Resolutions For January: The Shopping Detox Experiment!

Shopping detoxImage by Luca Mainini.

My closet is bulging.

Even after cleaning it out, I still can’t see whatever is lurking in the back of it. I recently had to buy a huge set of drawers to house the clothing that usually loiters in an oversized bag stuffed down by my couch. I can barely see the floor for pairs of shoes, & my hat obsession is Out Of Control.

It’s exhausting! I can’t take it any more! So, for the month of January, I’ve decided to perform a shopping detox!

I wouldn’t call myself a “problem shopper” (but then… maybe I’m just in denial). I’m not in debt, I don’t hide my purchases from my boyfriend, & the people who work in my favourite stores don’t know my name. (Okay, except at Betsey Johnson!)

I just feel like I’ve gone a bit nuts! I shop when I have nothing better to do, & I seem to be able to justify every conceivable purchase. I have too many items in my closet which I have NEVER worn, & yet still, I want more stuff. I browse online when I’m bored, & I am totally sucked in by the whole thing.

But… but… but those shoes really COULD change my life!

Get a grip, girl!

In my teen & “young adult” phases, I was so different to how I am now! I definitely wasn’t punk rock, but I was always a bit anti-consumerist. It tied in to my loathing of the idea of getting a conventional job, too. (I was totally one of those annoying kids who went on about “conformity”.) I saw most people’s lives as a cycle of work-consume-die, & it repulsed me. (Did I mention that I was also extremely judgmental?!) I had a credit card, probably because I was too immature to be able to say no when the bank offered it to me, but I wrote “consumerism is not cool” on it, to remind me not to use it. (Hint: this doesn’t really work.) I never really made a lot of money, so it’s not like I had the option of going out & blowing vast sums on whatever I wanted, & so my feelings about buying lots of stuff lined up nicely with my situation.

Things are a little different for me now. I’m not a millionaire but I’m not doing badly, either. I share a rent-controlled apartment with my boyfriend, I have very few expenses, & baby, I love shiny things. Even worse, New York City is heaven for magpies!

I suppose in some ways, I am blessed that I never have any issues about whether I “deserve” this or that. I feel like if you want something, you’re allowed to have it, & where there’s a will, there’s a way. But maybe I’ve taken that a little too far! Maybe my permissiveness has lead me down a path of excess. Perhaps a little restraint would serve me well…

There are other questions, too. I’m not really in the fashion industry, but at the same time, I am. One foot in, one foot out. So how can I be part of the fashion industry & write about my efforts to stop shopping? Is that even allowed? (Will my advertisers send me bags of flaming dog poo?) How can you operate within the “normal” scale when you’re part of an industry that is characterised by excess?

Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own actions, so I can’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. I can only examine my own behaviour, & make adjustments when & as I see fit.

As for speaking out against my own industry, well, I have never liked playing by the rules anyway! If it’s weird for a “fashion blogger” to declare that she’s not shopping for a while, or even encourage others to reexamine their habits, then so be it. I would prefer to be honest & truthful than to colour inside the lines. I would rather tell you what’s really going on inside my head than cover it all up.

The problem isn’t shopping. We all need to shop, to some degree or another. The problem is over-shopping–shopping to fill some kind of void, to keep us occupied, to satisfy that need for the thrill of the chase.

It has always made me feel bamboozled & exhausted to think about the sheer amount of stuff made & put up for sale every day. I always knew that compulsive shopping perpetuates that cycle, but it took me until the end of December to really CLICK & realise that I was contributing to the problem!

As Jurassic 5 says, “Either you’re a part of the problem or you’re a part of the solution–what’s your contribution to life?” A little examination of my own habits has led me to the conclusion that, in this arena at least, I have been part of the problem. (Sorry.)

I just need to stop. I want to be more conscious of my own behaviour.

Did McQueen make the Persols, or did the Persols make McQueen? Think anyone is drawing a parallel between you and McQueen because you’re wearing Persols? Just you. Promise– you’re the only one thinking it. Do you see what I’m sayin’? Take back your life. Make it about more worthwhile endeavors, and the style will follow. Style is a great complement to substance– but it sure the hell ain’t a substitute for it. There is no shortcut. Just a long line of wannabes. How you live your life is your brand.(The Selvedge Yard)

When I told my friends I was performing a shopping detox, the responses went like this.

“No shopping?! What else is there to do?! Hahahah.”
“That’s SICK. Why?!”
“You won’t last a month.”
“(Diplomatic silence)”

As you can see, I am surrounded by fellow shopping addicts! It’s okay though; I am possessed of iron will, & when I make up my mind about something, there’s no stopping me!

I’m six days into my no-shopping month. So far, it really hasn’t been difficult. At all. It is almost disturbingly easy. If anything, it’s making me more productive: I’m not browsing the online sales, & I’m not loitering around Soho after I hit the gym. I’m just getting on with things!

I’m also making an effort to wear the items that I’ve neglected (or never worn), which is satisfying & challenging in its own way! It’s definitely making for cuter & more interesting outfits, which I will do my best to document for the site!

For the record, my shopping detox does not include: replacing things which I consider to be essential & which have run out (e.g. vitamins, concealer, shampoo); booking travel; beauty services (e.g. facials, massages), or spending gift-cards or credits already accumulated with online retailers. Really, what it is about is buying clothes. I do not need to buy more clothes!

I’m heeding Rick Owens’ advice…

“Working out is the the modern couture. No outfit is going to make you look or feel as good as having a fit body. Buy less clothes & go to the gym instead. Trying to talk with your clothes is passive-aggressive… Isn’t it more chic to be free?”(Rick Owens)

This is a personal experiment. It’s a test to see whether I can do it (& I’m sure I can). It’s a study to see how the change makes me feel about myself, & to see if easing off the obsessive spending improves my life. I have a few hypotheses–I will complete the trial without incident; it will make me feel better about myself; “stuff” reduction will improve my life–but only time will tell as to whether or not I’m right.

Shopping detoxImage by Luca Mainini.

I’m not sure I’ll be posting much about my “shopping struggles” (ha!) here, since I’m sure the thoughts I have on it will be fleeting & not necessarily warrant an entire post. I will be diatribing about it on Facebook & Twitter, though, so feel free to add me there for scintillating tales of non-spending!

As for whether the content will be markedly different this month, I can’t say. Will I go entirely in the other direction & start writing about meditative retreats? Maybe! Or will I get so ravenous & rabid about not spending anything that I create 30,000 Polyvore sets a day? WHO KNOWS?! It’s an exciting adventure that we will unravel together!

Links & resources
If you’re interested in performing a similar shopping detox, these might help you out!

The thrift guide: How to stop shopping from The Guardian.
How to stop shopping with a green slant.
5 ways to stop the urge to shop. Does this sound familiar? It does to me…

I may not be a bona fide shopaholic, but like Andrea, I sometimes feel something is amiss. My friend Val, a marvel of frugality, often says, “I hate spending money.” I feel both envious and baffled when she says that. I love spending money. On anything. Even a package of Q-tips is satisfying.

Sophie Kinsella’s exclusive guide to keeping your shopping addiction in check from the Daily Mail.
Retail rehab: How to survive a shopping detox. There are other parts to this, but damned if I could find them!