Tiny Living thought of the day: buy nothing new (except for things like underwear and toothbrushes)

This is an interesting thought, no? Now, let me explain. I’m not saying I will never buy anything new again. For instance, just recently David (previously mentioned husband) and I bought ourselves a cool new floor lamp for our first anniversary. This is a rare treat, though. For one thing, we live our lives on a shoestring budget.

But it’s more than that.

It’s about not cluttering up your life with more than you need – a quintessential tiny living concept.

And it’s about fighting consumerism. Protesting our throw-away society. I really hate the materialism of Western culture and the idea that bigger is better, greed is good, you need bigger tits, straighter hair, the newest technology, the latest updates, the hottest trends. iPhone 5?? Please. What kind of loser doesn’t have the newest phone? I’ve actually seen people casting judgmental looks at my two-year-old Samsung phone like it’s some curious relic from days of yore! True story. I really hate that kind of shallow bullshit. I want no part of it. Keep your botox. Keep your Prada hand bag. Shove your iPhone-whatever-the-fuck-number-they’re-at-by-now up your pretentious ass! I don’t want it, ya hear me??

…*steps shakily down from soap box, slowly unclenching tiny fists*

So here’s my idea for a solution: don’t buy new stuff unless absolutely necessary (or if you want to treat yourself – like the anniversary lamp). Granted, some things need to be bought new: toothbrushes; underwear; socks; bedding; towels… You know what I’m saying.

But it is possible to outfit your entire home almost exclusively with stuff that is not new, or that you’ve made yourself.

Before David and I moved back to Vancouver, we sold or gave away almost everything we owned. We didn’t keep any furniture except for a little cigar cabinet that David inherited from his grandfather, a blow-up mattress, and a big old antique chest (fondly dubbed The Harry Potter Trunk – see photo below – see it? Am I right?) that served as a coffee table with storage. We slept on that blow-up mattress for eight months before we finally treated ourselves to a new (yes, new) mattress from Ikea.

Before we bought the new mattress, though, we furnished our entire apartment with second-hand stuff. Some of it free from Craigslist. Some of it we paid for. The most we paid for any one item was for our little white loveseat, which was 70 bucks.  The apartment, the first incarnation of it, which was photographed for our building’s website, was furnished for under $150 (CDN). The picture below is from the website.

The bed pictured on that website was the loft bed we built with lumber we got for free from a business that was moving and the old building was being torn down. Loft beds are an excellent choice for tiny homes because the space underneath is great for storage or, if you’ve got high enough ceilings, build it high enough to have a whole other room under there – an office maybe, or reading nook, or a walk-in closet. Our ceilings are not high enough, so we built the bed platform four feet high. Lots of storage space underneath. And we built storage-box steps going up to the bed. In tiny spaces, it’s all about the storage.

We bought a set of dishes from a second hand store for five bucks. We scored a toaster at a yard sale for 25 cents. We found a beat up, but solidly constructed, 1970s office chair (which got one hell of a makeover! Pictures to come soon) in the back lane.

The back lanes in Vancouver’s West End are great places to find free stuff! Probably the back lanes of any city are great places to find free stuff. David calls it the back alley thrift shop. If you’re a resourceful type, and you like a project, back lane shopping (AKA: dumpster-diving) can be so much fun!

Of course, you have to be smart about second hand shopping and scouring the back lanes for furniture. It’s probably best to stay away from anything upholstered unless you know it came from a clean, bedbug free place, for example. But this sort of goes without saying, doesn’t it?

If you see something you like, something that could fill a vacancy in your living space, something that has potential, take it home. Scrub it clean. Paint it. Reupholster it. Make it new again. This is incredibly satisfying and rewarding, my friends. Give it a try. Be warned, though: it is highly addictive.

In some cases, you might already have stuff in your home that can be repurposed into something new. Got an ugly lamp shoved into your storage locker that you just haven’t gotten around to throwing away? What would it take to make it cool?

See those lamps on either side of the little white loveseat in the picture? Those were ugly, brass-coloured eye-sores that were headed for the landfill. I’m talking loud, shiny 80s brass. Ugly, ugly lamps. I spray-painted ’em and popped some new (yes, new) shades on ’em. And now they’re pretty darn cute, I would say!

And this is what I’m talking about. All you have to do is see past the ugly, see the potential, and give the item a new life. And sometimes, to do that, you might have to buy a new part – like the lamp shades. But that’s better than throwing away something that’s still useful.

It’s not just about never buying anything new again. I will still purchase new things from time to time. But I refuse to buy into the materialism of our wasteful society. I only want things that are useful and necessary, and those things will be used until they are broken beyond repair, or worn out. If it’s no longer necessary, but still useful, it gets donated – most often by leaving it near the dumpster in our back lane where it magically disappears just moments after being left there. This, too, is quite rewarding.

When your home is filled with stuff you’ve rescued from the landfill and made new again, or stuff that someone else was giving away or selling because they no longer needed it, or things you’ve built from scratch with your own hands, it’s a pretty amazing feeling. Every piece has a story. To me, it feels like a sort of foundation, a starting point to a more meaningful existence.


One thought on “Tiny Living thought of the day: buy nothing new (except for things like underwear and toothbrushes)

  1. Pingback: A trout on dry land… | introvertomatic

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