If I had to sum myself up on a car bumper sticker it would be a toss up between Born to shop or Born to eat (it certainly wouldn’t be Honk if you’re horny that’s for sure). So with my bumper-sticker-motto in mind you’ll understand how challenging giving up shopping for a year would be, impossible even, but that is exactly what I did, 13 months to be exact.
I don’t know if there is much research surrounding the impact of ‘nature v.s nuture’ when it comes to shopping, but what I do know is I come from good stock when it comes to hitting the high street. As my Dad fondly puts it my Mum has a black belt when it comes to shopping. Anne Mahoney you taught me well.
Some of my favourite childhood memories involve shopping with mum, usually at Marks & Spencer, as Mum had a card there and they had a brilliant returns policy. We would end the trip up packing the plastic bags into the back of the Volvo for removal later. Growing up in the UK most of the year it gets dark early, the fading daylight was especially helpful when it came to bringing in the shopping loot. A stealth mission best attempted under the cover of darkness, it was called ‘Don’t let your dad see what we bought’. I believe similar missions were taking place all around the world.
As the years went by I spent all my pocket money, student loans, Saturday-job cash and later full-time wages on clothes. There is something amazing about the feeling of leaving your favourite store with a new purchase, an adrenalin rush of the fabric variety. (I should add at this point my love of shopping isn’t just clothes related, I equally froth in the aisles of Ikea, Office Works and Aldi.)
So why, I hear you ask, would someone who could give Imelda Marcos a run for her money entertain the idea of a year-long abstinence from retail therapy. Well let me explain...
I was someone who tended to buy classic pieces as opposed to high fashion items and so over the years I amassed one hell of a wardrobe. A wardrobe that swelled even more during my marriage. As my husband used to quip if our house went up in flames it would be a case of women, children and my wardrobe first! He needn’t have worried I had an escape plan all mapped out ready for my key pieces.
I found it really hard to let anything go from my wardrobe unless it was damaged beyond repair, or a cashmere jumper now child-sized after an accidental hot wash. I had pieces that were over 20 years old in amongst my newer treasures. In a family home there was plenty of storage options to keep all of my pieces in. However when my marriage status changed so too did the amount of storage I had. I ended up moving more times than the circus and was forever packing up all my things, enough was enough, I needed to cull my clothes.
A good friend, Tash Sefton (a fashion tastemaker & consultant) had just started a new consulting business helping women find their style which included revamping their wardrobes. She was fantastic. We went through my things and Marie Kondo’d the shit out of my wardrobe. Mixed in with ‘Does it give you joy’ was ‘Does it actually fit anymore’. Like a lot of women a portion of my wardrobe didn’t fit me anymore, but as someone whose weight fluctuates I didn’t want to let treasured pieces go. I had to finally admit the jeans I bought post marriage breakdown would realistically require rib removal, or for me to be in a coma for a few months to ever fit again. (Note to anyone going through a break-up wait a few months before purchasing too many things – you may not be at your true weight!)
So I started a pile of clothes that didn’t fit, didn’t bring me joy & hadn’t been worn for over five years or more. Tash had some really amazing advice that included letting go of something if all your memories of wearing it weren’t great – that was the dress I wore when I got stood up in etc. The pile was then separated into items to sell, items to give to family & friends and lastly the charity pile. I had a night or two to sleep on my decision before all the pieces went online to sell, to friends or to St Vinnies. Not only did this exercise help me pay down my credit card it was also incredibly cathartic. I was left with a lean wardrobe full of my absolute favourite items and all of them fitted – double bonus!
As the first couple of months rolled by without me buying anything I mentioned it to my Mum who’s first response was that I already had so many lovely things I didn’t need more, followed with a comment about no doubt you’ll buy something soon anyway. I saw this as her throwing down the gauntlet and I love a challenge. Plus I really liked having a healthy credit card limit and not a maxed one for a change. The last parental challenge I took up was age 12 when I decided to become a vegetarian and Dad said he’d give me a month before I was back on the meat. I ending up sticking it out till I was 16 almost to prove a point (I couldn’t look at a Quorn veggie burger for years after that!)
Before I knew it I had hit the six-month mark. Like someone trying to lose weight, or give the booze a wide berth I removed temptation from my way and avoided going into shops. I unsubscribed to emails from my favourite stores and online websites so I wasn’t tempted to whack in my credit card details and press ‘purchase’ on my computer. I also learnt to ‘shop in my wardrobe’ and spent time when I was childfree trying new combo’s on in front of the mirror listening to great playlists and pulling some unusual dance moves. Yep a super cheap Friday night in.
I smugly hit the one-year shopping free mark and felt bloody proud of myself. I actually ended up stretching it to 13 months in the end and broke the seal late last year. A navy pair of suede ankles boots and a pair of white sneakers took my cherry. My feet loved me for it.
What have I learned? Well the bank and I have a much nicer relationship and I never get those unwanted text messages that I am over my credit card limit anymore. Sometimes new isn’t always better, or required, I look at what I have now when an event comes up rather than assuming I need something new. I also don’t buy something on impulse anymore. I sleep on it. So far so good… although there is a certain Navy coat I’m dreaming about…
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON 9HONEY