Back in January, I wrote here about my decision to purchase no clothes during 2013 as a part of my plan to re-orient my time, energy, and money towards more giving. I wrote then:
The fact is that I have absolutely all the clothes that I need — and more. But I was spending a significant amount of time (and sometimes money) on online clothing sites thinking about filling out my closet or buying the latest trend. It’s a silly little thing, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with clothes shopping. But turning off that option has created welcome space in my brain, my schedule, and my bank account — space that I can redistribute in a way that falls more in line with my intentions for the year.
At the beginning of 2013, I gave myself a little motivational talk and got all geared up for a year of telling myself, “no,” a year of feeling deprived. I hoped that wasn’t how I would feel, but I suspected it would be similar to the times I plan to do something like reduce my sugar intake and then run into a coworker handing out free cupcakes. To my (very happy) surprise, it hasn’t felt that way at all. Perhaps the sense of deprivation is down the road — I am only about five months in. But so far, what I feel more than anything is… relief.
Before this year, I would never have described my clothes-shopping as a compulsion. Even now, I wouldn’t say that I have been a compulsive shopper, not in the true psychological sense. And yet, comparing how I feel and behave now to how I felt and behaved then, I can easily identify compulsive behaviors — at the very least, obsessive ones.
By way of example, I’ll describe a little scene from the other day. I stood in front of the full-length mirror in the bathroom at my office drying my hands. As I turned to the side to walk out, I gave myself a once-over and thought, “I wish I had bought these pants in a different cut. They’re not the most flattering on me.” Then I walked out of the bathroom and completely forgot about it.
That same thought six months ago would have sent me back to my computer, to the website of the store where I bought the pants, to see whether another fit was available.
But since I like to stay within a budget, even if there had been a pair of pants in a different fit, I would have checked several other websites to see whether there were similar, less expensive pants anywhere else. I probably would have decided that I needed to try at least a few pair on before ordering any and would have planned a trip to a local store. For weeks, I would check every so often to see whether the prices had dropped. I would hem and haw over whether I could afford the new pants, whether they were a good purchase that would last, whether I shouldn’t just be happy with the similar pants I already owned. I might or might not actually purchase any new pants.
In the interim, I might have moved on to something else — like a new skirt or a new pair of flats. And the whole time, I would be adding to the running list of clothing items I “needed.” And I probably would be feeling deprived because I didn’t have all those things right at that moment.
The combination of trying to stay within a budget and get “just the right thing” meant that clothes shopping became a strange, highly unsatisfying obsession. Add in sites like Pinterest and the few fashion blogs I read, and there was always a new clothing item to be searching for.
Deciding to go sans new clothes for a whole year was like installing a big STOP sign in my brain. When I start to go to that obsessive place, the sign just pops out, like on the side of a school bus. STOP. And I do. There’s no point in scouring the web for the perfect khaki pants or the perfect pair of boots or the perfect brightly colored jean.
And then there’s the sigh of relief; I don’t have to think about that anymore. I can spend my energy thinking about other things: my job, packing up our apartment to move, our new house, new volunteer opportunities, my friends, my family, a new garden, anything I’d like. I don’t know when I started to feel like I HAVE to think about my clothes so much. I’ve always enjoyed shopping, but I used to know how to turn it off. And I’m so glad that I’ve learned how to once again.
Anything can become an obsession — at least for me.
Sometimes I need to remember that I can stop, that I can let go, that I can release my hold on something that’s not working for me anymore.
I know that eventually I’ll buy new clothes. Sometime next year, I’ll figure out that I need (or want) a new this or a new that. But I’ll most definitely be carrying my STOP sign with me — just in case I need it.