Firstly: there's so much going on in the world that shopping really isn't a topic of much (any) importance or relevance. Nevertheless, it is something that has been on my mind and that's why I am writing about it. Nothing more, nothing less.
I love fashion, I love my clothes and I have plenty. I love shopping. The thrill of finding something, making a bargain and owning it. I can literally spend hours surfing online shops. One day, early last year, I was browsing online and picked out a pair of jeans that I just had to have. And just before I clicked “buy”, I thought: hm, haven’t I got a very similar pair already? I went to my wardrobe and – lo and behold – dug out a pair that I had bought weeks ago and had NEVER worn. And here I was about to buy another one…
What is the point of wanting to shop and shop when it doesn’t seem to be about actually wearing the clothes? So, I decided to implement a shopping ban. To start with, I was finding it really hard. We are surrounded by marketing and every season, there are new items and there always is a sale on somewhere. But whenever I was tempted, I would remind myself just how many clothes I already have in my closet. I guess, lockdown also helped in a way, as I wasn’t going out and started living in sweatpants and t-shirts (note: I did buy a second pair of sweatpants!).
With only a few exceptions, I managed more than a year without shopping and earlier this month, I felt it was time to lift the ban which felt like a real treat. Interestingly, it took me ages to decide what to get once I decided to shop again. Here’s what shifted for me thanks to this experience:
- I’m more mindful of what I am buying. Rather than getting something because it is cheap, I ask myself whether I’ll actually wear it. I don’t buy on impulse, but put things in the virtual shopping basket and come back to it after a few days and a lot of the time, I have changed my mind by then.
- In the past, I would often keep things I had bought even if they didn’t fit 100% (and consequently, I wouldn’t wear – what a waste). So far I returned the things that weren’t quite right.
But let’s get to more overarching learnings (or maybe reminders) that go beyond just the shopping:
- I can do things I set my mind on. Like Glennon Doyle says: We can do hard things. This is of course a very trivial example. But it can be applied to other things. How often do we give up before even trying? I am not gonna lie: not shopping at all for more than a year seemed pretty impossible to start with.
- Know your why. What’s the goal behind your goal? This question deserves some digging and honesty. In my experience, it’s an area where we can be stuck in old stories we tell ourselves and outdated beliefs we hold. When you know your why, it is much easier to follow through. This applies to my why for shopping as well as for the why of my shopping ban.
- You can always start again. A few weeks in, I went to London and bought a t-shirt. I felt bad and was prepared to throw in the towel. But every new day can be a new start. And we can go back to our resolutions. It doesn’t matter how many times we mess up, when we keep re-committing.
- I’ll never have enough. Well, I already have more than enough, but I will always want more. Have you ever thought: If only – I had the job, the partner, the house, the car, the whatever? And then you get it and the satisfaction doesn’t last for very long. Let’s not trick ourselves into this thinking but see it for what it is.
- Be honest and own it. How many times have I heard (myself and others say): I really need this item of clothing. I don’t have anything like it in my wardrobe. Well, that will always be the case. We simply cannot have EVERYTHING. And it’s a silly excuse really. We have way more than we need already. There’s nothing wrong with taking pleasure from things we don’t need but want but I do believe that it pays to be honest about it with ourselves.
- Be mindful. Ah, it always comes down to this, doesn’t it? When we are mindful rather than living life on autopilot, we make better decisions, we don’t get distracted by wallowing in the past or worrying about the future but are living life in the here and now.
- Lastly, there is of course the issue of sustainability and all that comes with fast fashion: exploitation, child labour, environmental damages etc. And while one person alone will not change the world, it is definitely an area where every single one of us can do their bit.
As Corona case numbers are currently going down over here, it looks likely that shops will re-open soon (or already have under certain conditions). Let’s see how I will deal with that temptation. Part of me feels like making up for “lost” time… which of course totally defies the purpose of the experiment. Let’s see what I will have learned long-term.