I won't buy any clothes for one year.
Seriously?! Yup. That's what my idea was. The first time I made the statement, I was doubtful if I would really be able to do it, but I decided that I wanted to try. I began May 1 of 2009, so I am almost finished with my 1 year clothes buying hiatus. I found that the beginning was super hard...the middle was surprisingly easy...and that lately things have gotten tough again. There have been so many positives that have come out of this though. For starters, I have saved quite a bit of money...but I've learned even more. And the fun thing is, the stuff I've learned transcends clothes. In fact, I was sharing some of the things I had learned while giving up the shopping this past year with a friend and we were able to draw so many parallels to other life situations that I decided to share some of my biggest take-aways...most are pretty obvious, but sometimes the obvious is what we need most.
- Dig beyond the surface of a problem to find the root. When I first looked at my closets, what I saw was a girl with way too many clothes. Over the past year I realized that the clothes were used to replace lots of other things. Yes, I'm a bargain shopper, but more than I realized, I'm an emotional shopper. I shop when I'm happy. I shop when I'm sad. Sadly, one of my first reactions to situations used to be to shop. After a year of no buying, I've been focusing on other first reactions that have been much more beneficial. I've been doing more praying and Bible reading. More journaling and talking it over with friends.
- Set standards for yourself, write them down, and look back over them. About two weeks in, I told someone about my plan and they started asking me some questions...lots of questions. I realized there was a lot that I hadn't totally thought through, so I decided right then to set some standards. My overall standard was I wasn't going to buy any clothes for myself. I decided that included shoes...mainly because I didn't want to transfer my clothes buying to shoe buying. I decided that it would be okay to receive clothes as a gift, so I could ask for them for my birthday and Christmas...just like the old days. I also decided that if something were to get messed up that was a "must have," I could replace it. Example...about 4 months into the no clothes buying, my white shirt got stained. I did everything I knew, but it wasn't coming out. It was my last white t-shirt, so I allowed myself to replace it.
- Let others in on your decision. At first, I didn't want to tell anybody about this little idea. I figured this whole shopping thing was my problem and no one else needed to know about it. It didn't take me long to realize that while that was a personal issue, I was going to need the strength of my family and friends to get me through it. I didn't go off and tell everyone I met, but I told those that needed to know. When you set standards, you can't rely on yourself alone to hold them. We were not created to live life in a vacuum. I depended on God, my family and friends to keep me on the right path and away from the sales signs.
- If you are weak, don't try to be strong. Some days were really easy. Some days were really not. There were times that I walked around in the mall, looked at stuff...even tried things on...but never felt even tempted to buy. There were also times where I could come within 100 feet of a store and want to buy everything in it. If you know you are at a point where you can be easily tempted, or if you know that something can cause you to stumble...don't even go near it. Over the past year I have called friends more than once telling them they are going to have to talk me out of a store. During those times, I wished I had followed my gut and just stayed home.
- Don't let pride cause you to stumble. There were a few times where I felt like I really needed something that I didn't have in my closet. Truth be told, I didn't really NEED it, but I really WANTED it. I told myself that I didn't have anything that would work to wear to my friends' wedding. After lots of searching, I found nothing in my closet that I wanted to wear for Easter. There were times when I almost said "forget it...I'll just buy this one thing...it's for a special occasion..." but then my support system came along and reminded me of my goal. After that reminder, they encouraged me to borrow from others. Borrow from others? I had never thought about that. It was a wonderful idea, but it would mean having to ask. I hated asking. I don't know why. I don't mind loaning my clothes to others, but I hated to ask. I didn't want them to think that I wasn't able to buy. It was a pride thing. Well, I finally got over it and ended up asking the friends and guess what...they were delighted to share.
- When you mess up, ask for forgiveness and MOVE ON. Truth be told, I don't remember the circumstances exactly. It involved me being in another town and staying longer than I had intended, so I decided to buy a new shirt. After I did it, I was so mad at myself. I told my friend who was with me and she told me to take the shirt back and either wear the same shirt again or wear one of hers. I took the shirt back the next day, and for once, instead of beating myself up about the purchase...I moved on. I learned from it and I never bought anything else.
- Instead of complaining, make do with what you have. Now, I'm not saying that I never complained about not having something last year, but each time I did, I would remind myself how much I do have. I mean, I still have a closet brimming with clothes, a dresser stuffed and another season under my bed! Besides, for the most part, I am a creature of habit and wear the same things time and time again. There was really no need to add more options to my already planned out wardrobe. Case in point...a few weeks ago I switched out my closet. Winter clothes under the bed. Summer clothes hanging up neatly. I do this every year and always have a stack of things to donate to others. I didn't think there would be much of that this time. I mean I had only gotten about 15 new things over the course of the entire year. I was almost in shock when it took three bags to pack up my things to donate. Even though I was "lacking" in the new clothes area this year, I was still overflowing with more than I could ever wear!
- Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel makes it harder. The first month was hard, but this past month it has been 100 times harder not to buy anything. Just the other day, I was in Wal-Mart...WAL-MART, people. Now don't get me wrong, I love Wally World as much as the next girl, and I have nothing against their clothes...but I was about to go into a fit to buy a dress and top. The enemy kept whispering "May is going to be here in 15 days...what does 15 days really matter anyway...no one that loves shopping gives up clothes buying for a year...you've done this long enough...no one has to know." Now that my shopping itch is beginning to come back, it's getting harder and harder to tame. But it must be tamed. I made a commitment that I wouldn't buy clothes for a year and I'm sticking to it. I'm not going to compromise because I know the reward will be so much better in the end.
I challenge you to think about the closet of your life. Pull it all out. Sit in the middle. Is there anything that you need to pare down? If there is, maybe this list of learnings will help you as you sort through the piles.