When Buying Nothing Gives You More Of Everything


Published:

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

You are likely among the throngs of Americans who go gift-shopping in November and December. Maybe it’s for supplies to make homemade candles, or maybe ingredients to bake several dozen cookies. A new television, a new robe, a used book. Face it: You’ll want to buy something.

This year, Americans are predicted to spend up to $682 billion during the holidays, 4 percent more than last year. In fact, winter holidays are the second most profitable “spending event” of the year, according to the National Retail Association, just behind back-to-school shopping. This is good news for retailers, of course, but what does it say about consumers?

Most of us believe climate change is human-caused—68 percent—and fewer of us see “being wealthy” as essential to the American Dream—40 percent. To me, that translates into “we see a connection between consumerism and environmental destruction” and “we don’t need things to be happy.” Yet many of us still charge toward retail stores at the hint of a discount.

Fortunately, better options are thriving on social media. Hyper-localized gift-economy groups are popping up all over Facebook, in closed communities where neighbors graciously give their stuff for free. Items range from furniture to food, from automobiles to appliances, and everything in between. I’ve seen people try to find new homes for their pets, and there was once, because of tragic circumstances, a woman offering enough pumped breast milk to fill a full-size freezer.

In my community, there are two main gift-economy groups you can join, both with more than 1,000 members and both managed by volunteers. One is the Buy Nothing Project, basically the mother of all local gifting networks. The movement started a few years ago on Bainbridge Island, just outside of Seattle, and has since grown to over 2,000 discrete Facebook groups worldwide with about 450,000 members, according to its website.

I joined the local Buy Nothing group about three years ago, at first a spectator more than a participant, but my relationship with these networks has deepened over the past year. I’ve procured a 12-inch lid for a hardworking sauté pan then gifted three crates of vintage vinyl to a mother recovering from surgery. I’ve picked up baby clothes and toddler playsets, clean and wonderfully absent of stains or fingerprints then given away Tory Burch heels worn only once for a wedding. I’ve seen people offer computers, car seats, and concert tickets. No item has sparked more joy for me, however, than a set of shiny, vintage Sesame Street ornaments I picked up a couple years ago.

There is a downside. One of the criticisms you’ll hear about joining these sorts of groups is that, well, people are flakes, and your neighbors are people—you do the math. A colleague, a member of the Bainbridge group, once told me: “I like the idea of it, but then you realize you put so many hours into getting somebody to finally pick that thing up. And for what? A spatula.”

That’s a common complaint, and it’s my biggest one. However, one of the reasons for tolerating the occasional hassle is this, stated by Buy Nothing itself: “The Buy Nothing Project is about setting the scarcity model of our cash economy aside in favor of creatively and collaboratively sharing the abundance around us.” That’s why, even after fuming in frustration from last-minute cancellations and items that turned out to be slightly warped or faded, I’ve become more involved than ever before. It’s taken me a while to notice, but I feel more connected to the people around me, to my community, and that’s a special thing. I grew up in the suburbs and recently returned there to live with my mother and raise a family. I have often felt stifled by the place—too judgmental, too isolated.

But these days what I see among my suburban neighbors is generosity and kindness. Sometimes these Buy Nothingers communicate poorly and sometimes they act self-entitled, but they’re generally good people with big hearts.

In addition to the obvious economic savings, the occasional hassle of giving and getting free stuff actually has a more profound advantage: You feel the physical and mental burden of having to gift every item you no longer want in your home, and it’s an embodied lesson in the cost of consumerism that’s quite effective (much more than reading a book about consumer waste or, well, those statistics on holiday spending I tossed at you at the beginning of this piece). The posting, selecting, messaging, coordinating, all those things entail some kind of commitment.

Sure, it’s an inconvenience and demands my time. The good news is that it slows me down and connects me to my neighbors. For that, I’m grateful.

Erin Sagen wrote this article for YES! MagazineErin is an associate editor at YES! Magazine. She lives in Seattle and writes about food, health, and suburban sustainability. Follow her on Twitter @erin_sagen.

This article was republished from YES! Magazine.

See also:
8 Inspiring Documentaries Exploring The Sharing Movement
How Sharing Can Help Change Consumption Culture

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

January 17, 2018

A long ago lover or friend is likely to come to mind or make a surprise appearance. Such an event can have a positive impact on current relationships. Learn from past mistakes and don’t hesitate to implement corrective behavior. A word of thanks is a…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

January 2018

Two Sundays, January 14th and February 11th Learn advanced techniques for self-care, to offer Reiki to others from a distance and for manifesting what you want in your life! Facilitated...

Cost: $250

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

Join us the Second Sunday of the month at the Northeast Reiki Center classroom in Framingham for a Reiki Circle in the Usui Reiki System of Natural Healing. We are a gathering of Reiki...

Cost: Free

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 15 - February 23, 2018 A cross-cultural midwifery and global health experience ***Application Deadline November 3*** Come spend six weeks at the ACAM birth center, located in a...

Where:
ACAM Birth Center
Western Highlands of Guatemala, MA


Sponsor: Maya Midwifery International
Contact Name: Dena Moes
Website »

More information

Qigong and tai chi are 2500+ year old healing arts originating in China. These moving meditations offer unique health benefits that western medicine is...

Cost: $11-$15 per class

Where:
Chelmsford Wellness Center
3 Littleton Road, 2nd Floor
Westford, MA  01886
View map »


Sponsor: Cultivating Qi
Telephone: 978-856-8118
Contact Name: Dave Crocker
Website »

More information

January 8 - February 12, 2018 Intuition + Energy Medicine + Energy Psychology = The REAP Healing Method This 6 week certification training course provides you with the understanding and the...

Cost: $695

Where:
Live Online
Comfort of Your Home
, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The REAP Healing Method
Telephone: 978-877-8651
Contact Name: Pamela Dussault
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Experience the power of singing gospel music with more than 250 others as part of the Mystic Chorale, led by award-winning director and composer, Jonathan Singleton. Join Mystic as we prepare...

Cost: $105

Where:
First Parish Unitarian
630 Mass Ave.
Arlington , MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Mystic Chorale
Telephone: 781-738-1920
Contact Name: Jai Kaur Annamaria
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Change is what happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing.” – Rav Berg, Spiritual Director, Kabbalah Centre Last year, you most likely set New...

Cost: Free

Where:
MGH at Charlestown Navy Yard
Building 114, Room D1
114 16th Street
Charlestown, MA  02129
View map »


Sponsor: Kabbalah Center
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Qigong and tai chi are 2500+ year old healing arts originating in China. These moving meditations offer unique health benefits that western medicine is integrating into treatment plans. By...

Cost: $12-$17 per class

Where:
Dragonfly Wellness Ceneter
176 Jackson Road
Devens, MA  01434
View map »


Sponsor: Cultivating Qi
Telephone: 978-856-8118
Contact Name: Dave Crocker
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

6 Week Series with Sherri Snyder-Roche Start your year with greater awareness. In Kundalini Yoga, we harness the mental, physical, and nervous energies of the body and put them under the...

Cost: $90

Where:
State of Grace Yoga and Wellness Center
104 East Hartford Ave.
Uxbridge, MA  01569
View map »


Telephone: 508-278-2818
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Removing limiting beliefs and shaping your future with Julie Rost and Tracey Miller The new year brings forth a natural and truly beautiful human desire to seek more from life. But resolutions...

Cost: $150 (includes lunch)

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Telephone: 603-969-8968
Contact Name: Brian Serven
Website »

More information

Reiki is a gentle energy healing method from Japan that anyone can learn. Reiki 1 is the basic Reiki attunement that allows people to work on family members, pets, plants and more. During class...

Cost: $150

Where:
Perfect Fit Pilates and Stretch
85 Main Street
Hopkinton, MA  01748
View map »


Sponsor: Elder Grove Shamanic Healing
Telephone: 774-232-2343
Contact Name: Deb Fate-Mental
Website »

More information

Join Diane Lewis for a very special author event! Diane will be introducing her new book From Psychic to Soul. From Psychic to Soul is a reveal of how every person is psychic. How we already,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
1 Worcester Road
Framingham, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Barnes & Noble
Telephone: 617-645-6415
Contact Name: Diane Lewis
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags