Buy Nothing

There are all sorts of amusing memes about creative folks amassing supplies. I certainly related to those memes. I don’t know how many times I had looked over my stash, smiled, and thought, “Where did all of this stuff come from”?

Then, I downsized. I moved from a sprawling five-bedroom home with an attic and a basement to a compact three-bedroom home with no attic or basement. Soon after moving, I stopped asking myself, “Where did all of this stuff come from”? Instead, I began asking myself, “Why do I have all this stuff”? Why was I letting boxes and boxes of supplies, tools, and even machinery that I didn’t use take up valuable space?

I imagine the answer to that question will be familiar to many creatives. I was afraid to let any of my creative caches go because “I might need it someday.” Now, on the surface, this statement might sound wise, even frugal. But, at its heart, it is poverty thinking. It is based on fear — fear of not being able to get what I need when I need it. It is a statement that comes from a belief in scarcity, not a belief in abundance. Well, a few years ago, I made a commitment to focus on the abundance in my life, and to express gratitude for that abundance every day. So, I knew it was time to make a change.

I started by opening boxes and examining what was in them. I discovered that I had lovingly packed away boxes of student grade art supplies, fabric, pyrography tools, easels, etc. I had taken excellent care of these things when they were in use, and I had made sure nothing would be ruined in storage. I had stored away these things with the intention that they would be used again. I knew all those supplies, and tools should be used again, just not by me! It was time to let it all go.

I had recently joined a local “Buy Nothing” Facebook group. In a “Buy Nothing” Facebook group, folks can post unneeded items they want to “gift” to those who might need them. They can also post requests for something they would like to receive or borrow. Trading, bartering, buying and selling is not allowed. Members can only join one “Buy Nothing” group, which is the group that is most local to you. Sometimes, the group will encompass an entire city or town. But, often, the groups are confined to one neighborhood. One of the main goals is to increase local connections and encourage a sense of community.

The idea of gifting my unneeded art supplies to creative folks in my community appealed to me. I created several gifting posts. “Buy Nothing” discourages “first come, first serve.” I left the posts up for a few days to be sure everyone had a chance to see them. Then I used a random name generator to choose who would receive my gifts.

The items I gifted were expensive or prone to weather damage, so I didn’t want to leave them on my porch. I asked that the new owners come to my door.

I had the pleasure of greeting a new kindergarten teacher who was excited to use one of my old die-cutting machines in her classroom. A few days later, a thirteen-year-old boy arrived to pick up an easel I no longer needed. He was painfully shy, but at his mother’s prompting, he thanked me and assured me he’d use it every day. For a full week, I had the pleasure of little visits like this. It was a bit magical.

I will be honest; my fear around giving up unused art supplies didn’t wholly disappear. But, participating in the “Buy Nothing” group kept me focused on the positive experience of giving.

cynthia gougian

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15 thoughts on “Buy Nothing”

  1. What a Wonderful Idea! I had no idea that groups like this existed, and before I even finished reading your article, I found and JOINED my local group. (I have to wait for acceptance) I am a widow with FAR TO MUCH STUFF! Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou!

  2. I have started to see the emergence of little library boxes around the neighbourhood where people can come and take a book and leave a book and wonder if a craft swap box might be another way of doing a ‘buy nothing’ but get to swap something you don’t need for something you might like. Hmmmm, I’ll have to think that over!!!

    1. Emma, The craft box idea is intriguing. I think there are some “destash” groups on Facebook that might allow a swap. Years ago, I was a member of a forum where we exchanged exercise videos. It was very successful, but very well moderated, with clear rules. We also wrote reviews of the exercise videos. It was actually a very nice online community, we even organized in person meetings!

  3. Margaret Carrell

    Cynthia I know exactly what you mean. I look at my 4 bedroom, basement, studio, garage and 2 shed house and wonder “where did all this come from?” 😊

    1. Margaret, it amazes me! Along with “Where did all this come from”? I’ve been asking “How did it build up without me noticing”? I swear, someone broke into my shed and put all kinds of things in there when I wasn’t looking!

  4. Donna Lee Little

    Oh I so love the idea of “Buy Nothing”. I’m am going to check it out where I live. I never heard about it before. I truly love your story Cynthia, you are such an inspiration for me!

  5. I too did not know that these groups existed. Will check it out when I have time. Heaven knows I am sure I can contribute something since the same thing has happened to us in the past of moving from a 4500 sq. foot house down to 2100. But it really has not stopped me from amassing a ton of supplies. Most are waiting for the day I retire to fill my hours with projects. But there are certainly left overs like yarn when I took knitting classes 30 years ago that should go, especially in light of the fact that I was never very good at it. LOL

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