Blog, Minimalism

One Empty Shelf’s Year of Buying Nothing. Part 1 – 2012

Year of Buying Nothing 2012

You may have read elsewhere on One Empty Shelf about my year of buying nothing, which I did in 2012 and which was such an adventure. I blogged throughout on the first incarnation of One Empty Shelf, and reading through my old posts has brought back the lessons, the struggles and many more memories. I’m posting my old blogs here as a guide to what I discovered during that year. I’m posting them with no editing or re-writing so excuse any spelling, grammar and general bad writing…! You can read more about life afterwards here and here, and an update from 2019 (The Future!) here!

This is Part 1-the first 6 months.


‘Tis the season of excess after all. Today is the D-Day. Enough is enough is enough is enough. After losing holiday weight, had one day of guttony and have now put 3 pounds back on. In 3 days. After watching what I spend for months, still tried to have a cheap christmas and ended up spending £295.94 more than I earned last month.

Whilst that includes £825.76 on bills, it also includes the categories ‘Hole” (in the wall) £120 and my personal fave, “Crap” which was a stonking £216.73. Plus petrol, christmas, and various other money-leaching activities.

I’m fed up with being unhealthy. I’m fed up with being broke. I’m fed up of just dreaming of minimalism.

So this is my challenge. I am going to start it today, because otherwise it will become a new year’s resolution, and we all know what happens to those.


Pretty self-explanatory, I think.

Unfortunately job-wise I’m going to have to make a few exceptions. I have to present a certain image for my job, so if I absolutely need something for work, I will buy it.

Also I will buy food and toiletries. Food can only be part of the weekly shop, no greggs/pret/etc.

Costa & Starbucks are going to stay but be limited 🙂 and meals out with family/friends again cut down but not banished.

Toiletries, well, I need to brush me teeth and seriously, I ain’t gonna stop using deodorant. I’m not that much of a hippy.

But that is IT.

You can join me if you want.


I need new jeans. I need tops and skirts for the summer. I need a filofax diary for 2013. I need to get presents. I need a stainless steel jug for our coffee maker. I need some woolly jumpers. I need paints. I need pyrography stuff. I need Vipr bars. I need fitness tshirts. I need quink. I need a kindle. I need a coat. I need to get all my work clothes in the sales. I need a skull clutch handbag. I need dior mascara. I need clinique waterproof mascara. I need a new party dress. I need new flat shoes.

I don’t need new jeans. I don’t need tops and skirts for the summer. I don’t need a filofax diary for 2013. I don’t need to get presents. I don’t need a stainless steel jug for our coffee maker. I don’t need some woolly jumpers. I don’t need paints. I don’t need pyrography stuff. I don’t need Vipr bars. I don’t need fitness tshirts. I don’t need quink. I don’t need a kindle. I don’t need a coat. I don’t need to get all my work clothes in the sales. I don’t need a skull clutch handbag. I don’t need dior mascara. I don’t need clinique waterproof mascara. I don’t need a new party dress. I don’t need new flat shoes.


So, I haven’t bought anything yet. I haven’t even spent any money, save the eternal nemesis, petrol. And I have only been tempted by one item.(Teabags that you can make yourself. Being as we have 3 jars of loose tea in the cupboard). (Ok, shut up). But I didn’t cave in.

It’s so strange that even only being a week in, I’m becoming way more aware of our hyper-consumerist society. I must get to the sales…I’m so annoyed I haven’t had chance to go sale shopping….I only went to primark for some socks and look how much I came out with…we could buy this…I’ll just buy this on my way home…

“I totally need a drink”

“I’m off to buy a coke”

Tap. Water.

Watching a trillion “new year sales start now” emails flood into my inbox at 00.01am on boxing day.

Deleting every single one of them without looking.

Becoming more mindful of what I use and how I use it. How everything needs to last the next 12 months. What I’ll do if it doesn’t. Being less wasteful. Finding alternatives. Giving objects the chance to realise their potential. Becoming disgusted by how items are manufactured to break within a certain time frame, so you have to buy more. Getting annoyed by ‘add-ons’ and peripherals.

I’m enjoying being on the edge of the retail driven society. Which is ironic, being as I work in retail. But nothing gives me greater pleasure than not being a slave to it. How hypocritical of me, not taking part in the buying frenzy, when my actual job is peddling extra sales, making money, doing everything possible to eak out that one extra pound from the unsuspecting, over-spending, credit-reliant public.

But they can choose to buy. They can choose to take it or leave it. Are people unaware, or simply to scared to give it a try? At what point does ‘want’ really become ‘need’?


Week 3. Coasting. There have been a few things I vaguely wanted. Like an orange dress for a meeting, a big bucket of protein, some shoes in an advert on facebook…and that’s about it. Seriously, it’s not as bad as I thought. At the moment, anyways.

And, given the ‘things for work’ clause, I could have bought the orange dress. It is awesome, by the way.

But I didn’t. I already have *quite* a few work dresses.

There’s not much to update really. I can’t even think of anything I really want to spend my £12 free points card voucher on at work.

So I’ll keep not buying stuff, and if anything bad happens, ie I get ambushed by some jimmy choos (I’m half hoping that does actually happen) I’ll let you know.

Peace out, dudes.


There is nothing better to make you question the ‘need’ for items than moving house. I can see 25 boxes from here and to be honest, apart from the one labelled ‘shoes’ I’m struggling to remember just exactly what is inside any of them. And they’ve been packed for at least a week, some longer, and I haven’t needed one item. (Actually I lie, I needed one work dress as I ran out of clothes, as I didn’t have time to do any washing-long, boring story).

I go to my new, empty, organised house, and I try to imagine it filled with all the clutter from my current house. And I think to myself-just why am I even thinking of moving all this stuff?

Will it make it more ‘homely’? No.

Will I miss all my possessions? For a short while, maybe, but after that-no.

Will I need it? Once, maybe twice-possibly. Mostly, no.

I try and remember the last time I re-read any of the books on my bookshelves. Embarrassingly, I have never, ever re-read a single one of them.

I look at my boxes upon boxes filled with bath bubbles, shower gels, body lotions, face scrubs. I look at the few items I use regularly (no.7 hot cloth cleanser, molton brown yuan zhi shower gel, Burt’s bees royal jelly eye cream & moisturiser, dove deodorant, Nivea soft). 6 items out of at least 3 shoe boxes worth.

I look at the shelves of reference books from both my degree, and my husband’s degree & masters. Fundamentals of biochemistry. Pharmacology. Molecular biology of the cell. Neuropharmacology. Chemometrics for analytical chemistry. (His). Forensic & criminal psychology. The psychology of crime. Social constructionism. A sociology of mental health & illness. Research methods & statistics in psychology. (Mine).

I can’t even pronounce most of these any more, let alone remember what the hell they are about. Actually, to be honest, I could never pronounce most of them to begin with. How is this minimalism?

I dread the inevitable mess, the ‘sorting out’, the relegation of many many boxes to the attic, only to ‘clear them out’ in 5 years time having forgotten what was in there, then thinking ‘oh I remember when I last used that 5 years ago’ and putting it back in the box as a ‘save for later’ item.

I’ve been paring down, little by little, over the last few months, and buying no physical ‘stuff’.

Now, at month 5 of the challenge, I am presented with the ultimate opportunity. The true time to declutter.

So why am I so hesitant?

Here is an honest truth. I’ve spent the past few years being the ultimate materialist. I love luxury goods. What I own made me who I am. I took pride in my giant book collection, my wardrobe full of shoes, my drawer full of jewellery. I loved to show off that yes I was successful, I can own all of these items, I can go and buy this without even thinking about it. Image was everything. But I still was not happy, despite all of the items I own.

So, that is the reason behind my 2012 one empty wallet.

I am finding it so hard to change who I am. I still love luxury goods. My craving to buy a vogue magazine is out of control. I miss Elle Decoration like nothing on earth. West Yorkshire’s clothing retail economy must have suffered a massive slump this year. House of Fraser stares accusingly at me like I’ve committed the ultimate betrayal.

And I still think image is everything. I have to look, behave, seem a certain way. Only a few people really, I mean really know me. (Here’s another truth; I’m sat here in spotty slippers, no make-up, trakky bottoms, and an old hoody). (bleurgh).

I’m finding as I spend less on clutter, I am spending more on food, on socialising, on other people. This challenge is throwing up some surprises. I hoped to save more money but I am spending more than last year. I am more of a consumer than I thought I was.

So, now I am off for a coffee, to stare longingly at shop windows, and then to paint our new house. And hopefully make room for some things, that won’t be coming with me.



I have, in front of me, 9 massive boxes of books. Apart from one shelf’s worth…they are all going to the charity shop.

I’ve taken the leap. And it’s getting easier. I gave away all my shoeboxes of cosmetics and body lotions. I’ve donated most of my shoes to charity.

The more I can clear away, the better my mind feels. The more I realise that, actually, really, and honestly, I don’t need this stuff! I really don’t! I’m not kidding myself, I can survive without 6 different scarves!

I have a method. I grab what I genuinely need. I don’t even look at the rest. It goes to the charity shop.

Then I look at the items I’ve saved. And throw most of those too.

Moving house was just as I thought. Inevitably, all of the boxes of rubbish came with us. Not only that, everywhere we looked, more and more and more and more possessions multiplied. Our beautiful, clean, empty house is filled to bursting with piles of clutter. I’d come home after work with my head spinning, only for it to get even worse as soon as I walked in the door.

The frustration of not being able to move around a room without stepping over something, without knocking something over, is debilitating.

I was getting angry as we needed to find a place for all this ‘stuff’.

Then I thought. Why? Why do we even HAVE all this ‘stuff’? Even the thought of opening another box, looking at all the tat inside, made me feel ill. And this is the turning point.

To get rid of all the needless ‘stuff’. Get rid of my pot of 50 different pens. Get rid of the 4 packets of curry powder I ‘rescued’ as it was going out of date at work.

I don’t want to get rid of everything. I still like my creature comforts as much as the next person. But by focusing on the real need behind products, I can reduce consumption, make things last, and hopefully, finally, live with a clear head.



Book Shelf Club



9 thoughts on “One Empty Shelf’s Year of Buying Nothing. Part 1 – 2012

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.