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What Will Katy Buy New?


I have done incredibly well not buying new since deciding to do “The Compact” in January 2007. However, there are a few things I am allowing myself to buy new.

  • Underwear. Yup, buying used panties skeeves even me out.
  • Bras.
  • Socks, although I’ve had no need to replenish my already hearty supply.
  • Perishables – Duh!
  • That’s about it, I may add to this list in the future.

I have bought a few thing new here and there, most notably gifts for the Japanese host families that my husband and 12 year old stayed with in the Summer of 2007. If I had it to do over again, I would have planned ahead a bit more.

I am the only person in my family officially doing “The Compact.” So my husband Dale does buy new, although his purchases have decreased super-dramatically since this experiment began. The kids are also not doing “The Compact.” Our 18 year old pretty much buys nothing, but our 15 year old seems to have the urge to splurge. He buys a lot of art supplies at our neighborhood locally owned art store. I’m okay with that. I am not here to force my ideas and ideals onto unwilling recipients, even my own kids.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 9 trackbacks }

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

1 shinebrightly May 28, 2008 at 3:05 pm

Hey Katy,

I love your blog – the concept and execution! Well done!

Our family has also been conscious of your motto: “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”. It started out of necessity when I quit teaching to stay home with our son, but has now become more of an earth-friendly mission and creative challenge.

So glad I found you on the blogosphere! I’m going to subscribe! ( I have to figure out how to set up email subscriptions for my blog. So far, I just have RSS, and most of my readers don’t really get it.)



2 Sam May 28, 2008 at 11:48 pm

Yah, I’d add HANKIES to the list of things to buy new, unless they’re just decorative, and not intended to blow your nose in.


3 Linda March 30, 2010 at 2:01 pm

I love hankies. they are reusable and much gentler on the nose than paper tissues. I buy hankies at thrift stores when I can get them for 50 cents or less. Often they are new ones that people gave to the thrift store because they don’t use hankies, but it doesn’t bother me to blow my nose in a hankie that some one else used any more than it bothers me to wear someone elses clothes. it doesn’t bother me at all. I inspect the hankies carefully before I make my purchise because old hankies are often deteriorated with age.


4 EMILY September 20, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Hankies! We often buy bandanas at garage sales. Wash and use. My husband carries one around every day for his schnoz, we use them when camping or doing out-doorsy stuff, and our dog wears them!


5 rosalie June 27, 2008 at 11:41 pm

Hello Katy,

Very impressive! I love your blogs. I can really learn a lot from these. Thanks again!



6 Quasimodo July 3, 2008 at 12:55 pm

Katy, I will probably be doing the compact alone myself, but dh thinks it’s a cool idea, and I’m thinking that my kids will come around when they see all the cool stuff I can compact. :)

BTW, I am Kristi on the Compact eGroup. Nice to meet you. :)


7 Magdalena Julie Bragdon Perks October 24, 2008 at 10:37 am

I’m new here – wish I’d found your blog earlier. Yeah, undies and socks…but I have a strong dislike of most “store-bought” hosiery, so am about to launch out into learning to knit our own. (I have bags of fleece yet from the sheep we used to keep.) My husband is definitely frugal, as am I. There is a ton of used good quality stuff out there – clothes, housewares, etc – so why buy new? I even sew from old clothes and other people’s remnants.


8 liza November 19, 2008 at 9:07 pm


i’m also the only official compacter in my family. but since i started in january, my husband has done what your husband did. he’s buying a lot less and that makes me so happy. it’s very cool!


9 Angela November 22, 2008 at 5:51 am

Glad I followed your link today from Simple Living. We buy the same items new too. Our best buy was a secondhand TV set 3 years ago for £30 – still going strong but cos of the current economic climate – hubby just saw the digital tv that we wanted for ages at a bargain price so bought it! we are gradually switching over to digital in UK. Going to freecycle the old set tho cos it will do someone a favour!
Just watching the weather here = line full of washing out – don’t want to use tumble drier.


10 Becca November 24, 2008 at 9:25 am

I collect vintage patterns and came across a cute underwear pattern. I have made several pair already using old t-shirts that I didn’t want anymore but was holding onto for sentimental reasons!


11 Karen December 2, 2008 at 7:52 am

OK, so I’m new to the compact and trying to reform my ways. I’ve made great progress, but here’s my current dilemma: my bed pillows are old and flat, and they’re wrecking my sleep. I’d put old pillows in the same category w/used panties. Any suggestions on how to use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without? Thanks!


12 Dia July 28, 2011 at 11:40 pm

why dont you put two flat pillows in the same case. it will be fluffier and free.


13 Katy July 29, 2011 at 10:16 am

Believe me, we have a couple of their double-pillows in our home. ;-)



14 Becca December 2, 2008 at 1:54 pm

Hmmm…any chance you can kind of stitch two of them together and then make a new case for the super-pillow you make?

I am fine with old pillows, myself. I love ancient feather pillows–just put them in the dryer on high setting for long enough to give me peace of mind…


15 thenonconsumeradvocate December 2, 2008 at 3:18 pm

What I have done with old flat pillows is to put two together into a single pillowcase. Then they function as a “bolster pillow,” (big and firm) that are great for reading in bed, etc. Each of my kids has one of these on their beds.

Low tech, but works great.

I would consider pillows to be an exception to The Compact myself. As a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve seen that many women stick pillows between their legs to be able to lie comfortably on their sides.

Yeah . . . I think I just added another exception to the things I won’t be buying used.

-Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


16 dee dee December 12, 2008 at 10:16 am

Regarding the post about bed pillows: I just learned that old bed pillows can contain many ounces of dead dust mites and their fecal matter. Yuck! When I was researching dust mites (we have an allergy problem and dust mites & their poop are a big cause), I read that some old pillows will actually weigh more than when they were new because of all that stuff. So pillows are probably a good thing to exempt from the not-buying-new rule. One other tid bit – dust mites (which eat sloughed off skin cells) in bedding and clothing are not killed in cold water washing. Hot water is a must ,even thoug it is not earth-friendly.


17 Dana August 23, 2012 at 5:27 pm

I don’t place much stock in the notion of hot-water washing killing germs. I don’t keep my hot-water heater hot enough for that–I keep it around 120 F so it’s not a scalding hazard. (Old habit from when my daughter was a baby, and I’ve never broken it. It’s no fun for adults or older kids to burn themselves either!) The only reason I use warm water for my laundry is I think the detergent works better at that temperature.

But I do use the clothes dryer, and that probably *will* kill all manner of things. At least, I’ve never had a problem with getting sick from anything I’ve dried in there.

I think industry’s uses of hot water and energy and so on are far worse than residential uses of same. I think purchasing most of our consumer items used will offset any use of hot water or a clothes dryer. Though I could be wrong.


18 max December 14, 2008 at 7:12 pm

You can wash down pillows! Take them to the laundromat and stick your pillows into the HUGE washers designed for bulk loads. Wash with a mild detergent in cold water. I usually wash them a second time in just water to rinse everything out thoroughly. Throw them into the dryer with some clean tennis shoes to aid in the de-clumping, or just pull them out periodically and fluff by hand during the drying process.


19 AJ Wischmeyer January 4, 2009 at 8:19 am

I haven’t actually made a Compact, but have been living this frugal way for years now. It is so wonderful to find other people doing the same thing. It is especially important now that DH is retired (forcibly) and I have only been able to obtain part-time work so far. The land taxes have grown from $400 per year 6 years ago to $4800 in 2009, so that is our hugest expense. Thank goodness no mortgage but learning to live frugally is standing us in good stead in this economic time.


20 RS January 20, 2009 at 7:19 am

I just started the Compact, i slipped without realizing it i hope that doesnt mean i have to start over lol cause im not :P
for now my exceptions are things i see as a medical need for my kids like we just bought allergy covers for their mattresses, im not sure how good that would be to get used.
also my son is about to potty train and i got him a potty seat cover brandy new, sorry i dont mind reusing the first one from DS#1 on the other toilet, but from a stranger, no i cant get past it no matter how much bleach lol


21 RS January 20, 2009 at 7:21 am

opps im sorry i posted on the wrong post, meant to post this on the gets intimate at target post sorry


22 mary March 28, 2009 at 4:47 pm

I am new to this compacting. The first thing I ran out of was toilet paper. I have read articles about other ways to get clean after using the bathroom, but that is one item I think I can’t do without.


23 Maggie April 12, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Hi all,
Just wanted to respond to Mary’s note about TP. I recommend making your own cloth wipes. Old t-shirts make nice soft, thin ones, and old towels make great tougher wipes for when you need them. Ahem.

We haven’t done this yet, but will make the transition after our daughter finishes potty training (I do enough laundry for now!). We’ve been using cloth wipes on her since she was born 2 1/2 years ago. I gradually realized I was jealous! A soft piece of cloth beats scratchy recycled tp any day. We use a tub of water with a bit of tea tree oil and aloe vera added. I recommend a diaper pail or other container that will close all of the way. You can make your own pail liner out of old linen, and throw it in the wash with the wipes.

I switched to non-disposable menstrual supplies from GladRags too. They have wonderful pads and a spiffy plastic cup called the keeper too. I’d definitely buy that last one new. However, it will last for many years.

Bonne chance!


24 Monroe on a Budget May 21, 2010 at 4:35 am

Art supplies sound like a good purchase to me – especially if one can create beautiful things with them.

I do buy craft supplies when possible at the garage sales but that just kind of puts a dent in my retail purchases. It doesn’t replace it.


25 Betsy July 7, 2010 at 9:42 am

Just found your blog and LOVE IT! I would also love some suggestions on how to get hubby on board – 2 more paychecks from previous teaching job and “then” no $$$……………


26 MJ August 26, 2010 at 3:15 pm

I’m not in the ‘compact’ but have been making less do more for a long time. One thing I swore I’d never buy used was shoes. My Dad had a thing about good shoes and it’s always made sense to me…until a week ago, when my flip flops broke (I’m traveling and have plenty at home). There they were, a seriously almost new pair of good flip flops for 8 bucks. I bought them, washed those leather foot pieces – with a scrub brush – and called ‘em mine instead of spending 8 bucks on a new cheapie pair that would break just as quickly as the other ones. Sorry, Dad, I had to!

Love your blog!


27 Andrea December 18, 2010 at 7:47 am

Shoes- I’ve bought a number of pairs of “used”shoes- or at least bought them at the thrift store. I have a pair of red Simple shoes and a pair of unworn purplish grey patent leather Tods(I understand these can sell for $400!!!!!) that each cost $5 and has lasted really well. I’ve never had a problem with the shoes-of course, I look for ones that look unworn or little worn-no grungy insides.


28 Sara October 6, 2010 at 11:25 am

I’ve been following the compact since I first heard about it from you a few years back. The only exceptions I can think of have been tools and building materials for fixing up my house. Still, these purchases were ultimatly the frugal choice since I did the work myself and the tools have all by far paid for themselves. It’s always nice to find a quality tool used though. I bought an angle grinder for $10 at a garage sale and went on to use it to build a flagstone patio that earned me a few thousand!!!


29 SARAH March 3, 2011 at 6:13 am

What about buying scrubs? Swimsuits? New or used?


30 Katy March 3, 2011 at 7:07 am

Because I circulate in the O.R., my hospital provides the scrubs for my entire department, and I have been rocking the same swimsuit since before I started doing The Compact. That being said, I would only buy a used swimsuit if it appeared to be new.



31 The Gladdest Thing March 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm

I plan out my meals each week and only buy exactly what we’ll need for the week’s meals each Sunday. I also look through our coupons to see whether we have coupons for things we’re already going to buy, but I never use a coupon unless the item was already on my list.


32 Melinda March 25, 2011 at 12:36 am

I just found your blog on the happiness project web site. Great stuff. My adult daughter is having her first baby. All purchases except new cloth diapers are being purchased through thrift stores or consignment shops. She is having a baby shower but we let word out that thrift store or garage sale gifts are just fine and appreciated. We are using our own dishes and silverware for the shower and cooking all organic food for the party. I am slways grateful for new forums to save money.


33 Terri June 22, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Hi Katy,
I just wanted to share how you have inspired me on a path to less consumerism. I recently had weight loss surgery and have a total of 180 pounds that I need to loose from my highest weight. As you can imagine, that means that I will needing to buys lots of new clothes in a variety of different sizes. What’s more is that because people loose weight very rapidly after the surgery, I might not be in a particular size for very long. So, after being inspired by your non-consumer pledge, I’ve decided that all of the new clothes I buy will be second hand, either from thrift stores, consignment stores, or yard sales. I’m making an exception for bras, underwear, and leggings (since I wear them every day, almost like long underwear, and they are kind of difficult to find in thrift stores). I’m trying to carry the non-consumer pledge over to other parts of my life, but that’s a little more challenging. Anyway, thanks for your inspiration!


34 Laura's Last Ditch--Vintage Kitchenwares August 31, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I keep a blog on my Tightwad Gazette Fan Club page. I have a post entitled “In Defense of Used Underwear” which I’d like to share. I know I might be pegged as extreme, but, if nothing else, you can just laugh at it.!/note.php?note_id=224582977558388


35 Erin December 8, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Hi, you might like to check out “More-with-Less Cookbook – suggestions by Mennonites on how to eat better and consume less of the world’s limited food resources.” It was originally written in 1976 and is chock-a-block with old school recipes for breads and soups, even for homemade soap. But it also cloesely examines the concept of “more with less”.


36 JerryG July 25, 2012 at 10:24 am

Tires. I won’t buy used tires but my SO will. Tires and work boots. I won’t buy work boots used but I will buy dress shoes used. SO will buy used work boots as well.


37 Heidi October 4, 2012 at 7:41 am

How have I not found your blog until now? Absolutely love, love, love your premise, your compact and your inspiring lifestyle. I, too, attempt to reuse, recycle and buy used any time I can. But I am nowhere near as diligent as you are. I applaud you. I live in Vancouver {WA}…it’s like we’re neighbors! My favorite place in all of Portland {besides the stacks of Powell’s} is The Rebuilding Center. Maybe we’ll happen upon each other there in the aisles of amazing used house stuff and we can partner up to do super incredible reuse projects together :-)


38 Katy October 4, 2012 at 7:53 am

I don’t get over there that much, but I am needing to go look for a new (to me) soap dish/tile for my shower. Maybe I’ll see you there!



39 Sara January 29, 2013 at 2:39 pm

I love your blog! As an artist, I usually am extremely frugal, trying to store materials, hunt for free and such. The only thing that I truly spend a lot of money on and don’t care – produce! I think its extremely important to make sure any food put into the body is clean, healthy and fresh. Often times, you can find a bargain too!


40 Monique May 12, 2009 at 1:16 pm

I make hankies out of old sheets that have got too thin to use anymore – they are so, so soft and wash up great. No need to buy them at all!


41 Monique May 12, 2009 at 1:18 pm

ya, but what if you hang them in the sun for several days? That might sterilize them somewhat. I’ve also heard of laying things out on the snow on sunny days – the cold and sun combine to kill things.


42 Monique May 12, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Old cloth diaper liners make great menstrual clothes as well!


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