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Wayne Post
  • The year of nothing new: Fairport woman writes book on living 'lean and green'

  • What would it be like to live a whole year without buying anything new? That’s what Fairport woman Kristin Skarie set out to discover, as told in her new book, “A Year of Nothing New: Tools For Living Lean and Green.”Skarie, 52, is a Wisconsin native who runs her own consulting company called Teamwor...
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    • If you go
      Kristin Skarie will sign copies of her book, “A Year of Nothing New: Tools for Living Lean and Green” at a meet and greet hosted by Anything Goes Consignment Store, 136 Fair...
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      If you go
      Kristin Skarie will sign copies of her book, “A Year of Nothing New: Tools for Living Lean and Green” at a meet and greet hosted by Anything Goes Consignment Store, 136 Fairport Village Landing, Fairport, on Saturday, Nov. 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free refreshments provided.


  • What would it be like to live a whole year without buying anything new? That’s what Fairport woman Kristin Skarie set out to discover, as told in her new book, “A Year of Nothing New: Tools For Living Lean and Green.”
    Skarie, 52, is a Wisconsin native who runs her own consulting company called Teamworks, which allows her to travel across the U.S. to primarily train college students and staff in leadership development.
    The idea to embark on a “no new” year came when Skarie was at a conference when she crossed paths with a friend who’d read a New York Times article describing the concept: To buy only food and consumable goods like toiletries and not spend money on non-essentials that had not been used previously.
    So without any preparation, Skarie accepted the same challenge in March 2010. She successfully made it through the whole year, took a two-month break, and spent another whole year doing the same. Skarie started by counting her blessings: Food, shelter, clothing, and safety.
    “What hit me pretty early on is that I have a choice to do this and there are many people who never get the opportunity to buy anything new,” she said.
    Each month came with a new challenge. In June, she kept all lights off and started getting up at 5 a.m. and going to bed at 9 p.m. to take advantage of the daylight. When traveling for work, she had a rule to use just one light per room at the hotel.
    She quit watching TV. She spent a month without buying anything made of plastic and cut out disposable items. She tossed all toxic house cleaners and started using baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice. She limited her food to locally grown produce and started composting the waste. She stopped buying junk food and eating at chain restaurants and coffee shops.
    Instead of buying gifts for friends and family for the holidays, she gave homemade bread and canned peaches. In January, she wore the same six items of clothing for the month as part of a “fashion fast” (another New York Time experiment). Skarie shopped at the many consignment stores in Fairport for clothing the rest of the time. For the fashion-conscious businesswoman who enjoys shopping at Eastview Mall, this proved to be one of the hardest adjustments for Skarie.
    “I like to buy clothing,” she said. “It was not a hardship, but it was a real check on the freedom to say let’s go out there and see if there’s anything I might want. The hardest part was asking in the moment, do I really need this? And is my life dramatically different if I have this item? It’s a material thing.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Skarie admits there were moments she cheated — like the time she bought new toys for her nephews. With each little slip, she put cash into the “nothing new fund” and gave part of the money to a local charity. At the end of year one, she noticed a difference in her habits, but also in her checkbook. The savings from cutting back on utilities and new items amounted to about $6,000.
    “It totaled this embarrassing amount of money because that was what I spent on items I didn’t need,” said Skarie. “And there’s nothing wrong with wanting something or making a decision to buy something, but I would wish for others to have the same peace of mind that comes with not being attached to some sort of identity that things bring.”
    The time she saved from watching TV freed up her time to read and write more letters and cards. Skarie thus found that having extra time and income allowed her to devote more time and energy to her personal relationships.
    In year two of the project, Skarie added eight new “extracurricular” activities that included joining committees and giving more freely of her time at School 28 in Rochester, where she volunteers once a week through Pencil Partner program.
    She says her “no new” years have made a lasting impact as the habits she established have stretched beyond life and work and home.
    “I now have this huge peace of mind that I have everything I need, and what a blessing that is,” Skarie said. “I know there are people within arm’s reach that can’t say that. So it’s a very humbling experience.”

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