Montreal

Montreal woman reflects on her year of buying nothing new

In 2020, Rachael Seatvet made a resolution to avoid buying anything new for one year. Here's how it went.

In 2020, Rachael Seatvet made a resolution to buy only secondhand items

Rachael Seatvet spent a full year buying everything secondhand or trading for pre-owned items online as an experiment in anti-consumerism. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

In the age of Amazon and free home delivery, shopping has never been easier. But for one Montreal woman, buying something as simple as a postage stamp posed a huge challenge due to a resolution she made at the start of 2020.

This time last year, graphic designer Rachael Seatvet decided that she would avoid buying anything new for a full 12 months.

So how does one acquire a secondhand stamp?

"It took me 11 months to find postage stamps to mail my Christmas letters," Seatvet told CBC's All in a Weekend. "Finally, I found someone who had bought the wrong kinds of stamps for their company."

Rachael Seatvet said she plans to continue the experiment into the new year. (Photo by Alyssa Gribble)

As part of her project to embrace minimalism and reduce her consumer footprint, Seatvet decided to buy only used items or acquire what she needed through trading or bartering.

"I wanted to see if it was even possible to buy nothing new for a full year," she said.

She said the idea grew out of a desire to be more mindful about which companies she supported and help reduce waste by reusing items not being used by other people.

Seatvet allowed herself to buy such things as groceries, gas and medication new, but everything else she wanted would have to come from a thrift store or previous owner.

Through online swapping sites like Bunz, she managed to trade a bottle of wine for a box of condoms.

She also managed to find things within her own social circle.

"A friend ended up having a spatula and a coworker ended up having a salt and pepper grinder," she said.

On her site, launched Jan. 1, 2021, Seatvet details how she got each item and, in some cases, what she traded for it. (My Nothing New Year)

Seatvet documented her whole experience on a site, launched Jan. 1, 2021, called My Nothing New Year. In it, she tracks the grand total of 151 items she acquired in 2020 and explains how she came to own them.

On the site, she catalogs two items which she bought new: A copy of White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, which she couldn't find used, and an original piece of artwork that she bought to support a friend's business.

Everything else (toothpaste, contact solution, bug spray, sewing pins, glue sticks, duct tape, etc.) she found used through platforms such as Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji.

Seatvet admitted that taking on the project during the COVID-19 pandemic made things much more challenging.

"It was pretty interesting to do this year in 2020," she said. "COVID made it a little more difficult to go to any thrift stores which was previously how I got all of my used items."

However, she plans to continue her project into 2021, with a few exceptions for independent local businesses.

Listen to Rachael Seatvet explain her Nothing New Year:

With the exception of gas and food, Rachael Seatvet tells us how she spent 2020 without buying any goods new from a store 9:20

With files from CBC's All in a Weekend

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