Sep 14, 2009

Buy Nothing Year

Today is the one-year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Bros. and the ensuing economic downturn that has affected just about everyone I know here in New York in some way. WNYC, New York City's public radio station, is taking time out from their 24-7 recession coverage to commemorate the occasion with a BBC-produced radio drama on Lehman Bros. Fascinating...and totally a bummer. While it does get depressing hearing non-stop about how, well, depressed America's economy is, I love hearing more about the growing trend toward thriftiness, made necessary by the recession.

Like No Impact Man, who is trying to do just that -- motivated by environmental concerns, but obviously also saving money and resources in the process, and W. Hodding Carter of Gourmet magazine's Extreme Frugality blog (his family of six is living within their modest means by doing all sorts of cool things, like raising chickens and bartering lawyer work for firewood).

Most people have heard of Adbusters' annual post-U.S Thanksgiving protest against consumerism Buy Nothing Day. Well, we've had a Buy Nothing Year. And not as a form of protest. It's not a noble act: We simply cannot afford to waste anything. But buying nothing begets creativity. I used yoga mats to create a soft playspace for Lucy; I unraveled a cardigan I mostly knit a few years ago so I could use the yarn to make fall hats; I now grocery shop according to what's on sale, and then plan my menu (this I learnt from the Extreme Frugality guy; it's so simple, yet the idea has alluded me until recently) which is how I ended up making the most delicious carrot muffins and carrot soup last week -- carrots were on sale, three bags for $2. I've also learned how to walk away from things I covet without feeling a longing that has in the past led me to purchase things I later regret.

But the most fun I'm having is making things for Lucy out of old stuff that was destined for the donation bin. Take this T-shirt and skirt, from which I made the dress Lucy is wearing in the top picture.

In the process, I discovered how easy it is to make my old T-shirts that no longer fit (for reasons I need not elaborate on, ahem) into toddler-size tees. I simply laid one of Lucy's T-shirts on top of mine, tracing the shoulder seam to fit her. I then laid the sleeve of her T-shirt on top of my sleeve, and traced a baby-size sleeve on the big one. Cut them all out, and then serge the baby-size sleeves into the new baby-size Tee, and it's done. (This one is short because it was sewn into the dress, but you get the idea).

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