This is the first post in a brand new series for House of Humble, called My Simple Life. A “simple life” means something different to each of us, so our aim for this series is to feature beautiful people from all walks of life, just to chat about their their unique story and what simple living looks like for them. Our hope is that in looking at a diverse range of lifestyles and perspectives, we all might learn something, discover a different way of looking at things, or find something new to be inspired by.
Our first guest is gorgeous Sash Milne from Inked in Colour. At the beginning of the year Sash undertook a commitment to buy nothing new in 2104. No new clothes, homewares, cosmetics, toys… Absolutely nothing new! I have found Sash’s journey during the Nothing New project fascinating, and extremely inspiring. Reading her posts has made me take pause and really reconsider the way I consume and think about material things. I think you guys will find her story pretty incredible too!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
A few years ago I found myself in a pretty dark place, I was a good person who had done some pretty average things. I was a new mother. A wayward traveller. A wanderer. I had been living the simple life on the dark sand beaches of another world in a shack with no electricity or running water. I lived there for three years. Whilst it started as the most amazing adventure it ended in a series of tragedies that left me questioning who I was. I was a hopeless romantic in a loveless marriage in a foreign village at the end of the universe with a tiny baby in a sling on my chest.
I got kicked in the teeth by life and I brought my daughter home to Australia and spent a whole year just taking care of us, healing a broken heart… But we’ve come out the other side of it, as a family of two, stronger and more committed to building the life that is perfect for us, not the life that is perfect for the pages of a magazine.
Sometimes I write about things that are hard to write. Because things that are hard to write are truths that are infinitely more important than throw rugs. Sometimes I write about everyday people that are really inspiring. Because inspiring people are infinitely more incredible than cute homewares. Sometimes I write about food that you can cook in your own kitchen, without fancy gadgets or expensive ingredients. Because good food is the foundation of a good community, it’s our history, it’s our road back home.
I’m a terribly flawed human being, I’m a walking contradiction. And, just like you, I’m just trying to do the best with what I’ve got. Trying to find my place in the world… Inked in Colour is the place where I share parts of that journey, with anyone who feels like joining us for the ride.
Tell us about the Nothing New project.
I have never been a great collector of things. Experiences, yes, but not things. Yet still, when I look around my home at our full closets and our comfortable rooms I know that we have more than enough. So for one year I’m going to see if I can make it stretch, by not buying anything new.
For a whole year.
A year of no shopping malls or outlets. A year of no online shopping or list writing. A year of no unnecessary product consumption. I will buy nothing new, for 52 weeks. It’s daunting and exciting and liberating all at once. I wrote a lot at the end of last year about consumption and wish lists and my frustration with our consumerist society. It’s time to practice 100% of what I preach.
Things don’t matter. People do. It’s simplicity at its most honest.
I’m going to start borrowing things, and lending things out. I’m going to not base any of my (self) worth on what I have or what I wear. I’m going to step right out of my comfort zone and change my habits. Because a year with purposeful change is a year with great purpose.
One year with no unnecessary purchasing footprint. No clothes or toys or home wares. No cosmetics. No trinkets or shoes. No upgrades. Nothing that we don’t genuinely need. Resourcefulness is a wonderful skill to incubate. Anything we truly need is to be sourced second hand or borrowed. We are returning to the days of my grandmothers, where clothes are fixed and everything that is no longer needed is either turned into something new or given away to someone else who can use it.
A year of no waste. It’s a year of considering what we bring into our house and reconsidering the way we dispose of our garbage. It’s a yearlong exercise in discipline and mindfulness.
Where did the idea for the project come from and what are you hoping to achieve with it?
The idea for the project came from the crazy push of the pre-Christmas rush. I was in a department store with a toddler on my hip and I was watching parents loading trolleys full of cheap crappy toys and pushing past each other to get to stocking stuffers. I started to look at the way we consume a bit differently… I started to wonder why we were valuing the procurement of stuff so much more than we were valuing people.
So with one little decision the Nothing New project was born. With it came a commitment to stop buying stuff I don’t need. A commitment to focus on connecting with real people and building community. A commitment not just to an idea but to an action, and with it, a commitment to take conformity and to just throw it out the window.
For me, I’m hoping to change the way I approach the world. It’s so easy to get sucked in, to feel a bit crap about yourself because you can’t afford the clothes or homewares that everyone else seems to have.
The only way I have a chance to teach my daughter that things don’t make you happy, is to prove it to myself first.
How is it going? What have you found easy? What have you found challenging?
You know, we are almost halfway through the year now, and time is just flying by. The first month was a really important time to relearn how to exist without just coasting through the shops for something to do. I didn’t step foot in a shopping mall for more than three months, and there was something really liberating about not allowing myself to feel like I need to be anything more than I am. To step out of the rat race, and to focus my energy on building community around us, it’s the best feeling. For my daughter’s birthday I invested time in building a dollhouse out of completely recycled materials that I found at the rubbish tip. It was a great project and I’m looking forward to doing more projects like this later in the year. It’s amazing how many perfectly good things we all throw away, to find a way to repurpose them is practical, ethical and really rewarding.
That being said, the project has started getting more difficult in ways. Most of the time it’s really easy but there are days when I do wonder if it’s making any difference at all. I’ve had problems with some of my photography equipment, leaving me without a camera for a lot of this year – which as a freelance writer and photographer has been very challenging. I’m still working out what to do about it and trying to justify any decision I may make. Also; my favourite clothes are full of holes. It might not seem like much but on days when I find it hard… it upsets me I can’t just go and replace a few key items that would make me feel a bit better about getting dressed on days when I’m struggling. But again it’s just remembering why I’m doing this…
We are about to enter the next phase of the project where we are actually going to live transitionally and see if alternate living is truly possible (for us). We will no longer have our own home, instead we will explore a few different lifestyles that force us to engage differently with the world around us; including woofing (working on an organic farm) and house sitting. The aim is to see how we can make positive impacts on our community and transform the rhythm of our lives. It might be a total disaster with a toddler, but the only way I’m going to find out is to just jump in. So jump we will.
How has the Nothing New project changed the way you think about material things? Do you think the project will change the way you consume forever?
The Nothing New Project has changed the way I think about material things. By not making any meaningless purchases, I am more creative with and aware of the things I have. Some people use the word sacrifice, but I don’t feel like I’m giving up things I love or being a martyr to a cause. It’s liberating never stepping foot inside department stores, it’s freeing to not worry about whether or not I have that ‘thing’ that everyone else has. Sure, some days I wish I could go out and buy something that I want but then I remind myself how much I have, and how lucky I am and I find a bit of perspective and I embrace my ugly shoes and my tired jeans and I get on with my day – because there are so many things that are so much more important (to me).
As for the idea of spending lots of money and buying new things? It certainly doesn’t thrill me, but it doesn’t disgust me either – money serves a purpose and that purpose is different for each of us, I get that. It gives us lots of freedom to do awesome things and go on great adventures but it is not the answer to happiness and the crazy habit that we have of using it to desperately try to keep up with the Joneses is crazy.
The Joneses are broke.
The Jonses are stressed. The Joneses are living on credit. I certainly don’t want to be the Joneses.
Has the Nothing New project changed your life in other ways?
It has been transformative. I have become more confident. More clear. More kind. I have an amazing group of beautiful special people who have come into my life in the past six months and have changed me, welcomed me, loved me… and made me a better person for it.
Would I have found these people without this project? Maybe. But maybe not.
I’m about to finish my masters and I’m really looking forward to working harder on making a positive impact in my community more in the last six months of this project… I still have a lot of work to do on myself, and I’ve found the best way to do that is to get out there in the community, to give back and to be connected. People really are the answer to everything.
What advice would you give someone considering undertaking something similar?
The best advice I could give anyone would be to just dive in. There is never a right time to give up consumption, there is always birthdays and commitments and stuff that we want. The funny thing is machine will keep on turning, even without you in it, and when you step out of it, you are unlikely to miss it much at all. The truth is that you can give up consumption and still grow and thrive and experience a really rewarding life, it’s just about gaining a bit of perspective and changing some old habits. Doing things with other people is a much greater gift than buying them things.
Why not just start now? You don’t need anything fancy to begin, you don’t need to prepare. You can just start where you are, with what you have, right now.
I remember when I first decided I was going to do this project, one of my best friends said to me, ‘you have two weeks left! Why aren’t you out there buying everything you might possibly want/need for the next twelve months?’ I laughed, but I didn’t go back to the shops. I had made the decision I was going to do it and haven’t bought anything since.
It’s not about having everything you might “need” the truth is we need very little. I feel like we are often blinded by wish lists and wants and advertising that we forget what is so important and so fulfilling about living a simple, connected life. Other people matter so much more than things ever could. Not just your best friends and your family, but your community, your neighbours, people you’ve never met before. People matter most.
In the second half of this year I’m going to run a few online workshops to guide people through a month of buying nothing new. It will be a great place to start. For anyone who would like to be involved, keep an eye out on the blog or send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.