I’m not even sure now, five months in, what prompted my shopping ban. I remember texting my two BFFs and my mom and sis with the idea. BFFs thought I was crazy, mom said she would do the same. I set my shopping ban for one year with no new clothes, shoes, jewelry, or handbags. So far, I have purchased one sweatshirt. I have been given a handful of clothing items and a pair of shoes as well, which at first, I considered fine because I didn’t purchase them – they were free! Now, after doing the ban for five months and recently reading The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders, I realize the point of this ban is so much bigger than just getting free ‘stuff’ because in the end, I still must find room in my closet(s) for it all and thankfully, these five months have changed my relationship with stuff.
When I started the ban, the purpose was to save money and travel more. I also have a hefty student loan bill I’m aggressively paying on, as I have a goal of having it paid off in five years (stretch goal: two years). I don’t really have any idea how much I was spending on clothes, shoes, jewelry, and handbags as I didn’t have any sort of monthly budget in place. I disliked shopping (in stores) but loved a good online or thrift store deal and jewelry was really my downfall, especially when traveling. Also, I was always the best person to invite to your in-home jewelry, leggings, face product, etc. party because I would feel so bad that you, the host, had spent money on food and drink that I would always purchase way more than I could afford. I eventually had to stop going to those but then people started doing Facebook shopping groups! I am ashamed to admit I amassed a rather large LulaRoe collection in a very short amount of time thanks to being able to shop on Facebook.
After reading The Year of Less, I really wish I had read it before starting my ban, as her first instruction in the how-to guide in the back of the book, “Your Guide to Less,” is to declutter your home. Flanders claims that once you have gone through your stuff and realized how much money you have wasted on owning, say, six LulaRoe dresses, it will help you to realize you don’t want to waste more money buying these types of items. She then says to take inventory of what you already have. This is imperative. Someone gifted me a very cute pair of Tom’s wedge sandals and I was so happy because I was convinced I didn’t have any black summer sandals professional enough for work. The other day I was looking through my ‘other’ closet, where I keep off-season clothes and shoes (which has recently been re-purposed to hold only dresses because I need an entire closet for only dresses!), and found TWO pairs of cute black sandals. Which means I now have THREE PAIR! Similarly, I was picking out a dress to wear to a friend’s BBQ and thought I had one good shoe choice and then found I had five different pairs of shoes that would go with that one dress. That one dress is one I’ve had for years but don’t often wear and the dress received many compliments at said BBQ, proving further I don’t need new things, but to wear the clothes I already own.
My sister was here over a weekend and she helped me to get rid of clothing I was hanging on to for weird sentimental reasons such as, that t-shirt with safety pins all down the sides made me feel really punk rock when I wore it eight years ago, never mind the shirt no longer fits me. I still had the dress I wore to my high school graduation, which was nothing fancy, from Deliah’s of all places! I also had the dress I wore to one of my best friend’s high school wedding (yes, you read that correctly) which will also never fit me again. These, and many other items that no longer fit me, will be donated to a good cause. This is the second time since the shopping ban I have gone through my clothes to get rid of what I no longer wear, and I know I still have so much more to go through and donate. I feel like I need to take a week off work to do a proper declutter. To take precious vacation time to go through all my belongings makes me see how big of a problem this is and makes me happy I’m no longer adding more to the stash which will eventually be donated anyway.
What was most relevant to me in Flanders’ writing was how she described her friend’s and family’s reactions to her bans or even various life choices such as her decision to stop eating meat when she was 24 or when she decided to stop drinking. She explains how she spent her time, after making these decisions, explaining herself to the people in her life. She talks about how people treated her differently each time she made one of these life changes and even still with her shopping ban. Her experiences and feelings are so like some of my very own. People telling me that I’m more fun when I’m drinking, when I’m working on cutting back on drinking or just taking a break. People saying, “Oh, you’re eating cheese?” in an accusatory tone when I’m taking a break from being dairy free because sometimes you just need a piece of cheese! People telling me things are necessities when I am declaring them wants as a method of talking myself out of buying them. The relationship piece can be a bigger struggle than the willpower piece.
I know a few people who are doing comparable bans. If you are considering taking something like this on, I can only say I highly recommend it and I highly recommend reading The Year of Less before embarking. There are so many books on this type of topic right now, which I think is very telling as to the state of our relationships with things. I believe there is a movement towards finding happiness not related to things, belongings, or material possessions…but maybe that’s something that happens naturally as we age. As I creep closer and closer to turning 40, I’m finding myself re-evaluating my relationships to so many things, ideas, people, and goals. I don’t regret my shopping ban for one second and am confident I will make it through the entire year.
Follow up reading:
- the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing by Marie Kondo
- Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus
- Minimalist Budget: The Simple Approach to Saving and Spending by A.C. Drexel (extra points for the author’s name being A.C.!)
- Walden by Henry David Thoreau (paperback only $3.63 on Amazon!)
Link to the seven-week budget ecourse I’m taking: Money Tracker