When I saw Elise Blaha Cripe post about a no-shopping year on her Instagram stories, I was intrigued. She linked to this New York Times article by Ann Patchett, who had in turn been inspired to pledge not to shop for a year by a friend of hers. I felt like I was following a chain-linked sisterhood of women who had extricated themselves from the hamster wheel of shopping and I wanted in on it. My interest became a decision: I'm not going to shop for clothes for a year, either.
If I'm doing a "challenge" like this, my personality type does best with thick, hard lines that I simply don't allow myself to cross. When I do a Whole30, I read labels and pay for the million-dollar bacon because I have to stay within the lines. Moderation just doesn't work for me; it makes me throw the entire thing out the window. So when I commit to a no-clothes-shopping year, I really mean that I intend to buy zero clothes and accessories this year.
"I felt like I was following a chain-linked sisterhood of women who had extricated themselves from the hamster wheel of shopping and I wanted in on it."
I've had a taste of the insight that comes from "fasting," whether it's not eating processed food and treats for a month, or refusing to eat out for an extended period of time. I learned from experience, rather than being told, that eating is so often emotionally driven and that we frequently eat out because we're rusty in meal improvisation when dinner doesn't come together as planned. These realizations exposed the roots of my behavior and therefore had effects that reached far beyond the confines of a trial period.
My husband was out of a job for a while this year, and let me tell you, nothing puts you on a spending freeze like a layoff. But quickly after we got the news and cut out every unnecessary expense, something surprising happened. I didn't feel deprived or sorry for myself that I couldn't get this or that or that there was no point in poking through Target's new home decor collection. From tossing catalogs straight into the recycling bin to admiring the eye-catching displays of things that appealed directly to my taste without a single consideration of whether I should bring anything home, my response was a slick and slippery and (possibly slightly smug): You can't get me; I'm unavailable.
I was impervious, and it was addicting.
This is a wave I want to ride. I want to occupy space squarely outside the ring of consumers who are baited not only by clever grabs for their attention and the piquing of their desire, but also by their own openness to being convinced of their hunger to want want want, buy buy buy, have have have. I want to be able to scroll through a screen or walk down an aisle without the call of sirens or the sting of barbs.
"I want to be able to scroll through a screen or walk down an aisle without the call of sirens or the sting of barbs."
Of course, this feat and this state of being should result in several more down-to-earth but no less significant rewards. Namely, more time and more money. I won't spend hours deciding whether I'm going to get something, chasing it down, trying it on, bringing it home, breaking down and recycling the box it came in, changing my mind, looking for a different size, buying another color, shipping it back to the store, washing it by hand, folding it, putting it away, wondering if I really like it, never wearing it, feeling guilty about never wearing it, deciding if it sparks joy, asking my sister if she wants it, keeping it, donating it.
All that time (not to mention mental energy) spent over the life of any new garment I bring to my home remains unspent. The saved money is self-explanatory. Two things that so many endlessly chase — and I have them in abundance in my possession by just... not shopping? Bring it on.
I also expect a simplified routine of getting ready. Without the room to dream of new purchases and to allow myself to think I have "nothing to wear," I believe I'll come to appreciate what I have and use it in new ways. The good jeans will get worn and loved and used. The perfect white tee will be donned on regular days, making me feel put-together for "no reason." So that even on the days when it's just me and the computer and the baby who drools on me from his rosebud cherub mouth, having less will give me what the lure of new clothes promises: It will make me feel like more.
My no-clothes-shopping for a year experiment is this year's attempt, in one small way, to "live deliberately," to free myself a little bit more from meaningless entanglement in order to "live deep and suck out all the marrow of life ... to put to rout all that [is] not life."
Care to join me?