I've officially made it 31 days with absolutely no shopping!!!
I decided at the end of last year that I needed to slow down and take a look at my shopping habits. I set a goal of not shopping in January. (I'm still buying essentials like face wash, groceries, and paper towels, but no non-essential expenses.) Two reasons why:
1) I spend way more money than I need to, and I want to take more tangible control of my financial future. (That's the easy reason. Here comes the hard one.)
2) My many years of working in the retail industry and being a voracious lover of style and fashion have lead me to a lot of consumption without considering the "whys". It started in college when I'd head to Forever21, buy a cheap poly-blend cocktail dress, wear it once to a party, then inevitably give it away to Goodwill. Last year it was jeans: I'd see a gorgeous pair, try them on, love them, and buy them - without any consideration whatsoever to whether or not I actually needed another pair of jeans.
I've always been drawn to sustainable, recycled fashion and truly loving the things you own - I've been a thrifting & vintage addict since day 1. But that more thoughtful part of my brain is so easily distracted & overruled by shiny things. And it was in distracted moments I'd find myself returning home from a day out with a new almost-perfect dress, a kind-of-cute sweater, or they're-close-enough-shoes.
You've probably heard of "emotional shopping", and I had too - but the definition seemed so literal and condescending I felt like it couldn't possibly apply to me. It's not like I have a bad day then go drop $500 in a Topshop while yell-crying. Then one day in December, after an exhausting day of work I found myself not ready to go home and wanting to let my mind wander. With no friends available for a cocktail and no movies with the right show times.......I guess I could go wander in Zara and Sephora and see what's new, I thought. And as Bridget Jones said, THAT, RIGHT THERE, THAT was the moment that I recognized my own pattern:
When I'm tired, or frustrated, or needing distraction, shopping is the thing I choose. I enter a browned-out state of stimulation, wandering shops, imagining myself as a girl with flawless cat eyes (Stila) and tousled hair (Ouai), in the perfect high-waisted denim (Levi's) and loose-knit sweater (Maiami), in gorgeous leather booties (Sezanne), with a flawless shoulder bag (Annie Bing). I spend a little while imagining myself as someone else, someone polished and composed, someone who couldn't possibly have whatever trivial issues I have. That brings temporary relief. I spend a couple hours wandering, see some beautiful things, then wake up back in my apartment with shopping bags of stuff I 100% do not need.
After I finally noticed the pattern, I felt pretty gross. I kind of couldn't believe I'd fallen into the murky, totally irresponsible land of mindless shopping. But instead of feeling terrible about it and/or ignoring it, I wanted to change it. I wanted to prove to myself that I can be excited by beautiful things without needing to own them - that I can draw way more inspiration by being awake and intentional than letting endless style stimuli overtake my sense of self. There's so much about the fashion world I dream of changing one day, both through my habits as a consumer and as a retail professional - and the major point I want to drive home is that endlessly, unintentionally buying things is terrible for the earth, terrible for the us as buyers, and terrible for all of the people & resources used carelessly on the way.
I chose not to shop in January so I could plug back into what I already own and love - to see if I could listen to what's underneath the desire for distraction, still feel inspired, and start to live out the ideologies of consumption I've come to believe over the years.
It's not like this is easy. There are no simple solutions for freeing yourself from consumption mistakes you've already made. As my first act for the year, I decided to give away a couple of bags of clothes I no longer wear for all the usual reasons: my closet was packed, I wanted to downsize, I hoped that someone somewhere could use the things I wanted to unload, I wanted to start fresh. All of my clothes were turned down by THREE DIFFERENT ESTABLISHMENTS (Goodwill, Mission Thrift, and Buffalo Exchange) because guess what guys, these places are literally overflowing with people just like me trying to unload their complicity, trying to free themselves from endless consumption, trying to downsize and find some clarity, hopeful that they're doing something philanthropic but fearing deep down that we're only adding to the problem. I'd never seen it laid out so starkly in front of me: even donation drop-offs that could theoretically sell my $60 sweater for $5 had to turn me away.
So how am I dealing with the things I tried to give away? I'm sitting with them, I'm owning their existence in my life and recognizing that even if I never should have bought them, I can't just cast them off into a landfill to free myself of the guilt. I'm re-examining, re-imagining, recycling, finding new ways to wear them. I'm trying my best - it's clumsy (and pretty embarrassing to trumpet out into the internet lollllllllll), but I am trying.
So how'd the month go?
It has been incredible! I'm having a blast trying to use old clothes in new ways, and am finding myself turning to way more lovely vices in moments of boredom: playing violin, going to museums, walking irrationally long distances, writing letters, listening to podcasts, digging through old art school notes, making new cocktails, reading new books, planning even more elaborate weeknight dinner dates with my boyfriend than usual. I've been mostly free of my desire to shop (exceptttttttttttt for this gorgeous Banana Republic coat, these Sezanne boots that are literally torturing me, and Glossier's lush fragrance You - hey, it's gonna take time, right?!), and I have a little more cash in my pocket this month that I can invest toward long term financial health.
It's been so good that...I'm gonna keep it going. No-Shop-February, here I come!
Wish me luck!