The Buy Nothing Project


There are times when I’m floored by how lucky I am to have you, this community of readers, in my life. It’s in the supportive comments that you leave for each other (or when you come to our defense, thank you very much for that), it’s when you bravely send in swim selfies all I Am Mama; This Is Me, and, occasionally, it’s when you write so eloquently about life, about your experiences, and you widen your circle to include all of us.

That’s when I feel the luckiest.

So when I got Cynthia’s (lengthy, haha) email about the Buy Nothing Project, I knew immediately it was something I wanted to cover.

I just want to start by saying I am such a fan of The Mom Edit. I can’t tell you what it’s done for me. The suggestions from you and your contributors have allowed me to get real about a sensible wardrobe (for my life), and still feel stylish (or dare I say hip) for a mom of 2! Anyway, I’ve traded the fast and fancy fashions of my youth for more expensive but timeless pieces like high quality jeans that actually fit, unique basics and sneakers…my god…so many sneakers. But alas, I digress.

In this process, my closet was literally bursting at the seams and giving me so much anxiety I was actually losing sleep. Did you know anxieties can be tied to an excess of things? Yeah, neither did I until I started getting rid of it and feeling a gazillion times better… 

Cynthia’s writing was so passionate about the project, so engaging, and so funny that my response was quick and easy: “Cynthia,” I wrote, “YES.  Can you write it?” (my email self is hopelessly terse).

And she did. With pics. Including, my favorite, a badass pic of herself and her two little girls that will most-likely become one of those epic family portraits for generations to come — it’s at the end, and totally adorable.

Now here’s Cynthia on the Buy Nothing Project….

Life Moves Faster Than I Often Realize.

It’s like one minute you’re in your twenties, prancing down the street in impossibly high heels, frosted lips and a lace push up bra. In the next, you’re gliding through the office in a power suit, clutching a latte and a handbag that costs more than some small nation’s entire GDP. And Now? High heels are the modern equivalent of some antiquated torture device meant to subjugate women. You’re lucky if you’ve remembered to wear a bra for school drop off, and the only thing you’re clutching, besides your dwindling sanity, is that cold cup of coffee you’ve been nursing all morning.

Sound familiar?

I confess. I sometimes have a problem letting go of the past.

For years – way too may years – I’ve hung on to the lavish wardrobe of my “Illustrious youth” with the fanciful notion that once the kids get older, I will somehow resurrect this person, this life. ME, who now high-fives herself for being in bed by 9:30 on a Friday night with the next episode of the Handmaid’s Tale cued up. I think it’s safe to assume that that girl is never coming back.

And you know what, I’m okay with that. Sleep looks good on me.

But I haven’t thrown in the towel. I have embraced the gospel according to The Mom Edit, and thanks to this clergy of very stylish, yet practical women, I’ve reigned in my predilection for designer sale racks and impulse shopping. I’ve relinquished most of the fast and fancy fashions of my youth for more timeless pieces like high quality jeans (that actually fit!), unique basics and sneakers…my god…so many sneakers. But alas, I digress.

I now have a streamlined and sensible wardrobe for my work-from-home mom life.

Given my aforementioned inability to let go, I went through what I’d call a “wardrobe transition,” wherein my closet was literally bursting at the seams with nearly two decades and several major life changes worth of clothing. It was giving me so much anxiety that I was actually losing sleep.

Did you know that anxiety can be tied to an excess of things? Yeah, neither did I until I started getting rid of stuff and feeling so much better.

As I was purging my closet, I realized that my fixation with fashion trends and prior addiction to red tag sales meant that so much of my wardrobe went unworn, and the majority of clothes I was getting rid of had so much more life in them. None of it was truly terrible or out of style, just not practical for my current occupation as mom/sherpa/maid servant/short order cook/chauffeur/napkin.

For over a year now, I’ve been participating in an online Facebook community that is part of the larger “Buy Nothing” Project. Defined on their website as a hyper-local gift economy, aside from promoting a “reduce, reuse, recycle” philosophy, the project’s real purpose is to foster connections within your community. Groups are based on zip codes, but this isn’t meant to be exclusionary, it’s meant for you to reach out to your “real-life” neighbors.

Buy Nothing: Give Freely. Share creatively.

It’s important to note that the project is not a charity. Not that charitable giving doesn’t exist in the Buy Nothing Project, but giving and receiving are done freely, unconditionally and without judgment. As members of this very special community, you can make requests for all manner of items and select recipients for your gifts in any way you choose. It is truly a safe space to find what you need or give compassionately at no cost. This also means that the group is free of commerce or solicitations. A group’s success is built on trust and respect, and administrators are available all the time to ensure a positive experience.

To give you an example of where my items have ended up and what I have received:

  • Lovingly used baby items went to a woman who worked with teen moms. She told me they never expect anything, but when they were gifted boxes of old baby books, clothing, blankets and toys they cried with joy.
  • Many of my old work clothes went to moms who were just beginning to re-enter the workforce and didn’t have the money to spend on a new wardrobe.
  • Another bulk of my wardrobe went to a single mother raising two little boys on her own. She told me she is never able to spend on herself. She said it felt like Christmas Day and that what I gave her was larger than her entire closet. 
  • I needed car seats for my mother’s car so I wouldn’t have to leave mine with her each time. By the end of the morning I had several people offer ones that were used but still in great shape.
  • My husband injured his knee and I asked for a knee brace. Someone gifted me a DonJoy Immobilizer that retails for hundreds of dollars.
  • A mother was throwing a space-themed birthday party for her son and had requested any used decorations. I, of the extravagant birthday variety, had recently thrown my daughter a Star Wars-themed birthday party and gifted all of my decorations to her. She and her son were thrilled!  My favorite part about this story, however, is that some weeks later I asked the group if anyone had a winter jacket and booties for our Labrador as we were gearing up for a winter move to Lake Tahoe. This same woman happened to have these exact, albeit seemingly random items!

Some of our best ideas come from you — readers. The Buy Nothing Project is 1 of those. Passionate, practical & a start for sustainable living. YES.

Some of our best ideas come from you — readers. The Buy Nothing Project is 1 of those. Passionate, practical & a start for sustainable living. YES.


I could go on and on. I do believe that in this new age of social media, this is how our communities and connections remain intact.

Of course, not all of the giving/receiving is charity based. A lot of it is just for fun. Sometimes people make cookies and offer it to the first person to stop by. Some make extra portions for dinner. Others have an excess of chicken eggs or garden harvest. And books! Lots of books! It is really an amazing social experiment that has built a strong community of givers in my own zip code, no matter what anyone’s means are.

I thought that since there are likely a lot of women who, like me, have decided to overhaul their wardrobes, the project was worth sharing to promote the idea of re-purposing. I’ve only included the Buy Nothing Project ( because its convenient and local (no matter where you live), but I’m certain there are many more organizations that provide used clothing and other items to financially compromised women and families.

I encourage all of you to visit the Buy Nothing website, find one for your zip code and commence with the giving and receiving. Bear witness to the random acts of kindness happening every day, and then consider your faith in humanity restored.

This is me/us. My girls and I. Just having these two in my life makes me feel like I won the lottery, so passing on my good fortune in any way I can feels like the best way to make the world better!

Some of our best ideas come from you — readers. The Buy Nothing Project is 1 of those. Passionate, practical & a start for sustainable living. YES.


Cynthia, thank you for writing in and covering this seriously cool project.  It DOES help restore faith in humanity.



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Shana founded The Mom Edit in 2008. She lives with the love of her life (his name's Mike) and their two crazy boys in downtown Philadelphia. She loves a good styling challenge (her engineering side shows eventually), appreciates kindness, and usually picks scotch over wine, sneakers over stilettos, and shorts known as denim-underwear, always.

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  1. I love my local Buy Nothing group! Such a good way to get to know your neighbors, we’ve received some amazing things from it and it feels so good to gift items to people through it as well.

  2. I also love our local Buy Nothing group! One of my friends arranges monthly meet-ups where we each bring 5 items to gift, put our names in a bowl for each item we’re interested in and have a blast talking and meeting our neighbors. It’s truly a wonderful thing to be a part of. About to photograph some clothing items today that I almost sent to a large donation organization, but decided to save for my lovely neighbors who are always so appreciative and really enjoy the pieces (speaking from experience of doing the same with their amazing gifts to us). Thanks for your lovely article!!

  3. This is fantastic! (And I love your writing, Cynthia…Shana, give her more assignments! I’d love to see how she puts some of her downsized closet items together.)

  4. Thanks for sharing this! I love the article & the photo of your daughters. What a wonderful example of community and charity you are setting for them!

  5. Yay! I love my Buy Nothing group so much. It’s so much more satisfying to pass something along to someone who is squeeeeing! over it, vs. blindly sending away in a donation pile. It’s been cool to meet neighbors, and on the times when I’ve asked to borrow something that just feels silly to buy (i.e. a *third* muffin tin for the ambitious brunch I agreed to host), I think it makes both parties feel good to know that we avoided a senseless purchase. Great article, and agreed on wanting to see more of her writing!

  6. I love my Buy Nothing group. It’s a great way to rehouse still useful items, borrow those strange items you wouldn’t buy (like a life ring and rope for my 7 year olds Titanic themed birthday party) and to be reminded we are all part of a real community, not just virtual. I highly recommend finding yours!!

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