December 30, 2015

Getting What You Need

You can't always get what you want (nor should you), but hopefully you can get what you need. How to best get what you need is a topic of heated debate here in the final throes of a failing system based on greed and planetary destruction.

A recent comment from an NBA reader prompted me to consider what we are doing on this blog, and how the ideas expressed here have manifested in our lifestyle which seeks to pull support from an economy based on selfishness, and heal the planet as a result.

A curious Cloe wonders "about consumerism, and how people can consume without buying."

"I have" she said, "some questions for you".

- How do you live without buying ? Is it with gardening?
- Do you practice swap?
- Do you consider yourselves as consumers even if you don't buy?

Those do get to the nugget of what we have been doing on Not Buying Anything since 2008.

First of all, I would say in response, the world is structured in a way to make it very difficult, if not near impossible, to not buy anything. Having said that, it can be done, as evidenced by some very fiscally frugal and cash-creative individuals.

Simple living advocates and activists like Mark Boyle, Peace Pilgrim, Daniel Suelo, Heidemarie Schwermer, and others in the GiftEconomy, are on to something that makes for a worthy goal - living without buying anything.

In the meantime, while we hold that ideal in mind, we buy things that we need, and can't be procured for free. There are many ways things can be acquired for free or near-free. We are only limited by our skills, time and creativity. But in our experience, as that of most people who aren't off-grid and/or  relatively self-sufficient, a time comes when some things must be bought.

Having said that, over the past few years we have severely curtailed the amount of things that we buy. The most important thing we do in that regard is limit our desires. Most things are not worth having. We rarely buy things other than those that we actually NEED.

To reduce how much we have to buy anything, we engage in a variety of practices, including:

  • make things last by using gently and regular maintenance/cleaning
  • avoid anything not reusable/repairable
  • repair things to extend their lifespan
  • use things up - no upgrades, new and improved, or latest fads
  • don't pay for anything we can do ourselves
  • make as much as we can with our own hands 
  • do as much as we can with what we already have
  • acquire things for free (free stores, swapping, liberating from the trash and curb side, trade/gifts) 
  • grow as much food as possible in the back yard... or front yard, side yards, too
  • trade work for items needed
  • share, share, share - participate as a generous giver, and receiver
  • enjoy community and family
  • cook from scratch using wholesome vegetarian ingredients
  • we take really good care of our teeth and general health 

In the event we can't source things for free, we look at buying second hand first. Buying something brand new at full price is a last resort, and such a purchase is always preceded by a period of sober hesitation. No binge buying here.

Some consumption, whether through commerce or by participating in an alternative economy, is necessary for survival. We are all consumers, but we don't have to be Consumers. We could decide to create a system based on generosity and good will that ensures that everyone is getting what they need.

So, Cloe, we are still buying things, but as little as possible. Thank you for posting your questions. Remember to eat well, brush and floss regularly, and exercise mind and body. May you, and all NBA readers, get what you need with as little buying as possible throughout the New Year.


  1. Anonymous12/30/2015

    As I'm taking time to re-commit to my simple lifestyle for the New Year, this post was a good review. Most of us do need to purchase some things, but accessing any purchase through these guidelines will help keep me on track.

    1. Cheers, Miss Marla! As Gregg always says, we are doing this together. We are all in different places on the path.

      I thought about you (and Gregg and Linda) over the holidays. In between the stress I experienced this year, I've been making more progress with clearing, a.k.a. de-crapping my life. You were so right in a comment a while back about moving being a really big thing! I've lived in the same place for 20 years. Stunned at how much crap has found a home here. But I'm getting there! Date to relocate is set, April 1st, 2016 with flexibility if I have to revise the date I can leave.

  2. Happy New Year to you both, looking forward to more in 2016.

  3. How do you take really good care of your teeth? What do you use to clean etc. Do you need to pay for oral health checks? Just interested to know. Wendy

    1. We decided that the best thing we could do for our teeth was to take care of overall general health. We get enough sleep, eat well, exercise regularly and live a low-stress lifestyle. We don't smoke or drink.

      We also floss daily, and use an electric tooth brush. Our new hygienist recommended mouth wash to prevent gum disease and tooth loss.

      We do have to pay 100% of our dental care. Most of the time all we need is a yearly check up and cleaning. It has been this way for the past few decades, although I have needed the occasional cap or root canal.

      Out dentist (before we moved out east) was the best we have ever had. He did a lot of work for us for free. We miss him dearly.

  4. re: happy teeth...
    I have used no toothpaste for years now, and my twice-annual dental cleanings/check-ups are stellar! Actually, they are better now (I'm 36) than they were in my 20s. The cause for my good health? Eating a whole foods diet. I abstain from sugar and eat in accordance with the seasons and my individual constitution (Traditional Chinese Medicine is a beautiful system that guides me in this). Contrary to most Americans believing teeth are there to be whitened and are somehow separate from the rest of the body, oral health is part and parcel of whole body health. We are each a whole, amazing organism - all parts rely on and are an important part of the whole, beautiful being.
    For particulars: going from a traditional toothbrush to a Sonicare made a world of difference in plaque buildup for me. I brush twice daily with a Sonicare (water only), then rinse with baking soda in a small cup of water. I also floss each evening before sleep. Toothpaste is a waste of time and money, as it simply gives the illusion that the mouth is clean (and contains crazy ingredients). It is like deodorizing a car without vacuuming all the dirt out of it. Still dirty, but with that "fresh" smell. Simply put, the entire point of brushing is to move plaque and bacteria and wash it away; water does this beautifully.
    Two more points that many people have no idea about: teeth are bone, hence they are meant to be an off-white color. And root canals are dangerous for the human organism. Oh, and fluoride is poisonous for humans, but many people are learning that. Good luck caring for your mouth and yourself!

    1. Nice tutorial on maintaining good oral hygiene. I have read some pretty awful things about root canals. I have had two in my life. Are there alternatives? I don't want to have another one. Ever.

  5. Thank you so much for your reply. A lot of what you say resonates deeply with me. I have spent years working as a health visitor in the UK and the guidelines re fluoride we have to promote to mothers re their children's teeth is nothing short of madness fluoride is indeed a poison. I no longer work as a health visitor being fortunate enough to take early retirement. I am now 57 I have not been to the dentist in over 25 years. I use coconut oil pulling water and baking soda my teeth are fine. I love your blog wendy

  6. Thank you Chloe for asking these questions. They made me think. And thanks Gregg, for this response post.

    Agree with Gregg, the world is structured in a way that makes it near impossible to not buy anything at all. Especially true in western cultures and increasingly in all cultures around the globe.

    So what I do is consume less than average, quite a bit less. I have many reasons for not wanting to buy anymore than I need. I am not as advanced in this lifestyle as Gregg and Linda are but I am going in that direction.

    I'm currently focused on consuming less utilities like electricity and water while being frugal, conservative and resourceful about food and other things I purchase.

    I do swap and barter. I do trade. I do give and receive things I need. I do shop thrift stores for some of my needs. I mindfully purchase what I am not able to get free or in some type of trade. Mostly, I keep my purchases minimal. I treat most my health maladies at home and avoid the healthcare system as much as possible. I practice all of what Gregg listed above to reduce my purchases as much as possible.

    Sadly, I am a long way for being fully self-sufficient. It takes money to transfer into a self-sufficient lifestyle. It takes having a piece of land that's been retrofitted to produce everything you need and a lot of knowledge and time to end dependence on things that cost money. It also means I would have to get a lot of ingrained cultural training off me which would take time. For now, I settle for using less and living small.

    I DO NOT consider myself a consumer. I am a citizen. I am a citizen of my local community, my country, the earth and the universe. To call me a "consumer" is to de-humanize me, discard my feelings and ability to think and treat me like a spending machine to be manipulated. To call me a "citizen" means I am a member of a community, a human community.

    Chloe, I'd love to know what kind of project you are working on. Is this for a university class? I'm glad you found this blog. It is the best one on this subject in my opinion. Gregg's posts are a treasure trove of all subjects related to consuming less and living in a way that's most respectful of our great planet.

    1. Terri,

      You are too kind. Thank you for helping promote our project here. I like "citizen of the Universe". Borders and labels are so artificial, annoying and at their worst distract us from the really important things concerning this beautiful existence.


Comments will be printed after moderation to eliminate spam. We are proudly a no buying, no selling website.

We enjoy reading all comments, and respond when time permits.

If you put a name to your comment we can all recognize you for your contribution.

Thank you for visiting and commenting.