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A Simpler Life – Wren Aigaki-Lander’s year without shopping

Ever tried to live a greener lifestyle? Buy fewer clothes? Use less plastic? Fly less often? Now, how about giving those things up completely? Impossible! I hear you cry.

But we’ve got news for you: it’s achievable, exciting and you might even enjoy it. We’ll be speaking to three people who pledged to make a major change to reduce their environmental footprint, and their experiences of adapting to a new way of life. Kicking things off is Wren Aigaji-Lander – Partner at Within People.

What did you pledge to do and why?

I pledged to give up buying any clothes, shoes, hats, bags or jewellery for a year. I was allowed to beg, borrow or swap clothes but not buy them.

I did it on a whim when two of my colleagues signed up. I hadn’t really thought it through and had to find out what was involved afterwards!

How did it go?

I don’t consider myself a big shopper. But I was amazed at how much I thought about it in the first few weeks of giving it up. I even dreamt about it.  I missed shopping in a way that I never guessed I would. I missed the convenience of being able to go out and grab something if I needed it.

What was the biggest challenge?

Jeans were the biggest problem, because they wear out. But I realised that I could get them mended instead of just throwing them, which is something I never would have done before. I also dyed two of my dresses that had a stain on them. I became a lot more resourceful and less prone to just going out and buying something new.

What was the best bit?

The best thing was the feeling of release from needing to shop. I was living in Angel in London and whenever I had free time I’d look in the shops. I found that because I wasn’t going to buy anything, I just didn’t do that anymore. I felt very free.

What did you learn from the experience?

I became much more aware of our consumer culture and how much of our physical environment is constructed to get us to buy things. I also went to the US during that time, where I’m from, and the entire public experience is around driving you into shops. It became really clear to me once I was not interested in doing it.

How will the experience change how you live?

It was amazing how dramatically it reduced my shopping across all categories – the challenge was focused on clothing but I don’t buy nearly as many things in general as I used to. Now I have a broader set of solutions than just buying something new.

I have a baby now. Fortunately my year ended right when I needed to buy my first pair of maternity jeans. But I had a very different approach to buying things for my baby: I realised after that year that there’s lots I actually don’t need for her. She will be just fine without it.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of trying it?

Don’t wait to get past wedding season or festival season. Just do it, and see what new experiences you can have as a result of not doing things as you’ve always done them.