The store is called "Regeneration." I bought a lot of great gifts in there, and a few things for myself. But now I can't buy anything at the sale. My first rationalization when I thought maybe I'd go in was, "Since her stuff is handmade and recycled, it doesn't really break the Compact." Well, that depends on how far you want to go with this "nothing new" pact, and I'll do another post on that topic. There are no hard and fast rules, the members make them up for themselves. And some people do allow exceptions for handmade items, even when they're made by someone else. I haven't nailed down my own exceptions yet, but that seemed a little too much of a slippery slope for me. But back to my original point, right after I rejected that line of thinking I thought, "Well, if I saw something I really wanted, I could have George buy it." And therein lies the problem. Theoretically I could have him buy anything I don't buy. And that of course makes no sense since we're a couple and live in the same house. So I have to be careful with this...

Back to the TV: I can't wait to watch "Days of Heaven" on that new screen. It really is beautiful.

January 5, 2009

Day 5 without shopping: Catalog junkie

Okay, confession time. I was straightening up over the weekend and found a catalog I'd marked a page in a couple of weeks back. There was a blouse I wanted to order, but I forgot about it. I'm a big catalog shopper, mostly because I hate malls. So here's the confession part: I actually considered ordering the blouse. My thought process was something like "Who will know?" Crazy! I mean really, this is how our lizard brains work. Because after all, who other than my husband is going to know if I cheat on any of this? It doesn't have to be a catalog!

Anyway, it made me realize how my mind works- namely, that suddenly I had to have THAT top, that it was the one item that would bring my whole wardrobe together, etc. I think this was the thing that made me stop shopping and go mostly to catalogs in the first place. I'd be in a store or walking through the mall, and really think I needed this stuff, even when I had too many things to wear as it was.

I'm going to have to throw those catalogs away without looking at them from now on, obviously. Better yet, I have to stop them from coming once and for all. Look for a future post on that topic...

January 1, 2009

Last day to shop

Yesterday I braved the mall. The thought of going another year without new jeans was worse than the awful chore of actually shopping for jeans.

My first stop was Lucky. I took about 20 pairs into the dressing room, all marked "50% off." Of course, since they cost between $100 and $120, I think half off was a more fair price. None of the jeans looked good on me or fit me correctly. Since I wear a size 4 or 6 and most of the jeans made me look huge, I can't figure out how women who wear a more average size of 10 or 12 manage to find a pair of jeans that don't make them look like a house. The whole enterprise is depressing and reminds me of why I only do it once every few years. I go through another 15 or 20 pairs off another rack and find a pair I love. The salesgirl says they're too big because they stretch and I'll be swimming in them, so I actually need a size smaller. She comes back with a bunch of other jeans, but not the ones I like. They don't have them in my size. I put one pair that I don't hate on hold in case I can't find anything else.

Next I head to J.C. Penney. My husband has convinced me they have a great jean selection. I'm skeptical, but curious to see if I can wear Levi's that aren't 501s, the only jeans I wore during my teens and twenties. Avoiding the "mom jeans" that are ubiquitous in this store, I pick out about twenty pairs and head for the fitting room, weighted down and shuffling. It's closed and I can't find anyone to help me. I look for another fitting room and finally find a saleswoman who points me toward the junior department. She makes no move to offer assistance as I struggle. When I finally get inside a fitting room, I pull a muscle unloading my pile. I have to do several stretches and lunges before I can continue. None of these is even presentable, much less the perfect pair of jeans I'm looking for. One of them is called something like "flexible stretch" and looks like I'm wearing denim leggings. They are absolutely the most hideous thing I've ever seen. When I return the stack to the woman manning the dressing rooms, she seems surprised that I'm not buying any of their fabulous offerings.

My third and final stop is Banana Republic, where a friend has told me they have cute jeans. Again, I hit the dressing room with about 15 pairs, and I finally find some that are okay and so I buy them.

I go back to Lucky and ask them to call another store to find out if they have the jeans I love in my size. She calls and they don't have them and then she tells me that probably no one has them anymore because "they're a really old style." Which of course in the retail world means they've been in the store more than three months. I buy the pair I had put on hold and call it a day.

I tried on between 70 and 80 pairs of jeans and found two I didn't hate to last me through the next year. Not a total disaster.

On another note, I officially joined The Compact today. I started receiving e-mail and have to wade through it. It's official: nothing new for one year.