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Day 27

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I can’t believe that we are on Day 27 of this Buy Nothing experiment!  This picture shows some of the bounty that we’ve received since my last update and I am continually surprised by the generosity and gifts that keep coming out of the wood work.  Some of what we’ve asked for on the Buy Nothing Facebook page has been given to us but there have been so many gifts that have been unseen by the members of our group.  I am blown away by my community.  I have received private messages offering garden delights, clothes, toys, therapy for mother, gift ideas for my kids birthdays and so much more!  I have found that as people get to know us and our needs, that they will often show up at our door with a bag of this or that and it’s not so much the “stuff” that they’ve brought but it’s the thoughtfulness and time they’ve taken to stop by.  Such a blessing!

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Just one of the monstrous sized zucchini we were given fed our family for one meal.  We were able to shred some and freeze it for chocolate zucchini cake later in the fall.

As I mentioned in my introduction post, we have a full month of birthdays and an anniversary.  I wasn’t sure how we would pull it off without spending anything but I was willing to try and aside from the cake and gifts given by others, we pulled it off for Cameron’s 11th birthday.

Camerons Bday

This picture shows the gifts that Cameron received from our Buy Nothing group which were a gift card from a local shop, a balloon creation kit, a science lab kit, a solar kit and an experience at a wooden boat school.  I can tell you that the kits have kept him busy for hours!


We had moved away for 18 months and somehow between the move away and the move back, I have managed to never replace my stash of birthday candles.  I wind up at every birthday with a cake, about to serve it and no candles.  I quick put out a plea to my Buy Nothing group and was amazed at the innovative ideas that showed up.  One was for crayons with a cool link for ideas and another person suggested tea lights.  I remembered that I had a large bag full of tea lights so we made it work!  I think it looked pretty cool.

After Cameron’s birthday was our anniversary.  19 years.  Where did time go?  I can’t believe it.  We have been blessed to have spent our anniversaries in some beautiful places like Prince Edward Island and Hawaii but this year we decided to keep it subtle and not spend any money.  Turns out someone contacted my hubby and they had made a plan for him to go pick some beautiful, fresh flowers to surprise me with.  I was so touched!


Leilani’s birthday was just the other day and I was really nervous about hers.  She wanted a Disney’s Brave themed birthday and I was not sure how I would pull that off without buying anything.  I first sent out a Facebook invite that I created on the computer.

Leilani's bday invite

I then posted a request for some gift items in the Buy Nothing group.  I asked for archery related items and paper craft items to which I immediately received a response from someone at our local archery range, offering a gift of time and lessons to Leilani as a gift.  It was such a beautiful gesture that it brought tears to my eyes.

Leilanis Bday

Everything in this collage of pictures was free and Leilani loved every single item!  She had such a wonderful birthday and I managed to pay nothing for her actual birthday but I wasn’t sure how I would manage the party with her young friends the next day.

Our Buy Nothing group has a wonderful lending library so I borrowed these delightful buntings for the party.

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I made goodie bags using paper lunch bags that have been sitting around forever and I printed out little sayings from Disney’s Brave movie to stick to the front.

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Now you’re probably wondering what went into the goodie bags…  Yes, I spent $20 on party favors which I purchased at the Dollar Store.  I printed out a few things from Disney’s Spoonful which I used for goodies also.

The girls watched the theme movie but I wanted to have them play games as well so we got creative with that and played pin the arrow on the target.

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We also provided live themed music for a Scottish rendition of Happy Birthday.

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Leilani really wanted to dress up like Merida from Brave so I put out a last minute request for any type dress that might be like Merida’s and someone immediately offered up not only a dress that was easily fixed to be a Merida dress but also the dress that Savannah is wearing in the picture above.  Leilani was so thrilled with the costume!

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So other than birthdays and an anniversary, our last few weeks have been fairly quiet and to catch you up, we’ve spent approximately $700 on food and necessities since my last post. I will be posting again at the end of the month with a complete synapsis of our first month of the Buy Nothing experiment.

Thanks so much for following along!  It’s been an amazing experience so far!

Until next time!


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A Buy Nothing Birthday

By Liesl Clark

Buy Nothing Birthday Love © Liesl Clark

Buy Nothing Birthday Love © Liesl Clark

Did you know that according to many sources, parents spend — on average — between $200 – $400 on a child’s birthday? For $200, reportedly, you can have a “no-frills” birthday. And for a mere $400 you can wow the neighbor’s kids.

Well, I tried an experiment this year for our 8-year-old’s birthday that might send shockwaves across the parenting universe. Right up to the day of her birthday, I… um… bought NOTHING. Zippo.

And said 8-year-old is still talking to me. She even gave me a big hug and a smooch this morning, they day after the big day.

Now, this Buy Nothing Birthday took some planning to pull off perfectly, but I’d love to walk you through the simple steps I took so you can try one of your own. It all started two months ago, when I initiated my prep for the Big Day.


7 going on 17. © Liesl Clark

7 going on 17. © Liesl Clark

8-year-old girls are pretty good at telling you exactly what they’d like to do for their birthday. They also tend to have excellent gift ideas that they drop as not-so-subtle hints whenever possible. My 8-ish girl wanted Littlest Pet Shop toys, those plastic bauble-headed creatures with big soupy eyes that girls tend to go ga-ga over.

Littlest Pet Shop Kitty. Found in our Buy Nothing Group. © Liesl Clark

Littlest Pet Shop Kitty. Found in our Buy Nothing Group. © Liesl Clark

The thought of buying more mini plastic toys to litter our living room floor kept me up at night, (I mean, we’re the family that’s trying to go plastic-free) until a brilliant idea popped into my head: Why not ask friends and neighbors if they have any annoying plastic bauble-headed pets that their daughters are done with that they’d like to pass on to a petite yet passionate plastic pet shop owner? Through our local Buy Nothing group, I was able to send out one request for the little buggers, and within a few days, I had over 70 Littlest Pet Shop critters and their accoutrements in my big paws!

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Here’s a screen shot of my ask:

Ask, and you shall receive. The Buy Nothing Project.

Ask, and you shall receive. The Buy Nothing Project.

The response was overwhelming. One newly-made friend through the group even posted a picture of her daughter posing with her own Littlest Pet Shop critters that she wanted to gift to my daugher. The two girls had never even met. But I sense they’re going to be friends one day, much like their mothers are, all due to the binding effects of the Buy Nothing phenomenon.

A little angel gives her toys to a girl she's never met.

A little angel gives her toys to a girl she’s never met.

To top things off, a few days before the birthday, a neighbor’s daughter was in a giving mood and she posted 3 big plastic pet shops themselves, those fairyland-like houses that hold pets in various platform-like spaces with windows, compartments, and running wheels for the pets to work out on. Plastic pets never had it so good.

Little Pet Shops gifted in our local Buy Nothing group.

Little Pet Shops gifted in our local Buy Nothing group.

Giving Back:

In our family we have a tradition of giving back for our birthdays. For our son’s birthday last May, he picked up some serious trash we had discovered on a nearby roadway. It was a freak accident of perfectly good plastic bags having been set free through unintentional littering, and our mission was to cage those bags up again to prevent them from getting ingested by our aquatic wildlife in nearby Puget Sound.

Making the world a better place on your birthday. © Liesl Clark

Making the world a better place on your birthday. © Liesl Clark

Our birthday daughter decided to give a treasure hunt gift party to her friends and brother for her birthday. Throughout the summer, we’ve acquired free goodies as gifts for the party. I’m constantly amazed at how easy it is to collect perfectly good items for kids without having to spend a dime. We gathered a few boxes-worth of toys and science projects from our local Rotary Auction. All the items we found were rescued from being tossed into a dumpster. The treasure hunt was a huge success — 23 separate secret locations, each housing a little something for one of the children — and the kids are still playing together with their toys as I write this.

The biggest treasure hunt we've ever had. All free treasures courtesy of Buy Nothing. © Liesl Clark

The biggest treasure hunt we’ve ever had. All free treasures courtesy of Buy Nothing. © Liesl Clark


Our local Buy Nothing group also provided our decorations for the party. A neighbor just a mile down the road offered up some tissue paper flowers to the group that can be hung from the ceiling or tossed around a birthday scene. I’ve added these big clusters of pink, fuscia, and purple to a lending library of party items for future birthdays and holidays, perennially available for our Buy Nothing members to reuse over and over again.

A Party Supply Lending Library was set up by our Buy Nothing Group. © Liesl Clark

A Party Supply Lending Library was set up by our Buy Nothing Group. © Liesl Clark


The first week our Buy Nothing group was up and running, a member posted this post:

“Help – Pinata! We are preparing to celebrate my son’s 5th birthday. He is desperate to have a pinata. I feel very torn about the candy and plastic junk but I gave into his sweet plea. So, now I have a pinata to fill. I am wondering if you have creative ideas for pinata filler (I really want to fill it with baby carrots and broccoli but my husband said that is only funny to moms) or if you have something that you would like to pass along that I might use to fill this pinata. I missed out on Kendra’s candy earlier today. : ( Any other goodies stashed around that might otherwise hit the trash that I could put to use? I will post a photo of the results in about a week – thanks!”

About 2 weeks later, this Buy Nothing member had found hundreds of goodies offered up by the group to fill her son’s pinata. Inside, she had stuffed small plastic toys (I happily off-loaded a box-full), stickers, small stuffed animals, and of course a little bit of candy. It was a feel-good collaborative Buy Nothing pinata, and I think our group will happily rally again for another little birthday person.


My good friend Rebecca baked delicious brownies topped with borage flowers from her garden for the kids (and adults) to enjoy. And adults sipped champagne gifted to us by our Buy Nothing friends.

Gifts provided by the abundance around us. © Liesl Clark

Gifts provided by the abundance around us. © Liesl Clark

What’s not to love about this zero-cost day? Precious memories were forged, new friends were made, delicious goodies were shared, and the birthday girl could give to her heart’s delight.

Try a Buy Nothing Birthday of your own and bring joy to the kids. © Liesl Clark

Try a Buy Nothing Birthday of your own and bring joy to the kids. © Liesl Clark

Are you up for trying a Buy Nothing birthday of your own? Let us know how it goes and what sorts of experiences you and your children had. We’d love to hear from you and collect ideas for further Buy Nothing traditions.

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Introducing the Buy Nothing Project

Our co-founder Liesl Clark put together this short film about our first Buy Nothing Project group on Bainbridge Island, WA.


Day 12

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I have discovered a few things during this experiment.  One discovery is that I have spent way too much time on our community site!  My laundry and family has been neglected!  So I had to cut back and in an effort to preserve time, I will give you a synopsis of the past 7 days instead of a day-by-day report.

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We have been participating in the 365 days of giving project and have given away kitchen items, household items, kids clothes and office supplies.  It feels good to give away things that have been a part of your life and know who they are going to.  Somehow that connection makes it seem like you still have the memories of your stuff close by.

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I have found a few things are difficult to give away and you have a moment where you wonder why no one wants your treasured item!  I tried to give away an adorable chunky remote control car that, despite being handed down through several kids, still was in good shape and I know, deep in my heart, how loved this little car was.  It’s slow and the youngest has lost interest in it.  It sat on the Buy Nothing page all day.  I kept bumping it up and there it sat.  Several people suggested others that might be interested but no one took it.  I began to think about this deep, weird attachment we get to our stuff.  Really.  I still have the car.  I can’t even bring myself to donate it because and I think it’s because there is no connection beyond that point.  I have finally decided to take a picture of it so I can preserve the memory and release the toy.

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I really have to say that giving away food items brings the greatest joy, though.  Brandon had made too much Spanish rice one day for dinner and so we gave one away and then Kaitlyn made our favorite chocolate syrup and decided right off the bat to make extra so we could give one away.  It’s just so satisfying to make something and know that someone will enjoy it.

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We have received quite a few things in the past few days.  Most of the items were offered up and we were the lucky recipients and there was so much fresh, lovely goodness from others’ gardens!  These gifts were perfect supplements to our menu. The kids got a few toys, I got a couple of vases, some curtains, pot holders, an ice-cream maker, homeschool books and craft supplies.  Hubby got some oil so he could change the oil in Brandon & Taylor’s car and the biggest gift we received was a free home inspection.  THAT was amazing!  There is someone in our community who is getting his license and he needs to inspect a few homes as part of his training and we were blessed to be the recipients of one of the inspections.  We aren’t planning to sell anytime soon but we have lived in our home for 14 years and it’s always nice to know where you stand.  There are a few things here and there that need to be attended to but one discovery was a water leak that was fairly recent and flowing down into the crawl space.  I immediately listed the need for a plumber on our Buy Nothing page but our inspector was so kind and helped the hubby pin point what the cause of the leak was.  A true gift of caring and time.

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I think that perhaps the most surprising thing has been those items that we did not ask for and were not offered up, that have been given to us.  We have received bags of clothes for the kids!  Amazing!  Several people have given us extra food above and beyond what they originally offered up on the Buy Nothing page.  These are the most thoughtful gifts of all!

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We didn’t ask for much these past few days.  I really needed page fasteners for a homeschool project that I was doing with the kids and one friend dropped a few by right away and another brought me a whole box full, which should last me the school year!  I did ask for someone with jewelry experience to help me recreate the rings that were made for my girls when we lived in Prince Edward Island (they are too small now) and I did ask for some doll stands for my mothers doll collection and I didn’t get any feedback on either of those but I knew that those requests were a stretch.  I have definitely noticed that when Buy Nothing members ask for things they really need, like camping equipment, party supplies to borrow, shoes for growing feet and beds for growing families, there seems to be an abundance of support and provisions and those are beautiful exchanges that warm the heart!

As far as the cost of living for our family goes.  We have spent $500 in the past 6 days.  Since it was the beginning of the month, it’s usually when we stock up on things like toilet paper, butter, cheeses and personal hygiene items.  We also filled our big cars with gas and that is really painful!

In this next week I will be posting more requests for things that I need as we get closer to birthdays, fall and the school year.  I will be interested to see if my community can fulfill these requests!  If you are part of my community and can’t be a FB lurker like some of us but you want to see what we are needing, please just type in #walkers in the search and you should be able to see what we are looking for!

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Perhaps the greatest discovery that I’ve made in these past few days is this:  I feel that our Buy Nothing community is thriving not because of a sense of need over stuff but because of a sense of need for… community.  The greatest joy that our family has had this past week is the comings and goings of humans.  Those friends we haven’t kept up with and new friends we didn’t know before.  I think that we hunger for the need to reach out to one another and this is simply an avenue in which to fill that need.  My children have had their days filled with new and old friends, my driveway looks like there is a non-stop party going on and I love that I can venture out onto my porch and visit with all the wonderful people coming and going to retrieve things from my giving bench.  I have been blessed by people who are willing to bring me things when I can’t pick them up and I have found that when things disappear from my bench unnoticed because I am gone or in the uproars of life inside my house, I am sad.  Our lives have become so busy that we are thirsty for the community that I feel has been lost because of our lifestyles.  It makes my heart so happy to see all the gatherings people are having and the conversations that are occurring because of our beautiful Buy Nothing community!

Until next time!



The Buy Nothing Project Begins

Buy Nothing is hyper-local and hyper-logical. © Liesl Clark

July 31st, 2013
In just 3 weeks, an experiment we launched on Facebook has taken off faster than any venture we’ve ever tried. It’s taken us years to find the right combination of technology and community to create a sustainable sharing and caring economy. The new project is  a gift economy based on the simple acts of giving and receiving, no cash involved.

IMG_5808 Received© Liesl Clark

© Liesl Clark

My giving basket. Produce shared with neighbors in our Buy Nothing group. 

And the gifts themselves are goods of all kinds and services.

Face painting is a gift, not just a talent. © Melisa Lunt
Face painting is a gift, not just a talent. © Melisa Lunt

When I first moved to the Puget Sound Island where we live, I started a Yahoo group called Island Garden Share.  Once a month, our members would meet to share our perennial plants we had divided from our gardens, including veggies and fruits we could replant. We were avid gardeners or newbies wanting to avoid spending a lot of money at the local nurseries to put in new perennial beds. It was the perfect way for me to make island friends. As time passed, after 2 years of meeting, the group fizzled out, mostly due to busy schedules.

Gifting. © Liesl Clark
Gifting. © Liesl Clark

3 years later Trash Backwards co-founder Rebecca and I started Bainbridge Barter, a chance for gardeners to share their bounty once a week at a public park. We treated it like a pot luck where members brought their own produce, laid it out on a table, and took from the table what they needed from other gardener’s offerings. I fed my family most of the year from the fresh fruits and veggies from this group. The Saturday a.m. meeting time became too difficult for many of us, so after 2 years the group petered out.

Neighbors Share Garden Bounty with Each Other in a Public Park, photo by Rebecca Rockefeller

Neighbors Share Garden Bounty with Each Other in a Public Park, photo by Rebecca Rockefeller

3 Weeks ago, the experiment in a local sharing economy took a new turn: Rebecca set us up as the administrators of a Facebook group we named Buy Nothing Bainbridge. She had asked her local Facebook friends whether they would be interested in joining such a group. Over 60 people responded positively. This was the critical mass that told us the group could be formed, a social media-driven alternative to Freecycle, with an instant membership. We would use Facebook as our free app, our friends and neighbors as our evangelists, and our own stuff to seed the flames of a smoldering community fire aching for connection and a means of sharing our communal bounty.

A Buy Nothing Bainbridge member swooning over fresh baked bread she received from a neighbor. © Melisa Lunt
A Buy Nothing Bainbridge member swooning over fresh baked bread she received from a neighbor. © Melisa Lunt

Here’s a description from our group page about the Buy Nothing Project:

“Buy Nothing: Give Freely. Share the bounty. Post anything you’d like to give away, lend, or share amongst neighbors. Ask for anything you’d like to receive for free or borrow. Keep it legal. Keep it civil. ”

There's something just plain funny about our stuff, especially when our pets are involved. © Karen Dueck Richter
There’s something just plain funny about our stuff, especially when our pets are involved. © Karen Dueck Richter

We all have stuff, whether too much or not enough, and in this modern world where we’re increasingly tied ever more tightly to our internet devices, we have opportunity at this moment in history to use social media at its best to share the bountiful material culture around us with our neighbors. At its core, The Buy Nothing Project is an experiment in gifting what we have, to prevent the overproduction of unnecessary goods. It’s also an opportunity to seamlessly move goods as gifts from the haves to the have nots with zero cash in the transaction.

This wedding dress was offered to the Buy Nothing group. © Julia Benziger
This wedding dress was offered to the Buy Nothing group. © Julia Benziger

Having seen first-hand the amount of plastic washing up on our ocean shores, trickling down our watersheds, Rebecca and I want to tackle the problem of manufacturers outproducing our ability to dispose of our waste. But this time we’re looking at the problem from a new angle, the Reduce  angle, the very first of the 3 Rs. But rather than approach the problem from the end-of-life perspective, i.e., the waste end, we’ve taken a dramatic shift forward, tackling the obvious usefulness of things before they become true “trash.” Giving stuff a new life, through gifting and reuse, means a potential new purchase of a brand spanking new item can be averted and a connection with a neighbor can be made.

Don't buy shelves, ask your neighbors for them. © Ellen Wixted
Don’t buy shelves, ask your neighbors for them. © Ellen Wixted

Three weeks into the Buy Nothing Project we have over 1000 members in our local groups, 4 more groups in our state, 1 in California, and many groups pending worldwide. Methinks the gift economy is ready to come to fruition in willing pockets of the planet.

Housewares, items from your garage, kids' toys, even services can be gifted. © Rebecca Rockefeller
Housewares, items from your garage, kids’ toys, even services can be gifted. © Rebecca Rockefeller

If you’d like to start a Buy Nothing group in your home town, let us know in the comments below and we’ll do our best to get you started.

Your community will thank you if you start a Buy Nothing group there. © Jodie Garhardt
Your community will thank you if you start a Buy Nothing group there. © Jodie Garhardt

— Liesl, Rebecca, and the Buy Nothing Project


Day 5

I am amazed at how beautiful this gifting community is and this journey is such a learning experience.  I am going to give a brief summary of what we gave or received each day and since our family is always a curious subject for some, I decided to also include how much we spent each day.  As we go through the month, I hope to show how our family saves money and how much we would have spent on items or food we receive from our gifting community.


August 1:  I gave away some stuffed animals and some crafts.  I received a beautiful bundle of collard greens from someone’s garden which we cooked up into a nice southern side dish.  The cost for our family was $24 for groceries and $13 for trash compactor bags.

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August 2:  Taylor made S’mores cookies and we gave a dozen away to 3 people and I gave away a 50th Anniversary Mickey hat.  We didn’t receive anything but I also didn’t ask for anything.  We spent $108 on food and necessities.

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August 3:  We gave away a darling Ice-cream carousel that I will never use, a couple of Food Network magazines and a DVD set called Jibberboosh.  I received some detergents, probably enough to last our family a few months and Savannah received a very creepy gorilla mask.  This was the first day that we asked for something specifically with our experiment in mind. I have to admit that it takes some effort to switch into the mode of asking before buying.  Savannah was getting her things ready to head for camp this week and since we have shared bottles of shampoo and soap for the girls, we realized we would have to get her some for camp.  I started to make a shopping list and Savannah reminded me that we should check our Buy Nothing community first.  So I did!  Within seconds I had a reply and we were able to get her a lovely assortment of travel sized items.

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Someone else saw my request and rather than post anything, gave Savannah another bag of products.

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I also requested 18 eggs for breakfast and had two offers right away.

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Here is where this gifting community starts to really become amazing:  I asked if anyone had pants for Savannah for camp.  Her jeans have all met with mishaps lately.  One friend said to stop by her place and have coffee and let Savannah look through her stash, which I planned to do but the wonderful person who brought us our 18 eggs, left a pair of pants that fit perfectly!  It not only saved us money but it saved us time!

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So the cost for the day was $98 for food, which was partly for teen snacking but we saved approximately $50 by using our Buy Nothing community.


August 4:  We gave away a wine chiller and a pair of tap shoes.  We received two lovely loaves of sourdough bread.  They weren’t offered up and we didn’t ask.  It was just a beautiful gift for our family because of Buy Nothing.  Since I was gone most of the day, delivering one child to camp and picking up another, I didn’t have much interaction with the community.  It cost us $5 for a toll, $13 for the child and I to eat fast food on the way back from camp, $40 for gas and $10 for Brandon and Taylor to go on a church outing for a total of $63.

August 5:  We gave away a children’s book, a cake dish and some smoked paprika.  We received an ice-cream maker, a couple of backpacks for a project my kids are doing for the local food bank and again, we received a completely unexpected offer of clothing.  I received a message asking me if I would like to go through some clothes and when I arrived at the meeting place there were buckets full of clothes!  I came home with pj’s for the boys, an entire winter wardrobe for Savannah a few items for Kaitlyn, a storage unit to put under my folding table in the laundry room, some material and yarn for some craft items and I met a wonderful person!  We spent $34 on food today but we saved $$$ on clothing that we most likely would have spent in the fall!

There was one more exchange that took place that really showed me how thoughtful and giving people can be.  Someone was giving something away that I wanted and they brought it by but they left this…

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Love, love, love the thoughtfulness and the note!

Until next time…



The Walker Family Experiment

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We are the Walker family.  A modern day, large, homeschooling family.  Our oldest son, Jordan, is not pictured because he’s out on his own and pictured from left to right back row are identical twins, Brandon and Taylor, Savannah and Cameron.  Front row left to right has Austin, Leilani, identical twin girls Hailey and Madison with Preston in-between and Kaitlyn on the end.  Sean has been a previous school bus driver and is now looking for work in the computer industry and I am a happy, stay-at-home Mom.  We have really been inspired by the Buy Nothing Project and even though we are used to preserving and using hand-me-downs, donating our used items to non-profit places and make many things from scratch, we aren’t the garden growing, tree hugging family.  It has been easier to hit up sales at stores or grab what we want when we want it, instead of trying to find used items to love.

Since the Buy Nothing Project started in our neighborhood, we have been on board completely and we got to thinking, what if we could get by for a month through a gifting community?  What if we could give our children their Birthday parties by borrowing decorations that don’t hurt the environment, by borrowing from a community lending library of table settings?  What if I could gather up the homeschool supplies I might need from a community that might have things laying around that we could use?  I am always up for a challenge and my family is on board for this so we are going to give it a try!

The challenge will be that we have three birthdays and one anniversary in August.  Won’t you join us as we experiment to see if our large family can succeed in a gifting community by spending less and reusing more?