Today, is the start of a New Year, and while just a week ago, I had planned to move into 2019 without the cliche of a formal resolution — something I was likely to forget in a few weeks — I saw a friend take a rather bold position on shopping and I was intrigued. She was doing a 365 day shopping detox. No clothes or shoes for one whole year. Could I do something like that? Truthfully, the answer was/is no. I didn’t believe I could. I still don’t. But should I do something like that? Yes. Unequivocally yes.
There are people who don’t shop often, who rarely buy knew things. Some buy things for their house or their kids their pets or their partners, and that’s it. I buy things for me - disproportionately to anything I buy for the rest of my family and everyone else that I know. I buy shirts and shoes and dresses and jeans and leggings and jeggings and pants. I buy phone cases and bags. I buy jackets and scarves and wraps. I buy rings and earrings and bracelets and necklaces for all the different outfits I wear. And while I’m not an expensive shopper, it’s still a thing. I know it’s a thing, and anyone who’s shopped with me likely knows it too.
I shop at places where I get good quality for low prices and places where I get signature pieces, like a solid pair of shoes or a reliable winter coat, for high prices that are worth it, of course. I bought an expensive pair of shoes recently that are so comfortable, I do not regret it at all. But I also shop at places where I get low quality for low prices, because it’s fun to get a $10 dress or a fifth pair of black leggings.
I love indie shops. And I love Winners and Marshall’s (and America’s TJ Maxx and Ross). I love the search and the find in all these places, and when I enter them, I rarely leave without something for myself. In fact, I would say that if I walk into one of them, I want to leave with something.
It adds up, of course. There’s a financial cost to this habit. But the more I think about this challenge, the more I realize it’s not about the money. It’s not about saving. It’s about my need for new stuff. It’s about feeling good based on what I put on my body - with admittedly far less concern for what I put inside it.
Outside of this habit, I care deeply about people. I wouldn’t consider myself selfish per se. But when I go into a store, I think about myself, almost exclusively, and always first. I regularly buy things I do not need — things I want. Because I think they would be flattering. Because I could wear them to that next big event. I always have a reason.
I recently saw a ring that I really liked and when I left the store I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So I went back. And I bought it. I thought someone else would buy it and then it would be gone and maybe I should just buy it so I could think about whether to keep it, whether it’s worth it. I kept it, of course. I got it as a birthday gift to myself. And while I absolutely love it, I most certainly do not need it, and I was looking only because I was finished shopping for someone else.
I don’t know if this is a kind of behaviour is an addiction, if that’s the right word for what I do, but I can feel that my purchases and my desire to purchase comes from a less than ideal spaces — that it’s driven by something that’s all consuming, that lacks control and reason at times. Can I reign it in? Will I just hold back for the year and then unravel when it’s over, just revisit old patterns again? Will I need some sort of checks and balance system going forward? I don’t know.
For me, this detox is about looking good and hard not only at what I spend money on but the thought processes that lead me to look for things and eventually buy them. It’s about staying out of places where I am prone to temptation and reflecting on my thought processes, my time, my behaviours. Will I get more writing done? Will I visit friends more? Will I become a more thoughtful and generous gifter? Will I donate more to charities? Will I lose my mind, like someone pulling away from sugar or caffeine or will I just adjust my thinking like a light switch? Will it be easier than I think? Will I fail at times? Will I make excuses?
I want to be clear that this isn’t a judgment on shopping or a critique of shoppers and commercialism. For me, this isn’t an effort to move towards minimalism or to save money for some future plan or to make some larger commentary on stuff and possessions. This is a year where I am going to really explore what it is that motivates my personal spending.
My journey will be 360 days — January 1 to December 26 —ending on my 39th birthday. I’m going to blog when it gets hard because that helps. I’m going to blog when I make mistakes or when I cheat because I want to really think not just about hitting a target but about what it takes to get there. So come back here if you’re interested.
If you’re thinking about doing something like this — if this is something you struggle with in any way that feels deserving of attention — I encourage you to do it, whatever version you like. Set a start date and get yourself ready. It’s helpful to just get yourself situated so you don’t lose your mind with stress, so starting “now” might be better served by a formal beginning that starts a week from “now”.
Pick an ending. Get yourself to the end of the year or to Christmas or some other meaningful end. I don’t believe in prescriptive approaches - one size fits all rarely works. Carve your own way. I’m doing 360 days because I want to celebrate on my birthday.
In addition to setting a helpful start and end date, I think it’s also important to make clear rules based on your own personal needs and boundaries. For me it’s about items for personal benefit — clothes, shoes, accessories. I’m allowed to buy new underwear, which I do every six months or so because that’s just good form. I’m allowed to buy books, because books are essential and they happen to be the tools for my job. I’m allowed to replace essential items that fall apart. But I’m going to get help on that last one from others. I don’t want to make excuses all year long. I can see myself doing that. So I’ll have to evaluate that one more closely when the time comes.
If you want to join me, there’s a Facebook group organized by journalist and local superstar Nikita Brown. It’s filled with others who are doing the same — though most are doing a full 365 day journey. Whatever you do, build your own list do’s and don’ts, and invite others in to help you through. Whether you like resolutions or diets or addiction steps, the truth is that success in all of those areas is always more likely to occur when you include others in your efforts. Which is why — deep breath — I’m sharing this now.