Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mark Your Calendar: Buy Nothing Day

Disclaimer: I realize that this is going to sound strange coming from someone who writes a blog that's pretty much exclusively about cool things that one can buy.

But as much as I love shopping, I actually purchase relatively little. It's more about the hunt for me, and discovering new design talent and truly beautiful and unique objects. And, especially since I've started this blog and begun spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about the subject of things that one can buy, I've tried to make my purchases really count. My aim is to buy objects of quality and good design, to restrict my purchases to things that we really need or genuinely love, and to choose items whenever possible that are vintage, made by hand, or designed and produced independently. I still succumb to the occasional purchase of "unnecessary plastic objects," as songwriter Nanci Griffith calls them, but I'm doing better.

At the same time, I abhor mindless consumerism and corporate marketers shoving a bunch of junk down our collective throats. Truly, nothing makes my skin crawl like walking into a mass merchandiser pretty much any time between September and January, being bombarded with canned Christmas music, and being confronted with endcap upon endcap of stocking-stuffer crap that nobody wants or needs.

I confess that the holidays are not one of my favorite times of year. It's not just the added stress of the season (though of course, that's a major factor): It's the pressure to spend a bunch of money I don't really have on things that my loved ones may not even like; my kids' (often, but not always) mistaken impression that this is their one chance to bypass my normal no-crap-in-the-house rule and open the floodgates to a bunch of plastic, battery operated junk that will be broken and discarded inside of a few weeks; and the ceaseless, gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach that I'm taking part in a pointless, meaningless orgy of greed and wastefulness and I don't know how to stop it.

(Am I harshing your holiday high? Sorry.)

So I welcome and support Buy Nothing Day, which takes place in the United States this Friday, November 23 (aka "the biggest shopping day of the year") and internationally on Saturday, November 24.

Started in 1992 by Vancouver artist Ted Dave and adopted by the Adbusters social activism organization, Buy Nothing Day is a chance for all of us to "examine the issue of over-consumption" and to consider "a lasting lifestyle commitment to consuming less and producing less waste."

I'm going to sit out "Black Friday." And though I will indeed be buying holiday presents for my family, I'm going to do my best to make sure they're things that they'll truly value and that will have personal meaning for them. I'm going to knit scarves (which is all my rookie knitting skills will allow for at this point). I'm going to take family photos and frame them. I'm going to make certificates for outings together in lieu of gifts -- and then actually follow through on them. I'm going to bake simple, yummy things to give to our friends and neighbors. I'm also going to skip the mall entirely and do my holiday shopping at places like Etsy and other independent online retailers as well as at open studios (like the ones in Berkeley this weekend), art and artisan fairs (like this one or this one or this one), and at the small local shops I want to support.

Granted, it'll be harder to go the indie/handmade route for the kids' presents -- though I'm still aiming for quality and longevity over gifts whose pleasures are only temporary. But I figure that if I can do it for the adults on my list, I'll not only be more mindful about my own consumerism, I'll have a better chance of giving gifts that my loved ones will actually appreciate and treasure.

What do you think?


celene said...

Right on lady! No wonder people are so stressed and crazy. No "thing" will ever replace giving of yourself to those you love.

Katie said...

My goals for this holiday season are very similar to yours. Avoiding the chain stores/malls, and looking for quality, unique gifts on Etsy and from local shops, as well as making them myself. I love the idea of baked goods as gifts...especially for those situations where you want to give a little something but you have NO IDEA what to give. It's much more personal than the pound of See's candy (and you don't have to wait in line for an hour!).

Good luck with those scarves!

Barb McMahon said...

Great post, Leah!

My husband and I don't exchange gifts anymore. We love to eat out, so that's how we celebrate special occasions.

And many years ago we started making donations to charities in our parents' names, since they really didn't need anymore "stuff".

They appreciated it, and so did the charities!

Jessica said...

Luckily there are no chain stores here and handmade items abound. And my nephew is still too young to actually want anything.

I applaud your commitment to sustainability and your rejection of plastic. Thanks for being so thoughtful!

Curtastrophe said...

The Retailer's Prayer

Our Retailer, Who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy Sales;
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
at the mall as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily coupons,
and forgive us our frugality,
as we forgive those hardcore shoppers who get there
before us; and lead us not into debt on Black Friday,
but deliver us our online purchases before the 15th
of December. Amen.

The Bliggity No Diggity Blog-a-Log

a bill v2 said...

Here's an idea for something you could do instead of shopping:
Make Your Own Mittens!
BND Mittens on YouTube
BND Mittens Instructable

Anonymous said...

I completely agree. I worked today, at a coffeeshop, and I was amazed with the stories people had as they came in for their morning brew, having already been up for hours (some shopping since midnight!). They talked about crowds and lines, all for some rediculous thing they wanted. It's just not worth that for some silly plastic crap. I'm hosting a crafting party, where my friends will come over and we'll all work on something we want to make, share skills and cookies, and actually (hopefully!) have a good time instead of a stressful, consumerist one.

Jackie Von Tobel said...

Hallelujah, you hit the nail on the head. I will link to your post from my blog today. I have not shopped on the day after Thanksgiving for 5 years now. I have begun to really hate Christmas and other holidays because of our greed and over the top consumerism. My husband and I just exchange small gifts as we save for big trips throughout the year. We are losing the spirit of the holidays which is one of the things that made our country great. We need to get back to the simplicity of life we enjoyed as children. Awesome Post

Anonymous said...

Well every day is Buy Nothing Day for me if I can help it. I specialize in talking myself out of buying things all the time. However, I do find that viewing blogs like yours and reading Domino has made me want stuff that I didn't even know existed before! Suddenly I'm craving $500 a yard drapery fabric (beyond out of my price range).

It's easy to blame the evil retailers but I think we have to admit that we also play a part in this. An excellent book on this subject is "The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less" by Barry Schwartz.

Btw, this week almost all the retailersI went to were playing Christmas music--before we even had a chance to cut into our turkey dammit! It really sets my nerves on edge. I find more and more that I'm starting to hate Christmas. (and it used to be my favorite holiday.) I'll be doing some knitting, sewing and homemade food gifts this year.

Anonymous said...

Was in Times Square NYC Wed night before the big parade on Thanksgiving, retailers open until midnight, the throng 3 deep...there just is no joy in that level of en masse hustle and bustle.. we ditched into a Restaurant Row restaurant half empty due to theatre strike and had a quiet dinner of cold antipasto and wine...skipping the shopping!

the House of Beauty and Culture said...

i think your loved ones are very lucky indeed.


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