Recycling, Reusing and Refusing: A Year of ‘Buying Nothing’

An effort to save, declutter and be more generous

As I’ve blogged in the past, I’ve gotten away from resolutions in favor of intentions. This year, one of my intentions is listening. Whether it’s being a better listener to others or tuning more fully into what my mind, body and gut are trying to communicate, I hope to cultivate the skill of listening. As a gal with the gift of gab, I’m keenly aware of the benefits of zipping it up in 2023 and opening my earholes. Meanwhile, another intention has been brewing for me since around May of 2022. It was then that I read an article about “The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan: Discover the Joy of Spending Less, Sharing More and Living Generously” By Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller (which you can get at the New Orleans Public Library both digitally and in hardcopy format). Years ago, I curtailed a mindless spending habit during Lent by giving up shopping for anything other than food, toiletries and essential household items. Treating shopping as a hobby, sport, social occasion and form of therapy was curbed for years, but in 2022, I noticed slow creep back into some mindless shopping. The “Buy Nothing” book, and its ideals, sprang to mind earlier this week and I committed to the challenge. 

The rules are straightforward.

From the book: 

  • Step 1: Give — We explore the many forms of giving and suggest ways for you to start your own journey of generosity. 
  • Step 2: Ask — When all gifts have equal value and are not monetized, the playing field is leveled and we’re on equal footing. Asking for what you want is essential to the health of the gift economy. 
  • Step 3: Reuse & Refuse — We offer tricks and tips to refuse buying everyday things in the first place. 
  • Step 4: Reflect — We investigate the hidden needs behind your desire to buy more, helping you stop the knee-jerk reaction to buy and come up with alternative ways to source what you need. 
  • Step 5: Share, Lend & Borrow — We help you brainstorm creative ideas on how to share, lend and borrow more. 
  • Step 7: Gratitude — The essential superglue that binds us all together and begets more giving is openly expressing our thanks to those who have shared with us. 


  1. Meals (food, especially locally grown, including eating out)
  2. Regular household bills (heating, water, electricity, rent/mortgage)
  3. Travel (includes bus/train fare, fuel, car insurance, car repair)
  4. Prescriptions and personal care items (including toiletries for you, your dependents and your pets)
  5. Education (includes materials of all kinds, school bills, school events, other educational- or work-related events)
  6. Stamps and shipping costs (not including shipping supplies) 
  7. Charitable/political contributions
  8. Experiences and events (museum tickets, concerts, swimming at the pool with the kids, going to the zoo, visiting your stat or national park, campsite fees, etc.)
  9. Arts, culture and the humanities (expenses that support artists, scholars and authors, such as art, books, poetry and musical recordings)

As you can see, mindless consumerism and waste are discouraged, while generosity, community, experiences and enrichment are encouraged. For me, that’s a win-win. 

If you decide to join the challenge, to assist in giving, receiving and building community, there are various Buy Nothing communities on Facebook and in the app (Apple, Google Play). The Greater New Orleans area has five groups on Facebook and you can only join the one in your neighborhood, so pick accordingly. Visit the for everything else you could possibly want to know and to connect with groups. 

My husband Mark — who already excels at buying very little — is also in for the challenge, especially since he won’t have to stop collecting vinyl for a year. It’s the only thing he seems to spend money on, so this will be a cakewalk for him. Five days in and I’ve already stopped myself from buying something I didn’t need at least three times this week. I also listed an item in the Milan neighborhood Buy Nothing group in the app and plan to go through some items around the house to see what else I can gift to friends or my Buy Nothing group. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I did add a No. 10 in the “Exceptions” category: Essential Mardi Gras costuming items. I think I got everything I need for my Krewe Bohème Merry Antoinettes costume, but didn’t want to back myself into a corner. That said, I’ll ask first and thrift second if I have to add something to complete my parade day look. New Orleans problems, am I right? 

Have you done the Buy Nothing challenge or something similar? How did it go? Are you doing it now? Do you think it’s some hippy dippy, lefty, anti-consumerist bull hockey? Email me at to discuss. 

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