How to Design Your Own Low Buy Challenge
Why I'm buying less this year, and how to create a challenge that's personal to you.
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On my way home from the city last week, I drove by a thrift store I used to frequent. It’s a short walk from our former office, and it’s massive. A decade ago, I’d often spend lunch breaks there, looking through the racks and racks of clothing, buying up old sheets to sew with, and hunting for decent baskets and picture frames.
I thought I’d stop in and have a look. Thrift stores seem to activate a primal hunting instinct in me that’s hard to ignore. That dopamine kicks in and I’ve got to stop and just have a quick look.
Surprisingly, there seemed to be just as many good finds as I remember from the old days. Within ten minutes, my arms were piled with candy colored striped oxford shirts, a cashmere sweater, and a pink silk blouse, all things I knew I’d wear.
I knew I’d wear them because I already own them. My closet is stuffed with clothing just like this. I thought about the way I’d have to cram these new things in, about how I was almost out of hangers (again), and about how many similar things I already own.
Slowly, I put all this stuff back. And the overwhelming image of all this stuff made me think, perhaps it’s time to commit to buying less and having less.
My First Low Buy Experiment
I first did a challenge like this over 15 years ago, before I’d heard of the term “low buy.”
The challenge was issued by a popular blog at the time, whose name I’ve unfortunately forgotten. The idea was to buy no new clothing for a period of your choosing. You could sign up for 3 months, or 6 months, or a year. Secondhand was fine, and exceptions could be made for basics like socks and underwear. I signed on for 3 months, but ended up enjoying the experience so much that I continued it for a year.
Now, I’ve always love clothes. At the time, I had a good job in a professional field and I’d become accustomed to buying new clothes when I felt like it. Shopping had become something of a pasttime for me. It wasn’t necessarily a problem, but once I stopped, I realized just how much space and energy it took up, and how easy it actually was to stop thinking about it.
I began to get more creative with what I had, to seek out secondhand alternatives, and to sew things myself when I really fell in love with something. It permanently changed the way I thought about my wardrobe, and about what “enough” really means to me, especially when it comes to objects of beauty I bring into my home.
A Low Buy Challenge for January
For the first experiment in my 2024 Slowdown, I’m setting myself up with a new Low Buy challenge. The goal is to question how much I really need, and to spend less time mindlessly browsing, shopping, or thinking about shopping.
You are welcome to join me, and to customize it to your own needs.
Here’s how I designed it for myself:
Pick the categories you want to temper. I feel that I have too much in the way of clothing, skincare, and haircare. Some other categories you might include could be craft supplies, books, makeup, housewares, whatever you want to play with.
Choose your boundaries and exceptions. For example, I’ll allow myself to buy socks and underwear if I need them, and I can replace toiletries that are actually used up completely. Set your own rules, so that it feels useful and managable.
Decide whether to allow secondhand. Personally, I’d like to pare down what I acquire, so I’m going to disallow secondhand clothing at first, just so I don’t substitute one for the other. But I’ll likely let it back in after a while.
Pick a timeframe. I’m starting with just one month (super easy!), but I’m hoping I’ll enjoy it enough to just keep going. I really like this low-pressure approach.
For me, this is not about deprivation or saving money or even self improvement. It’s just playing around with the idea of “more” and how the pursuit of it affects me. Physical stuff is just the first field of play.
How about you?
Have you ever done a low buy challenge? Does it seem like it would be helpful? Let me know if you’ll be joining me this month (and hopefully beyond) in our first endeavor to slow our brains down a bit in 2024.