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Why You Should Try a “No New Things Challenge”

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My colleague and new friend Ashlee Piper went a full year without buying new things. A full year! A sustainability expert and author, Ashlee started practicing the #NoNewThings challenge because it aligned with her mission to live more sustainably. In the process she also clarified her priorities, reclaimed loads of time, lost weight, and saved $16,000 in a single year.

As Ashlee explained to me, the best thing about this challenge is that it’s radically simple: The only criteria is to abstain from buying new things for one month. Experiences like movies, concerts, and dinner are totally fair game as well as the basics like bills, memberships, and groceries. The experiment is a great opportunity to get creative and resourceful shopping secondhand, upcycling, repairing things you already own, and using the sharing economy like your local Buy Nothing group.

Interested? Want to move away from a consumer-driven life and try the experiment with me? Everything you need to know and simple action steps below.

no new things challenge

Step One: Clarify Your Motivation

There are lots of reasons to take a break from buying new things. Maybe you want to shift your relationship with shopping, clarify your priorities, or just reclaim some valuable time, money, and energy. Even as a card carrying minimalist, I’m definitely guilty of spending far more time than I would like browsing, buying, and returning things in search of the exact-right-best-thing. Whether you want to reduce your environmental impact or just rediscover and enjoy the things you already own, make sure to clarify your motivation for joining the challenge before you dive in: What’s your most compelling why?

Step Two: Pick a Timeframe

I’ll be joining the #NoNewThings challenge this July for a full month because I love being part of a community (Ashlee will be sharing prompts and encouragement all month long on her Instagram) but it’s important to pick a timeframe that aligns with your schedule and makes sense for you. If the idea of buying no new things feels like a leap, try a week. If you want to go big try a whole season.

Step Three: Set Yourself Up For Success

Consider what might make this experiment especially challenging for you, and make sure to set yourself up for success: Unsubscribe from marketing emails and catalogues that are designed to make you feel weak in the knees and hand over your credit card. Identify a replacement behavior for shopping that you enjoy just as much (i.e. baking, yoga, a chat with a friend). Tell supportive friends and family members about your goals so they can cheer you on. Print out a paper calendar so you can check off each day that you’re successful and pat yourself on the back. Make it as fun and easy as possible.

Step Four: Take Notes

You can use the notes app on your phone or a paper notebook to jot down observations as you go. This can be especially helpful for recording all of the things you want to buy (but don’t) so you can revisit it at the end of the challenge and see how many you still really want (my bet is very few). Trying this type of challenge can also be a great opportunity to learn more about your shopping triggers and habits so you can shop more intentionally in the future.

If you’ve ever tried something like this, I’d love to hear your experience, tips, and takeaways in the comments below.

P.S. Want more where this came from? How to Break Your Shopping Habit with a Purchase Pause linked here.

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