A Year Of No Shopping (Or At Least A Lot Less Of It)

I’ve always wanted to try a “no shopping” experiment. A strange longing, I know. But I’ve always been fascinated by people who chronicle their experiences with limited capsule wardrobes or “shopping their closets” or “using out” their entire kitchen or pantry. Maybe I find something elegant in the austerity, maybe I have a weird inner Puritan or Victorian that needs tending to, maybe I’m overwhelmed by the consumerism and wastefulness around us, I don’t know. But going without shopping for fun or pleasure for a period of time seems interesting to me.

Of course, I’m aware that this kind of lifestyle stunt can reek of privilege — there are plenty of people struggling who can’t shop for fun at all. But a certain kind of consumerism — the kind epitomized by Black Friday sales crowds or shoppers battling each other at H&M during their designer collabo-launches — is a dark yet dazzling flipside to socioeconomic deprivation. And I’ve been “guilty” of its milder forms: I’ve fallen for the promise of feeling like my life will change or my self will be transformed if I buy this or that — only to discover that my self is very much the same. (Or at least still burdened with the same baggage before some “miraculous” purchase, only now gussied up in brighter feathers.)

But there’s also a subtler wish at stake, too. This “no shopping” stuff can devolve into a weird, self-hating “anorexia of things,” and sometimes I read blogs or books where this kind of asceticism comes across as a weird, uncomfortable masochism or machismo. At heart, I’m not anti-object or anti-beauty or anti-frivolity. Clothes and other means of adornment give pleasure and beauty, and help us find our sense of identity and confidence — I am someone who, after all, found fashion to be a small but vital way back to myself after having a baby.

And I don’t see anything wrong with clothes or fashion when it’s not the only source of beautiful emotions like self-love or self-confidence. I do want to be more present to the beauty I already possess — I want to appreciate more deeply and creatively what I already own. And a “no shopping” experiment seems like a good doorway into that.

Style and shopping are synonymous in most people’s minds, but perhaps I’m just a little curious to see how my relationship to fashion changes when I take constant acquisition out of the picture.

I’m not quite sure how it will work — I’m literally thinking out loud here, really. I know I can’t simply say “no shopping except for necessities like food and such!” For one thing, my body is still changing, even nearly one year after having (and nursing) a baby. It’s strange and bewildering, but there you go — and sometimes it requires me to buy new bras or jeans still.

And I wasn’t ever actually a huge shopper before — as a former New Yorker with a tiny closet, I’m okay at editing my wardrobe. And just being a mother has changed my lifestyle, and I’m still finding there are “holes” in my wardrobe that need to be filled. (Like the “casual cute top that isn’t so luxurious that you don’t mind if a baby drools or spits up on it” hole.)

But…this is just something percolating in the old mind here. I’m sitting with for a moment, letting it brew and steep a bit, as I try to figure out what this all will look like. Stay tuned for particulars and details once I work out the boundaries of my own little “conscious shopping” experiment…excursions into material simplicity, here I go.

2 thoughts on “A Year Of No Shopping (Or At Least A Lot Less Of It)

  1. I’ve been out of the shopping game so long that part of my new year’s resolution to be more spontaneous is “don’t be afraid to buy clothes”. I miss the carefree shopping of my youth (but I can never really get that back because I used to be totally unaware and unconcerned with fit and quality.) But I think in a way it’s a similar deal to doing the opposite like you are–just thinking about it more instead of being unconscious. Mindfulness, or whatever. Enjoy it!

    1. oooh, i think you should totally enjoy buying clothes! do it for me! ha ha. but i agree, somehow it’s thoughtfulness applied to both ends — being thoughtful about the role of shopping in our lives. xo

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