Avoiding shopping triggers: time-killing shopping

One month in to my challenge, and so far, so good. Well, to be honest, not buying clothes for a month has not been particularly taxing as I’d often go this length of time anyway.

That said, however, on a recent trip to London I had a couple of hours to kill whilst waiting for my husband to finish a meeting, and my habitual response to having time to kill in central London is to shop to pass the time – after all, they have all these lovely shops that we don’t have here, and I have nothing else to do, right? Instead of clothes shopping though, since I knew avoiding them was the best way of not buying anything, I ended up browsing cosmetics and stationary shops, and making a few purchases in them. Although I like the new haircare I bought from Lush (Happy Happy Joy Joy conditioner is all kinds of awesome), the experience of buying it was pretty dull and not really life enhancing, especially since, being in London, there are tonnes of great museums, galleries, libraries and so on in which I could have passed a happy couple of hours at little expense.

This got me thinking about the kind of situation in which I tend to shop, a shopping ‘trigger’ if you like. I don’t enjoy shopping, shopping is not a hobby in my view, and clothes shopping is rarely something I set out purposely to do. It’s less ‘I’m going to spend Saturday afternoon in town looking for a raincoat’ and more ‘I’m in town doing X and OH LOOK at that lovely skirt in the window there, I’ll just pop in… thinking about it, I could use some jeans since the cut of mine isn’t quite right…’, or ‘I’m kind of bored with my studying, I’m going to browse eBay for a few minutes, of yes, that skirt will definitely work better than the one I have…’. In the case of this London trip, the trigger was that I was bored and waiting around, and the shops were RIGHT THERE inviting me in.

The common theme to many of my reasons for shopping seems to be killing time and boredom – I’m in a situation where I’ve time to kill or I’m bored of what I’m doing, and shopping seems to be the easiest thing to do at that moment. Because, of course, a new skirt will TOTALLY make me less bored next time I’m in the same situation! Interestingly, none of the times I can recall that I’ve felt the urge to buy new clothes have been when I’ve been looking in my wardrobe at the clothes I already have… i.e. seeing that I am short of clothes and need some more.

Having recognised what it is that drives me to shop for the most part is useful, I think, as it will allow me to try to avoid the trigger situation (not getting bored would be nice!), or at least be more mindful of it and manage it. Next time I’m in London and know I’m going to have time to kill, I’m going to look up a museum or an exhibition within reasonable distance. Next time I’m aimlessly surfing the web, I’ll get up and find something more interesting to do (like continuing the hideous mess that is my first attempt to knit socks). It’s just a case of breaking the habit.

My Reasons: Sanity, Ethics, and Skill.

Knitting socks

from Examiner.com

 

Why, I hear you ask, would you do such a thing?

My reasons are threefold: for my sanity, for reasons of anti-consumerism, and to force me to craft. Let me explain…

Sanity: for a long while now I have considered myself a bit of a minimalist (probably prompted by moving home 14 times in the last 10 years – no, I’m not on the run – and a violent dislike of ‘stuff’ and clutter). I subscribe to the brand of minimalism that is about having enough for your needs and no more, rather than the count-your-possessions-more-than-100-is-a-sin, place-independence-as-goal minimalism.

However, over the last few months I have become sucked in to trying to get the ‘perfect’ minimalist wardrobe: I’d love a capsule wardrobe, a set of clothes that I don’t have to think about when getting dressed as everything goes with everything… But what my quest for this wardrobe has resulted in is me buying loads of stuff which I think will fill whatever hole or perform whatever function I want it to, but then it fails/falls apart/I find something ZOMG even better! So instead of consuming little and having an easy wardrobe, instead I am cycling clothes into my closet and cycling a load of others out, resulting in a huge donations pile, which clutters up the basement and cost me cash. Not very minimalist, really… Probably in relation to many people, I still don’t shop of buy all that much, but in relation to myself in the past, I do. And that is something I would like to change.

And the fact is, I hate shopping. I only do it when I’m not feeling good about myself or my life, and am trying to buy my way out of whatever funk I’m in. A tip: that doesn’t work. The fact is, I think my quest for the ‘right’ minimalist wardrobe is driven by a kind of perfectionism, which we all know is not the healthiest thing in the world. So, my plan is to knock that on the head and enjoy the stuff I already have, rather than spending time plotting over which pair of boots would best perform as the perfect multifunctional item. The ‘perfect’ capsule wardrobe doesn’t exist, except in the pages of fashion magazines, so I’ll just have to be content with what I’ve got – ‘cos I’ve got plenty, especially considering the professed minimalism.

Ethics: Frankly, I do not believe that capitalism as we live it in the ‘developed’ West is healthy for anyone involved… Companies need to think of the next big thing, the next ‘problem’ we need to fix, in order to sell us stuff. Buy! Buy! Buy! More! More! More! The fashion industry is one of the worst culprits to my mind in that there is a new trend each season to aspire to, and we create that look by buying at the expense of those (usually) in poorer countries. This is not a capitalism of which I want to be a part: artificially low prices for things because labour costs are forced down, meaning that we can buy loads more STUFF than if we paid the real cost of these products, is bad for the environment, bad for the people making this stuff, bad for my sanity… Not that there is anything wrong with having fun with your clothes and style, and dressing how you like to look, of course, although I feel that industry has a disproportionate influence on our fashion preferences (particularly for women), but that is another blog post…

This is fundamentally the ideological root of my minimalist tendencies, alongside the general penchant for open spaces. Obviously in this project I will still be consuming, particularly if I am buying yarn and fabrics, but I’m hoping that consciously avoiding altering my wardrobe, however minimalistic-mindedly, at the tap of a PIN, will help me to opt out of easy-upgrade culture. I don’t know that there is a simple solution for the global situation of production and consumption that we have now, but I think that the more people who look to question the status quo, the more we have a chance of a fairer world.

Skill: I am a rubbish knitter (straight lines and easy increases only), an okay crochet-er, and a reasonably good seamstress. I have dreams of being able to knit my own socks, and to make clothes that I can tailor to fit, rather than wearing whatever shaped t-shirt is H&M’s best guess of a person my size. If making stuff is my only option of getting new clothes, then I’m hoping that this will force me to improve my skills. That would be nice.

My plan: a year with no new clothes.

I am going to try to go a year without buying any new clothing, from today, October 5th 2012. This blog is my place to track my progress and be accountable.
The Rule (there’s only one, since this is a pretty simple project):

  • I may not buy any new clothes, including underwear, socks, and shoes, until October 5th, 2013.

Exceptions to The Rule (because it’s not quite that straightforward):

  • I may make clothes for myself – knit things, crochet, sew, etc. This is part of the motivation behind my project. More on that in another post.
  • I may accept clothes as gifts at Christmas, Birthdays, and hand-me-down type gifts.