I recently stumbled across a new group of activists/ordinary folks that call themselves “Compactors”.  These earth-life-conscious individuals are taking on a noble pact to not buy anything new for one year (there are, of course, some exceptions which are listed on their blog).

When I told Jason about this, were both became intrigued by the idea.  Could we do it?  Could we survive?  We could go to thrift stores and use freecycle and Craig’s list and eBay. But, wow, this would take some real will-power and dedication.  There would definitely be snags.  No more hopping over to Radio Shack to pick that 1000th cable that Jason needs for something electrical.  Ixnay on my obsession with browsing clearance racks at Target for candles.   And, oh my goodness, how in the world could I give up indulging in my IKEA fixes?

There were few things that popped into my head that I didn’t find that the blog addressed in my quick skimming:  cosmetic products and baby products (like wipes, etc).  How amI to hunt down free or leftover hair mousse, shampoo, cleansers, etc?  I guess I can make them myself?  I know that my talented and resourceful MB could whip these up in an instant.  But lazy ol’ me?

Ultimately, I would reason to say we are not up to the challenge at this point in time.  But the idea of reducing our consumption and our waste is so important.  I’ve often told myself I would only buy clothes and toys at thrift stores and that I would always donate something in replacement.  But convenience has, unfortunately, won me over with its quiet beckoning.  And I just find myself feeling grossly overindulgent when I purchase new things, even though I’m a penny pincher most of the time.  It’s not about the money, rather about the overabundance of stuff that we have access to and that we purchase.

Anyone out there willing to take a stab? My home state of Arizona has yet to be listed on the Compactors website as a state with an active group.  Hmmmm….

Also on their blog is another interesting link to a group called the Really Really Free Market.  This is truly fascinating and sounds dreamy and deliciously hippy-like in the most freeing of ways.  Total benevolence and goodness.  San Fran is so damn groovy, adept at pursuing ideas both progressive and ancient at the same time.  I pine for that kind of community.  Someday?


11 Comments Add yours

  1. Aimee says:

    This movement is going around here amongst my friends as well. My friend, Riana at , is doing A Slow Year where she is not buying anything except the bare necessities. It’s pretty amazing the things she does. She isn’t even thrifting. She’s been bartering with the farmers in her town. Making cloth diapers and trying to eat exclusively out of her garden. She started a group at Flickr called ‘A slow year’ come join us.

    I’m like you, I feel the urge to do this but right now at this time in my life I don’t believe I can commit fully. So, I’m doing my own sort of slow year but reducing out waste by recycling, getting Max into cloth diapers, we don’t use wipes anymore, making his baby food, making an effort not to waste food and shop on a weekly basis for that week only. I am not going to buy myself clothes for one year. Motivation to get back into my pre-pregnancy size. Unfortunately Paris isn’t a city that makes it easy to live this life style. Consumerism is all around us. Not as bad as in the US but it still gets to me. I need my Ikea fixes too. 🙂 Maybe someday we’ll move to the country when we get sick of the city and I can give this compactor/a slow life lifestyle a proper go.

  2. leighsteele says:

    Aimee –
    Thank you for the information you gave about the Slow Year. It, too, is facisnating and inspiring. I will definately bookmark that site.
    Thank you for being a fellow earth-conscious gal. I, too, started to do the things you mentioned last year and at least I feel I’m making a tiny dent. So much more lies ahead for me, though!

  3. Sarah says:

    I am a friend of Aimee’s (she pointed me towards your blog…) and it was so funny to read your post after everything we have been talking about in our mom’s group over here!

    I think you have to make of it what you can. Riana is trying not to thrift because she is already a big thrifter. Me, I am trying to resist the impulse to buy new so thrifting seems like a natural next step for me. (I love our IKEA runs too…that is going to be hard!)

    After living in France for 4 years, I am finally happy to be meeting like-minded people who are interested in making earth conscious gestures beyond simple recycling. It is really motivating!

  4. New Mama says:

    I am also fascinated by the Compact and have thought about doing it. Maybe try it for a short period of time, like a month…not that I’ve been able to do that yet!

    And I hear you on the “stuff.” We’ve donated/thrown out so much since moving to this house in February (we’re currently purging the basement!) but I still feel a bit overwhelmed. That’s pretty sad when you think about it.

    Are you familiar with this blog?

    She also has a website here:

    and is a member at MDC (Delight). Interesting stuff!

  5. mb says:

    i’d love to do this. since we are broke and i have NO DAMN business buying anything at all, it should be a breeze! today i went to the MALL…to look for the cheapest pair of flip flops i could find for mia (as she lost her LAST pair of shoes. ya know the story). now, i resorted to the mall after scouring the local used kids clothing store yesterday with no luck. i could have went to goodwill and savers…a few locations around that me would surely surface a pair of cheap shoes for the kid. but i will admit, i am so freaking lazy…in this heat i did not want to thrift hop looking around. which is bad. but also, the waste of gas doing that…is an issue, isn’t it?

    Also, I question how bad it is to buy something new that someone else hand made, ie, small co-op or local business. Like the lady at the Portland Farmers Market who makes the most fabulous lavender soap from her lavender field. Or my girlfriend in LA who is one kick-ass designer and seamstress and makes the greatest dresses and jewelry. I want to support those people. I want them to keep creating, in the age old of tradition of craft-person-ship.

    When I left the mall (when i leave the mall always) i feel dirty, raped, like i need to cleanse. I have a loathing for big box stores, chains a like. Ugh. Why on earth would i want the same clothes as half my town? It’s so not sexy for my wardrobe to be primarily made in china and bought at so many stores we all frequent obsessively because they are ‘trendy’ and ‘cheap’. SO NOT SEXY. I think what I am meaning to get at here is: Community. In community you find the people who craft great clothes, products, candles…etc. In a city like we live in, where strip mall after strip mall are beaded together like the trashiest necklace, we are victims. Not innocent, but victims to purposely poor planning, planning which forces us to support the businesses who destroy small business. Where else do we go? We have choices, but we have to search and most likely drive an hour to find that cool pair of kids knickers that are hand sewn by a mama. But we can seek it out, it’s just harder for us to do so. This does not mean we can’t, of course. I wonder what stops us.

    So as much as I like to NOT BUY for a year, not sure I feel about that generalization or the rules in that, But I would like to do this:

    -buy only fair trade and or handmade clothing/textile goods.
    -buy only local food
    -buy only from local business (including food purchases)
    -buy only handcrafted luxury goods (beauty products, etc).
    -buy used whenever possible
    -more than that, try to trade instead of use money.

    Again this is what i’d like to do. i can’t commit at this moment, but spank me in a couple weeks and remind me that this is what I must do.

    Thanks again for sparking, inspiring, delving, honoring and respecting.


  6. mb says:

    ps. sorry i posted a whole damn post on your comments. you still love me, right?


  7. daisybones says:

    Thanks for publicizing that- very groovy. Where do you live now? I’m in the middle of Appalachia, where with all the mountains and rual life 10 minutes away from the biggest city, you’d think there’d be a huge green movement. But No. I kind of pine for the kind of eco-conscious community I read about in California. It would be so much easier to make changes with support in my environment. Of course, I know: “be the change,” yeah yeah:) It would just be cool to see more than one or two ther households in my neighborhood recycling even!

    This has almost been our buying pattern this year, just because we’re so broke, except for the guilty guilty disposable diaper purchases. *eep*

    New header so so pretty!

  8. Phoenix says:

    I love this idea. Like MB, I really have no business buying anything, we’re pretty broke right now. And to be honest, my house is filled with stuff. I -hate- when its like this… I can feel it all around me and I start to get jittery and itchy, the need to purge it all consumes me. So the idea of NOT buying more is very appealing. I think, even expecting this new life, I will give it a little go. Not all out there, but looking for alternatives. Which reminds me that I have a big bag of clothes upstairs that has to be donated. We have a place on our base that I love. People donate stuff (lots of stuff, once someone donated a car!). It’s sorted. And then its free. You can only take a certain amount of items, and the higher tagged items usually have a waiting list, but c’mon, how awesome is that? I wish more places had a store like that.

  9. Ah yes. Stuff. It is only in the last year or so that I’ve realized getting rid of stuff has as much to do with not bringing it in to begin with as it does with donating it, etc.

    We have severely curtailed our acquisition of stuff, but you know, it still happens, lol.

    One caution on thrift stores: they are a siren song. The stuff is so cheap, and seems guilt-free (it’s used! I’m not using up resources!) that before you know it, your house is filled with a bunch of junk and clothes that no one wears. I fell into this trap when I first started thrifting and going to rummage sales a few years ago. Asking myself the following question has helped tremendously:

    “If I had to pay $25 for this, would I still get it?”

    (Modify dollar value as needed!)

  10. Christina says:

    My family and I did this all of last year. Not because we were trying to step lightly upon this earth, which is a wonderful side effect no doubt. Or because we wanted to see if it could be done by us, we never heard of the actual movement itself until now really. But because we were trying to purchase a house.

    We really wanted this house and offered up an exchange to the universe for it. We would give up eating out. No buying fast food. No buying anything NEW that was NOT an essential (i.e. food, household products, some one else’s presents, car repairs). Every purchase made was from CL and second hand stores. I tried very hard to get freebies from freecycle first before buying.

    there were trying moments. Getting shoes for the kids was really hard. And when it came to second hand gifts I had to give up my, “no characters” rule for a bit.

    In the end I found it very rewarding, stress free to know that I didn’t really need it and more appreciative of the items that I did find.

    I also came to realize that the universe provides us with more sustenance that we realize.

  11. Housefairy says:

    I love this idea!Thank you for steering my family towards these webistes and blogs. Ive been on a simplicity movement in my heart, but have not done much formal implementation besides getting rid of some junk and clutter.

    We have enjoyed getting rid of over 50% of our clothing– very freeing! A few months ago, our dryer broke, and the laundry piled and piled–I was disgusted by how much there was! Yes, we have 4 children, (who are homeschooled, so they often dirty more than one shirt/outfit a day versus kids who go to school and only wear one!) but still, it was too many clothes.

    Getting to a point where we open our drawers and see a few cool fave shirts and a few pairs of jeans and some socks and undies has been really nice!

    Love your blog–but you know that 🙂

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