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  • Jenica Barrett

How I Bought (almost) Everything Secondhand for an Entire Year

Back at the end of 2018, I decided to take on a Buy Nothing New Resolution for the coming year. I had thought about a variety of resolutions I could commit to that would push my limits of waste reduction and landed on this one. I had been buying things secondhand for many years, but would still sometimes take the easy way out and order a box shipped to my house. I would still even occasionally visit a big box store or mall to grab a nice outfit in a pinch (which I'd always feel guilty about later).

To lower my carbon footprint and waste production another notch, I committed to only buying items I needed secondhand. Nothing new. I did, of course, have a few exceptions. I allowed myself to buy food, personal care items, and socks/undies new. Surprising myself, I managed to even find some of those items secondhand too (you'll see below!).

As 2019 wraps up, I wanted to share with you how I succeeded in buying (almost) everything secondhand and (almost) nothing new for the entire year! Will it inspire you to give it a try in 2020?

How to Buy Nothing New

When I needed something new, I used a variety of local stores and resources to buy things. I frequented Goodwill, Value Village, and Buffalo Exchange for secondhand clothes and home items. I searched Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist for larger items like bookshelves and desks. I also relied heavily on my local Buy Nothing Group!

There were many items that I also borrowed from neighbors through Buy Nothing or simply by asking. When I needed to vacuum my car, I borrowed one instead of buying one. When I was putting together my bed frame, I borrowed a screw gun. When I needed a specialty pair of scissors for a project, I borrowed those too!

Have Patience and Plan Ahead

The biggest hurdle though in buying nothing new was not actually locating a secondhand store. It was having the patience to return to that store over, and over, and over again until I finally found the item I needed! It also involved thinking ahead! If I new that I needed an outfit for a wedding, I would start looking months in advance. Thrift shopping can be a time commitment, so I needed to give myself enough wiggle room to keep looking!

What I Bought New

There were a few things I ended up buying new throughout the year though. Usually I would resort to purchasing something new after searching for months for that item and just not having any luck. After about two mouths without a pair of tweezers, for example, I stopped in Fred Meyer and picked up a pair. Apparently nobody has any extra of those to give away!

So throughout 2019, here's a list of the items I purchased new:

  • 4 pairs of jeans

  • tweezers

  • 3 plants in pots

  • 2 rolls of duct tape

  • food!

  • bathroom/cosmetic supplies

  • reusable menstrual pads

  • bath mat

  • shower curtain

  • Some Christmas gifts (I won't spoil them here!)

secondhand clothes
To attend a wedding, I purchased these shoes at Goodwill, the dress at Value Village, and borrowed the cardigan from a friend.

You'd be surprised what you can find secondhand!

Just in case you are assuming that maybe I pulled off not buying things new by simply not buying anything, let me correct that assumption. Although I definitely purchased less than I might have in previous years, I still bought quite a bit of stuff. With a move from Portland to Seattle, I stocked up on a lot of furniture, kitchen items, and home knickknacks this summer.

Let me list out some items, for example, that I purchased secondhand. The ones with "free" listed next to them were gifted to me through Buy Nothing - my local group promoting a sharing economy.

Secondhand Home Items

  • couch

  • chair (free)

  • sofa

  • 10 plants

  • plant shelf (free)

  • bar stools (free)

  • shoe rack (free)

  • decorative baskets

  • white board calendar

  • wall paintings

Secondhand Clothing and Accessories

  • size 11 boots

  • size 11 high heels

  • size 11 ankle boots

  • purse

  • coat

  • formal dress

  • shirts

  • fake glasses

  • Jessica Day Halloween Outfit

  • 2 containers of foundation (free)

  • 2 containers of concealer (free)

  • lip gloss (free)

  • highlighter (free)

  • hair ties (free)

  • watch

Free Food from Buy Nothing (Yes!)

  • noodles

  • almond milk

  • a box of veggies

  • powdered sugar

  • vegan meat replacements

  • carrot cake

  • chocolate chips

  • M&M's

  • Funfetti boxed cake

A box of veggies I was gifted from my Buy Nothing Group!

Time vs. Money

Over the entire year, I ended up saving hundreds of dollars by purchasing all of the above items second hand and receiving items through Buy Nothing. Our couch only cost $100 used but would have been upwards of $300 new. The clothing and shoes I purchased would have been easily three to four times more expensive had I purchased them from a big box store. One pair of shoes I scored for $7.99 retails for $50 normally!

However I definitely spent more time shopping in Goodwill than I would have if at Target. But then again, maybe not! I always assume that bigger stores will have more choices, but they also have less variety. Somewhere like Goodwill is going to have my clothes, furniture, and dishes all in one place. Either way though, the amount of money I saved absolutely made up for any additional time I had to spend searching Craigslist and the clothing wracks at Goodwill.

Carbon Footprint Reduction

In the end, I can't tell you exactly how much I reduced my carbon footprint by purchasing things secondhand. I can tell you though that every time I purchased something used, it helped extend the life of that item. It kept it out of the landfill. It supported a local business. It encouraged more participation in the thrifting market. And overall, it cut down on the carbon footprint of the items in my home.

Have you committed to looking for things secondhand before running to the store? Even if you don't think this resolution is feasible for you right now, there are still many ways to reduce your carbon footprint!

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