Challenge: Why I’m giving up clothes shopping for 12 months

My wardrobe

Ah, Christmas. It’s that time of year again where we go overboard on the things we don’t need, or aren’t particularly good for us: shopping, food, alcohol, guilt. It’s the season of joy, of course, but it’s also the season of excess. And while I’m all for a little bit of joy and excess – who doesn’t want to eat, drink and be merry in a fabulous outfit? – this year has left me feeling uneasy.

Is it just me, or have promotions like Black Friday got even more out of hand? They’re not just open for one day anymore. This year, Black Friday grew legs and spanned an entire weekend. Some discounts are still available, even now. And while all this is great – especially if your wallet is feeling the pinch this year and a few some pennies knocked off the price of Christmas presents will really help this year’s festivities – I can’t stop thinking: why are we buying all this stuff? What do we get from it? Pleasure? Validation? A brief high?

Across the globe news footage depicts deals like Black Friday sending people cray. They’re fighting over a widescreen telly, or queuing for hours for a pair of expensive trainers or the latest gadget. Quite frankly, it boggles my mind. I’m all for snagging a sweet deal on something you’ve been lusting after for a while but have not quite been able to afford, but I’m also concerned with the amount of stuff we are buying just because.

Not to sound like a character from The Muppets Christmas Carol, but the whole ‘spirit’ – that tingly, happy, cosy, festive family feeling – is being replaced with rampant and mindless consumerism. We aren’t buying one thoughtful present, we’re buying heaps of expensive crap – conned by adverts and ‘trends’ and all the other nonsense pedalled our way.

Now, I am by no means exempt from this situation. But I’m just waking up to the pandemic of mindless spending that seems to exist. It seems like the unhappier we are in such an uncertain world, the more we’re told to buy to fill the void. Kind of like over eating.

Recently, I watched a documentary called The Minimalists and it struck a chord with me. Now, if there’s one word used to describe me…well, it wouldn’t be minimalist. I like stuff. I like photos and throws and scarves and crazy prints. I adore books and more books and then some more books on top of that. But while I couldn’t live a life that was bare, I had to agree with the general ethos of the film which is this: money and stuff doesn’t make you happy. In fact, it can often do the opposite and make us anxious to ‘keep up with the Joneses’. Another idea that cropped up throughout the documentary was the notion that we are beginning to redefine success away from the old ideal of a 9-5 job, a high salary, a house, a spouse and some 2.4 kids.

The world is changing and we’re beginning to shed these constraints like old skin. This is certainly something that resonates.

ShoppingNow, I’m not saying you can’t have nice stuff. My best friend needed a new car, and got a well-deserved pay rise, so she bought a BMW. However, she’d been driving around in the same vehicle for years, shelling out for a multitude of repairs and wanted to treat herself. She spent months researching and test driving and figuring out which one felt more ‘her’.

This isn’t mindless spending, it’s the opposite. It’s a reward, yes, but it’s still a needed item.  I’m not anti-having lovely or expensive things. It’s thought out, planned, budgeted for and now a deeply treasured possession (not to mention it’s so shiny and fancy). But for some, the latest mobile upgrade and the need to consistently purchase things we can’t afford is an everyday and worrying occurrence.

Debt is spiralling and we’re still the unhappiest we’ve ever been. What does that tell us?

I’m usually great at budgeting and purchasing only what I need – that is until it comes to one area of my life: clothes shopping. I love clothes. I love collecting wacky fabrics and bold prints. I will fall head over heels for a jacket or a skirt or a dress and immediately need to give it a home in my wardrobe. I don’t spend a lot of money on these items – I have a knack for finding bargains – but, over the course of the year, I rehome a lot of them. And then, after a while, like a child with a shiny new toy, I forget about them and they end up relegated to the drawer or the back of the wardrobe.

My wardrobeI practice mindfulness in most areas of my life from meditation to eating to (trying desperately) to watch my thoughts and single-task through my working day. But one place I don’t apply this tactic is shopping. Mindful shopping is a completely alien concept to me. If I want an item of clothing, I tend to find a way to buy it, even if it means waiting until the sale. And there are so many of these ‘end of season’ sales that we trick ourselves into thinking we have a bargain. But did we really need that thing in the first place? Is it going to add value to our lives?

I mean, how many slogan t-shirts does a girl need? Because I have many.

So, considering the revelation that I’m a chronic clothes shopper – and a bit of a hoarder – I’ve decided to challenge myself to wear only the clothes I’ve already got for an entire year. That’s right, twelve months of wearing the same clothes. And better yet, I’m going to document my journey – and what will probably be several cray outfits – on my Instagram account.

The rules are simple:

• I can borrow clothes from others

• I can swap clothes with others

• I can except clothes as gifts and replace necessary items  (underwear, socks, a pair of jeans)

I cannot buy a new item of clothing from January 1st – December 31st, 2018 (including shoes, bags, scarves and accessories like jewellery, hair ties etc.) 

Wish me luck!

Follow me on Instagram at emma_iswriting