Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Challenge of the Utmost Kind: 12 months later...

Twelve months ago to the day I decided to take part in Dottie Angel's "Challenge of the Utmost Kind", which entailed purchasing only handcrafted and secondhand goods for home and wardrobe for 365 days. I set down the rules by which I was to abide, and in the blink of an eye, twelve months have passed and it is time for me to review the challenge.

The first rule (exception) was that "handcrafted and secondhand" would not apply to books. I am a complete bookworm and in order to ensure that I continued to have sufficient books to read I decided to exclude them from the challenge. In hindsight it was a good decision, as in the course of the year I have discovered that there are few books available secondhand in my area, let alone books I'd want to read. The local libraries were unable to assist either: Neither contain a sufficient hist-fic and historical biography selection to meet my reading demands!

However, not all the books I've read in the past twelve months have been purchased by me, brand new. Some have been gifts, and I also made the concerted effort to seek out and participate in as many BookCrossing bookrings for the books on my wishlist as possible, which was surprisingly successful. These days I find myself browsing the rings offered at BookCrossing prior to purchasing a book.

For obvious reasons, under-garments (including socks, stockings and tights) were excluded from the challenge, as was any clothing items that I needed for work, which included work-related footwear (I have a uniform). In regards to all other clothing, they had to be purchased handmade or secondhand in order to comply with the challenge.

I found that the local secondhand and charity stores do not stock a lot of clothing, and what they do stock is not much to my taste. Instead, I found myself avoiding the clothing stores so I wouldnt be tempted by all the pretty garments in the windows. For the pst twelve months I've just not purchased anything that I did not need and made do with what I already had; the only items of clothing I bought were items I needed to replace, and I waited until the old ones had basically disintegrated first!

Home improvements were also exempt from the challenge. However, we had purchased all GPOs, light switches etc prior to the challenge beginning, and in twelve months we have only been able to complete one room: Our bedroom. Once it was finished we did purchase a new bedroom suite, which isnt exactly "making do" with what we had, but we didnt have a suite, just an old, uncomfortable bed that we had planned on replacing once the room was finished - a decision made prior to the challenge. But other than the suite, everything else in the room are items we already owned and have re-used: Curtains, doilies, blankets and linen, pillows...

I have been gifted vintage serving dishes, biscuit tins and a cake tin, not because I asked for them, but because others have noticed that I like the old and re-usable and thought I would like them. There is much joy and intrigue in receiving an item much older than you! I doubt many of the things I've purchased new would last long enough for me to pass them onto another generation forty, fifty or sixty years later.

It may seem an odd thing to exclude from such a challenge, but I elected to allow myself to purchase new scrapbooking supplies for any projects I decided to make as gifts. Surprisingly, the only thing I actually needed to buy was ink for my printer in order to print out photos, and I ensured I used whatever paper, embellishments, brads etc I already had. I've also been recycling giftwrap, gift cards, postcards, notecards - whatever I do not wish to keep that looks nice! I guess that is true "scrap"-booking. In the past twelve months I have made bookmarks, book tags, and photo journals as gifts.

Unfortunately, I have not had the time to improve on my knitting skills or learn to sew, but these are skills I am still determined to master one day, hopefully in the not-too-distant future.

Simply because I cannot make my own doesnt mean I have had to go without. During the course of this challenge I have discovered and fell madly in-love with the wonderful creations and creators at Etsy.com. I've an ever-increasing list of favourite sellers and favourite items. I've made a few small purchases so far, and there will definitely be more purchases in future: From here on in, all Christmas and birthday gifts will be bought from Etsy. If you have not visited this website, you are missing out on some of the most fantastic handcrafted, recycled and upcycled pretties your are ever likely to see!

The greatest truth I have learnt from Dottie Angel's challenge is that "want" and "need" are not the same thing. These days I find myself standing in the stores admiring the goods on the shelf, but I no longer simply buy whatever it is I like. Instead I find myself questioning whether or not I actually need it: How will it make my life easier/better/more enjoyable? How often will I use it? Is it a necessity, or do I already own something else that can do the same thing or similar? A lot of the time I find myself walking away, empty-handed, and the feeling I get from not giving in is greater than the thrill of having something new. Nothing stays new forever, anyway.

Not only have I changed the way I buy and what I buy, but I've also changed the way I think about buying: A valuable lesson learned.

Thanks to Tif (Dottie Angel) for taking on this challenge for herself and allowing the rest of us to be a part of it. It is something I recommend everyone try at least once: The results will surprise you!


  1. Hi Sorcha
    A great post about the challenge. I'd definitely agree that it is our perception of buying which changes over the period of twelve months and that surely has to be the most important thing, doesn't it? I found it was no hardship at all to keep away from the new shops - did you find that? It's amazing how quickly we can stop wanting things. and as you say there's a world of difference between 'want' and 'need'.
    Thanks for sharing. Congratulations to you - it's a mega achievement isn't it?
    Happy days,
    Denise x

  2. Denise: It was suprisingly easy to stay away from the new shops! I'd go sit and read a book in the park or on the wharf during my lunch breaks at work, rather than browse the stores. No temptation! The habit to buy-buy-buy is far too easy to get into, but luckily it's not too painful to break either. :)
    Congratulations to you on your achievements in the challenge also!


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