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Feeling the need for a family fix and a couple of good granny meals, I decided to motor off to the rich province to the west for Easter weekend. Then, being conditioned to multi-tasking, I figured I’d kill two birds by picking up some hand-me-down furniture for my new place en route. So I increased my carbon footprint dramatically by renting a ridiculously gigantic cargo van and hurtling several hundred kilometres in a giant loop, from Regina over to Calgary, then up to Edmonton, across to Wainwright, and then back around, through Saskatoon and back home.

I carpooled as far as Moose Jaw with Dave and Al, and then drove the long haul to my home-town, arriving late the first night to the land of Black Gold wealth and real estate mania. I don’t really relate to Calgary very well anymore, so it was OK that my visit was a short one. But it was a delight to see Pammy, one of my oldest friends. She’d been holding a mighty gift for me ever since I left home for university, and this past weekend I finally got to cash in on it: a giant cowgirl armchair, with half-wagon wheels for a frame and a great bull’s head emblazoned on a green vinyl chair back. We hauled it out of her basement (breaking off a piece in the process…it’ll glue) and into the van. Then I got invited into the garage to dig around in boxes and collect more loot. Score.

Then it was back on the road. Destination number two was Edmonton, where I was treated to a Filipino feast and birthday cheesecake, and left with family heirlooms including my great-grandmother’s wooden rocking chair, an antique bookshelf, an old wooden footstool (which I also have a miniature version of that my grandfather built for my dollhouse), some serious artwork, and a bunch of other good loot. After that my dad joined me on the third leg of the journey to Wainwright to visit the (ailing but lovely) grandparentals, eat more decadent food (lots of meat, mashed potatoes, turnip puff, aspic, etc.), and drive out to the lake cottage to score an antique office chair and a delightfully rustic and unnecessary dresser.

Not the most relaxing Easter holiday on record, but it did serve the joint purpose of furniture and family. Before I knew it I was back on the road for the last leg of my whirlwind furnishing adventure. Unfortunately, about halfway between Saskatoon and Regina I was in a full-on blizzard. Yup. April in Western Canada. I am so ready for spring.

But for now I’ll have to satisfy myself with my new-to-me furniture, and the delight at having survived my epic cargo van journey through the brown bland almost-spring prairie. Hopefully by this weekend I’ll be close to fully moved in to my new place. And then in a few short weeks my mom leaves her idyllic Vancouver Island home to do her horticulture practicum landscaping my new garden. Yes, bizarre. More on that to come, as well as pics of the most excellent new-to-me furnishings.

xo n

Ok, so I thought the 100-mile diet was radical until my mom forwarded me this article called “Consumed with less: not buying any food” (Globe & Mail, January 13, 2007)*. It’s about the Freegan movement, which basically takes freecycling to the next (and perishable) level: dumpster diving for wasted food that is still fine to eat.

It’s not something I can personally envision myself doing, probably for a combination of reasons including a slight phobia of other people’s dirt and germs, and the cultural perception of what it means to dig through the garbage. On one hand I have a long and proud history of finding treasures in the trash, but eating only from the garbage probably wouldn’t cut it for me. Eating is not just a political statement for me. It also has everything to do with health, and I find it hard to imagine having a consistently well-balanced diet through Freeganism alone.

That said, I have to admit I like the idea. One girl’s garbage is another girl’s treasure, a truth that undoubtedly holds for food too. Visit www.freegankitchen.com for more info and to see a great video blog about cooking Freegan style that makes it look totally appealing and sexy. And here’s a YouTube clip that’s fun too:

*For some reason the link to the complete article doesn’t work, but I did access it by Googling “consumed with less globe mail.”

With the number of shopping days till Christmas counting down, I still haven’t developed my Buy Little-to-Nothing Christmas strategy. This week found my house (and life) moving into high gear for the holidays, but I’m still lagging behind. If anything, I should have starting thinking about Christmas earlier than the average consumer, but instead I’ve put it off and am now about to fly into a panic!

So far my attempts to subvert overconsumption this holiday season haven’t been all that successful.

First hurdle: Tree. My roommate really wanted a tree. I also love having a tree. I’ve always had a real tree. I couldn’t decide whether having a real tree was in any way justifiable under the Guidelines for Subverting Overconsumption. I tried to find a Freecycled tree (posting once myself and responding to two posts) and failed. My roommate finally bought a brand new artificial Christmas tree from Wal-Mart or Liquidation World (I can’t remember which). Shit.

Buy Nothing Christmas PosterSecond hurdle: Gifts.

(Warning: if you are a relative or close friend, you may wish to stop reading this posting now (unless you’re more interested in the process of Subverting Overconsumption than you are in being surprised by what present you get from me).)

I seem to have several gifting options, which I could also mix and match. But so far I’m not feeling overly inspired, and the clock is ticking. I made crabapple jelly in the summer (but at the moment it’s several hundred kilometres away). I could probably find some good used books online. My roommate found a recipe for homemade bath salts in Martha Stewart Living. In the past I’ve made mix CDs, but this year I’m not sure what to do about buying (or rather, not buying) CD-Rs. I thought of personalized storybooks, but that’d be a frick of a lot of work. I won a door prize I could re-gift.

I’m sure I’ll figure something out, but how about some help! Cast your vote on the Subverting Overconsumption Holiday Poll (top left of this page) for a chance to win a subversively underconsumptive gift from yours truly (well, not really, since voting is anonymous…but if you leave a really great comment we can talk!).

xo n


Sometimes participating in the secondhand economy is fun and sexy, like today when I bought a jaunty blue tam at a Saturday morning church bazaar. Other times, becoming a more conscious consumer and working to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle feels much less glamorous.

Case in point: secondhand socks. After missing the entirety of the last Canadian winter traveling in Southeast Asia, this autumn finds me short on appropriate footwear. With Subverting Overconsumption only a few days old, I was determined that the secondhand economy fulfill my sock needs. Despite my good intentions, upon arriving at Value Village I felt decidedly unenthusiastic about the prospect of dawning someone else’s stockings.

Secondhand SocksTheir selection was limited and quite drab, causing some unconscious middleclass hipster snobbery to rear its ugly head. But I persevered, and ended up with four relatively decent pairs of $0.69 socks. It wasn’t actually that bad at all (and the cute pair of secondhand pumps that I used to reward myself certainly didn’t hurt).

Having mustered the resolve to buy used socks once, I can easily imagine that the next time some multinational demands $18 for three pairs I may voluntarily opt to pay under a buck to reuse the perfectly good socks at my neighbourhood thrift shop. Like all good habits it’s about training myself…practising something healthy until it feels so natural that I can’t remember why on Earth I would have ever done it differently.

Until next time, buy nothing.

xox n

The universe supports the subversion of overconsumption. Where on Earth did I come up with such a wacky idea? Right on my own front porch. The day I arrived at my new house in my new city, I was thinking about starting this project where I try to buy nothing new for a year and document the process of underconsumption. I was writing about the idea in a journal with only a few blank pages remaining.

In the front porch of my new house was a pile of boxes labeled “for Value Village,” which my landlord encouraged me to scavenge. What did I find at the bottom of one box but a lovely unused journal, just waiting for me. The cover read: “Dream your dreams with open eyes and make them come true. – T.E. Lawrence.”

They say that one girl’s garbage is another girl’s treasure. Jung called it synchronicity. I agree and thank the universe for taking the trouble to encourage me to start. Until next time, buy nothing.
xox n

Journal

Flickr Photos

Dollhouse close up

Kitchen close up

Dollhouse rooms

More Photos