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The Compact 2013

Because he could only do a little


Over the past several years, I have been drawn more and more to green and sustainable living. The boys and I recycle everything we can and constantly seek ways to recycle things that at one time seemed non-recyclable in our area (like shoes, for example — our school recently started collecting tennis shoes for a recycling fundraiser — and sure enough, I had a box of them saved in my garage for just such an occasion).

So when I was reminded of an idea called “The Compact” recently, I was seriously tempted to jump on board. The premise is this: you stop buying new stuff with the following purposes in mind:

1) to go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of U.S. consumer culture, to resist global corporatism, and to support local businesses, farms, etc.

2) to reduce clutter & waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er)

3) to simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact)

There are no official rules, but the basic idea is that for the period of one year you commit to purchasing nothing new (except food, medicine, health and safety items). You can purchase used. You can borrow, trade and barter. And you can make an exception or two or ten if you want to.

I like the idea of it. I like the idea of reducing my spending on inconsequential stuff so that I have money for important things like private school tuition and health care. But as I pondered my own Compact, I began to have anxiety.

What if I really NEEDED something. And I couldn’t find a used one quickly enough?

What if I had a gift to buy for someone else?

What if I slipped up and bought something new?

What then?

And I began to back away from the idea.

I have this tiny problem with perfectionistic thinking. Recently, I had a mini-mental tornado of thinking that if I were to truly be living a green life, I would have to sit naked in the compost pile.

It took me a couple of days to moderate my thinking, and I don’t want to get stuck in that vortex of all or nothing thinking again any time soon.

The great news, though, is that The Compact does not have any hard and fast rules. There are general guidelines, but since each person can make exceptions, it really can be tailored to fit a person’s needs.

The ultimate goal is to become more conscious of our consumer driven tendencies. By doing so, we make conscious choices about spending (or not) spending our money.

So, for my Compact, I commit to:

  • Buying used (with the exception of underwear and socks — because used undies? Ewww.)
  • Buying from locally owned businesses whenever possible
  • Making do with what we have as much as possible
  • Choosing gifts for friends from local businesses, individual artisans, or companies that benefit others in some way
  • And I reserve the right to purchase a new computer this year, if the need arises and mine rolls over and plays dead.

I accept these commitments with ONE caveat: I allow myself a tiny bit of leeway to avoid the perfectionist thinking trap. If purchasing something new becomes the only reasonable way to get something we need, then I have to allow myself the grace to purchase it.

You know what? I started on January 1.

On January 2, I discovered that I needed a soap dish for my bathroom. My mother had given me a lovely bar of soap for Christmas and I had no way of using it without making a mess on the counter every time I used it.

After the gym on January 2, I stopped by Goodwill. Thought, well, I will see if they have something that will work. Otherwise, I’ll use a saucer from my kitchen. It won’t match, but it will get me by until I find one.

I strolled over to the bath accessories. And there on the shelf was the most perfect little ceramic soap dish. It complemented the colors in my bathroom. The price was .99 — and the tag was in a color that was 50% off that week.

The Compact On the left: artwork from my bathroom that shows the color scheme.
On the right: the perfect little soap dish.

Yes. I scored a perfect ceramic soap dish for my bathroom for .50. Without compromise. Without a wait. Isn’t it lovely?

My anxiety dropped. I took my little soap dish home and placed it on the counter, added my soap and stood back and smiled. If this is the beginning of my Compact, it will be a very good year.

Can you commit to your own version of The Compact?

Photo credit: Leonardini via Stock.xchng
Photo edit: RCM
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