My Year of Buying Nothing

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Lee Simpson

216 | 6" x 9"
Paper
ISBN: 978-1-77064-801-2

Lee Simpson may seem like an unlikely candidate to don the mantle of anti-consumerist prophet. She is, after all, the former publisher of Canada’s most successful women’s lifestyles magazine, Chatelaine. But that is just the first of many surprising things about her new book My Year of Buying Nothing.

In the 1980s and ’90s, Simpson oversaw the heady days of women’s magazine publishing. Although proud of the excellent journalism featured in her magazines, and of the pioneering work of the editors she worked with, her primary role as senior executive was to ensure that a maximum number of advertising pages got sold.

“I was part of the data analysis and market research conglomerate that helped consumer predators know your weaknesses and exploit them mercilessly.”

In My Year of Buying Nothing, Simpson invites readers into her world to witness first hand the struggles she faced, the decisions and compromises she had to make, and the epiphanies and wisdom she won during her year-long attempt to shed her “consumer” skin and live a more sustainable, more authentic, more earth-friendly life.

Who better to choose as a guide to a new, healthier post-consumer lifestyle than someone who is intimately familiar with the pitfalls and dangers of the starting place, and the challenges of the way forward?

Lee Simpson, Author

Lee Simpson was the first female publisher of Chatelaine – Canada’s most successful women’s lifestyles magazine. As such, Lee worked contentedly as one of the primary voices in marketing to women for 20 years. Always a champion of change, she left the communications industry in 2000 to earn a Master of Divinity degree to match her MBA, and was subsequently ordained as a minister in The United Church of Canada. Lee lives with her husband and dogs in Nova Scotia, on three seaside acres. She works part-time in local congregations and as a freelance writer, and full-time helping others believe in the power of the individual to save our planet from ecological disaster through simple changes in behaviour. Her year of buying nothing was documented by The United Church Observer to help spread this message.

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Media Reviews

- Alan C. Middleton. PhD. Assistant Professor of Marketing, Schulich School of Business, York University

There are lots of books telling us to be more environmentally conscious consumers.
There are lots of books telling us how to spend less money.
However, there are not lots of books that take these topics and discuss them in such an original, useful, charming and reader-oriented manner.
This is a great read with great insights.

- Rick Wolfe, Advisor to Changing Businesses at PostStone

Oh, how we fill our lives with things we don’t need and often don’t even want! In My Year of Buying Nothing, Lee Simpson is always entertaining  as she shares her own discoveries of the stuff that clutters our days without making them better, and is then trucked off to the landfill unloved. Through her own experiences, helped by family and friends, she reminds us that it’s not having it all that makes us happy, it’s appreciating what we do have. It’s a very timely message and Lee Simpson actually makes it fun to hear.

Colleagues List

Wayne A. Holst

I have lived through periods in my life when I literally did not know where my next meal was coming from.

The challenge in my life now is to live mindfully that difficult times might ever return. My concern today, during a period of relative plenty, is that I may try to accumulate things I don't need as a kind of psychological defense against a return of those  very stressful times in my past.

That is not the challenge author Lee Simpson (former popular magazine editor and United Church minister living in Lunenburg) faced when she decided to engage in YBN - her "year of buying nothing." Her experience was a choice and done voluntarily. Mine was not.

The learning from both our experiences seems to be quite similar, however. We do not need nearly as  much to live fulfilling lives as we think we do. As much as we may believe that we are free people and can think for ourselves, we are very much the targets of an advertising barrage that attacks us constantly. We come to believe we need and deserve  things that we really don't. We continue to suffer from peer pressure and a herd mentality long after  our teenage years have passed.

I admire the author's courage in "going public" through her blog, and interviews about what she was doing when she was living the YBN. If we are not convinced we can "live with less" before we undertake a journey like that, we can certainly grow from it during and following the experience.

Simpson's five chapters deal with things that appeal to our animal nature; the food we need to eat and can avoid; the mineral requirements like getting there, staying warm and keeping it light.

For me, an important reminder was the amount I spend on entertainment - cultural events, books, magazines, newspapers (ouch!) I would describe that as needed "personal growth and  enrichment." Have I really thought that through?

Her last chapter is a personal attempt to create an environmental catechism and she uses the poignant story from Mary Jo Leddy's book "Radical Gratitude."  The African refugee woman living with Mary Jo in Romero House, Toronto, stands looking out the back window of her home and wonders why we need "houses for our cars."

I discovered affirmation for some of my current life disciplines, and challenges to my present lifestyle that I need to heed. I do want to continue in my personal quest for quality of life (QOL) as well as significant behavioural change when  I realize that is possible.

This is a most unusual, but 'natural' book to digest. I highly recommend that you read it during this season of Thanksgiving - and any time of year, for that matter.

Have you wandered through the toy aisles at your local Big Box store recently? You probably wouldn’t think that this would be the backdrop for a life-changing epiphany. But it was for me. Right there, in the midst of the puzzles and the puppets, just weeks before Christmas, somewhere between the pink-fluffy-crystal-princess section and the camouflage-monster-truck-superhero row, I hit the wall. That would be the wall of consumer overload.  I had a revelation: the purchase of a toy for a two-year-old could be likened to enrolling our offspring into a cult. A cult of gender-stereotyped, manufactured-offshore, corporately-branded, non-recyclable, plastic stuff…  I was buying my favourite child a ticket to a dangerous and addictive lifestyle. This eye-opening moment was made ten times worse by the fact that I helped invent this nightmare…

Lee Simpson: My Year of Buying Nothing

Lee Simpson may seem like an unlikely candidate to don the mantel of anti-consumerist advocate. She is, after all, the former publisher of Canada’s most successful women’s lifestyles magazine, Chatelaine. But that is just the first of many surprising things about her new book.

In My Year of Buying Nothing, Simpson invites us to witness first hand the struggles she faced, the decisions and compromises she had to make, and the epiphanies and wisdom she won during her year-long attempt to shed her “consumer” skin and live a more sustainable, more authentic,  more earth-friendly life.

In the 1980s and ’90s, Lee Simpson oversaw the heady days of women’s magazine publishing. Although proud of the excellent journalism featured in her magazines, and of the pioneering work of the editors she worked with, her primary role as senior executive was to ensure that a maximum number of advertising pages got sold. “I was part of the data analysis and market research conglomerate that helped consumer predators know your weaknesses and exploit them mercilessly.”

Who better to lead the way to a post-consumer lifestyle than someone who is intimately familiar with the pitfalls and dangers, and the challenges of the way forward.

 “Have you wandered through the toy aisles at your local Big Box store recently? You probably wouldn’t think that this would be the backdrop for a life-changing epiphany. But it was for me. Right there, in the midst of the puzzles and the puppets, just weeks before Christmas, somewhere between the pink-fluffy-crystal-princess section and the camouflage-monster-truck-superhero row, I hit the wall. That would be the wall of consumer overload.  I had a revelation: the purchase of a toy for a two-year-old could be likened to enrolling our offspring into a cult. A cult of gender-stereotyped, manufactured-offshore, corporately-branded, non-recyclable, plastic stuff … I was buying my favourite child a ticket to a dangerous and addictive lifestyle. This eye-opening moment was made ten times worse by the fact that I helped invent this nightmare …”   – Lee Simpson, My Year of Buying Nothing

Lee Simpson was the first female publisher of Chatelaine, Canada’s most successful women’s lifestyle magazine. As such, she worked contentedly as one of the primary voices in marketing to women for 20 years. Always a champion of change, she left the communications industry in 2000 to earn a Master of Divinity degree to match her MBA, and was subsequently ordained as a minister in The United Church of Canada. Lee lives with her husband and dogs in Nova Scotia, on three seaside acres. She works part-time in local congregations and as a freelance writer, and full-time helping others believe in the power of the individual to save our planet from ecological disaster through simple changes in behaviour. Her year of buying nothing was documented by The United Church Observer to help spread this message.

Simple Living/Sustainability  
6 x 9 inches, Paperback, 320 pages
ISBN 978-1-77064-801-2, Price $22.95

For author interviews or review copies, contact:

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WOOD LAKE PUBLISHING
485 Beaver Lake Road, Kelowna BC V4V 1S5
Phone: 1.800.663.2775
Email: publicity@woodlake.com