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Terry Fleig: A year of ‘not new’ changed my life

Last year I had the bright idea to go for a year without buying anything “new.” I tried to purchase only items that were used, or at least not being sold by the original seller/owner. My year of “nothing new” is over and my life is changed forever.

My going “not new” was as much about conservation and living sensibly as it was about saving money. I repaired broken things, including several pieces of jewelry, a bird feeder and an electric hedge trimmer. I refinished my kitchen table. I repurposed what I could. Who knew the plastic top from a bakery package would make such a great plant saucer?

During my “not new” year I purchased a barely used leather chair and a very, very used leather couch that I am refurbishing. I rescued junk from curbside and made shelves for the garage. I bought eyeglass frames from a storefront that clears merchandise on eBay.

And I had interesting conversations with people at estate and garage sales, auctions, used furniture stores and thrift stores. Scavengers seem to be a friendly, talkative bunch.

I found you have to know what you’re buying when going “not new.” The compound miter saw I purchased at a pawn shop ended up having a missing blade guard and a broken fence, which I repaired. But the wet saw I got on Craigslist was perfect. You need tools to build stuff when you’re living “used.”

I wish I had tried going “not new” when I was younger and had more strength. I saw some very affordable used hardwood floors out there. Yes, you can buy a used floor – who knew? But installing hardwood flooring is beyond my current physical ability. I am hoping to find a not-new, click lock-style engineered hardwood floor that I can install myself. I just haven’t found the right one … yet.

Going “not new” doesn’t mean I wasn’t tempted to buy things I shouldn’t. Quite the contrary. Did I really need those Bose speakers at Goodwill? No. But for $9, who could resist? I fell in love with gorgeous (but out of style) glassware that I saw everywhere. I set about repurposing it into bird baths and garden art. Going “not new” can really unleash both your creative inspiration and your inner hoarder.

Was I able to buy exclusively “not new” for the entire year? No. My home’s thermostat broke. I spent one day looking for a used one (which I thought was a long shot anyway) and could not find one. You can’t go more than a day without a thermostat during a Buffalo winter.

And I did spend a total of $75 on eight new clothing items during the year, bargains I could not resist.

My dish strainer also dissolved and I couldn’t locate a used one in a timely manner. Much of going “not new” involves knowing in advance what you are going to need when you see it for sale – because you never know when you will see it again.

Since my year has been up, I’ve continued to live the “not-new” life and I love it. Shopping is more challenging and that makes it more fun. I’ve even put in a vegetable garden to cut down on the “new” food I have to buy. But, I had to purchase soil: is that new or used? My only regret is that I didn’t try the “not new” lifestyle sooner.