Mission Complete: The Compact 2009

Last May I wrote a post on this blog about our family's 2009 New Year's Resolution to live The Compact for an entire year. For those of you who are new readers, you can click on the link above to read more about The Compact but, in a nutshell, it's a philosophy and a lifestyle that combats our increasingly consumerist culture, the one that got us into this nasty recession in the first place. Basically, there is one basic tenant: buy nothing new for an entire year, with the exception of food, medicine, underwear and the like. You must borrow, barter, or get everything used, as a means of reusing, recycling and reserving resources. When purchasing services, The Compact suggests supporting local businesses. Admittedly, I am extremely thrifty and have a keen eye at flea markets, so this concept appealed to that part of my personality. We were already avid recyclers, so that part of The Compact seemed easy enough, too. I had to talk my husband, Eric, into it, as he was a little leery about living an ENTIRE YEAR without purchasing power. As it turned out, a few months into 2009 I was laid off from my job, in which we lost nearly half of our income. At this point, The Compact took on an important role in our financial health, as frugality became key to our survival. All in all, I've never had a New Year's Resolution be SO MUCH FUN. What could've been seen as a struggle or a setback turned out to be so much more refreshing and rewarding than we thought imaginable. Here are a few highlights:

Making new things out of old items really fueled our creative juices. I sewed clothing and library book bags. The girls really got into making objects for their friends' birthdays. We made Christmas gift tags out of old greeting cards and gift containers from old yogurt tubs.

We also began eating at home more and took pleasure in making our meals from scratch with our own hands. The library offered a great resource, as we explored different cookbooks, especially for foodies on a tight budget. Our friends offered their talents as well, sharing their knowledge on canning and gifting us fresh produce from their summer gardens.
As I mentioned earlier, thrifting is a pastime I was already passionate about, but The Compact took it to a whole new level. Before, I would go to garage sales or thrift shops for fun to see what I could find, but this past year I learned how difficult, yet exciting, it is to search for specific objects. Like white Little League baseball pants. Or large flower pots. I also learned to really utilize other local resources, from online forums like craigslist , Ada County Freecycle and the Boise Barter group on Facebook, to local shops that specialize in gently used gear like Play It Again Sports and Kid to Kid.

Our family has always explored fun, free family-friendly activities in our community, but with my new non-paying gig as a stay-at-home-mom, this was imperative. Not only for my mental health, but for our financial health as well. Lucky for all of us, the Treasure Valley offers a plethora of cheap activities to do, especially outdoors. We spent most of our summer exploring the local parks and watering holes with our bright blue picnic basket in tow. The cooler months have offered much of the same, but we've traded our picnic basket for sleds and thermoses.

I'd be remiss, however, if I didn't acknowledge the difficulties we encountered via The Compact. It was a little hard to find quality used adult shoes when Eric or I needed them. We found out the hard way that not everyone appreciates thrifted or handmade gifts for their birthdays or Christmas, which just goes to show how consumer oriented our society has become. I don't mean to be preachy, but it would better us all, and our Earth, to take at least one or two of The Compact's notions to heart. Even something simple like support our local businesses and get a delicious, thick handmade lasagna at Cucina di Paolo instead of The Olive Garden next time you're craving Italian. Or wrap your holiday gifts next year in newspaper and top with these cute creative bows rather than spending a fortune on shiny giftwrap at Walmart. Little steps go a long way in taking care of our environment, our economy, and ourselves. After reflecting on this past year I can't believe how fulfilled we are with less and what a great journey it's been. And like all good and successful New Year's Resolutions, The Compact has become such an ingrained and important part of our daily lives that we aren't giving it up at all. That's not to say I might not succumb to the occasional sale on tank tops at Old Navy or the McDonald's Happy Meal with the new Alvin & The Chipmunks toy that Lucy keeps begging for. We're all human (and young American parents) after all. But the important part is that we are making informed, conscious decisions that we feel, in a small way, will help make us, and our world, a better place.
p.s. We did not buy that little black taxidermied bear at the garage sale pictured above, although Alice would've been thrilled if it lived in her bedroom. And after reading this hilarious post, I wish I'd had $500 to fork over for it.