How Buy Nothing Changed My Life

I have always been a hoarder.

I come by it honestly, my Grandma is a hoarder, and probably her Grandmother before her.

It started before I can remember. When I was very small I had an Altoid tin that I collected treasures in. My Mom likes to point out that my “treasures” were broken erasers from the tops of No. 2 pencils, used and bent staples, and straw wrappers. (What, you never thought a straw wrapper could be valuable?!) I had diaries full of receipts, tickets, brochures,  anything that would remind me of something special.

As I grew my habit of hanging on to trash ebbed away but I never gave up hoarding. I kept sentimental things and when you are an emotional creature with a big heart EVERYTHING is sentimental. Items that I never used were kept because I might someday use them. I held on to every gift I ever received because I loved the person who gave it to me. My house was a perpetual disaster. I was drowning in stuff.

But, there was this other side of me.

The side that at the age of 7 saved up for Real Simple magazines and at the age of 17 was obsessed with planners and the container store. I craved organization. My brain was a minimalist but my heart was a hoarder and it was a constant battle for me. I waned to live in peaceful, tidy, clutter free spaces. I wanted to free up room so that I could enjoy life more.

In my quest for a cleaner life I, like every other person I know, read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Inspired. I was a girl inspired. That same day I found myself looking at my bedroom floor completely hidden under every piece of clothing I owned and a living room floor stacked high with books. (If you haven’t read the book yet, you should, but one of the main ideas is pulling every item you own in a category, stacking it on the floor, and then picking up each piece and asking yourself if it sparks joy.)

Well, it turns out that almost all of my stuff sparked joy. I re-read the book over and over, each time becoming more and more excited about the idea of having a tidy home, and still I could not get rid of all my stuff.

Finally, I found and joined my neighborhood’s Buy Nothing group.

If you haven’t heard of Buy Nothing, let me give you a brief explanation. The Buy Nothing Project is based on the idea of giving and receiving to and from your neighbor. The Buy Nothing groups on Facebook are localized to your neighborhood community and in these groups you can give things that you don’t want or need anymore and ask for things that you do want or need. In the group there is no trading, there is not money. There is generosity, there is gratitude, and there is community. Bonus: The origins of The Buy Nothing Project are local to us here in Seattle. It was created by two women on Bainbridge Island.

Suddenly, I was able to let go of my things.

My tray of candles that burned all throughout my wedding reception are packed up ready to go to a new home, I can finally let them go. The two heating pads that I used in pregnancy but at no other time, those were picked up by a neighbor yesterday. All of the baby things that I didn’t love enough to save for my next kiddo, those were gifted to a mama with twins on the way. Knowing that my treasures were going to loving homes made me able to let go.

On the flip side of this when I needed or wanted things myself Buy Nothing has come through. Our very beloved coffee table came from the group. When we got our family pictures done I did an ask for someone to do my hair and the sweetest lady came to my house and curled it for me. My dogs got a hike up a mountain with someone more outdoorsy than I am. The pregnancy pillow that allowed me to sleep in those uncomfortable months…from Buy Nothing.

And maybe most important are the friendships and connections I have made. It has deepened my love for my neighborhood of Queen Anne. It has introduced me to lovely people who I never would have met.

A huge component of the group is gratitude. So here is mine: I am so grateful for this project, so thankful for my neighbors, and so happy that I am much closer to becoming the minimalist I crave to be. (Ok, I’ll keep it real, I still have a long way to go on that one.)

Because of Buy Nothing, these photographs were created.

These images are of a member of the group and her sweet son. I loved meeting and photographing them. She has the kindest heart and her love for her son shines so brightly. Without Buy Nothing I never would have met this lovely pair…so here is more gratitude for that <3 (P.s. Motherhood is my absolute favorite thing to photograph. I wrote a whole post about it that can be found here.)

Much Love, Kiana McCrackin


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