Refuse! There's enough stuff in Circulation for ALL

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(  My leash is new...ly dismantled. I am free.  )
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The best thing you can do is not buy more stuff1.
– Adam Minter

Advertisers and marketers have smooth-talked us into buying our way out of our problems. They blast us with colorful material and witty words in all media. Makes us think that we could almost excuse ourselves for falling into their pitches.

We buy these solutions with either our money or time. It’s likely both, since Capitalism conjures its own reality where money and time are intertwined.

We buy stuff, convinced that it’s needed to get on with life. A small step forward, two leaps backward, if you ask me.

This was not always the case. The Silent Generation, in order to survive the world wars, were forced to make resources last. They were even encouraged to do so.

During the world wars, little to no production was done on many parts of the world. Supply of Stuff was low, and yet Demand of it remained the same, if not increased. Price of Stuff had the possibility to soar out of control if people would buy, thus reducing the supply. This is according to the Law of Supply and Demand.

For the majority who had little to no money to spend to begin with, they instead developed the practical skills needed to survive. Ask your grandparents, and they will tell you countless stories of frugality, of repairing your own stuff, of borrowing from others.

It’s time to refuse new stuff.

Make do with what’s already in circulation. Ask your family, friends, and neighbors if they have the thing that you need that they don’t. You could offer to buy it from them at a reasonable price. Or you could exchange it for something that they need that you might have (barter). Or you could offer your service (repair, drive, errand, etc.) that they might need as payment. In the last two examples, money need not even be involved!

Would it be possible to forgo some of the things that we take for granted? What would it be like to simplify our lives, to prune as many luxuries as possible? As we bring to front and examine the operations that make our existence worthwhile, we must ask, “How does this impact others?” We need to start asking these questions now so we can learn to do without excess.

The best time would have been years ago, but now is as good as any.

Technology has opened Pandora’s box.

Now more than ever, we have the tools to make life easier. At the same time, the resources needed to make them have a real significant impact in people and environment.

The least we can do is to make the most out of all the materials we pulled out of the earth.

It’s time to think really hard before deciding to buy something new that you might instead be able to procure second-hand; or even better, do it yourself if you know how. Remember that buying implies demand. People at the helm of manufacturers would interpret this demand as a need to produce more. “Since people are buying our product, we need to make more of it!”

Do you really need that organizer from that aesthetically pleasing brand, or will old empty tin cans and some creativity do?

Do you need to buy mason jars to rearrange your pantry, or will old containers do?

Do you need new clothes, or could you look for a novel way to match your existing articles into something fashionable? Perhaps you know how to sew, and upcycle some of your fabrics?

Do you really need the latest consumer electronics, or will a used one from three, four years ago perform just as well?

Asking such questions adds friction to convenience. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be swayed against buying, but it’s a start. What’s more important is to take your time, literally. Practice delaying gratification.

The simple (yet hard) ability to Not Buy Things has a great impact. It could reduce the demand to manufacture and produce stuff, which consequently would be good for people and the environment.

The Old and the Neomania.

Of course, there are some things that you really have to buy brand new, such as batteries and personal items like toothbrushes and underwear.

But do you really have to, though? Perhaps you have the ability, the resources, and/or the time to consider the following:

  • Instead of using anything battery- or electricity-operated, is it possible to do it manually?
  • Instead of relying on the latest technology, how can something be done by using “inefficient,” low technology? Ask your elders on how they might have done it back in their days. There’s always wisdom in their ways.
  • Instead of plastic toothbrushes, why not opt for bamboo-made ones? Or perhaps you might want to look into how some twigs and plant roots can be chewed and gnawed as dental hygiene?2
  • Instead of buying underwear, why not look into making your own? Or if you can, go without it?

These are just a few suggestions. Our ancestors had done it for a long time; it’s not impossible to still do them now. Choices like these can be pretty radical in our modern times, but we need to be radical with our choices if we are to save the environment.

If you must buy new things

We acknowledge that we can’t quickly adjust to this Refuse mentality. The capitalist system forces us to participate in it, so it can be hard to negotiate our way out of it.

If you must buy new things, consider the following if you have the ability, resources, and/or time:

1. See to it that you invest in quality.

This means doing your research first. Among the competing brands, what would be the best bang for your buck? Ask people for their recommendations. Looking for quality isn’t necessarily an exciting task, but if it could mean that you’d be using it for a long time, it’s worth the due diligence.

2. Check if you can obtain it locally.

Participating in local economy helps local entrepreneurs. Not only that, it also decreases the carbon footprint of an item by reducing the distance it needs to travel to your doorstep.

In both cases, expect it to be more expensive than the stuff that’s mass-produced. You should be buying it for life anyway. It’s a step to start refusing future purchases. TNU


  1. Gross, T. (2019, December 4). “The best thing you can do is not buy more stuff,” says “Secondhand” Expert. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2019/12/04/784702588/the-best-thing-you-can-do-is-not-buy-more-stuff-says-secondhand-expert ↩︎

  2. Martignier, K. (2021, March 2). Nature’s Original Toothbrush. Permaculture Research Institute. https://www.npr.org/2019/12/04/784702588/the-best-thing-you-can-do-is-not-buy-more-stuff-says-secondhand-expert ↩︎



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