Second month.

I still haven’t bought anything new, but mostly because I have been procrastinating from various tasks that would have required first-round consumption.

Audrey, my darling bicycle, is well wrecked — Felix tried to fix her but just broke her harder — and I’ve left her chained up at the station for almost three weeks because I haven’t had the time, money or inclination to take her for repairs given the rain. (I am, sheepishly but stolidly, a fair weather cyclist.) I might go to the bike repair workshop at Loophole to get a used wheel but it will take a lot longer than giving her over to a bike shop, and possibly still result in failure.

When it comes to manual tasks, I oscillate between being an obsessive perfectionist and a flaky slob. I will lace boots so that every cross is flat and facing the same direction; organise my bookshelf alphabetically by author, then chronologically by first publication date; and make elaborate paper cuts and cards and wrap gifts with surgical precision; but sew zips on with sloppy darning stitches; get halfway on greasing my chain and give up; or start making soup and get hungry and eat the half-sautéed ingredients. Okay, after writing that it’s obvious that I’m pedantic about the logic and aesthetics of things, blasé about restoring things to good working order, and terribly terribly impatient.

Anyhow, my headphones are also broken, but they work if I twiddle them a bit and it discourages me from listening to music while riding, which is probably good for my safety. Also my housemate is moving out, so there’ll be quite a few things ey’s taking with em that I need to replace, but I have a couple more weeks to prepare for that. I’ll start looking out for things in op shops, on Freecycle and in hard rubbish. My phone stopped working for two days as well, but it seems alright again, so let’s hope it holds up, especially as Felix and I have already exhausted the supply of spare phones among our networks this year.

Toiletries are something I’ve been thinking about. Cotton buds (q-tips), cosmetic wipes, emery boards — all things that are technically consumables, all things I don’t actually need. Should I just stop wearing make-up? Are there reusable alternatives? I do use a metal file instead of emery boards but I use a buffer for the tops which needs replacing every few months or so, and I have developed a bit of a thing for home pedicures.

Felix and I have talked about how hygiene is determined by social demands as well as practical needs — and social function is one way to measure health. But what about when those social demands are problematic? Don’t understandings of health that are based on social outcomes serve to calcify coercive norms of behaviour — eg, that a healthy person is one who is employed in the capitalist labour market, who enjoys the consumption of media and other ordinary pastimes, who has conventional relationships — rather than, say, health being measured as your capacity to engage in work, pleasure and relationships that are meaningful or enriching for you.

I think a conception of health wholly based on individual intention and desire can be problematic too (in how it would read psychosis, for example — but probably fine for neurosis), but probably not as much as one wholly based on social expectations. There is plenty of feminist analysis I could refer to here, on how the unholy marriage of patriarchy and capitalism produce the most rigid and sometimes violent beauty standards, but I’m not sure where to start. It comes up on Jezebel a lot — perhaps too much, at the expense of other issues. But maybe that’s my privilege talking — or at least, the particularities of my body and its experiences.

All this is a digression, because I know I don’t need to buff my nails. But I do need to wash, much more often than I need to wash in order to keep clean, in order to keep my job. And the level of grooming that’s expected of me as a woman in society generally is a lot higher than for men, and the scrutiny of my looks more intense. I’m in a social position where I can resist that pretty easily, but I’m sensitive to the pressure.

Anyhow, since No New Year began I have acquired a face wash, moisturiser with sunscreen, toothpaste, and nail polish remover. Luckily I don’t need disposable pads or tampons, as I use a menstrual cup in conjunction with cloth pads, and I don’t use perfume, deodorant, or any shaving/waxing products (though I have tweezers for eyebrows). I lost an eyeliner brush at some point, which I would like to replace, but I suppose I will hold out unless I can get one second hand (which seems unlikely — the only place I’ve seen used make-up brushes sold was on the Vogue forums which has since shut down its sale section).

I guess this is still the same problem I had last month: Do I want to alter my style/taste completely in order to lower my consumption? If I either grew my hair long or kept it shaved, and stopped wearing make-up completely, that would cancel many of my toiletry needs. If I give in to my bad skin, I could get by on just a toothbrush, toothpaste, and soap. I could actually ditch the soap and I would be fine. I wouldn’t lose my job, and I know enough hot crusty punks that it’s not going to affect my social life. And it would be pretty cool to have nothing in the bathroom except a toothbrush and toothpaste (maybe dental floss, too — I’ve had two unnecessary extractions already, and at 23, that’s not so great).

But right now I’m wearing pink and gold eyeshadow, metallic blue on my toes. And it looks real good, and I don’t want to give it up. It’s not essential to my livelihood or my identity. I could say that everyone needs nice things and I do think that’s true to a point, but I’m aware that this defence of decadence sounds like Amy on True Blood, the v addict who kills a vampire to drain him for his blood and says something like “a lot of bad things have happened in my life so I deserve this”. Except I haven’t had a lot of bad things happen in my life. Does everyone deserve nail polish?

I don’t know where I’m going with this. Maybe I’ll buy new make-up pads, maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll buy them and feel guilty and then be annoyed because I’m fairly committed to not feeling guilty about consumer choices. Whatever.

Here are some things I’m definitely not going to buy, though I want them very much (helpfully, I can’t afford them anyway):

I don’t understand why I hated being dressed like a little girl when I was one and now it’s all I want. I think I would have had an easier time of this when I was eight and hated girly shit. On the flipside, femininity is famously crafty, and I’m sure I’ll find a way.

Also, I nearly forgot: I paid for it before this project commenced, but I’m subscribed to Overland. So I was wrong, I have bought something new that’s in no way a consumable and I will renew my subscription even if it comes up before this project finishes: I think supporting new Australian writing and left-wing criticism is worthwhile, for sure. I’m really happy for Overland to be the only literature I buy. I guess I could donate money and read it at the library though. Hmm. Maybe I’ll do that.


Week 3

Week three, and nothing to report. A year feels like a long time today, but I’m still excited about this project. It makes me think about the way I consume everything: from food to clothes to energy… I just received a bunch of money from the government; they have a startup scholarship to help with the costs of study. There’s a list of things I’d love to buy, but sitting on the idea for a while and thinking about what’s useful in my life, what’s harmful for the world is a process I have a lot to gain from. NNY is slowing me down.

Gauche is going to post soon about toiletries, but I thought I’d get in first with a couple words on Neem, and shaving.

Neem’s a tree which grows pretty commonly around Melbourne, though it’s native to India and South Asia, where it’s been used for years as teeth-cleaner. My friend Ali first taught me how to use Neem about six months ago, and I didn’t take it up at the time, but my toothbrush is starting to look a little manktastic and using Neem just seems so sensible right now. To brush your teeth with it, you take a length of thin branch, and gnaw the tip til it the fibres break into soft bristles. When you’ve got it to that point, you’re pretty much set to go! Like I say, Neem grows prolifically around Melbourne, and only a small amount of the tree is needed. a six-inch stick might last three or four weeks. It’s really bitter, and you need to spit the juices out a lot – I’ve been using the time as an opportunity to walk around the garden of a morning, and check in on the world in my backyard.

Shaving…well, those of you who grow facial hair and don’t want to can maybe share my frustration with my body’s complete recalcitrance when it comes to my desire for being chinbald. Shaving every day can become a drain on resources, though there’s a couple of options other than the go-to of disposable razors. Razors with removable heads are at least slightly less wasteful than single-use blades. Electrical shavers last a long time before you need to replace or sharpen the blades. But I think for getting clean cut in style (and without using power in a frankly unnecessary manner) you can’t go past a cut-throat razor. I managed to pick one up secondhand for $15 about a month back, and got it honed for $5 at a blade shop across the creek from me. It’ll need re-honing every five years or so, and needs to be stropped every time I use it, but it should last me a lifetime. I get the impression it’s already lasted someone theirs. I might write about capitalist conspiracies to incorporate obsolescence into all products some other time, but whatever the reason, tools like straight razors don’t seem to be in fashion at the moment, and I think that’s both dangerous for our longterm survival and a sadness – there is a loss, I think, in the absence of (for want of a better word) soul in the everyday household.

Unfortunately, my housemates broke the handle of the razor. My next job is to make or find another one…

Also, I’m going to learn to weld at loophole community centre in the next few weeks. My bike rack broke as I was dinking a mate so I’ve had to take it off, which significantly decreases my cargo capacity. Oh well; gluing metal to metal with superheated other metal sounds like my idea of fun, and it’ll be a great skill to have.