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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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{ 11 comments… add one }

  • Naked Girl in a Dress January 22, 2013, 7:26 am

    Remember that if you have to break your compact on occasion, you are still better off than last year. Be kind to yourself on this adventure. I think it’s a great idea. Please keep us updated!
    Naked Girl in a Dress recently posted..Connecting and Blending a Family at Dinner

  • CelloMom January 22, 2013, 8:20 am

    So cool: we still buy new things, but not many. Just last week I made it to the Goodwill and struck used gold like you: half off sale on a short stack of plates. (Took me a while to get to the Goodwill because I’m also a mile-miser and I was waiting to combine it with another errand in that neighbourhood).
    Love your leeway clause: I have to copy that!
    CelloMom recently posted..Is Energy from Natural Gas Cleaner than from Coal?

  • Kathy at kissing the frog January 22, 2013, 8:42 am

    I love your soap dish. It is darling! It is a scary thought not to buy anything new, especially when you have children who seem to need new things all the time. I try to save as much of the boys’ clothes as I can for the younger ones to wear them. But the older they get, the harder they are on their clothes. Hubby has been rebudgeting a lot, so I am trying to change spending habits. It’s tough for me to find places to consign or recycle, but I guess I need to try harder. Can’t wait to hear more of your journey.
    Kathy at kissing the frog recently posted..Parents’ Top Ten Fears

    • RChicken January 22, 2013, 7:32 pm

      I am just going to do my best! Too bad your boys aren’t a bit older. I have plenty of LARGE items :)

  • Kristen January 22, 2013, 1:06 pm

    I’ve also been trying to live a more green and simple life. The idea of The Compact is great, but like you, I’m afraid I would get so wrapped up in trying to be perfect, I would just end up stressing myself out even more.

    I try to recycle everything I can. And this year, I want to make an effort to visit more locally owned restaurants instead of the big, chain ones. I just don’t think I can give up buying new clothes. It’s definitely my weakness.
    Kristen recently posted..Moving day

    • RChicken January 22, 2013, 7:25 pm

      My goal is to be “reasonable” — not Coach purse every week reasonable, but really reasonable for a year. I hope that it helps my budget, my heart and our world. I love locally owned restaurants and try to visit them often!

  • Nancy@livininthegreen January 22, 2013, 1:10 pm

    Thanks for sharing a great story! I totally agree about giving ourselves guidelines when it comes to being “green.” I am definitely not a purist when it comes to being green, but I do try the best that I can. My biggest question I ask myself before making a purchase is…”Do I really NEED this?” That helps. Even with shampoos, soaps, lotions, make-up…I would buy products continuously. Now, I put a ban on these things until I am actually out of something. It really has helped me and is beginning to reduce the clutter in the house too. Love the soap dish too; what a deal! :)
    Nancy@livininthegreen recently posted..Windowsill Herb Garden

    • RChicken January 22, 2013, 7:24 pm

      With my perfectionistic tendencies, I want so badly to be a “purist” — but know deep in my heart that I must just do my best. Use what I have. Buy what I need. Be conscious, not perfect :)

  • Kim January 23, 2013, 6:28 am

    As an organic mom, sustainable living means for me to eat whole food, recycle, try to find the green solutions for the most of the problems and try to teach this to my friends as well. That’s why I like these kind of posts fulfilled with grand thoughts. No one can change the world but everyone can change a little part of it.
    Kim recently posted..Are you afraid of high dental implants cost?

  • Charlotte January 28, 2013, 9:38 am

    I LOVE THIS. What an amazing idea, and I think that as long as you make exceptions that you can live with (because I know about the anxious feeling, too, of feeling much too restricted), I think it could work out perfectly. Seems like you made some really great modifications. Also? That soap dish is so adorable. SCORE!
    Charlotte recently posted..What I have learned from being a foster mommy

    • RChicken January 31, 2013, 9:23 pm

      So far, it’s been a month. I’ve bought consumables (and Turbo Tax). Not too shabby!

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