There is so much stuff in the world. Many people feel the draw to declutter and remove items from their lives, and yet, we carry on consuming. Buying items that already exist, that have already had a life, is one of the best things you can do for the planet and your pocket. There is a growing movement towards secondhand items, but some people are still more comfortable going to a massive shopping mall with shiny lights everywhere, than visiting their local op shop or vintage store. I personally find shopping malls exhausting and suffocating.
My children have grown up surrounded by old things and they love them. They often tell me that their friends comment on how cool our home is when they come to visit. Clearly, young people are quite open to buying secondhand, especially when they have been shown throughout their lives, that shopping secondhand first, is a positive and enjoyable experience. It is still important to avoid buying things you don’t really need, to avoid it ending up in landfill. When you decide that don’t need something anymore, even when it was bought secondhand, passing it on to someone else or sending it back to an op shop, is a great way to keep the circle of things moving.
My love affair with planet, people and home, started as a very small girl. My parents ignited this passion with their love of the natural world, equality and human rights, books and arts, and secondhand furniture and collectibles. I have memories of lazy Sundays wandering antique stores and being allowed to buy a little trinket. My preference was for green glass and the stories of each piece held me transfixed in the possibilities of where each item had come from.
When I was very small, between 2 – 4 years of age, my great aunt and uncle would give me a small china animal from their cabinet each time we visited them, building a connection to the importance of history and respect for things from the past. The idea of buying and using secondhand pieces in your home was set in stone for me at this point and I still gather little china animals today.
My parents also took me camping in the Flinders Ranges and introduced me to the beauty of the natural world as a tiny girl. Television shows were restricted, but when we did watch, there was a good peppering of people like Harry Butler and David Attenborough, sewing the seeds of environmentalism in my young head. There were strong messages about conservation and regular discussions about how to ensure we preserved the beauty of our planet.
When I was about seven years old the council turned our dead end dirt street into national highway number one. They wanted to chop down every tree in the street. My father refused to give in and I think he would have tied himself to the trees if he had to. In the end this was not necessary and he won the battle. Ours was the only home on the highway with trees in the front yard to protect us from the road noise and the harsh Port Augusta sun. I was so very proud and took away the fact that you can and must stand up for what you believe is right.
When I was nine years old, my parents bought a large property in a small rural town in South Australia, surrounded by beaches, so they could bring my sister and I up in a country community, grow vegetables and keep chooks. It was an idyllic childhood, full of summers at the beach, community events, days full of books, and those chickens.
We had a big block at the back of the property and one Easter, our entire extended family, including my great grandmother from England, came to stay. Other than the septic tank getting full (thank goodness for the public toilets down the street!) and me playing swings on the Hills Hoist, which my grandfather was not too happy about, it was a magical weekend. Everyone planted a tree and this became a living symbol of our family connections and our connection to the natural world. Today, trees are one of my favourite things and my mental health is always soothed by a walk among the trees, looking up at their branches reaching to the sky, the patterns of their bark, and the beauty of their leaves and flowers.
All of these things are connected. There is only so much space on the planet. There are only so many resources. There is only so much stress we can place upon mother earth, before she breaks. She is telling us now, that we need to stop and think. We need to refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, reinvent, repair and rot. We need to enjoy immersing ourselves in nature and in the beauty she brings us, as well as the stories of old things. We need to truly see what is around us each day and take joy in the quiet, simple things.
For me, buying and finding vintage pieces for my home, our clothing and our lives, is an adventure. Part of the enjoyment is the thrill of the hunt. You don’t know what you are going to find when you set out for an op shop visit, or a trawl through a local secondhand shop. It is the history of the piece and the excitement of finding something beautiful and unique, that makes it special. I also love the savings! Stories are what I do. Each day I write, read and think about stories. I currently have 3 middle-grade manuscripts and a picture book on the go. I am always thinking about the next story, the next blog post, the next sentences that I want to knit together like a patchwork quilt, the worlds I can create and the difference I can make. And each vintage item I find, has a story to tell.
Many older pieces are made with care and last forever. I love thinking about who has used a teapot or vase, sat in an old chair, or washed and hung out the vintage cloth they made by hand. This also goes for new pieces with the idea of buy once and buy well. If you buy something of high quality, which is made locally and made well, it will last and be handed down to your children.
What does Vintage mean? In the true sense, it goes back to wine and means the year or place in which wine, especially wine of high quality, was produced and also later, denoting something from the past of high quality, especially something representing the best of its kind.
I think all of us who care deeply about the future of our planet, are of the same vintage. We are representing the best of our kind. We are the classic ones, the timeless ones, the ones whose decisions and choices now, will be enduring for future generations. We are the ones making a difference in ensuring there is a human history to tell, through being conscientious in what we choose to consume and how we live our lives, with care and consideration of all living creatures.
This post is an update from 2016 and is in part, an excerpt from my book. You can grab a copy of Healthy Planet, Healthy People, Healthy Home – Create a Sustainable Home You Love here.