Zero Waste, Day 3 - On Buying Used

Yesterday, I went clothing shopping at a resale store instead of a "new" store. I found two sweaters I liked, with the tags still on (which I'll recycle, I guess). The sweaters are for my fall capsule. I was ready to build my fall capsule on September 1, but then I realized I shouldn't do it until the end of the month. Also, it's still hot outside. No way am I going out in a sweater right now. But I'm ready for fall!

Another blog I follow is documenting what she already reuses, kind of like I did on the first day. Here's Mrs. M's Curiosity Cabinenet's post, Reuse Cottage Garden Style, all about what she reuses in her garden. 

I considered doing something similar, going through the various areas of my life and documenting what we reuse (in addition to what I already mentioned), but instead I thought I'd talk about how we end up with new stuff. 

30 Days of Non-Consumable Stuff I Bought

The way you don't end up with new stuff is by trying to find what you need second-hand. Thrift stores, estate sales, garage sales, Ebay, Craigslist and the alleys are all good places to look for second-hand versions of things However, rarely is it possible to decide, for example, that you need a black-and-white t-shirt to round out your summer wardrobe capsule, then go to the thrift store, Ebay and Craigslist, and find exactly what you need. Usually doesn't happen. 

She's not the only one wondering why I bought her a costume.

She's not the only one wondering why I bought her a costume.

Over the last month, here are some of the things I've bought new, and whether I think I could have gotten them used (thus helping someone else reuse their stuff, in a sense): 

  • Halloween costume for the dog - Obviously, I should have skipped this, but she looks super-cute, if a little miserable, as a sheep. I need to exchange it for a smaller size, however, which is something I couldn't have done if I'd bought it used. The dog would have definitely been happier had this purchase not happened. 
  • Various phone things (car charger for Eric's car, long cord for my bedside charger and dash mount for my car) - I guess people resell or donate these, but taking the time to find good ones seems like something I don't have time for. Also, we'll use these until they die. 
  • Car air- and oil filters for Eric's car - Can't buy those used, but you can save money doing the work yourself. 
  • Caulk for the house - Likewise, used = gone; less expensive than hiring someone. 
  • Air mattress - Replacing our hole-filled old mattress, which can't be repaired. Can it be reused? I wonder... Perhaps as a tarp? 
  • Running shoes - Buying used defeats the purpose, unless I could find someone reselling my style and size very slightly used, which I couldn't. 
  • Small fridge, ice bucket, and ice scoop - all purchased new before our recent party. All could have been purchased (or found) used if I had started looking in a timely manner. The completely new small fridge is Energy Star certified, for whatever that's worth. On the other hand, there were four ice buckets at the thrift store yesterday. 
  • Vent-less range hood for the stove - We probably should have at least looked at the Re-Store (Habitat for Humanity's resale shop for household stuff) before purchasing, but I ordered it while coughing my head off as Eric seared some sort of spice-encrusted meat. I was stressed, I tell you. 
  • Large glass jar for homemade laundry detergent - Probably because they're breakable, I have never had great luck find large jars secondhand. Small ones, yes. Larger than a quart - no. 
  • Memory foam topper for the bed - Our previous one was four years old and no longer serving its purpose (which is keeping us comfy and from feeling each other's every movement). Buying used would defeat the purpose of having a new one. We were able to reuse the old one as a topper for the air mattress, but it's not easy to store, so I don't see that lasting. 
  • New flipflops - Old ones broke. I probably could have found used ones, but I thought I needed new ones fast. At the time, I didn't think it was fall. Now I think it's fall, but I'll be ready for next summer!
  • Decorative string lights for the backyard - I'll be the first to admit, I have a problem. I love these things! They don't last, but they're pretty. 
  • Replacement glass mirror for the bathroom medicine cabinet - Better to replace one part than the entire cabinet, right?

I think that's all we bought, other than consumables (and my two thrifted sweaters). It feels like a lot! I've gotten used to buying less over the last year, so anytime I am buying something pretty much every week, I feel like I'm buying a lot. 

Downsides to Thrifting

If you keep looking, most of the time you'll eventually find what you need. But it will take time, both in the sense that you might not find it immediately, and also in the sense that you will spend time looking. 

For some shopping, this doesn't matter at all. I've wanted a pastry mat and pastry cutter for a while, but haven't found one second-hand. I haven't bought one new, either, because it's not urgent and I suspect I'll find one used - eventually. When my immersion blender broke, I put off buying one for quite a while, then lucked across one identical to my old one at the thrift store. 

But some things I don't trust buying used, including a lot of electronics. I'm going to buy a new laptop sometime later this year (or maybe next year - picking out a replacement is proving almost more stressful than using the old one). Also on my desk if a photo scanner - several years old now, but purchased new then. I wanted it for a specific project and I wanted to make sure I got a good one, so I purchased it new. When I get a new phone, I'll get a completely new one. I bought a used one once, when the camera on my old phone stopped working, and the "new" used one had almost all the same problems the one I'd broken had, yet I was out a couple additional hundred dollars. Unlike with cars, I think the premium you pay for a new phone is worth the expense.  

Another downside I see is that going shopping, even if it's for used stuff, opens the door for more impulse buys. If I were going to stores for the new things I buy, I'd have the same problem, but I get almost everything I buy new online, where I find it pretty easy to stay focused. 

The downside to shopping online is shipping costs (even if you don't pay them, they're there, in the form of transportation's toll on the environment) and packaging, which is often excessive and not reusable. 

My Recommendations for Shopping: 

  1. Keep a running list of things you need. If it's not something you'll use often, see if you can borrow it from someone you know. If you don't need it immediately and it can be purchases used, wait until you find a used one. 
  2. Go to the thrift stores periodically, but not all the time. Look for the things you need and ignore the rest. Likewise with estate and garage sales. 
  3. Ebay can be good for very specific clothing and shoe needs, and probably a lot more, but I don't use it much. Craigslist can be good for all kinds of things, if you don't mind spending the time it takes to find what you need, connect with the seller, and meet up. 
  4. When buying new, try to buy for life. Research what you buy, figure out what will fulfill your needs and last as long as possible, within reason. Keep the budget in mind, too. Sometimes the middle ground ends up being the best deal. When you've decided on a specific product, do a broad internet search to look for the best deal, and when you've chosen a retailer, search again for coupon codes.
  5. See if you can go without. One thing minimizing and decluttering has taught me is that I don't need quite as much stuff as I thought I did. Now I'm particularly leery whenever I think I need some sort of organizational item. If you  have to buy stuff to keep your other stuff organized, take a good luck at what you're keeping. 

I know what you're thinking now - that was a lot of words to support one cute dog picture! As a reward for making it all the way through, here's another: 

It's tough being a sheep-dog. 

It's tough being a sheep-dog.