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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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25 comments on “Why You Should Try a “No New Things Challenge”

  1. As usual, your inspiration is coming at the exact right time I needed it. I’m exciting try for a month!

  2. I have found myself recently buying and returning a lot. It’s so time consuming and I don’t need anything. I’m going to try for the rest of the year!

  3. I have been on a shopping pause for decades it seems like since I can’t afford fancy things with Haute name brandings and the pricing; no wallet or income for this. Yet, a pause is always a good thing during these trying times. Thank you for sharing.

  4. From mindless browsing/scrolling, to breaking down cardboard to returning things to stores—I am so tired of the time suck of buying new things. Thanks so much for this encouraging challenge. I’m so in!

  5. Shira, I’m willing to do this for the month of July 2022!! I hope other people try this. A month is a long time for me!!!

  6. It’s a good thing your second book is not available yet because I would have thought break the rules and buy it! I’m looking forward to your second book!

  7. This sounds like a great challenge, Shira. I will try it, too, within the next months starting with a one month period.
    But where hast step 4 gone? 😉

  8. It’s a good thing your second book is not available yet because I would have to fail the challenge and buy it! I’m so looking forward to your second book!

  9. My friend Nancy Ray has become popular online for her “Contentment Challenge.” It’s 3 months of no buying, and I’ve done it a couple times, always AMAZED at how much more resourceful it makes me!

    Love that you’re talking about this great idea! I think it saves sooo much time in addition to obviously money. I don’t think we realize how much time we spend on BUYING! 🙂

  10. FYI-Step 4 Seems to be missing jumps from 3 to 5
    I like to put things in my cart and then the urge often passes and i don’t even buy, but it serves as an idea for down the road, i often end up never buying item.
    I will try for July. Thank you for inspiration

  11. Why after reading this post is my mind only focused on that Goyard in the photo? I think I need hypnosis.

  12. Yes!! I’m in:) I have wanted to do this for awhile! Thanks, Shira, this is timely for me!!

  13. I have a wedding coming up and usually I will go and buy a whole new outfit, along with the hat, shoes and bag, nope, I went to my wardrobe and looked for something I already own. I thought if Kate Middleton (Duchess of Cambridge) can go out in the same outfit then I can too!
    I have a cruise coming up and again I usually buy new outfits … why??, those people have never seen the outfits I wore on the last cruise, so old outfits are coming with me.

  14. Interesting I got this email right when I decided to put a hold on all new nonessential purchases. I define these as not need for home repairs, family and personal health. Wish me well !

  15. I love this idea!! I can’t do it till sept. If anyone wants to do it w/me then lmk, i do so much better if i do this sort of thing w someone else. my email is obered@yahoo.com Melissa

  16. I just want to say THANK YOU. I LOVE the Minimalista approach — a soothing yet zetzy shot of calm, beauty, & eco-graceful sanity — needed now more than ever!

    I am devouring the blog and just ordered the book. You are a GEM.

    1. The concept of the challenge is just to be more intentional with your spending and you can define whatever rules work best for you! In my case, I still went out to eat and restocked items I needed but didn’t go shopping for clothes, housewares, etc. that I really didn’t need. x

  17. I want to read your post about your takeaways from the month long “no new things” you had earlier this year.

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