May: Buy Nothing

May marked my fourth month and third place living in a coronavirus-affected world: Portland. The long-awaited return to the locked-down city I love has been both exciting and depressing. However, in a week’s time, May changed from being just another month of this shit to the month Joey and I got our own apartment, and the combined distraction and small return to some sort of normalcy has been huge for my sanity.

In addition to my improved mental health, I have finally been able to start implementing some simple living lifestyle practices I have been jotting down and wanting to try for months: I planted tomatoes on our balcony; made cleaner; I have been furnishing our apartment secondhand; I joined a Buy Nothing group.

If you ears perked up at “Buy Nothing,” read on.

I can’t remember where I initially heard about the Buy Nothing Project, but after mentally noting the organization that first time, I regularly heard reference to it in sustainability books and podcasts. The premise is this: give generously to your neighbors. Buy Nothing Groups are hyper local “gift economies.” You join your local group on Facebook, and neighbors share and offer excess; everything from furniture, to food, to clothes, to time.

Unwritten, but running through the bloodlines of the group are tenants of simple living: don’t take more than you need; re-home used items you are finished with; waste less; borrow; share.

I have received planter pots, tomato starts, and overflow produce. I have given books and kitchen utensils, electronics and clothing—all perfectly usable things I simply do not need anymore. And all things that I would have ordinarily donated to Goodwill, that may or may not have ever found a new home again. In addition to being generous, the group is sustainable: it is giving new, immediate life to your things, and preventing someone else from having to buy it new.

Buy Nothing balcony tomatoes. || Portland, OR

But really, more than any specific free item, or even the sustainability aspect, what I truly love about the group is seeing how generous people can be, and the positivity that this generosity fosters. In the two weeks I have been a member of the group, I have seen my neighbors offer to bake and decorate cakes for others’ quarantine birthdays and anniversaries; I have seen others offer to make masks and pick up groceries. It is more than just free stuff. It is a network of perpetually paying it forward.

In today’s climate of Twitter wars, internet trolls, violence, and aggression, there is something so incredibly refreshing about being part of a community group centered on being kind to one another. People talk to each other courteously; what a concept! During this pandemic, when people cross the street when they see someone coming and glare at anyone who sneezes in the grocery store, there is something affirming about a place where individuals maintain their humanity. There is a comfort in knowing good neighbors are just down the street.

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Some additional resources:

Home! || Portland, OR

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