In 2017, Americans spent $130.6 trillion (!) on goods and services. That’s a lot of money. As consumers lean toward increased consumption of fast-goods, a new social movement is underway to save durable goods from the landfill. The Buy Nothing Project is a spend-less community effort practiced world-wide that encourages participants to “Buy Nothing, Give Freely, Share Creatively.” It takes the ‘one person’s trash, another person’s treasure’ to another level, engaging the community to ask for what they need and give to others what they don’t.

As the concept of purging has become a hot topic, I decided to give Buy Nothing a try. I was intrigued by the idea of recycling used goods, and building a community around sustainability. I love brownstone living, but since moving to North Park Slope, it’s been a challenge getting to know my neighbors. As a single woman with no children or a dog, the opportunities for meeting new people is limited to yoga classes and grocery shopping. But as a member of Buy Nothing BoCoCa, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know its members while exploring Park Slope and its surrounding neighborhoods: Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, and Carroll Gardens.

The process of purging can be daunting, but once you get started, it feels fantastic. Kind of like a new diet but with faster results. I started with my closet, tackling the section filled with clothing I hadn’t touched in years, some still with tags attached. I then moved to the extra ‘baggage’ from my childhood home, objects I’d kept out of obligation, most of which were just collecting dust. And soon I was posting everything from books to promotional apparel from former employers, kitchen accessories, inherited furniture that no longer matched my tastes or aesthetic, and an excess of decorations, souvenirs, and gifts.

It was liberating to cleanse my home, both literally and figuratively. Purging not only rids your space of unnecessary clutter but your mind, too. The exercise itself comes with a new perspective on shopping. Online shopping in particular, with their dash buttons and voice assistants, makes it too easy to blindly click and purchase. Now that I’ve rid myself of things I no longer need, I find myself rethinking my wish list and considering what I bring into my space (and if I really need it). The process also has me thinking about items I’ve saved to my shopping cart and most importantly if the group will be able to provide them instead.

The best part of participating in the Buy Nothing project is the giving and receiving benefits of belonging to a community; that alone has been the greatest gift of all.

The Buy Nothing Project operates in five of the seven continents, find a local group or learn how to start your own.

Note: This post first appeared on Medium as part of the January 2018 edition of From Bridges to the Parks, an NYC real estate newsletter published by Gabriele Sewtz.

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