this week’s contributor is from mama from the fearse family. she lives in melbourne and her and her family (big poppa and little fearse) have committed to buying nothing new for the year of 2013. her blog was new to me when she reached out and i’m so glad she did as i’ve been inspired reading about what challenges her and her family are working to overcome and what they’re getting out of being mindful about where their money goes for 365 days. in her post today, she talks about how they decided to buy nothing new and what it’s done for them.

A Denver Home Companion | fearse family

In 2013, my family of three–Big Poppa, Little Fearse (who’s just turned one) and myself, Mama–decided to attempt to buy nothing new for a year. Here is how it all began…

Sometimes the more significant moments in your life can slip by without you even realising. When we stumbled onto the idea of having one family day a week screen free, we had no idea that we were taking our first step along the pathway to a life-changing adventure.

In September in Melbourne the spring has just begun. It often starts off sunny and cool. The air is light and fresh with anticipation. The flowers haven’t started budding yet but there are clues if you look for them. Last September I didn’t notice any of these things. I had a new baby who I adored and doted on, but I had begun to notice that she was often competing for both of her parents’ attention. In the past twelve months Big Poppa and I had both purchased laptops. Now, instead of having a room in which we had to actively retreat to in order to spend time on our PCs, we had incorporated our laptops into our living space and therefore into our daily lives.

Big Poppa and I were both becoming annoyed with Little Fearse for banging on our keyboards as we tried to type or for pulling our screens back until they made ominous cracking sounds. We soon realised that she was begging for attention. Our addictions to social media were interfering with the time we had set aside to spend with our baby. It wasn’t so much the amount of time we spent on the laptops, it was the regularity with which we checked in with our social media pages.

Ironically, it was on my social media feed that the idea of having a day off from all screens popped up. A page dedicated to Switch Off Sunday appeared. Curious, I clicked on it. The idea of having a day a week with no TV, games, or computers was appealing and seemed perfect for our cause. I discussed the idea with BP, who tentatively said yes. Initially not allowing vegging in front of TV or the Playstation on his days off was a little off-putting. But he agreed to give it a go.

Those Sundays were filled with adventures together! People who heard what we were doing started coming to visit on those Sundays. We saw people we hadn’t seen in months. We visited local parks and started to notice the flowers budding and the air turn warmer. We discovered new places to visit in our community that Little Fearse enjoyed, too.

It wasn’t all wonderful. It made it difficult to do my weekly cook-up without access to recipes online. Some friends or family members thought what we were doing was silly and would wait until I was out of the room to convince BP to turn on the TV, or have him check something on the computer. It was sometimes frustrating, but we knew that as a family we were largely benefitting.

Through the Switched Off Sunday Internet resources I found reference to the idea of buying nothing new  (BNN) for a year. Since BP had signed up to study full time for 2013 and I was only planning on working half time it seemed like a good economic decision. Both of us felt positive about the idea of being more conscious of our impact on the environment. We weren’t 100% convinced we could achieve it, but in the end, we decided it couldn’t hurt to try.

Neither of us had any idea the world we were opening up by beginning our BNN year. We quickly discovered a world of simple living blogs and online communities of people embarking on challenges to reduce their consumption. In the beginning we didn’t even realise that the choice we had made was an act of simplifying. Neither of us had much knowledge of the philosophies behind minimalism and we really just wanted to find a unique way of getting through a year with less money. The act of buying nothing new grew into the idea of buying nothing at all, if possible.

It turns out our year has been, so far, about living with a lot less in general. Yes, we have less money. We also have fewer things, as we’re not only trying to reduce the amount of stuff we bring into the house, but also increase the amount that goes out. We are simplifying our environment, giving ourselves more space to meditate on the blessings in our lives. Our house is growing less cluttered as we realise how little we actually need to have a good life and a happy life.

Simplifying this year has given us the space to really assess what is important. The realisation that we all value the time we spend together over anything else has made it easier to say “no” to obligations that get in the way of that, and of course, say “YES!” to all the multitude of opportunities that come our way offering us more quality time together.

People want to talk to us now about what it means to have a simpler life. Often they tell us they admire our choice, but don’t feel they can do it. Anyone can do this. Having a simpler life is different for everyone. It depends where you start. Not everyone wants to stop buying new things. Maybe to you “simple” means going out less, or having a better play area in your back yard, or adopting an animal, or eating better food, or making a career change. The real first step in having a simpler life is looking at what makes your life complex now.

We’re still trying to deal with the challenge of how technology and social media can negatively affect our family life. Hopefully somewhere along the way in our simple journey those issues will become easier to deal with. Or perhaps we will need to throw ourselves another challenge that requires more commitment in that area. This is our journey.

There is this movement out there – one that we were oblivious to. People are thirsting for something simpler and healthier. We are proud to be a part of that movement. We no longer accumulate things, we accumulate memories.

All it took was being willing to say “yes” to something different, something truly challenging, and maybe a bit bizarre.

thanks, mama fearse, for sharing about this journey your family is going on. jp and i tried something like that and it stuck for, oh, about a month. so i’m encouraged to take it up again! you can follow the fearse family at their blog or on facebook.

if you are interested in contributing to A Denver Home Companion, please submit original writing (or ideas!) to emily [at] adenverhomecompanion [dot] com. though i may not be able to publish everything, i certainly consider all of them.