Nothing New in Review

I decided to make this a year when I would buy nothing new for me or my children or the house. There were some exceptions to this, but that was the gist of it. We’re nearly there now, so how has it gone?

The first thing to say, is that I am incredibly glad to have done this. It has made me think a lot more about consumerism and waste, and I think I will always shop more thoughtfully because of this year, with my go-to option being pre-loved rather than brand new.

In some ways I don’t think I’ve done too badly, but this final quarter has been the toughest, and I have had a few falls off the wagon which I should publicly fess up to. The first, back in the dog days of summer, was the Trainers of Delight. I’d seen these silver Air and Grace trainers popping up all over the place on my Instagram feed, and lusted after them, and then I got the email saying that they were in the sale. silver trainersI capitulated. Then I felt hugely guilty and immediately put them on our local Sell or Swap group. And then I realised I still did really, really want them, and I kept them. And I am very happy I did! Air and Grace specialise in footwear which looks amazing but also provides proper support to your feet. I suffer with plantar fasciitis, and I walk a lot, so comfortable footwear is massively important to me, but I also like to avoid the orthopaedic shoe look, even though my stiletto days may be behind me. These trainers are soo comfy, and I’ve had loads of compliments about them. They also go with pretty much everything. They were expensive, even in the sale, but worth every penny, and worth my fall from grace!

I did, however, manage to track down some barely worn Air and Grace ankle boots on eBay, so that was a nothing new victory for my feet!

My next fall was the back to school rush in September. It turned out that the 8 year old had had a growth spurt, almost entirely in her legs, and none of her tights or leggings fitted her. It’s obviously really hard to source good-quality secondhand children’s tights and leggings because the little darlings destroy them. And slightly frazzled by the end of the holidays and stressed out by the back to school rush, I didn’t try very hard, I just went to Next and bought what she needed. Again, to be honest, #sorrynotsorry.

She did, however, get a lovely cardi, two gorgeous preloved Mini Boden dresses and a ‘new’ winter coat in almost perfect condition, as well as a little sparkly cardi and some party shoes for the Christmas season, all via eBay, Sell or Swap, or lovely local preloved clothes shop Birch and Star.

The final slip-up is the one for which I don’t have even a spurious excuse to offer. I had been hankering after a red winter coat to cheer up winter mornings, and make me feel a little bit glamorous even when all I’m doing is two school-runs and a Sainsbury’s shop, and I hadn’t found anything in all my charity shop trawling. Then, a month ago, I met up with one of my besties for a child-free day out in Cambridge. We had a lunch which may, or may not, have involved cocktails and wine, and then we went mooching round Primark later. The result was probably a foregone conclusion. I found the  red coat of dreams. red coatUnfortunately for me, it was only in a size 8, or a size 20, neither of which I am. However, something about the make-do and mend spirit of nothing new year led me to try it on anyway. It actually worked really well over-sized, in my opinion anyway. And has the added advantage of lots of room for my layers of chunky winter jumpers underneath. I negotiated a massive discount (it was cheap anyway!) because there was a small hole in a seam, and I have since had that repaired for less than the cost of the discount. And then, when I realised that I was actually still missing a sensible, warm, waterproof coat with hood, I redeemed myself by getting a Gap one on Sell or Swap.

Christmas shopping has been an interesting one too. I can’t say too much here, because recipients of various gifts may be reading my blog (better bloody had be), but I have got a gorgeous Playmobil farm set for my nearly 3 year old on Sell or Swap. And I have tried to think more creatively about presents rather than just dashing to the shops. However, time constraints, and spending most of November stuck at home with poorly children, and the desire to get people what they actually really want, rather than what  my self-imposed constraints enable me to buy them secondhand, means that I have also bought quite a lot of stuff new. I have definitely been more thoughtful about this, though, however, and have tried to shop responsibly and support local businesses where possible.

I have spent a lot less money on clothes than any other year in recent memory, but I have acquired so many lovely things, for me and the children, and I find that I appreciate them much more than I would clothes which I just walked into a shop and bought at will. I have enjoyed the thrill of seeing something perfect pop up on my Facebook feed, and making a connection with someone in my community as I go to collect it. I also like the adrenaline thrill of an eBay auction for the perfect item I’ve set my heart on.

One of the knock-on effects of this year has been that I now throw nothing away. I still declutter, quite frequently, but everything is either sold, given away or donated to charity. This is quite time consuming,  (although sometimes lucrative too!) and there have been moments when I have just longed to chuck something away, but I am now very resistant to throw-away culture, and extremely conscious that one person’s rubbish is another’s treasured find.

I am aware that to dedicated frugallers and committed ethical shoppers, my year of nothing new, especially with these, umm, exceptions, is a fairly pathetic effort. However, shallow or not, I love clothes, and I love shopping, and I love following fashion accounts on Instagram, and frankly, I love the hit of a bit of retail therapy, so I am still quite proud of how well I’ve managed, and pleasurably surprised at how much I have enjoyed it.

I don’t know exactly how I will shop in 2018. I’m thinking along the lines of an ethical shopping policy – so mainly preloved, but with exceptions for treats from ethical brands like People Tree. And perhaps a ‘slip-up’ budget for occasional post-boozy lunch girly shopping trips??





Six Months of Nothing New

We’re half way through 2017, and as I am also half way through my buying nothing new challenge, I thought it was probably time for another update.

So, how has it been going?

First of all, I should ‘fess up to my tumble off the wagon. I bought a new tablecloth. I am weak. A local friend runs a wonderful textile business, Etoile Home, and sadly she is closing it down. That meant piles upon piles of delicious bargains popping up in my Facebook and Instagram feeds, and in the end it turns out that, like Oscar Wilde, I can resist everything except temptation. Oscar-leaf-Tablecloth__yellow_WThe tablecloth I bought is yellow, which always gets a massive tick from me, and stain-resistant (another tick), and was reduced to £10. And I’m not even remotely sorry, because I love it so much!

In other new purchases, both children have had (yet more) new shoes, and I also acquired a bright red Ariel wig as Anna was jointly playing the lead role (not-so-stealth boast) in her school’s production of The Little Mermaid. And then last week, when the thermometer in Sophia’s bedroom was reading 28 degrees, but she was still refusing to go to bed without her sleeping bag, there was an emergency purchase of a JoJo Maman Bebe muslin sleeping bag. I even forked out for next day delivery. I’m pretty sure anyone parenting a toddler during a heatwave would agree that your night’s sleep being (further) compromised is an emergency, and anything which mitigates this is totally justified.

Luckily, it was the Walthamstow Village Jumble Trail – one of the highlights of my calendar – the weekend the heatwave descended, and I managed to get a really good quality John Lewis fan for Anna’s bedroom there. Along with a barely worn Joules skirt for me for 50p, a beach ball for the paddling pool for 50p, a pop-up fairy castle tent for £2, a Zara dress for Anna for 50p and 4 pairs of pyjamas for the children (3 of them brand-new with tags) for £5.

This was the same weekend that husband and I had managed a sneaky night away together in Amersham, and I hit charity shop gold.
Amersham is a very well-heeled, well-to-do little town on the edge of the Chilterns, and I bagged a duck-egg blue Hobbs cashmere sweater for £7, some ultra-comfy animal print trousers for £7, and the star of the show, a brand-new-with-tags Toast dress, for just £25. I know this adds up to nearly £40 of spend, but the items would come to almost £300 new. vintage alphabetAnd whereas I’m not averse to the odd Primark bargain, I do think that one thing this year has taught me is that it is better value to scour charity shops or jumble sales, or stalk eBay, for really amazing clothes from more expensive brands you love, rather than spend the equivalent money on cheap treats.

We’ve had a few Sell or Swap delights as well – a lovely framed vintage-style alphabet poster for Sophia’s room, and a pile of gorgeous age 3-4 Mini Boden clothing for me to stash away for next year. mini boden clothes

Seeing everyone’s sales bargains on Instagram is tough at the moment, not to mention the emails continually popping up offering discounts of 40%/50%/60%. We won’t even get started on the fact that I’m missing out on the Boden sale! However, I can’t really complain. Thanks to charity shopping and jumble trailing we have all enjoyed plenty of treats recently, spent a lot less money, and had the satisfaction of supporting good causes or making a little extra money for friends and neighbours with the purchases we have made.

Two months of nothing new

Back at the beginning of the year I set myself the challenge of getting through a year of only buying pre-loved or vintage things for myself, the children and the house. Two months in and I thought it was time to review how it’s all been going.

Over the years I seem, somehow (ahem) to have ended up on the mailing list of quite a few of my favourite shops. First thing I’ve learnt is that the Cath Kidston, Boden, Joules, Toast and Jojo Maman Bebe catalogues have to go straight from the doormat to the recycling bin. I just don’t want to look at beautiful things I can’t have for another year!

The second thing I’ve learnt is that I can still get some lovely clothes by going pre-loved. I have recently acquired a beautiful navy and white polka dot dress, a denim tunic dress, some black skinny jeans (mummy essential!), a vintage look denim jacket and a floral maxi dress (anticipating summer  will arrive at some point) for myself, and a stunningly pretty tulip-skirted Jigsaw dress, a Cath Kidston denim skirt and some Gap shorts for Anna via my local Facebook Sell or Swap group. One of my favourite items of clothing Sophia has at the moment is a bright stripy cardi I picked up in the BHF charity shop near us, and she also has a gorgeous pink cotton dress with a bird-cage print from the same source for when the weather warms up.

My total spend has probably been about £40 – which you could easily pay for one item of new adult clothing.

The third thing I’ve learnt is that Ebay can be great, but needs to be treated with extreme caution. Not being able to try stuff on is a problem. I bought a dress for Anna, intended for immediate use, but it is actually something she will need to grow into. Probably in a  couple of years’ time, by which point the tiered tulle style of skirt she craves aged nearly eight might not be what she wants to wear at all! I’m absolutely thrilled with the vintage Cath Kidston shirt dress I picked up for a fiver, and it’s so versatile – it looks great now with thick tights, biker boots and a v-neck jumper over the top, but in a couple of months time it can be worn over leggings with some Converse, and then by itself with sandals once I’m brave enough to get my legs out. The other dress I purchased recently was less successful, however. I put it on this morning, and Sophia, who is developing quite an eye for these things, immediately declared “No. Mummy not wear dat dress. Dat dress not nishe dress. Mummy wear nishe pwitty dress.” Surveying myself in the mirror, it was clear the child had a point. How is it possible for something which is technically the right size to totally flatten your bust, whilst doubling the size of your hips and tummy, and halving the length of your legs? I pretty quickly swapped it for an old favourite jumper dress which does meet with my sternest critic’s approval. And is warm and comfortable too.

January and February is one birthday after another for us. My dad, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, several friends and several children of friends all have beginning of year birthdays. I stuck to the principle of challenging myself to consider whether there was a present they would really like which didn’t involve buying ‘things’, and only heading to the shops if there really wasn’t. So, my dad got home-made chutney and lemon curd (he is impossible to buy for anyway!), my sister-in-law got some vintage 1960s ear-rings and a second-hand book in perfect condition, one friend got a vintage brooch, another friend got a bag I had bought for myself last year and never used but which I knew she loved, another friend’s daughter got a super-cute vintage pinafore dress, and my mother-in-law got a year’s membership of the Royal Festival Hall. These all seemed pretty popular, and actually in many cases, the challenge of not just heading to a shopping mall and waving my credit card around meant that they got a better and more thoughtful present as a result.

So, what have I bought new? Keeping within my self-imposed rules I have bought some knickers and socks for Anna, some shoes for Sophia as her feet had grown, and two pairs black opaques for myself. It’s honestly not exaggerating to say that the cost of these (and they were from Next, Clarks and M&S, so not particularly high-end brands) cost more than all the other clothes I have bought put together! Boden were kind enough to send me a £10 voucher for my birthday (I suspect an unwelcome side effect of this experiment will be that I won’t be a similarly valued customer this time next year!), and I used it to buy Sophia some new vests, having tried and failed to source some second hand. The voucher expired within a fortnight and was non-transferrable, so it seemed silly to waste it. I did buy some new children’s books as other presents, too. Unfortunately secondhand children’s books don’t tend to be a condition I am happy to gift. I also slipped up and bought myself a magazine – it was popped in the trolley at the supermarket checkout without thinking, and it was only when I got home I realised what I’d done. And finally, I have replaced our milk pan, as its nonstick lining started to peel off, and I didn’t really think that was a healthy addition to the children’s morning porridge!

Writing it all down like this, it is shocking just how much money I spend, even when I’m not buying anything new! I am definitely getting a lot more bang for my buck this way, but I think I need to treat Ebay with much more caution during the rest of the year, and possibly consult Sophia before clicking the bid button. And keep my fingers crossed that my family and friends are as entranced by their pre-loved or home-made presents as I hope they are!

I had a fantastic response on social media to the idea of this challenge, with lots of people saying that they felt inspired to do something similar. Do let me know how it’s going for all of you too!


Happy (Nothing) New Year

Towards the end of last year I blogged that I was thinking about making 2017 a ‘buy nothing new’ year for me and the girls. I got masses of enthusiastic support from friends both online and in real life, and so I have decided to go for it. One of the most enthusiastic supporters has been my husband – I think he may be suffering from the delusion that by sticking to vintage and pre-loved I’m going to spend less money. Bless him.

Seriously, though, cutting down on the amount I spend on clothes and shoes and frippery bits we don’t really need is one of my objectives. Another is to reduce my carbon footprint and the amount we are contributing to landfill. Another is to make me appreciate the things I already have rather than constantly seeking something new. Another is to spend the money I do have to spare on experiences rather than things. And the final is to cut down the amount of time I waste in browsing, online and in shops, for things I don’t really want or need. I am hoping to be able to fill that time with more productive or relaxing activities – baking, reading, hot baths, keeping in touch with friends – rather than moaning I have no time and then frittering the brief windows I do have on the Boden website.

So what are the rules? I’m not being super strict, because I don’t think I need to be to achieve those objectives, but I do need a framework to stick to.

  1. I won’t buy any new clothes or for me or the children, with the exception of underwear.
  2. I won’t buy any new shoes, bags or accessories for me, but the children will get properly fitted new shoes as and when they need them.
  3. Food and household products like washing powder etc are not included in the challenge.
  4. Basic toiletries – cleanser, moisturiser, cotton wool, nappies, body lotion, toothpaste, shampoo, shower gel – are not included in the challenge. However, I won’t buy any new make-up or nail polish, with the exception of mascara. You’re meant to change your mascara every 3 months to avoid eye infections, and I can’t manage without mascara or with permanent conjunctivitis.
  5. If I run out of my two Clinique must-haves (CC cream and Happy perfume) I will replace, but only if I have managed to save enough money from things which I have sold myself.
  6. I will not buy any new books for me or the children, but e-books are an exception (no waste or carbon footprint!).
  7. I will not buy any new toys for the children, with the exception of specific and reasonable requests for birthday or Christmas presents which I cannot source secondhand. I will replace art/craft items such as paper, card, glue, felt tips and paint as they run out, but I won’t buy new for the sake of it.
  8. Presents for other people are not included in the challenge, because the most important thing to me is that I give gifts my family and friends want to receive. However, I will challenge myself to consider vintage/pre-loved/hand-made/experiential items as a starting point, rather than heading straight to the high street shops.
  9. Presents for us are not included – we will be very happy and grateful to receive anything anyone is kind enough to get us!
  10. I won’t buy anything new for the house, other than like for like replacements of essential equipment (think cooker, kettle etc) if they break.

There might have to be exceptions within the year – for example items required by Anna for a school play costume which I can’t track down second-hand in the time available. Any exceptions like this will be recorded, exactly what I bought and why, so that when I look back at the year I can see how well I managed!

I will be using charity shops, Facebook selling/freegan groups, and Ebay for specific items we need.

Anna has decided that she does not want to join in the challenge with her own pocket money, so she will be free to spend her £1.50 a week on whatever her heart desires.

I’ve got off to a flying start, getting a pile of free tights and some t-shirts for Sophia, and a beautiful, barely worn, pure merino wool Cos sweater for myself for just £15 via the wonderful Walthamstow Sell or Swap.


Really interested to hear your thoughts, and see whether anyone wants to join me. I’ll be blogging regular updates on how I get on and my pre-loved bargains. Oh, and a very Happy New Year!

Nothing new

I recently read a blog post by a mum of two toddler girls who has decided not to buy anything new for them, or herself, during 2017. It has got me thinking about challenging myself to do the same thing.

I definitely buy too much, for all of us. Whether it’s popping a cute t-shirt in the trolley as I do the Sainsbury’s shop, or racing straight for my laptop the moment a Boden 30% off voucher pops through the letterbox, or being intrigued by a beautiful outfit by a retailer I’d never come across posted on Instagram and tracking it down, I do love a bit of retail therapy. But. It’s not a great habit to have got into for lots of reasons. Obviously the financial cost is a big one, and now my husband is running his own business we have to live a little (lot) more thriftily. And then there’s the cost to the environment of old things ending up in landfill long before their useful lifespan is passed, and the production of new things consuming fossil fuels and leading to masses of wasted packaging. I also feel there’s an emotional cost; there is an immediate satisfaction in a new pretty dress for me or, more likely, for one of my girls, but it doesn’t always last very long and it can all too easily be replaced by a sense of guilt at my spoilt spendthrift ways. In fact I often find hunting down a bargain on Ebay or my beloved Walthamstow Sell or Swap gives me a feeling of satisfaction which is far deeper and longer lasting.

The idea of abandoning all this consumerism for a year, and getting what we need on Sell or Swap, eBay, from charity shops or as hand-me-downs is very appealing. There would, of course, be exceptions.

Underwear for example. For almost three years now I have been living in maternity/breastfeeding lingerie. Comfortable and appropriate it might be, pretty and sexy it certainly isn’t. As soon as Sophia has stopped breastfeeding I have been promising myself a trip to Debenhams to restock my underwear drawer, and I’m not giving up that for anyone. Neither is there any way my daughters will be wearing second-hand knickers.

Footwear for the children would be another exception. I’ve always been a big believer in having their feet measured regularly and properly, and buying good quality leather shoes. I really think it makes a difference when they have such soft little bones, and I don’t want to store up podiatry problems for them in years to come. Don’t get me wrong, there’s the odd pair of hardly-worn canvas pumps of Anna’s which will be passed on to Sophia, and I’ve got nothing against second-hand wellies or party shoes, but I think that the shoes they wear most of the time should be properly fitted to their feet rather than pre-moulded to the shape of another child’s.

I would also be gracious enough to accept presents of new things, as I think it is a bit much to try and dictate to other people if they have been generous enough to think of getting you or your children a gift. (Hello, Mum. *waves*)

And obviously food. I live in London. I do not have a big garden or green fingers. The limit to my kitchen garden activities is a pot of supermarket basil on the kitchen windowsill (and that’s looking a bit brown and crispy at present), and it is a far bigger leap of imagination than I can possibly make to see me feeding a family of four for a year on what I manage to forage from Epping Forest!

With so many exceptions it really does seem do-able. It would force me to ‘shop my wardrobe’ and discover clothes and combinations I don’t wear enough, or make repairs to things I love but don’t wear because of small tears or missing buttons. It would hopefully prevent the children, especially Anna as she is old enough to be more aware, getting spoilt and thinking that nice things grow on trees or that you need new stuff to be happy. It would cut our spending and our environmental footprint, and maybe serve as a reminder that the best things in life really are free. So really the only question is whether I am strong enough to change my spending habits.

What do you think? Could you say no to new for a whole year? Do you think I should? And what are the rules on frenetic spending in the Boxing Day sales?!

A & S Merton