Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Subcompact - a little experiment

For about a year now I have been fascinated with the concept of The Compact. It was started in San Francisco several years ago by a group of people who wanted to make a real change in their environmental impact. They made a pact not to buy anything new for an entire year. The exceptions included food, medicine, and underwear. Everything else they needed had to be borrowed or purchased used. They felt that consumption was the ultimate cause of our environmental problems and wanted to take a very hard core look at how much waste they produced in a years time by purchasing new things.

This year, Hubs and I are doing a slightly modified version of this, which we have dubbed The Subcompact. Like the original group, we will not buy new items for a time period. We are not going to be as hard core as the original group.

The Subcompact Rules are:
  1. No new non consumable items for ourselves. This includes home decor, fashion, etc. Exceptions will be made for new running shoes and anything safety related (bike tires, car parts, etc.). Food and consumables like toilet paper, printer ink, or household cleaning products are not included.
  2. We plan on somewhat excluding the kids from this experiment. We'll try to buy used items for the kids when possible (the little guy has been getting hand me downs from girlfriends since he was born anyway), but we won't limit ourselves entirely on things like shoes or birthday presents.
  3. We are also going to reduce the amount of time to six months. If we make it that far, we'll evaluate where we are and whether we want to continue another six months.

We're trying this for several reasons beyond the obvious environmental benefits. The first is that we already have too much stuff. This became very clear when we moved this year and watched box after box of our possessions being packed onto a truck. I owned at least three sets of plates, not including the set of family china. We have been weeding through our things in order to lighten the load a little, but I still feel like we could do better. Second, money is a little tight this year and I would like to see how much money I can scrape together by not picking up that random new t-shirt at target. I'll bet it is enough to pay for a great trip to California this summer. Third, we are trying to get some time back. Time spent shopping, unwrapping, hanging, and shuffling around new stuff could be spent writing, relaxing, spending time together. Finally, I am hoping to tap in to the spiritual aspects of limiting my purchases. Being forced to buy something used will make me stop and think about whether I really need it. I think we have all taken part in the orgy of spending prevalent during the last decade and I need a break from it.

For me personally, the hardest part will be recycling my summer wardrobe or passing by those cute couch pillows on sale at Anthropologie. When the new stuff appears in stores and magazines, I get a little weak kneed. But the truth is, I have tons of summery clothes in my closet, sandals stacked high, and plenty of cute accessories both for me and my home from the business I just sold. It should be enough and I don't need more.

I'll keep you posted on our progress. Wish me luck!

1 comment:

Stacy said...

I'm impressed. I need to cut down my own spending considerably, but I'm not quite ready to go to those extremes.