Slow and Steady Wins the Race Against Overshopping and Closet Chaos

The following is a guest post from Esther, an active member of the “End Closet Chaos” private Facebook group.  Esther shares how taking on two challenges over the past year has helped her to gain control of her shopping, pare down her wardrobe, improve her personal style, and feel more at peace with herself. 

Ever since I was a teenager, I have always felt “out of step” and like I never knew how to dress. I longed for a uniform so I didn’t need to stress out about what to wear. In my search for ease, I actually started buying and buying. Ironic, isn’t it? I was always attracted to minimalism but went in the opposite direction. On top of that, I picked a profession (or it picked me) where I lived in workout clothes. Remember when those “track suits” were popular? That was the closest thing to a uniform I ever found. Meanwhile, I had tons of clothes but “nothing to wear”!

Fast forward to July 2015 when I asked my daughter to help me find a style. She suggested that I use both Pinterest and Google. It was through my online searching that I found this blog. That was the first time I realized I was a shopaholic. When the “End Closet Chaos” private Facebook group started, I was “home.” I became a daily contributor, even though it took me a while to do outfit of the day (OOTD) posts.

My Shopping Ban

Stop shopping, shopping ban

Then someone suggested that I do a shopping ban…

When someone in the group suggested doing a shopping ban, I thought it would be impossible, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. At first, I chose to do a one-month ban during the month of February this past year. I remember January 2016 like it was the “last supper.” I went crazy with buying during the January sales thinking that I would never shop again after that.

The ban was hard, but I did it.  One thing that helped was removing myself from about 50 email lists in order to cut down on temptation.  Whenever I passed something up online or in a brick-and-mortar store, I was very proud of myself. March came around and surprisingly, I didn’t end up buying all of the things I had promised myself I could have after my one-month ban was over.   Even though I was “free” to shop again, somehow I didn’t want to.

The One-a-Day Giveaway

That same month, I saw a post in my Facebook feed about a 40-day item purge, during which the commitment was to get rid of one item each day.

one-a-day giveaway

This image started my one-a-day giveaway project.

I decided to take the plunge, posted about my intentions in the group, and asked others to join in.  After the 40 days had elapsed and I had honored my “one-a-day giveaway” commitment, I decided to keep going and asked permission from the group moderators to make it a daily entry in the group. As of today, I am up to 343 days and that means 343 pieces of clothing gone… one item at a time!  Somewhere along the way, I added a daily household item to my giveaway as well, so I’m getting rid of even more things that I’m not using.

More about the Ban…

Back to the ban…  From March through May 2016, I was not on a shopping ban, but seeing how much stuff I already had in my wardrobe influenced me not to shop. Then someone in the group said, “I’m doing a summer shopping ban from Memorial Day through Labor day.  Who’s in?”  That seemed like a long time to go without shopping, but I ended up saying, “I am.” That longer shopping ban was sometimes challenging, but it felt good.  Staying focused is really the key and I find it very hard, which is why the support of the group has been life-changing for me.

With the group’s permission, I made a one-time exception to my ban so I could buy two souvenirs while at the “End Closet Chaos” meet-up in Texas during July. Honestly, I could have skipped buying those things, but I learned a valuable lesson and I loved my time at the meet-up.

In August, I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and had to spend a small fortune on shoes. Again, I shared what was happening with the group, who convinced me that I wasn’t actually breaking my ban to buy something that was medically necessary.  I didn’t buy anything other than the shoes I needed so that my feet would stop hurting so much and I could do my job (part of what I do is teach yoga and Zumba classes).

A Year and Counting!

When Labor Day came along and it was the official end of my shopping ban, I renewed my commitment not to shop through the end of the year and then again on New Year’s Eve.  At this point, I’m not even sure when I will end my ban. I feel the ban has been a pause for me to breathe and take a step back from the vicious cycle of overshopping. It has enabled me to take stock of what I do have and it’s helped me to look internally at my closet – and myself.

I now put more effort into creating outfits and to using what I already have.  I feel more peace with myself and I’m not always looking externally for a “fix” or looking for outside approval about how I dress or act.  I’m learning to like and accept myself as I am at this moment.

Esther's Story of Recovery

A more peaceful Esther, who now likes herself as she is. 

This process of the ban and the daily giveaway has helped me to be more mindful. The beauty is that one thing leads to another and then we can see how everything and everyone is inter-connected.  Now it has become such a part of my daily life:  posting and purging and planning (the 3 P’s). I still have lots more to go but am enjoying the journey.

A Bit of Advice

If you’re thinking of starting a shopping ban of your own, I recommend that you start small so you don’t overwhelm yourself.  As I mentioned above, I just started with a month and took it from there.  If I set out to do a yearlong ban from the get go, I may have thought it was too much and wouldn’t have been able to do it.  But I took it one step – and one day – at a time.  Sometimes we overwhelm ourselves – I know I do – but small changes can lead to big changes.

The same thing is true of paring down your wardrobe. Some people choose to do one big purge, but my one-a-day giveaway has had the same effect for me over time and it was less daunting to do.   It doesn’t have to be on a daily basis, just however it works best for you. It hasn’t been a full year yet for me with that effort, but I’m getting there.

Some Comments from the Group

After Esther shared the story above in the “End Closet Chaos” group, she received a lot of encouraging comments from other members.  Here’s what some of them had to say:

  • Your daily post is my favorite. I look at it and it gives me inspiration!
  • Thank you for sharing. I went through my closet last night, trying to organize so the clothes have breathing room and don’t wrinkle. I want to shop the closet and make better choices going forward as I work to lose weight. Reading about your journey is inspiring.
  • I am SO impressed! The work you’ve done on your wardrobe, style, and yourself is awesome. I think you’re a true inspiration to me and this group.
  • What an inspiring story! I need to jump on that ban. I think I can start with a month and take it from there. So today is the beginning for me. Thank you for the motivation!
  • I think it is so impressive how you have been able to keep up both the shopping ban AND the daily purging. Thanks for all the inspiration!
  • Impressive is the word – you just keep plugging away every day (which is actually how the fitness thing goes). You inspire me every day, I don’t get on here much to see what you are letting go of, but just knowing you are doing it helps me continue to take the right next step.
  • I love how you’ve jumped from one challenge to the next. It’s very inspiring to see that the real reward for accomplishing a goal is not more shopping but moving on to more freedom! Adding decluttering to your ban is like icing on the cake. Now thatI haven’t shopped in a while, I’m starting to feel more liberated and more open to decluttering as well.
  • I love your story! Your commitment to your goals is so inspirational! Well done! I want to do the same with exercising, which is my number one goal for this year. What I’m taking away from this is that I only just need to get started and feel proud for every little step I take. Thank you for sharing!
  • What an inspiration to be a better steward of all the many blessings that I already have instead of always seeking more, more, more!

Here’s what I had to say to Esther, who has become a good friend of mine through our interactions in the group and the Texas meet-up:

It has been inspiring for me to watch your progress over the past year-plus. I’m in awe of your resolve to keep up with your shopping ban and the “one-a-day giveaway.” See how you have motivated others to join in! It’s been great to see the thread grow in terms of participation. You are well on your way to ridding yourself of “closet chaos.” Your journey is a testament to the old saying, “Slow and steady wins the race.” A little at a time really adds up.  I wish you continued progress!”

A big thank you to Esther for sharing her inspiring story with us!  If you have any thoughts or questions regarding Esther’s story or would like to share your own experience, please feel free to comment.

Thank you for reading! If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and subscribe for free updates by email.

I also invite you to join the End Closet Chaos private Facebook group, where you can interact with others about the topics discussed here.