Keeping An Eye Out For The Non-Consumer Lifestyle

by Katy on July 17, 2008 · 4 comments

Emily asked this question yesterday in response to my Confessions of a Goodwill Junkie blog:

“I’ve been living a non-consumer life this year as we’ve been on sabbatical and away from our home. It is easy not to collect anything when we are living out of suitcases. But I’m not sure I’ll be able to take your route to non-consumerism when we go back to “real life”. It seems like in order to get everything used, one has to spend a lot of time thinking about ’stuff’, shopping for ’stuff’, and working on getting the ’stuff.’ I don’t want to think about stuff at all! If the kids need some new shorts, I want to go to one place, buy them, and get on with life. Do you have any advice for a non-shopper in how to face thrift stores/goodwill/garage sales/etc.?”

This is a very good question. Of course it’s not as straightforward to buy used goods as it is to buy new.

But it’s so worth it.

Not only will you save money buying used, but your purchases will be better.

Better because it’s cheaper, there’s no packaging, the environmental impact from the manufacturing is not on your shoulders, and you can actually afford better quality merchandise as a result. (Why buy used Target clothes, when used Nordstrom stuff costs the same?!)

I don’t think that I spend any more time shopping for my family than other normal people. I think I actually spend less time. This is because I don’t shop recreationally. (Okay, maybe just a little — but only at thrift stores, honest.)

I try not to wait until something is a need before I buy it.

I simply keep an eye out.

To use Emily’s shorts example: I know summer is coming up, so I buy cheap/great/used shorts when I come across them. Even if it’s in January. Then, I don’t have to run out to the store to buy them at the last minute.

Most purchase needs can be anticipated.

You know your kids will need winter coats, sandals, pants, shorts, whatever. It’s no surprise.

If you do have a sudden need, try to think first about borrowing, consignment shops, trading hand-me-downs, fixing what you already have, or maybe — if what you thought was a need actually isn’t.

It takes no more time to buy used clothing than it does new, you just need to anticipate your needs.

To answer the other part of your question about “stuff.”

I don’t actually spend that much time thinking about acquiring “stuff.” Part of my non-consumer commitment, is that I have been working hard to de-clutter my house and simplify my life. I’m by no means done yet, (and maybe never will) but I’m hopefully moving towards not being ruled by all my useless clutter. 

So Emily, when you go back to your “real life,” I hope you are able to bring back some, (if not all) of the non-consumer skills you have learned during your sabbatical. I hope my answers help.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Katrina July 18, 2008 at 8:55 am

Great advice. I used to buy used when I was a teenager and in college, then started I started buying cheap, new items, then new items that are name just because my best friend always like shopping, and it drew me in. This resulted in my savings depleting a bit, so I started rethinking consumerism and saw that it was pointless to my life. After I watched the story of stuff, I was further moved because of the effects on the environment. Glad to see many others like you on the same path.A community of non consumerists, minimalists, voluntary simplicity, sustainable advocates is a great encouragement. Check out my blog sometime (


Kathryn Benedicto July 19, 2008 at 12:25 pm

I second the strategies of anticipating & stockpiling. I keep a list in my wallet, so if I do happen to be in the vicinity of a thrift store or garage sale, I know exactly what I need.

I try to get my clothes shopping done once a year, because I, too, dislike shopping. I go to a really large thrift store like Savers so that I can find a large selection and thus don’t have to traipse from store to store.

For secondhand stuff other than clothes, I think Craigslist has a tool where you can enter a search keyword and it will notify you if anyone posts a for-sale listing with that keyword. That takes some of the mental effort out of tracking down the secondhand stuff you need.


Emily July 25, 2008 at 12:20 pm

Thanks for the whole entry about my question! You have given me some good ideas. While I don’t see myself haunting thrift stores anytime in the near future, I will check out for the first time the Goodwill next to my very favorite store, Lowe’s…..


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