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Use Up, Wear Out, Make Do: Buy Less in 2012

Internet entrepreneur Meg Hourihan says she has "more stuff than I could ever possibly use or need." This year, she's using it.

Internet entrepreneur Meg Hourihan says she has "more stuff than I could ever possibly use or need." So this year, she's resolved to wear out her resources—she will not buy anything new until she uses up, wears out, and makes do with the stuff she already owns.

The concept—buy what you really need—seems obvious. But in the United States, "society constantly encourages us all to keep buying," Hourihan writes on Make It Do, the website she's started about curbing her conspicuous consumption. "I could cook from every cookbook on my shelves and feed my family until the end of time, yet I still feel I 'need' new cookbooks. I have 26 (?) pairs of shoes, don’t wear most of them, and somehow think I need more shoes." For the next 12 months, she's pledged to use up the last reaches of her pantry before she invests in more "dried fruits" or "exotic grains," never "wander around Sephora and get three new lipsticks," and borrow and barter when times get tough.

To hold herself accountable, Hourihan is tracking every purchase she makes in 2012, sharing it on a public spreadsheet and asking herself to justify every investment with the world. She's already made a few exceptions—like back-country camping supplies to feed her favorite hobby—but mostly, she's finding creative solutions for scaling down and using up. Since starting the project this month, she's had to stop walking through stores, unsubscribe from Martha Stewart Living, and get into sock darning.

Hourihan's project is less about saving money or saving the world than it is about saving her own mind: "There’s a yearning for 'better' or 'perfect' in my life, and often it seems the next purchase could be just the thing to 'finish' the living room and make it perfect," she writes. "I’m curious to see what happens when the solution to these gaps isn’t buying something.'"

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