Shop till you stop.
Warning: completely #Firstworldproblems and don’t think I don’t know that.
I don’t do new year’s resolutions as a rule. No point in beating yourself up at the start of the year and setting yourself up for 11 months of feeling like you’re a failure.I do find, though, that towards the end of every year, I start to think about what I might want to do differently and do a mental stocktake of what’s been bothering me and how I might change it. And there is always something bothering me. That’s next year’s project.
The year before last it was my weight and diet. I was fed up with being fat. I was fed up with talking about it, thinking about it and doing the very opposite of what I needed to do to change it. So I approached it like a client and asked myself for advice. That led to a radical rethink of my eating habits, which I wrote about here.
Eating out as a leisure activity was a lovely way of avoiding. Changing that sent me barrelling towards another tried and tested avoidance activity.
Losing weight meant I really had to buy new clothes and for once, needing new clothes was a reality, not an excuse. So I went out and bought quite a lot. Before my weight has stabilised. So I had to get rid of those recently even though they were quite new.
Ah, clothes. I’ve always loved buying new things to wear. More than your average shopper. Not in a hoarding things never worn way but actually not so very far from it. And being given a legitimate excuse by weight loss? It’s the gift that keeps giving. What could possibly go wrong?
I love shopping. I have always loved shopping. I love the anticipation; the browsing; the mindlessness; the adrenaline hit; the having; the utter bargain; the self-treating, the buying for others. All of it.
Sometimes, particularly after diverting myself from the food obsession, I’d just need a general shopping hit and would go to TKMaxx to get maximum bang for my buck. I didn’t actually need anything in particular but I could quite easily convince myself that those tea towels needed buying or that I needed yet another frying pan and oooh look at that saving on that bottle of olive oil, I need that anyway, might as well buy it now.
And it wasn’t the losing weight that brought this on because I have always had too many clothes. A sort of mist descends on my brain when walking round any clothes store, or looking at websites. I do not think about whether I actually need the thing in question. At that moment, I don’t actually care, I just want the hit.
I can trace it back to my teens, when buying clothes was an emotionally loaded issue. As an awkward and insecure early teen, I was taken to clothes shops to buy outfits to take back to boarding school. I didn’t know what suited me. I’d buy something and hate it five minutes later. I’d buy things for the person I wanted to be not the person I was. Be glamorous said my stepmother. I tried. I wasn’t though. I was a dumpy, boyish teen. So I’d experiment with clothes, with hairstyles, hair colours, everything and until I got it right. But I never did, my clothes confusion mirroring my confusion about myself.
But something new gave me the promise of confidence, of a new start, of, finally, knowing who I was. Except it never lasted. I liked that momentary joy though. It made me feel like there were possibilities. And I didn’t think it was a terrible vice. After all, I didn’t really drink, I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t smoke. I just shopped. You can hide that addiction in plain sight.
In the last year I’ve either given away or sold about 80% of my wardrobe. Some of the things I’ve given away were inordinately expensive. Some were seconds from TKMaxx. I’m very catholic for a Jew.
In the act of throwing out there has been a realisation. It has made me feel a little ashamed. I have had way more than I need. I have always had way more than I need. I don’t like the feeling of having way more than I need. It’s not helping me in any way; quite the opposite.
16 years ago and rather unexpectedly I lived out of a suitcase for a year. I remember the intense feeling of lightness and freedom that being away from all my stuff gave me and when I finally came back to it, I felt overwhelmed. I wished it had been destroyed or damaged, so that I didn’t have the responsibility of having to decide what to do with it all. And it’s such a waste of bloody heard-earned cash. And I can do better things with the time. Things that are more meaningful.
So I’m trying to get back to that feeling of lightness. I’ve read a fair few books on decluttering and downsizing and I’ve done that pretending I’m a client thing again and mentally prepared myself for something radical.
As with the weight, I need to make a complete break, so as to be able to reassess my relationship with my possessions, particularly clothing. So I’ve set myself the challenge of not buying anything new to wear for a calendar year.
I’ve already unsubscribed from any website which sends me special offers and I’ve stopped browsing the shops for no particular reason. I’ve not bought anything new for myself since November 20th and I know that sounds utterly ridiculous but that’s a major break for me.
I’m filling in the gaps by reading and writing and going to see films and more theatre. I’ve ordered a massive skip to get rid of everything I don’t need and can’t give away. I’m getting rid of dozens of cookbooks I will never use and novels I’ll never read again and CDs I will never use again because, well, Spotify.
I’m not saying I will never buy anything again; of course I will. But I won’t for now. And setting myself a time challenge will help me focus on it. Again, as with the beginning of the weight thing, my sister is sceptical. I’m glad. That helped me with the food thing. Let’s see. And I love a challenge.
Even more than I love clothes.