By the time I discovered Robert Llewellyn’s YouTube Channel LlewTube, he was just announcing that he’d just bought his first new thing. Not knowing the context, I went because and found a year of “Making Do” videos where Llewellyn chronicled his year of not buying anything except food and medicine for a year. Intrigued, I tried giving up buying stuff during lent. Imagine doing it for a whole year! You don’t have to imagine. In addition to the “Making Do” videos, Llewellyn mused on this experiment in his book Sold Out: How I Survived a Year of Not Shopping.
Robert Llewellyn is a TV presenter, actor, and author. He is best known for playing Kryten on Red Dwarf and also hosted Scrapheap Challenge. His web shows are Car Pool and Fully Charged. He has authored many fiction and non-fiction books. @bobbyllew
This book is not a diary transcription of “Making Do” but is instead a collection of essays looking at the project in retrospect. In fact, it’s more like a memoir wrapped around the theme of consumerism. You get to know Lewellyn’s relationship with his parents, his attempt to go vegan, the time he lived in a truck, the memory of buying his first Mac computer, and driving various models of cars. Yes, Llewellyn’s interest in cars comes through in this book also.
“Anything that [Jeremy] Clarkson hates that much has got to be a good thing…I make a point of loving all the things he hates. I use him as a moral compass. He’s a very useful man.”
What drove Lewellyn to attempt this? It’s a combination of self-analysis and politics. In the chapter on guilt, the disclaimer warns the reader that this is a very middle-class book, and middle-class people tend to feel the most guilty. Even as I read the book on the subway, I wanted to hide the cover because I would feel guilty if someone begging me for change assumed the worst of my problems was a shopping addiction. Class is a little different in Llewellyn’s country than here in America, but perhaps it is become more similar as the middle-class dissolves in the entire Western world.
Keep a highlighter handy because there will be a lot of little things you’ll want to remember for later. I’d advise you not to read it if you are afraid of looking at your own behavior within a consumer society on a planet that is trying to go green. You will learn a lot about class, misogyny, and hypocrisies that make us human.