It’s time to get what we need without buying it new.
“Mr and Mrs Jones” will enter on Monday in their undies and bathrobes, with a bag of toiletries, and stay there for four nights, until Friday.
They’ll also be clutching their household scavenger list, which calls for items such as bikes, bedside tables and board games, cushions, cookware and cutlery. They must source everything second hand, or by means of borrowing, renting or swapping.
Tamara DiMattina, the event’s founder, says the volunteers aren’t celebrities and it isn’t a crazy quest for reality TV; rather, it’s an exercise in thinking differently about the way we consume.
“When you move house, you tend to write a massive list and buy a whole lot of new stuff,” she says. “But anything you need, you can get second hand.
“The Grand Hyatt is bringing down the beds, sheets and towels. We’re aiming to get people out of the mindset that second hand is dirty. If you stay at a luxury hotel, you’re using a towel and sleeping on sheets that someone else has used. Second hand is not second best.”
But the New Joneses won’t only be procuring preloved goods. They’ll also learn to cook and shop differently, to reduce food and packaging waste. And the apartment itself is a low-waste, pre-fabricated building, complete with water capture and storage systems, as well as home composting and gardening.
School groups will tour the exhibition each morning, before it opens to the public in the afternoon.
One family in Hampton is already putting these ideas into practice. Nearly three months ago, Erin and Peter Castellas and their children began a ‘Buy Nothing New Year’.
These are their ground rules: they can purchase food and new health and hygiene products, such as soap and medicines; everything else they must borrow, inherit, or buy second hand.
“We wanted to take on this challenge because it fits with our values, as well as our budget,” Ms Castellas explains. “We’re raising a young family on one income. It turns a situation that could be a bit miserable into something that’s fun and helps us talk to our kids about consumption and environmental problems, and the value of money.”
She admits to some initial anxiety about running out of things: what would they do without simple items, such as sticky tape or aluminium foil?
So far, they’ve coped. But Ms Castellas says the small stuff doesn’t matter so much as the bigger realisations the experiment has afforded.
“We’ve shifted from thinking about what we don’t have, to being grateful for what we do have. That’s been really interesting for me,” she says. “And when we’ve asked ourselves whether we really need something, we’re surprised that we often answer: ‘No, we don’t really need that’.”
If you’d like to experiment with reducing your consumption, you could set a more modest (but still testing) goal: October is Buy Nothing New Month.
The Castellas family still have many months to go – including Christmas present season. But, to date, even the experience of giving has been richer. Recently, for their grandma, they hand-painted a photo frame from the opshop. “We figured out that what we really want to say is: ‘Nan, we love you!’ not, ‘Here’s a flash new digital frame’,” Ms Castellas says.