The Nothing New Year Redux

Early last year, I issued what I called the “Use It Up Challenge,” in which I implored us all to tone down the decluttering madness to stop and consider whether we might be able to get more use out of our belongings before we discard them. In part because most of what we donate with good intentions actually ends up in landfills, as trash. In part because much of what we declutter, we later end up repurchasing, which requires more resources for manufacturing and shipping and is ultimately more wasteful. And in part because many of us buy less when we look around and see plenty that we already possess.

That challenge posed the question:

“If we knew this thing was going straight to the landfill when it leaves our hands, would we treat it differently? Would we try harder to get more use out of it?”

In the ONL house, we did pretty well at that challenge. We donated very little last year in terms of physical goods (though did donate a lot charitably – I cannot encourage that half of donating enough!), and instead tried to get the full use out of the things that no longer spark joy or whatever less woo-woo way you want to describe it. We also found some new homes for things that we might otherwise have donated, and that way we know they’ll get used instead of just end up trashed.

Where we did not do so well was in the second part of that challenge: the nothing new year. Our aspiration was to buy little to nothing that was newly manufactured, with the goal to acquire as little stuff as possible, but where necessary, we’d try our best to buy that thing secondhand.

We started with good intentions. A few days into the challenge, I accidentally broke our Chemex coffee pot, and I quickly found one that was used in good condition. We needed a Japanese phrasebook for our trip to Japan, and I found that used, too. But then we realized no amount of duct tape was going to coax our old ski bag into making it intact it across the Pacific, and couldn’t find a used ski bag that wasn’t already just as beat up. We bought new.

And then the rest of the year happened. The purse I bought in Japan. The eclipse glasses that were totally worth it and made a life-changing experience possible. The motorized standing desk that has made my back thankful every day since. The inflatable kayaks we can’t wait to use this summer. The backcountry ski jacket I got for a song. The new underwear stock-up order we placed before we lost our paychecks. The new laptop computer to replace the company laptop I’d used for years. The $200 order of socks. The burlier mountain bike.

Our “nothing new year” turned into a “many things new year.”

And, to be honest, we’re okay with that. Last year was our last year of steady income, probably forever, and we bought some things that we needed and will use for a very long time. If anything, we just picked the wrong year for the nothing new year. Or, rather, the truth is probably somewhere in between those things. Some of things we bought, we legitimately needed, and we don’t regret those things. And some of the things we didn’t need, and that’s where we want to be more mindful.

And that’s why we’re making 2018 our Nothing New Year Redux.

The Answer to the Super Frugal Vs. Normal Spending Question

I recently asked you all to weigh in the question of whether we should be super frugal in our first year of retirement or spend normally, according to what we’d always planned. And our answer has everything to do with the nothing new year:

We’re going to spend according to plan on experiences and everyday expenses like groceries and utilities (or normal for us, anyway). But we’re going super frugal on purchases of things, namely by not buying them.

Our motivation in buying as little stuff as possible this year has less to do with money than it does with wanting to be environmentally responsible (a strong motivation of ours from the beginning), and with recognizing that we already have everything we need. Early retirement, to us, is about appreciating what we have, and valuing time over money, and better appreciating our abundance in physical possessions feels like the same idea.

But the money side effect is certainly a good thing, and breaking ourselves of the habit of buying stuff will go a long way toward resetting our baseline spending, and help ensure that we aren’t sloppy with the budget as we occasionally were while accumulating our savings. (Blessing/curse of a higher income: easy to save fast, but also easy to play fast and loose.)

Pic of beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans // The Nothing New Year Redux, Celebrating a Year of Less (minimalism, decluttering, simple living, simplicity, intentional living, mindfulness)

NOT the year of less (erm, fewer) beignets and other yummy foods while traveling

The Rules of the Nothing New Year Redux

Last year, the Use It Up Challenge was a general call-to-action, and while a bunch of you wrote to say you were inspired by it and were rethinking your habits (which made me so happy, btw), there weren’t any rules attached to it, particularly to the Nothing New Year part of it, and I think that may be part of why we fell off the wagon so quickly.

So this year, there are rules.

The five simple rules:

Don’t buy stuff. Obvious.

Only make a few exceptions. There’s a short list of items we know we need that aren’t practical to buy used (alpine ski boots for me, for example, and new bed pillows), replacements for things that really and truly break or wear out (e.g. running shoes), and consumable items if we are absolutely positive that we don’t already have that product in the pantry or bathroom cabinet.

Look locally first. When we do buy things, whether new or used, we’ll do our best to buy them locally, which ties into the last rule:

Consider packaging. In both the rare instances when we need to buy a thing, and the allowable purchases of consumable products (soap, toilet paper, coconut oil, etc.), weigh packaging more heavily when deciding where to buy. We’ve been frustrated when we’ve hunted down used goods online only to have them ship in monstrous amounts of cardboard and plastic. And same for the things we’ve been buying through Amazon subscribe and save. Like, really, the toilet paper box isn’t okay to ship in, and needs to be inside another box, even though toilet paper is itself padding? And the KIND bars can’t be inside a small box, and need to ship in a box ten times their volume that’s then filled with plastic air bubbles to take up the remaining space? We have saved money and brain space by ordering that way, but also violated some of our core tenets of wastefulness, and we’re going to make the effort this year to be mindful of packaging again. (And also consider whether we need KIND bars at all or can make our own that don’t require individual wrapping.) This also means going back to reusable containers for grocery shopping when possible, and making more things from scratch, which we’re excited to do anyway.

United snack boxes and drink bottles // The Nothing New Year Redux, Celebrating a Year of Less (minimalism, decluttering, simple living, simplicity, intentional living, mindfulness)

The year of less hoarding in the sky. This is what happens when United offers free snacks and drinks to 1Ks… I always say yes and then bring them home.

Question the need. For all things we buy, consumable and not, question whether we really need them, whether something we already have could fill that purpose, or whether doing without would really be so bad. We want to be as resourceful as we can be, and we’re going to force it if we have to.

All the while, we’ll strive to continue our “use it up” philosophy that we’ve fostered, so that there’s not only less coming into our house, but less coming out of it as well. And not less with an asterisk, like only after some massive declutter. Less, period.

The Nothing New Year Redux, (minimalism, decluttering, simple living, simplicity, intentional living, mindfulness)

The year of less hotel food hoarding, IF it comes in too much packaging.

What’s Your Mindfulness Plan for 2018?

Whether you’re aiming to use it up this year, to buy nothing new, to save more, pay down debt, be kinder to others, tune out social media, or anything else that speaks to you, share it here! What’s your way of being more mindful and intentional in 2018? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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168 replies »

  1. I love your plan! It doesn’t sacrifice the experiences (which is honestly what I’d be focused on if I’d just retired early) but it cuts out some of the stuff that you arguably don’t need anyway. Hopefully like Cait’s plan it lasts for more than a single year. :)

    This year is our first in our new house. We could afford to go out and furnish it, but we want to be very intentional about what we get and make sure that we like it long-term. Like you guys are, we’ll look for some used stuff where it makes sense (arguably most of the things) and look to reduce waste on things we do need to purchase new. A few things will be new purchases that will undoubtedly be packed in too much stuff – a prime example is the new chair I want. A used one just won’t cut it when you’ve got back problems and sit in front of the computer for a long time. :(

    Another big aspect is I’m trying to keep our home’s ‘footprint’ down in terms of electricity, gas, and water usage. Partly a cost-preserving measure, admittedly, but also good for the environment. Though I don’t think I’ll be sitting in a 55 degree home any time soon…

    (ps I’m following on Twitter @marriedwmoney ; FB as Dave Diller ; Instagram as dillerpickle and yes I know that’s an amazing Instagram name)

    • I love that you’re going slowly with your new house. That’s super smart. When we’ve rushed to furnish places, we’ve ended up unhappy with our choices. But I really do endorse finding used furniture for wood stuff especially (it’s so much better made than even expensive new stuff!), though the process is more time-consuming than just walking into a store. And have you considered a standing desk for your back? I have a very fancy Aeron chair that is much nicer to my back than any other chair I’ve used, but man, the standing desk is SO MUCH BETTER. And even a swanky standing desk is cheaper than a good chair.

  2. Have been following you on Instagram for a while now. Our 2017 was already a year of less, which saved us a lot of money, a lot of environment and a lot of waste. As we are still working, we know that the investments in sustainability that we make now will yield great benefits when we cut our income.
    1) installed 12 photovoltaic panels on our roof. So far produced 449kWh of electricity, and avoided 365kg of CO2 production. With a full year cycle, we should be able to cover close to 90% of our electricity needs
    2) moved from 2 cars to one. Got rid of both Diesel engine cars, key air polluters
    3) we own one car now and it is a hybrid with double the fuel economy at 5.3l/100, or 44mpg.
    4) we are growing our own greens! All summer we have been eating lettuce and spinach just from our yard. Eliminated food waste and packaging
    5) cut 50% of meet consumption. My son went vegetarian in February, I stopped eating meet in October.
    6) trash: we are down to 1 small (20l/5 gallon) bag of trash for 2 weeks
    7) recyclables: cut to 2 bags per month, from 5 bags
    8 ) cut water consumption by 15% by eliminating more lawn and replacing with flower and vegetable beds (yes! Growing food is less water intensive then green grass!)
    9) initiated planting of 2 parks in Kraków, with 705 trees planted this year as a part of my aDaSie organization
    10) eliminated leftover ingredient waste through portion freeze in small jars (this tiny bit of tomato sauce, coconut milk, rest of a bean portion that was tossed to trash after it waited for a week to be eaten. Not much waste there to begin with, but zero waste now)

    In 2018 we plan a similar trip with no spending. Some things, like underwear or socks are allowed, but everything else needs to be questioned. Also, for the first time we actually put a cap on our travel spending. I hope that we can still enjoy a lot of trips but they don’t have to be as wild as in the past two years. We will be driving more, since we now have a hybrid, let’s take advantage of it and travel green. 2018 finally is a year of wrap up: I am planning to finish my PhD, do some guest lecturing in Yale and start working on a new career path, while I still have my main job in the corporate world. In retirement I definitely want to get involved in NGO work, since I won’t need to be paid too much for it, I might as well start thinking about it. When my brain is occupied, I don’t need to actively think about not spending money, so I suppose this is my goal: to stay focused and positively busy!

    My insta account is: agatek.krk

    • Wow, you guys are environmental rockstars! Well done. I’m shocked but happy to know you SAVE water by switching from grass to food plants. That’s so cool! Good luck this year on your wrap-up projects — what an exciting future you have just ahead!

    • You know I’m not about doing anything too rigidly. ;-) But we’re going to try hard to stick to this, both for money resetting and for environmental reasons. (Plus, we truly have everything we need.)

  3. Hi there! I’ve been following your blog for a while now (also on Twitter as @SarahHCarl) and am happy to have an excuse to post a first comment!

    Your Year of Less fits really nicely with the plans I’ve already been making for 2018. I’m following the Uber Frugal Month Challenge over at the Frugalwoods (side note: related to your last post, I also really appreciate being able to read about different perspectives on FIRE from the super-frugal and not-so-frugal – I guess I’m somewhere in the middle!), and so far it’s inspired me to really think about whether I need the things I buy. In particular I want to minimize clothing purchases and focus on improving my DIY skills. I just got a hole in my favorite pair of jeans, and I’m going to try to patch it instead of buying a new pair :).

    I’m also getting more and more excited about gardening, and while I am limited to containers by virtue of living in an apartment, I’m planning to expand the number of veggies I’ll try growing this spring. Fingers crossed for a good lettuce crop!

    • Hi Sarah! Thanks for reading and for joining the comment fun. :-) I think the Uber Frugal Month Challenge is GREAT for everyone, frugal and non-frugal alike, because it helps you establish a new baseline from which to consider your purchases and whether you really need them. That’s useful for all of us. I wouldn’t be a fan of telling everyone to live like that all the time, but that’s not the point. ;-) I love that you’re focusing on improving DIY skills, too. While I wouldn’t say I love every DIY task, there’s something really satisfying about knowing you can fix things around you and aren’t reliant on others. And I had a crazy productive container garden back in LA, so think big with that new project!

  4. What kind of inflatable kayaks did you get? As a an avid kayaker I highly approve of that purchase.

    Last year I did a “No New Outdoor Gear Year”, which was tough for me. But I did it! Like you said in the post, I focused on wearing my stuff out. I’m going to continue that into this year, although I found out in the Adirondacks recently that my headlamp is toast. Besides a cheap headlamp, I think I can get through this year without adding to the mini-REI that my basement has become.

    And I follow you guys on Twitter (accidental_fire), Instagram (accidentalfire), Facebook (accidentalfire), and Feedly. I expect to see awesome kayaking shots this summer on your Insta :)

    • Not real kayaks. We got Klymit lightwater dinghys (https://www.klymit.com/litewater-dinghy.html) that we can backpack with. We have so many cool alpine lakes around us, and we always hike up to them only to not have a good way to get in them. (They are COLD, so full on swimming is less appealing.) They definitely seem up to the task, but I wouldn’t use them on a hint of running water. ;-) We will buy kayaks at some point down the road, though, so welcome suggestions! We’ve looked at the interesting floating ones from REI before and different inflatables, but aren’t decided on what we’d ultimately want.

      Congrats on doing your no new outdoor gear year! That’s a big deal! As soon as winter is over, we’re going to do a big garage cleanout and full gear inventory, and we’re both a little in denial about how much gear is hiding in various places out there. ;-)

  5. Amazing objective for the year!

    My objectives this year are:
    1) no clothes buying (exceptions for underwear and technical /hiking gear which gets broken),
    2)reduce food waste
    3) reduce food packaging! Doing great on this one thanks to finding an old school greengrocer Who use paper bags and re usable cardboard boxes instead of plastic.

  6. I’m trying to eat up leftovers and use up soon to be expired food before having to throw it away. And, my goal is to stop buying tea. This is going to be the hardest one! I followed on twitter, @2ojosaules.

    • Why no tea? Just curious! :) Related: I’m trying to use up all food, too–both by eating up the almost expired food like you and also by shopping only the loss leader/super sale items at regular grocery stores and stocking up when things are on crazy good sale (like yesterday at Fresh Thyme–our favorite flavor and brand of almond milk creamer was $2 off, so I bought all 5 bottles that were left) and paying attention to what I have coupons for. And, of course, “eating the pantry and freezer” before rushing to buy more food at grocery store.

      • That’s a great idea to save money on non-perishables! The reason I’m not buying more tea is because I have way. too. much. It’s an embarrassing amount and will last me for many months to come! For context, I drink 2 cups of tea per day. I have a lot of tea!

      • At least you really drink yours! I go through spurts of drinking tea, but have definitely just bought it sometimes because it sounded good even if I wasn’t really drinking tea then. But now it’s on the banned items list, unless I somehow drink my whole supply and run out. ;-)

      • Oh I understand that comment! I buy more tea than I drink, including new tea when I already have plenty at home. But I managed to refrain from buying more in Taiwan, so hooray for small victories! ;-) (I should include tea on my list of things not to buy this year, actually, even though it’s consumable and technically allowed. Or at least I have to drink what we have first!)

        I love your “eat the pantry and freezer” rule, too. We’re going on a big pantry food cleanout mission as soon as we’re home from Taiwan because there’s a lot there we need to eat before buying anything new!

    • Those are good ones! Reducing food waste is something we all need to be more focused on. Good luck on your no more tea mission. I practically lived on every form of tea in Taiwan, and wanted to bring it all home with me. But somehow managed to refrain. ;-)

  7. At the end of 2017, we bought a boat and moved aboard. Our livable space has been reduced to something like 300 sq ft, so massive downsizing was involved. Every day, we have to be very mindful of our water usage, our electrical usage, and the waste we generate. There are a lot of things I love about living on a boat, but the reduced carbon footprint is high on the list (the dolphins are pretty great, too).

    For 2018, specifically, my goal is to find a closet or drawer for every belonging, or get rid of it. I hate visual clutter, and I still have way more stuff than I need.

    Following on insta as teal.tales

      • We’ve done plenty of camping (though not much trailer camping yet) and I admire that boat living takes it up another level, because in addition to limited space, you might also have to be much more careful with water, electricity, etc. An exercise in intentional living on every level!

    • Wow, what a big change! I love that… low carbon footprint with a side of dolphins! ;-) Good luck on your clutter reduction mission. I can’t imagine how tough that must be with so little space!

  8. Great plan! I love the fact that your motivation comes from being good to the environment. Most of my clothing purchases are used, now, and I actually find it so much easier to shop because my choices are more limited. I’m with you on the new pillows, though!! :)

    • Yeah, new for pillows and most upholstered things makes sense in the age of resurgent bed bugs. ;-) I admire you for being able to shop used for clothes. My brain goes into shutdown mode before I’ve made it through a single rack at the thrift stores. Perhaps a skill I will acquire in the future. ;-)

  9. Hi! I already follow you on Twitter @MemphisExpat. :) Would love to win a copy of this book. I’m not out of debt yet, so I know it would be immensely helpful and inspiring, just like her blog. I have been trying to buy only needs-based things whenever possible and also selling/donating some items I already own. I’m also trying to reduce food waste (and save money, of course) by “shopping the pantry and freezer,” eating out MUCH less, shopping the big sales every week and not buying much extra, etc., as I mentioned in my response to Halee above. Good luck with your own year of less! :)

    • All good stuff! It’s interesting that a lot of “frugal experts” from previous generations recommended saving money by grocery shopping only once a month, and I wonder about trying that vs. trying to get the sale stuff each week. Maybe we’ll do an experiment and report back!

  10. I love everything about this, especially the decision to go frugal on stuff and normal spending on necessities and experiences.

    For 2018 I’m working to kill the rest of my consumer debt in the next two months and my student loans in the next 6-8 months. I’m working on decluttering right now (and yes, feel horrible that it needs to be done in the first place and a lot of the stuff I donate probably won’t end up with other people who could use it) and by virtue of the Uber Frugal Month challenge am not buying anything this month. That absolutely needs to get expanded out to a much longer period of time so I can reset the “oh I’ll just buy this one thing”s that seem to crop up way more often than I think they do when I’m justifying things to myself. Food waste and packaging is another thing I really want to work on this year. For someone who cares about the environment, I seem to reach for those plastic veggie bags every time I buy a bundle of herbs. No more plastic bags-from now on, no herbs unless I’ve got reusable bags with me!

    My copy of The Year of Less is shipping tomorrow (YAY!) so I’ll leave the giveaway for folks who haven’t already ordered a copy :)

    • Thanks, Erin! And I LOVE that you’re so close to debt payoff! Wohooo!!! With your decluttering, can you give things to friends or family, or put it on Craigslist rather than donate it all? Even if you don’t make money, it’s nice to know it’ll be used. But I also understand feeling overwhelmed and just needing to get rid of stuff, so no shame. ;-) As long as you use it as a long-term lesson and don’t rebuy more stuff to replace it, it’s all good. It sounds like you’ve got several big intentional living goals that are all super doable, so sending good vibes for a great 2018!

  11. If I didn’t already have two copies of Cait’s book, I’d be all over this giveaway! That being said, it looks like we’re basically going to be shopping ban buddies for 2018 – woot! One of the things I regret about my minimalist journey is that I did donate a huge amount of stuff without really stopping to think if I could use it in another way (that was young, early 20’s impulsive Britt). During the course of my shopping ban this year, I hope to really focus on how I can reuse things and mend things instead of replacing them with a used item (though used will be my preference if there is no alternative). I know we’ve talked about this before, but I am going to do my best to replace beauty products with homemade versions – finally a use for the shea butter I’ve had stashed in my cupboard for months! Can’t wait to see how your Nothing New Year goes!!

    • We need a hashtag! #shoppingbanbuddies ;-) And don’t beat yourself up about those past donations. Live and learn. We’ve ALL donated a ton without realizing it was just a more circuitous route to the landfill. And I guarantee you’ll see how easy the DIY products are to make. Only lotion has given me any trouble (hard to get the water to emulsify completely), but lip balm and everything else are all easy! I stocked up on tons of olive oil soap before we quit, but when that runs out, I’m going to work on soapmaking, too. And if you figure out an actually effective deodorant recipe, let me know. That one’s still elusive. ;-)

  12. Great reminder/ Refocus blog post for me. This has been my goal as well. While doing some Christmas baking my hand mixer burnt out. I scored a used one at the thrift shop down the street and was back at it in less than 30 minutes. Yeah! Unfortunately I did splurge and used the Amazon gift card I received from one of my customers and bought Vegan bath bombs. Again, thanks for the refocus! Here is the homemade Lara Bar recipe I use.
    It’s not Kind Bar, but it is easy and delicious.

    • Ooh, thank you for sharing that recipe! After our Taiwan trip, I am in sugar overload, so might not be making any bars for a while, but I will file this away. ;-) And I love that you found a new/used hand mixer so quickly! There truly is no shortage of used stuff already out there, so it’s crazy that we’re all wired to think new and create unnecessary demand for new things.

  13. I’ve never been one for shopping bans and such, but I do appreciate the reminders to be more mindful of purchases. We have entered a season where we have to buy more–more clothing for my son as he doesn’t really get hand-me-downs (his friends are about the same size now); more school and activity costs for him, more furniture as our family grows, etc. Fortunately we are in the habit of buying used and local, and not shopping recreationally. For me it’s more of a struggle to accept the fact that sometimes we need to buy things! But I’ve come a long way in that, and I think if you’ve established good spending habits, you don’t feel guilty when you break a ban or just buy something you need or really want.

    • I’m not much for strict bans, either, which is why ours has exceptions and is more about trying to train ourselves to stop thinking about only buying new. But yeah, same as you, I do appreciate being more mindful in all things. (I love how you put it: “shopping recreationally.”) It makes sense that you guys need certain things right now, and if we truly NEED things this year, we’ll make an exception. But we think this will be a good exercise in resetting some things for ourselves so we’re better able to separate want and need.

  14. It is really great to be able to converse with like minded people and you guys are definitely in my camp. I cringe when I see family and friends buy things because I know that in the not too distant future there is the possibility that those things could be in the trash, whether they get tired of them, they find something better, or even move to new home or apartment. I recently witnessed this first had when some relatives made a move to another state. It was really no surprise that they had 3 times as much stuff as would fit in the truck. Luckily they were able to sell some furniture, but a lot of things were just thrown out, boxes and boxes of Christmas decorations and lights, just out to garbage. But what was really sad was when they got to the new apartment they decided that much of their nearly new furniture they had just hauled 1200 miles by truck was no longer good enough, so they got rid of it and bought all new, I’m not sure how but credit may have come into the equation.

    We actually are using our bedroom furniture that I built over 30 years ago in our garage. Our leather couch and chairs we got from discounted slightly scratched and nicked from a store over 15 years ago. They look like new. Our dining room table and chairs we bought 33 years ago and look almost like new also. One area we have wasted money has been vehicles. We used to buy new and trade every 70,000 miles. We were young and dumb then. Now it’s more like double that mileage at least.

    Thanks for the great article Tanja!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Bob! And wow, that’s amazing that you built some of your furniture. Props for that. We’ve all been young and dumb, so no shame. We both bought our fair share of practically disposable Ikea furniture, so have focused on more durable items for our home now. The used pieces we bought are all solid and feel like they’ll last forever, and we plan to keep them a good long time like you have! And the new stuff we bought is all stuff that’s solid enough to last decades, like yours.

  15. Last year we had the major expense of replacing the last two old wood windows in our house. Given technological improvements and our Canadian climate we went new with thermal panes and such. We hope to replace our flooring this year. We are thinking of trying plywood cut in strips. Cheap, lovely to look at and half the price of anything else. We also hope to replace two ancient exterior doors that are not energy efficient and the screen doors which are falling apart. My favourite jeans developed holes this week. I mostly buy second hand but I am fussy about jeans. Since I wear a classic style and brand I was able to replace the old jeans with an identical pair that should fell right after a few more washings. I ordered my garden seed but garden seed pays for itself many times over so I don’t count that as spending.

    • Those all seem like very reasonable and well thought out expenditures! With the plywood flooring, my only concern would be off-gassing. But if you have a brand available that’s non-toxic, formaldehyde-free, etc., then what a win-win. Cool looking and cheaper! And I hope your new jeans last as long — I keep getting frustrated that the same products by the same brands just aren’t made as well as in the past, and what once would have lasted years now falls apart quickly. Hope you have better luck!

  16. I’m planning to use less time. I don’t follow much on Facebook, and don’t use Instagram or Twitter. With four children and a full time job, we do consume quite a bit (I will say that most of our purchases are to replace broken and worn out items). Less time on tv, and internet as well. More time on reading (borrowed books of course) and board games (no internet here!). Our house is full of hand me downs…..from dishes to lamps to side tables and clothes! While we are able to purchase new, there is a wonderful connection (and sometimes story) to items we acquire second hand. We are hoping to use less in all areas to gain so much more!

    • Wow, I love that, Amber! You guys are super committed to living intentionally, and that’s super admirable, especially given all the demands on your time with four kids! I imagine the temptation to spend on convenience is great.

  17. I am clearly the outlier here. I retire in two weeks at 52. My transition isn’t focused on thrift and frugality it is focused on adjusting from 30 years of 70 hour weeks and millions of miles traveled (initial retirement will be something akin to cold turkey withdrawal on day 1 of FIRE), and after surviving that adjustment it’s then about more joy and memory making with my wife, family and friends, building the dream house, volunteering, and traveling to enjoy what the world has to offer. I probably could have retired financially 10 years ago but I wanted the next 30 or 40 years to be worry free so we built a bigger nest egg to the point where we wouldn’t worry about ever running out of money.

    I applaud those who want to shrink everything down and do what they want on a tight budget after they FIRE but there also needs to be guidance and a voice in the FIRE community that helps people FIRE without having to follow that formula or be viewed as having “done it the right way” only if they grow their own food and make their own clothes. I hardly see comments here or advice on how to FIRE with enough so if you had a year you spent $100,000 more than your annual budget it didn’t alter your remaining life plan. I believe that TRUE FI means never having to worry or be constrained (compared to your working life income levels) – for many who comment here there is a low bar on the upper constraint because the nest egg has risk of running out (or there is fear of that happening)

    Maybe we need a new acronym in the community to describe the journey many of you describe. We can start with NLW…. For No Longer Working (great goal) and add on something that describes the frugality and thrift part of these journeys. Tanja you have a voice and a following and perhaps you can help shift the dialogue a bit to give others who aren’t going to make their own jam see a path to RE (or NLW) that is attainable to them over a 20 or 30 year saving horizon that allows them to move from one life to the next without the RE being the minimalist phase or only being attainable if that is always how you lived.

    Happy new year everyone

    • I made a comment similar to this on another post on this blog recently, so I totally agree! I have actually felt guilty reading some of the FIRE blogs because I am not an extreme frugalist (I do have frugalist tendencies by nature, but one example where I differ significantly from the FIRE community is that I have no interest in being uber-DIY. I would much rather pay a plumber than try to do my own plumbing).

      FIRE is simply about reaching whatever number allows you to live whatever lifestyle you want sustainably. As you note, it is a trade-off between being more minimalist/frugal and working longer — you chose to work longer because you want to feel freer to spend in your retirement. Everyone has to find their own balance and no one should be made to feel guilty for their choice.

      I like this blog because it doesn’t make me feel guilty and it acknowledges limits and downsides to the frugal lifestyle!

      • Sarah,

        Thanks for joining in. I love this blog for the same reason, though at times it seems like Tanja’s points gets taken in the uber frugal direction by the commenters and in general the FIRE community hovers around the frugal and thrift lifestyle than in the definition you and I adhere closer to.

        As you said – to each their own but if you wanted practical advice on how to achieve the asset base to take the never a worry, pay yourself like your paycheck goes on forever, it’s advice that is hard to find.


      • I think the community here is generally very accepting of different paths, and we just happened to talk more in this post about ideas that stoke those minimalism fires! ;-) But I don’t read judgment or sanctimony in any of the comments, so hope you aren’t feeling judged for your own choices. Everyone’s path and choices are equally valid!

    • See my recent love letter to the unfrugal folks. ;-) I’m completely with you that FIRE doesn’t remotely HAVE to be about frugality or spending as little as possible, and I believe strongly that financial independence is different for everyone. I think “not ever worrying about money again” is the definition I’d use, because it’s peace of mind that’s most priceless. “Constrained” is interesting to think about because we’re all constrained by money. Even Jeff Bezos would run out of money if he decided he wanted to fly to the moon and back every week. ;-) But if you can do everything you want to do, within reason, and live a life you love without having to work? Then you’re definitely FI. Though of course what that life looks like will vary by person, and your pursuit of a higher standard of living makes total sense given that that’s the life you want to live.

      All of that said, I still think there’s value in doing a reset every once in a while to ensure that you’re being intentional about your life, and that’s what we’re doing here. Our retirement will not be a super frugal one, but we still want to hit reset and make sure we’re not spending money needlessly that doesn’t add joy to our lives. Plus, we care about the environment more than anything, and want to lessen our impact on that. (Not flying every week will help a ton! Though you’re not kidding about the cold turkey.) So view this exercise that way, not as doing a 180 and espousing minimalism and ultra-frugal living all of a sudden. ;-)

  18. So great! We have been at this for a while now slowly but surely. Started about 5 years ago where we added our 5kw solar panels, then more recently did hard core decluttering (a gold chunk recycled, a few items sold most donated to very specific charities or friends that I know will be well loved and needed). Our journey documented here https://traveltravelandretire.com/2017/09/05/our-minimalism-goal/

    We also bought a Nissan Leaf recently when our car died and operate on monthly or yearly personal challenges which I document on our site. For example last year I went green with my period https://traveltravelandretire.com/2017/10/14/personal-challenge-zero-waste-periods/ and this year one of my challenges is no purchases for me beyond basics for hygiene lol https://traveltravelandretire.com/2018/01/02/2018-challenge-1-no-purchases-for-a-year/

    Overall I track my life Goals here, I include a how to guide for creating this framework and also give my own goals from health to financial to travel and experiences (bucket list and all and my plans for our year around the works trip with kids)


    Traveling light, in all aspects of my life, is always my goal.

    I am excited to read about your progress!

  19. I love the concept of a nothing new year. I think I’ll get started with a “Nothing New Lent” which begins February 14. (Ash Wednesday/ Valentines Day FTW! How can you be more frugal than fasting on V-Day?) I’ll follow the same guidelines: buy nothing new, replace critical items if they wear out, question whether I really need to replace anyway. If things work out I’ll continue throughout 2018.

    Bonus entries!!!
    I’m following on the following:
    FB: Zac Chastain
    Twitter: @ZacChastain
    Instagram: @ZacChastain

    • Nothing new lent is similar to the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month challenge. I highly recommend joining that if you’re just needing a bit of a reset to reconsider your spending habits. ;-) Thanks for following on all the channels!

  20. For physical donations I suggest local hospitals and homeless shelters. At the hospital I work at they have a closet they use for patient’s that don’t have clothes to wear to leave the hospital (come in via ambulance, their clothes are infested with bugs or their clothes have to be cut off in an emergency, are homeless etc) at least then get used at least once.

    This year I am going to try to produce and can more of my food to cut down on cans and wasting the shipping and packaging to get the food to me. It doesn’t really save money but at least I know more about what is going in to the food

  21. Great post. Material stuff doesn’t appeal to me, even before my retirement. I don’t like shopping overall (except grocery shopping, which I have to do). Half an hour in the mall made me tired. My purse is 23 years old. Some of my clothes are 20+ years old, and I still love and use them. So, I don’t donate any material stuff, as mine are too worn out, and nobody would want it, lol. I do have decent clothes for occasional dress up. I’m not embarrassed, and feel good about the simple life style. Even if I win the lottery some day, I would probably live the similar way.

    • Mark is the same with his clothes — I have to buy him new ones or he’ll just wear his 20-year-old shorts and not worry about it. ;-) Bonus: we are never short of rags, because he always has some old t-shirt that’s falling apart. But we’re both perfectly well equipped at this point and can go a good long time without buying any new clothes.

  22. My focus this year is to be more mindful of my media consumption. I’m trying to avoid a lot of clickbait articles and mean people on the internet that make me upset with no clear path forward. To fill the void, I’m reading a book a week…and to reduce my footprint, I’m getting them from the library. And to give back to the library, I’m volunteering at the library a few times a month.

    • That’s a good one! Avoiding mean people on the internet is a good goal for everyone, except maybe the mean people, and their goal should be to stop being mean for no good reason. ;-) I love your reading chain goal, especially that you’re volunteering at the library! So great.

  23. Terrific idea! 2018 was already going to be our year of purging, which goes hand in hand with also making it a year of nothing new. We’ll find new homes for our “good stuff” and donate the rest to our local community resource center. Oh, and shredding, lots of shredding. Who knew how much paperwork was stored in boxes in our garage?

    • Oh yeah, the shredding struggle is real! We have lots of that to do, too. But if much of what you’re shredding is from new mail, get yourself on the DMCA list so you stop getting new credit offers and use Catalog Choice to stop new junk mail from arriving. Both have reduced the unwanted paper coming into our house, though there’s no way to stop it entirely, unfortunately.

  24. 2018 is our all cash (er, mostly cash) year and I’m starting to notice we are buying many fewer things. We’re only two weeks in though: hard to really put my finger on any trend here.

    2018 is also the year of baby, and the registry that Mrs. Done by Forty and I are building sure suggests we will be acquiring quite a few things…

    I get the feeling that this might not be the year of ‘nothing new’ for us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to, as Cait pushes for, go for less.

    • With a baby on the way, this is definitely NOT the year of nothing new for you, but so what? You’re at a big life moment, and that’s worth celebrating! I think if you can just be semi intentional about what you let in the door, you’ll be good. ;-)

  25. “And also consider whether we need KIND bars at all or can make our own that don’t require individual wrapping.”

    Making your own will save on wrapping and will also be a lot healthier. I know a couple people that kept talking about how healthy the bars were, but when I looked at them, they were all 10+ grams of sugar!

    Their almond + coconut bar has: almonds, coconut, honey (which is sugar), glucose syrup (fancy way of saying sugar once again), rice flour, soy lecithin, chicory root fiber, sugar (because honey and glucose syrup wasn’t enough sugar?), sea salt. One bar has 13g of sugar. Two bars would exceed the amount of sugar you should eat in a day even though they would only have 380 calories and 6g of protein.

    They have bars with “only” 5g of sugar, but then you also have to be careful about the ones where they add palm kernel oil. If you are trying to be environmentally responsible, then a product that leads to deforestation and shipped half way across the world is one of the worst things you could possibly purchase. (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/harvesting-palm-oil-and-rainforests/)

    Apparently that was my long-winded way of saying yes, you should make your own bars :)

    • I appreciate your note, though I will say that life is a lot more complicated when you are gluten-free by medical necessity. ;-) KIND bars are often the only thing I can find to eat that isn’t potato chips, and so I’m grateful to convenience stores, hotel shops and airport stores that stock them. I believe KIND uses the more rainforest-friendly version of palm kernal oil, but obviously that’s not ideal. And as for that sugar, I’m curious if you do a lot of athletic stuff. If I’m out for a long hike or bike ride, I need some sugar or I’m bonking hardcore. But I also have blood sugar regulation issues that not everyone has. Either way, we’ll be making more of our own bars, but I’m not going to freak out if we need to buy KIND bars sometimes, too. ;-)

      • Medical issues certainly complicate matters. If you’re hypoglycemic then a dose of quick-absorbing sugar is necessary.

        Yes, I stay pretty active and healthy (last check I was at 12.1% BF). I never feel a need to consume food with added sugar, but I also don’t have any medical issues. Eating nuts, seeds, etc. provides me enough energy to keep going on my hikes/bikes. For the most part my meals are gluten-free simply because I don’t eat foods with grains/flour.

        Based on the way you love to research FI information, I’m sure you’ve already researched different diets like keto, paleo, etc. Does following any of those help with your blood sugar regulation?

      • It’s awesome you’ve found an approach that’s obviously working well for you! I also have a background in fitness and nutrition (see yoga teacher post), and think about this stuff a lot. But so far have not found a strict diet that agrees with my constitution (nor my wallet!). So it’s less rigid in terms of the named diets and more about healthy, whole foods but also not freaking out about trying to be perfect. ;-)

  26. I’m so looking forward to reading that book!

    As far as less – I’m going to continue to declutter our house (living with a toddler is ridiculous), but I will go through these steps first: 1) does it really need to leave? 2) do I have a friend who would want it? 3) post on Buy Nothing (I finally joined our local group last week!) 4) is it in good enough shape for the thrift store? 5) is it absolutely trashed and ending up in the landfill? If so – make note so it doesn’t happen again.

    • I LOVE your thought process for discarding things. If everyone was so intentional, we’d have a LOT less stuff going into the landfills. And extra kudos for doing that with a toddler at home!

      • Gosh, I can only imagine! When I read Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home and her account of saying no to all birthday party favors for her kids, it seemed harsh, but having been to a bunch of conferences with all the free stuff, plus just looking at junk that shows up in the mail, I already feel overwhelmed by all the freebie crap — and that’s without kids!

      • She’s a teensy bit sanctimonious for my taste (and some of the stuff just doesn’t even make sense — like if you get Netflix discs in the mail in a mailer but send it back to them with the little sticky strip cover in the packaging, you haven’t created any garbage and have lodged a gentle protest. Whaattt?). But still worth reading. Just keep a grain of salt handy. ;-)

  27. Sounds like you guys have a great plan Tanja… and also one that’s very environmentally conscious.

    Where possible, we always try to buy used… but as you pointed out, sometimes it’s impossible to do. We don’t stress about it too much, but when it comes to getting rid of that new thing we don’t chuck it into the landfill — we give it a new home instead.

    Someone always has to buy it new the first time. I think sometimes that’s OK as long as we adhere to the principle of “used first”.

    Totally with you on the excessive packaging too. Much of it can be recycled, but I wish even more could be.

    • I friend of ours works in recycling and has shocked us with how little of what is recyclable actually gets recycled, so we try to view everything we put in the recycling bin as also going to the landfill, which motivates us to do better and just buy less packaging period, not just recyclable packaging. And I agree it’s fine to buy new sometimes — I’m not going to lecture anyone for not being perfect! But it would certainly be better for the planet if we’d all try harder to buy used more of the time. So kudos to you guys for doing that!

  28. I understand your point in trying to use things completely up rather than just discarding anything that isn’t making you happy, but I don’t think that is at all contradictory with the “Spark Joy” approaching to organizing. I have read both of Marie Kondo’s books and gone through her complete decluttering/organizing plan (well, everything except sentimental items…). However, I have also simultaneously tried to stay true to my frugal upbringing where I learned that you save anything that might come in handy some day and you use everything to its fullest extent. I found several positive outcomes of going through the process that are consistent with being frugal and not consuming a lot:

    (1) It felt really, really good and amazing to get rid of things that made me feel guilty every time I looked at them (like a shirt I didn’t actually like or a book I thought I “should” read but knew I wouldn’t).
    (2) It actually “sparked joy” in me to keep things that I thought might come in useful some day.
    (3) Going through this entire process actually significantly decreased my desire to bring new material goods into the house!

    This last point was a surprising outcome. I used to get joy from thrift store browsing and buying random things that caught my eye. I still buy things, but now only based on very specific identified needs or desires that I have weighed carefully, and I don’t get that same joy from thrift store browsing anymore. I only want to bring new material goods into my life that truly “spark joy” in me. So in fact I feel that going through the “spark joy” process can be a natural and positive way to help you decrease purchase of material goods without it having to be about willpower!

    As for my 2018 goals: I have never really tracked my budget/spending very closely (“Blessing/curse of a higher income: easy to save fast, but also easy to play fast and loose.” is SO true!) and now that I am planning seriously for FIRE in the next 1-2 years my goal this year is to track all of my spending. I am not yet trying to make any changes to it, as first I just want to see what it is! Also in relation to spending I am reading a book called “The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness” which I expect will help me align my spending with my values. I have found it really helpful already and I recommend it! It feels completely in line with the resolution in this post.

    Congratulations to your friend on her book! However, please leave me out of the giveaway. In line with my post-organizing intentions of only bringing things into my house that truly spark joy, I am noticing that the idea of owning this particular book is not appealing to me, and thus I’d rather leave it for someone else for whom it will spark joy.

    • Love everything you said here Sarah but particularly the last. Fits really well with your ethos not to ask for the giveaway simply because it is free. Good attitude!

      • Thanks, Victoria! I have been learning and practicing to refuse free things that I don’t actually want (and also to give away things that were given to me as gifts if I don’t want them). It can be challenging because it definitely goes against mainstream culture!

      • The regifting especially! That’s such a taboo. ;-) But good for you for doing it anyway, because it’s such a shame to waste something that has life in it but which you know you won’t use.

    • I have no issue whatsoever with the spark joy approach, but I wish Marie Kondo gave a little more direction on how to discard of things as thoughtfully as she recommends deciding to discard them. It sparks joy to me to know that something I get rid of will actually be used instead of just sorted but ultimately thrown in the landfill. ;-) She measures success in the book by how many trash bags you can get rid of, rather than how many things you can find a new home for, etc. So that’s what I’m reacting to, not the process itself. I really do think, as you said, that it *could* all be part of the same thinking in one big chain. Being intentional in what we bring into our lives, being intentional in what we discard and then being intentional in how we discard it.

      • Ah, I see. I agree, that is something she could have addressed much more (the trash bag thing did bother me too, but I guess I just kind of ignored it since I already planned to extensively give to thrift stores, sell back used books, and figure out proper ways to recycle broken electronic equipment. I am sure some of what I got rid of ultimately ended up in landfills, though :-/ ). The other thing that did bother me was that she doesn’t endorse the idea of keeping things just because they might come in use someday. The idea of not keeping potentially useful items is anathema to my own frugal upbringing, and I can’t imagine not doing it. So I still have closets stashed with empty boxes, bubble wrap, cloth scraps and yarn, and many other miscellany that I know could be useful and want to have when I need them! And I would certainly never get rid of basic tools and other things like that even if I use them infrequently and they don’t particularly “spark joy” in me.

      • I applaud you for being so thoughtful about how to discard things! And yeah, the idea of tossing things with future usefulness bugged me, too! We don’t need everything every week or month (or even year), but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful even, as you said, if it doesn’t spark joy.

  29. Great plan! I love the “use it up” idea. I don’t plan on going into a frugal mode when I retire, but instead plan to keep spending levels about the same.One of my goals this year to better manage my food spending and consumption. I was cleaning out my pantry this weekend and had to toss some expired items, so I’m aiming to pay more attention to what I already have before buying more. I’ve also been paying more attention to packaging lately. I have some items I can only buy online and I agree that the amount of packaging can be very wasteful. I’m trying to at least combine orders so that they arrive in one box with less filler packaging. I followed you on twitter under @KathrynsQuest.

    • I think your plan sounds great, too! A lot of our motivation is entirely un-financial. We really just want to be less wasteful. The Earth has limited resources, after all, and we’re collectively plowing through them much too quickly. So being intentional is more about doing our part there than about saving money. Sounds like that’s similar to your motivation.

  30. I’m already in, posting my own ‘Less Stuff, Less Waste’ experiment for the year, last Friday. While we already purchase a minimal amount of stuff, like you, I’m frustrated with all the packaging and waste. I plan to be mindful of all of our purchases, shopping locally as you mention, and thinking creatively to reuse or recycle items we no longer want or do not use. We’ve done well with this so far and hope to inspire others throughout the year and beyond.

  31. My biggest area for using it up is in the kitchen! We love our garden and canning food, but we end up with jars and jars of various tomato products. I have to remind myself to keep using it up, because there will always be more next year! We also have a bunch of deer meet from hunting, so our freezer is full. Plenty of opportunities to reduce grocery costs by consuming what we already have.

    My goal for simplifying this year is to work on automating our finances as much as possible. As part of this I’ll be setting up my direct deposit so part of my paycheck goes into a savings account, and to set up an automatic transfer from our savings account to our brokerage account. I’m hoping by “hiding” our money in this way I can increase our savings rate and make life easier!

    • That’s so good you do that! Food waste is a huge problem. And automating your finances will make you so happy! It’s always nice to know that savings are happening without you having to make a decision or remember to do something. Automating our finances is the entire secret of our success. ;-)

  32. Oh, how I love this challenge. I’ve tried to do it previously on my own, but the same thing happened to me, and it seems like once I get one thing it becomes a slippery slope. I’m embarking on a slow decluttering process and have been giving a lot of the decent stuff away to neighbors (I post on our FB group) and it makes me happy to do so since there is a lot more life left in the stuff. I bought my daughter the one toy she asked for at Christmas used, on Craigslist and the plan is to continue to do things like that. You have inspired me to keep the heat turned off (it helps that it’s been unseasonably warm this winter ). I have buy in from my significant other that we are going to challenge ourselves to go all winter without using the heat – i have a feeling my house may never get below 55. Now to put more thought into the areas I need to improve and figure out how I can do better. Off the top of my head – buying food with less packaging.

    • I love the proliferation of buy nothing groups and FB neighborhood groups for borrowing/lending/giving to neighbors. Such a great development. And I LOVE knowing that we inspired you to keep the heat off all winter, though you certainly have a more advantageous climate for that than many. ;-) Most years in LA we never turns on the heat, but we also lived upstairs in our building, so benefited from heat rising from neighbors. And buying food with less packaging is a great goal! It’s surprisingly easy to shop with jars at a natural food store, it’s just more time-consuming. But we both have time now!

  33. Love your plan for the year. I’m all about consuming less and can’t wait to read cait’s book.

  34. My goal this year is to de-clutter. I’m aiming to list 3 things per month to sell on Facebook local yard sales group. I also plan to fully utilize our local library instead of buying books.

  35. My goal this year is to do more. With other people and for my community. These past few years building a business have taken so much time away from socializing. I need that back. The business can grow slowly. My heart can’t.

  36. I like your comment about a lot of what we declutter going to the landfill. I just did a big declutter, and normally I would send most of my things to the thrift store, but this time I tried to actually find homes for things. I’ve given dishes to my Mom, craft supplies and toys to some kids I know, and clothing to a friend who is smaller than me and can fit into the stuff I’ve *ahem* “grown out of”. I’ve also put a lot of things in the lobby of the apartment building where I live, and I’ve been amazed by the things people will take. Someone even took some really gently used socks that I didn’t like and a bottle of partially used apple cider vinegar! It’s nice to know that the things I no longer want are still being used.

    • I love your comment so much! Standing ovation for making such a big effort to find good homes for things! And you’re right that it’s surprising what people will take, and yet most of us never even try to give things away other than donating big bags to the thrift store. You get all the applause. :-)

  37. I set goals on my birthday (September) instead of the calendar year, so I’m already a few months in :)

    I’ve got three main goals for this year:

    1. Abandon perfection, use up what I have, and be content with less. I committed to not buying any clothes/shoes this year, except for replacements for things that truly wear out, where I don’t have alternatives (read: running shoes, OK; jeans, not so much). I really don’t love the minimalist ethos of a few perfect things; I figure, I’ve already got things, they’re good enough, and I can get so much use out of them before buying more. This has definitely both fostered and required a lot of mindfulness so far – it’s been interesting to observe how deep the urge is to bring home shiny new things!

    2. Waste less. This means buying a bit less at the grocery store, using reusable bags & packaging whenever possible, and making an effort to cook and eat (or freeze) what I buy every week. Doing well so far!

    3. Appreciate the value of my time. I’m in my mid-thirties; I feel acutely how few “good years” I may have left. I don’t want to waste them! Whether that’s putting down the phone earlier in the day, making sure I’m working a job that is fulfilling and adds to the world, saying yes to new adventures, or saying no to people/things that detract, rather than add, from life — just being mindful that (cheese alert) every day is a gift when your body, brain and financial resources are intact, and not to take any of that time for granted.

    Bonus – I follow on instagram! @realsaisai

    • Wow, those are ambitious goals! Though it sounds like you’re making great progress already. Kudos for thinking so holistically about your life and being intentional in so many different areas. I especially connect with your last one, about the value of your time, because that’s been our motivation in retiring early all along. Now that we’re at our goal, will we waste our time just in different ways? That’s something we want to avoid, so now have to think about the time wasting question in a totally different context!

  38. Mindful is my word for 2018! January has been the month of mindful consumption. I’m not buying anything that isn’t a need and I’m cutting WAY back on drinking. I’m also trying to take a mindful look at my closet and clear out the clothes that are for the self I think I should be vs. the self that I am.

    Facebook: Leah Hockenberry
    Instagram: lmhock1

  39. Great post! Good good luck with your challenge.

    In 2018, I am trying to use up what we have in our house before buying any consumables, and I am on my second year of bare-bones clothes buying. Hopefully other purchases should be minimal!

    I would love to win a copy of Cait’s book! I follow you on Facebook (Erin Rotman) and on Twitter (@erin_rotman).

  40. Hi Tanja!

    This year, I am trying to live more mindfully and intentionally specifically with shopping. I’ve noticed that since I’ve honed in on my budget categories, I criticize each purchase I make. Do I *really* need another pair of shoes? How long will this shirt last? Is the cost of this dress worth how many wears I will get out of it? Where in my house will I put this?

    By being mindful and asking myself those questions before automatically making a purchase, I stop myself from buying a lot of unnecessary items!

    P.S. For the giveaway, I follow you on Twitter :)

    • Hi Krystel! It’s so great you are asking yourself those questions around shopping. I’m sure that will really help reframe your purchasing habits in positive ways. I’m also a big fan of just waiting to buy something. Like make it sit in a shopping cart for a week, and then decide if I really still want it. ;-)

  41. I’m using up all of my toiletries before buying new ones. Let’s be honest. This will take more than a year…

  42. One area I want to improve in this year is not wasting food as much and using what I have before the expiration dates etc. Sometimes its too easy to just pickup fast food and not cook what you have at home. Something else I have been doing is trying to put as much packaging etc into the recycle bin. I believe a lot of the packaging that comes with things you buy can be recycled from the box to the plastic inserts, plastic bags etc. It is too easy to just throw it out but really it just takes an extra second or 2 to save the recyclable parts and put them into a separate bin. Just think about how much waste that is if everyone in just your own town is throwing out recyclable items, then multiply that by the whole country. That is tons of wasted resources all for nothing.

    • It’s great you’re focusing on food waste! That’s a huge problem. And a friend of ours who works in recycling told us most people would be shocked by how little stuff they put in the bin actually gets recycled, because consumers don’t buy many post-recycling products. So that’s why we just try to minimize packaging altogether. But certainly trying to recycle as much of your trash as possible is a big and important step!

  43. As you know, I’m working on removing Dad from our finances. It’s a long process, and rather fraught, but I’m committed to completing it in 2018. With any luck at all, early 2018! The rest of the year, we’re systematically addressing the remaining house repairs based on sale seasons (instead of tackling them willy nilly), being more active and eating better.

  44. This is a great post and call to action to think more about what we have and how to use it, and reflect upon our spending. I have been much more mindful about a few things in particular, recently: drinking alcohol (I’m on a hiatus for 6 months, 2 months in already) and food. I recently stepped away from my job and this has caused me to rethink everything I’m buying, every way I’m spending my money. I have to. Fear is a great motivator. And so much of my spending is wasteful and unnecessary, I just didn’t have the impetus to change it. Now I do.

    I follow you guys on Twitter, @Pgn3540, as well as the email subscription.


    • Thanks, Paul! It’s great you’re paying such close attention to your intake habits holistically, not just spending. Though I hope you get to a place where it’s not ALL motivated by fear, and you can make those choices from a place of safety and security. :-)

  45. I’ve started the year out decluttering also. Yesterday, I went through every drawer in my bathroom and threw out tons of junk I’d been hanging on to mindlessly for years….old razor blade handles without matching blades, mostly used bottles of travel-sized hand lotion (replacing these with a refillable travel lotion bottle to avoid future waste), alcohol pads that had dried out long ago, etc. I’m hoping that, now that I can see everything in my bathroom, I’ll buy and keep only what I actually need and use going forward. I ended up taking an entire trunk of kitchen gadgets, books and clothes to the resale shop (although after your post I’m now wondering if that was the best course of action).

    Bonus – Followed on Facebook Name – “Alysha Brady”


    • It’s great you’re being more intentional! And don’t beat yourself up about donating what you did. There’s at least a chance those old things will find a new home, and you can consider different options next time. ;-)

  46. Oo la la! To live more mindfully this year, I have committed to spending the first six (6) months of the year “at home” – exploring and experiencing Alaska. Last year was an amazing year of travel, getting married, and spending… This year, my only plans are to paddle Prince William Sound with my husband on a honeymoon trip, and go to Kodiak Island for a 4th of July Bike Tour. I’m also doubling-down on debt: getting a handle on student loans and exploring options to pay off faster, making a plan for increasing our savings, and a plan/steps to paying down old debt. Husband and I have also doubled-down on communication and checking in with each other regularly on $$ issues – giving us both ownership and accountability.

    FB: Aimee Chauvot
    IG: @aimeechauvot


  47. I tend to live a pretty intentional life, as is. I’m a nomadic petsitter, so people pay me to live in their houses and take care of their pets. While I’ve been pretty frugal and mindful for several years now, there is always room for improvement. I have decided I want to save enough for a 20% down payment for a duplex to rent out to people (both sides) and I’d like to save up the money as fast as possible. I think I’ll have enough within two years if I hustle hard. I also want to save for retirement so there’s that, too. I’d love to read this book and then pass it along to other friends that I think would appreciate it! I’ve followed Cait for years and I’m SO EXCITED about this book!! I followed y’all on FB (under Brittany Hassell) and then followed on Insta and Twitter, where I am CedarNomad on both accounts.

  48. We are living a lot more mindfully and intentionally by living on a budget and paying off our massive student loan debt! WE will be in charge of our finances. Not the other way around!!! Freedom is in our future!
    -followed and like on FB (Diana Burgess)
    -following on instagram (Dianab128)

    I can’t wait to dive in to your blog!!! New follower here! Just found you yesterday!!! :)

  49. I spent last year trying to declutter my house. Thus, I have been selling things on ebay and a few months ago, I found a thrift store where I consign items. I plan on continuing to do both this year, but focus more energy on consigning items at the thrift store. I noticed last year that since I am single, I tend to eat out a lot. So, the second goal this year is to prepare more meals and eat at home and reduce eating out to twice a week. Last year, I also was trying to stop buying new and if I needed something to see if I could find it at a local thrift store or on ebay. I found that for me to have small, measurable goals so I can see any progress that I am making. I commend your goal(s) for this year, Tanja. My FB is damorr67.

    • Well done, Deb! I love that you’ve found new homes for the things you’ve discarded, and are being so intentional on new purchases. And good luck on the cooking at home more challenge! That will most likely also be healthier, too, which is a huge added benefit!

  50. This year we are committed to actually living with intention. We have a good salary, and are very comfortable, but that’s become almost a bad thing.

    For example, at home we focus on organic produce, local foodstuffs, and made from scratch. Yet, come home tired, go out to eat. And suddenly we’re tired 3, 4, even 5 days a week.

    We are re-focusing on what’s important to us this year. Supporting local merchants rather than ordering online. Spending time with people we really care about before saying yes to endless volunteer projects. Overall, we want to stop going through our days on autopilot and actually choose how we are spending our time.

    Facebook:Vicky Lynne

    • Oh Vicki, I know what you’re going through. ;-) The pull of convenience is strong, even when you have a big goal in mind! As is the urge to say yes! I applaud you for taking a big step back this year and refocusing.

  51. We are planning to be more mindful about purchases, and focus more of our spending on experiences at the expense of things. Also looking to declutter our home gradually in anticipation of a move 2-3 years in the future.

    Bonus entry, I follow on instagram (jasonssimon)

  52. Thanks for the giveaway Tanja. My year is going to be focused on being mindful about health. I’ve had some thyroid related autoimmune issues I NEED to get resolved so more mindful meal planning, more mindful eating and more self observation about how food makes me feel. I already do some meditation but need to be dedicated! I follow you everywhere! Twitter: Stitchcraft marketing; Facebook-Leanne Caffiero-Pressly and Instagram Leanne Pressly

    • You’re welcome — and thanks for following everywhere! :-) Are you doing gluten-free for your thyroid? Let me know if you need tips! But either way, I’m so happy you’re focusing so much on your health! It’s the most important thing, but it’s hard to prioritize!

  53. I want to be more mindful of the food that I put in my body and at what quantity. And how much my body is moving. I work at a semi-desk job and need to make sure I move every hour. I want to find time to declutter and reorganize my entire house. The older I get I want more time to relax, so I think this will make that more possible. As always, we will be gardening and preserving what we grow. That, for me, is a mindful process which fills me with gratitude.

  54. ‘Intentional’ is my word for the year, so I really love this question. :)

    I’ve always been pretty passionate about food waste but reducing the amount of food consumables (plastic baggies, plastic wrap, paper towels) is a major goal for the year. Developing recipes creates a lot of leftovers – storing them in single-use plastic seems crazy. After buying a house somewhat unexpectedly last year, we’ve been forced to reassess our spending and really ask ourselves what is worth it… the lifestyle creep is real!

    Already following you everywhere!
    Facebook: Kate Hubbard
    Instagram: @mountaincravings
    Twitter: @mountaincraving

    • Reducing all that waste is a great goal! I love it. And boy do I understand the lifestyle creep — it’s great you’re trying to head that off. Thanks for following everywhere! ;-)

  55. I know you have already bought a supply of new socks but in the future if you need a new pair check out Darn Tough. They are a little pricey but they have a lifetime guarantee. Yes you read that right. Got a hole? Dog ate one and it doesn’t fit right? No problem! Wash them and get a brand new pair in return!

    I have been trying to live more mindfully for about a year now. Really taking time to reflect on the moments of now, since so much of my thoughts are about our eventual future life, and enjoying the moments as they come. I use the Aura mindfulness app to help slow my mind down.

    I do follow on Instagram as well but under my personal account so can’t share that name here. :)

    • We have some darn tough socks, and just wish they made them in more styles and thicknesses! I love the slowing down and reflecting you’re doing. And no worries about not sharing your IG name — I still count it. ;-)

  56. Congrats to you guys on the retirement! I absolutely cannot wait to do the same thing. This year I am focusing on only buying secondhand in order to cut down on packaging as well as my carbon footprint due to the manufacturing processes of so much of what we buy today.
    Also following along on IG with labttooine

  57. To be more mindful, I’m working my way through my sentimental items – old journals, boxes of pictures and stuff like that. I’m happy to keep what holds good memories, but so much has been kept just because it holds any kind of memory. I’m also committed to reading the TBR pile I already own and not buying new books (though gifts from friends and library books are welcome – I just pass them on when I’m done).

    • I did the sentimental item stuff a few years ago and took lots of pictures of things — and then let them go. And I haven’t missed them. You have to feel that out for yourself, but just adding my experience in case it’s helpful. ;-)

  58. Ah, I’m in a similar boat of trying to use what I had last year and only doing moderately well on that. So this year I decided to get a bit more clear on my rules. First off, no buying new video games for 2018…I was a bit embarrassed to realize what I spent last year on this. The second rule is no additional money for ebooks. I can only use the existing credit I have on the account for the year ($50 from Xmas gifts). Why? Because I want to read the books I already have…yikes there is a lot in the house and I have them to enjoy them so I don’t need much for new material to read (besides I have the library for that). Good luck everyone!

    • Good luck back at ya! I like that you got more specific with your rules, as we did. I especially like your e-book rule, because it is SO easy to keep buying those when you have plenty to read already, because they don’t take up physical space and it feels like monopoly money instead of real money. ;-)

  59. I know this is going to sound crazy, but on January 2nd, I canceled my Netflix subscription that I’ve had for at least 7 years now. After thinking about it for a few weeks in December, I realized that a lot of what I watch happens to just be a time-filler instead of something I intentionally want to watch. (Oh, and I’ve never had or paid for cable.) That’s my step one towards mindfulness and figuring out what I want to do ‘when I grow up’ in this new year.

    (No bonus entries for me since I don’t remember the last time I signed onto Facebook and I’ve never had a Twitter or Instagram account. Yay!)

    • That doesn’t sound crazy, but it’s certainly not where we are in life right now. ;-) We have had so little time to watch TV the last few years of work that we’re excited to finally watch some shows now that people have been telling us about for years! But maybe by this time next year we’ll feel we’ve watched everything and will want to cancel our Netflix, too. ;-)

  60. Hello! My username on insta is juliehlove. This year I’m introducing constraints and going deeper into things I already have and already do – no new hobbies, interests, etc. doing my best not to buy new media or add things to my life which add things to my life, take investments of time or money, and focus on the things I’m already doing which is already too much.

  61. Decluttering by selling and donating old baby gear! Attic had tons of it and we don’t need it anymore! Feels great to have it live on with someone who needs it and get a few extra bucks as well. Also followed and liked on Facebook via mwilliams1979

  62. My theme for last year was frugality. This month, I will be assessing our annual performance and how we feel about where we ended up in planning for the rest of 2018…all in a continuous effort to live more mindfully and intentionally.

  63. My 2008 living more intentionally is focused heavily on ruthlessly clearing items out of my house and not bringing in new. I’m not following a no-buy year per se but definitely thinking thoroughly about the value-added of an item (and what will go out in its place.) Ultimately so that I can be free to pack up easily with only loved and useful items as I anticipate needing to move in the next few years to a better school district for my 3 year old (and rent out my current home for ongoing wealth building towards FI.) This will enable me to save private school tuition for my FI fund while still providing an excellent education for little man. However, said “better district home” would doubtless be a very small place as the schools I’m interested in for him tend to be in high-rent areas. So it’s both about less and better belongings and also less (space) and better (education.) I just followed you on facebook, IG and twitter (all Darcy North.)

    • All of that makes so much sense, and I love that you have a very clear WHY behind all of what you’re focusing on this year (and beyond). Having less to downsize in the future will always serve you well, regardless of how big a place you live in. But the love for your son that’s behind all of it is so evident!

  64. Ok commented above THEN read your article and YES, finding new homes for items (to extend its useful life and prevent landfill clogging) is one of the hardest parts of clearing items out. It really slows the process, but I’m definitely trying. To your “DIY” point- check out “Power Hungry The Ultimate Energy Bar Cookbook.”

    • Good for you for making such a big effort to find new homes for things you discard — especially with a little guy at home taking up so much of your time! And thanks for the cookbook rec!

  65. Out of this entire blog post two things put a smile on my face
    #1 – the frustration with and desire to reduce the wastefulness of plastics and packaging
    #2 – the book love for Cait :)

    Have a great weekend guys