I have been writing this blog for almost 3.5 years now (here’s my very first post, from January 2, 2013). When I started, I thought it was perhaps a one-year endeavor or maybe two years at the most. I believed that through setting goals and rules and writing about my motivations and behavior, I would overcome my compulsive shopping problem in relatively short order. I never expected to attract as many readers as I have or continue the blog for as long as I have. But the readers came (for which I’m very thankful) and it hasn’t been as easy for me to recover as I thought it would be.
Earlier this year, I published two posts on the topic of recovery, both my own and in general:
I also shared insights from the “End Closet Chaos” private Facebook group on the causes of members’ shopaholic behavior. These are all great posts that I’m quite proud of, but I’d like to further the discussion today and get more personal about the state of my recovery.
Some Thoughts on Recovery
As I’ve mentioned before, I feel that recovery exists on a continuum. We are usually not either a full-blown shopaholic or completely recovered. Most of the time, we’re somewhere in between these two extremes. I firmly believe that recovery is not a linear process and that relapses are common along the way. When we experience setbacks, all is not lost if we are able to forgive ourselves, learn from our mistakes, and recommit to recovery and our goals and rules. Growth is not possible without some pain and discomfort along the way. This applies to all types of self-improvement, including recovery from compulsive or addictive behavior.
Back when I was in Toastmasters, we used to evaluate each other’s speeches by means of a technique called “the sandwich method.” We would begin by giving the speaker some praise, follow that with specific constructive criticism on what they could improve, and end on a high note with encouragement for the future. Since I have a tendency to be very hard on myself, I’m going to use that method in this post.
When I look back at my progress over the past few years, I have a lot to be proud of myself for:
- I have been able to stick to my clothing budget for three years in a row now. I was not able to do so for at least ten years prior to that, so this is quite an accomplishment.
- I’ve pared down my wardrobe and jewelry collections considerably since I started the blog. My “out and about” wardrobe is less than half the size it was in January 2013 and my shoe and jewelry collections are only about a third of the size they were when I started the blog.
- I have refined my style and am now much happier with the way I dress. My outfit journal, my work with Bridgette Raes, and the End Closet Chaos group have all been instrumental in this regard.
- I have developed a few new hobbies beyond shopping, including photography (see some of my photos in my “photography interlude” posts).
- I’m much more deliberate in how I shop and how I dress. My purchasing track record has vastly improved (see my latest purchase update here) and I’m doing a lot better at buying things for my actual lifestyle instead of a past, imagined, or wished for life.
- My wardrobe is far more workable than it was previously. I love a much higher percentage of my clothes and I’m wearing the items in my closet a lot more than I used to (my “Love It, Wear It Challenge helped a lot with this). My percentage of “benchwarmers” has gone from half my wardrobe in 2012 to roughly 15% in 2015. While I’d love to see that number go down even further, I’m happy to be wearing most of my clothes more regularly.
I am proud of all of the changes I’ve been able to accomplish since I started this blog. I definitely feel that blogging through my journey has helped me to enact and sustain positive changes and I’m grateful to all of you for your support. I don’t think I would be as far along as I am had I not started “Recovering Shopaholic.”
What’s Not So Good…
Although I’m happy to have accomplished all that I outlined above, I still feel that I have a long way to go. Here are the things I’m not too proud of and still need to change:
- I’m still buying too many items overall. I set a goal of buying just 36 “out and about” garments this year and have already purchased close to 30 such pieces. At this point, it’s going to be challenging for me to meet my target, but it’s still doable. I get frustrated at myself for buying too many items early in the year and wish that I would have spaced things out better.
- I still place too much emphasis on my “out and about” wardrobe and not enough focus on my at-home / workout wear. The reason I set the above goal is that I spend the majority of my time at home, plus I also go on a lot of walks and to the gym a couple of times per week. I need to better allocate my clothing dollars and attention toward my real lifestyle needs, but “out and about” clothes are more fun to shop for. I have improved my at-home wardrobe since I wrote this post, but I was hoping my progress would have been better at this point.
- I still shop for emotional reasons and use shopping as a means of escaping from difficult issues in my life. I’ve been dealing with some tough personal difficulties as of late and have once again turned to shopping as a means of coping. I haven’t done any serious damage, but I wish I could find more productive ways of managing my stress. Shopping won’t fix the things that are wrong with our lives; it only leads to more problems in the form of financial and relationship difficulties, guilt and shame, and overly crowded closets. I know this, yet I can’t seem to fully overcome my tendency to turn to shopping as a coping mechanism.
- I continue to place too much focus on my wardrobe at the expense of other critical areas in my life. This shows up even in terms of the posts I do on this blog. For example, I mentioned earlier in the year that I was going to revisit Dr. April Benson’s book, “To Buy or Not to Buy,” but I have yet to do this. It’s easier for me to dedicate time and attention toward trying to perfect my wardrobe and hone my style than it is to delve into scarier and more difficult areas. Of course, my wardrobe and style are important, but they are far from the most broken aspects of my life.
- I still have too many clothes for my lifestyle and wardrobe goals. If I really want to wear everything in my closet 5-8 times per year (or more), as is my goal, I need to have fewer clothes than I do now. It’s a matter of simple math, plus there’s really no good reason for me to have as many dressier pieces as I do. Even looking at how often I’ve worn my new 2016 purchases (see my last update on that here), I can clearly see that the at-home and casual out and about items are worn far more often. I could get by with far less given my current lifestyle and I need to keep that in mind both when I shop and when I review my closet.
- While my closet is a lot less full than it was in 2013, I have not yet traded my full closet for a full life. The tagline of this blog is “Trade your full closet for a full life.” This is what I set out to do when I launched “Recovering Shopaholic” 3.5 years ago, but I’ve really only accomplished half of this mission. My life is still quite small and I have very few social connections and outlets. While I’ve cultivated an amazing online community that I’m very proud of, my face-to-face interactions are close to non-existent and I spend most of my time either alone or with my husband. I don’t have much of a career to speak of, either. Although I know I’ve made a difference with this blog, I would like to do more, plus I would like to make more of an income (the blog is mostly a volunteer endeavor). Yes, my health gets in the way of these things, but I know I could be doing more than I am to at least have a social life and be less of a hermit.
- My life remains out of balance in many ways. I selected “balance” as my theme for the year, as I started 2016 feeling extremely unbalanced in terms of how I spend my time related to my priorities. I also felt “behind the 8-ball” in regards to my goals and my to-do list. I made a good start on regaining balance, but I have lost steam in recent months despite my good intentions. I will do a whole post on this topic soon but in short, I continue to stay up too late, spend too much time on Facebook, and not enough time on walks, taking photos, journaling, and decreasing my backlogs. I continue to feel that I’m not getting enough done related to the projects and tasks that matter most to me.
Still a Shopaholic?
So, am I still a shopaholic? I have to admit that the answer to that question is yes. It’s not so out of control that it completely debilitates my life like in 2012 and earlier years, but it’s still a problem. Shopping has been like my “security blanket” for so long that it’s hard to give it up, and paradoxically this blog has made it more difficult in some ways to do so.
Writing about my wardrobe, shopping, and style on a regular basis has at least to some degree kept me locked into the obsession and overly focused on these issues when I really need to be working on other areas of my life. Because my bandwidth is limited as a result of my health challenges, I’m not able to do nearly as much as I’d like. Part of my balance goal for this year is to allocate appropriate proportions of my time to all of the things that matter most to me. That’s why I have pulled back on my posts here some weeks, as well as written about alternate topics (like this one) and included guest posts on subjects I feel will be of value to you.
Ending on a High Note
I have to admit that I’m disappointed in myself for all of the issues I highlighted in the “what’s not so good” section. I keep making some of the same mistakes that I’ve made over and over again and that’s very frustrating to me. It’s also hard to admit my failings to the world by means of this blog, and I sometimes cringe when I hit “publish” because I worry about the negative comments I may receive. But no matter what anyone else says to me, it won’t be as harsh as my inner self dialogue generally is. I can be my own worst enemy sometimes, as I’m sure is also true for many of you.
I want to end on a high note here, in the spirit of the “sandwich method” and because I like to keep these posts as positive and uplifting as possible. The good news is that I’m still alive and remain committed to my recovery. I fully believe that I will put compulsive shopping in my past, even if it takes longer than I expected and hoped it would. I also believe that I will achieve the life balance I so greatly crave, as well as a fuller life. But in order to make these things happen, I may have to think outside the box and do things that make me uncomfortable. I may have to value my needs and well-being above the fears of what others think of me and I may need to risk letting other people down, including the readers of this blog.
The good news is that even if my posts here are sometimes less regular or focused on alternative topics besides wardrobe management, shopping, and personal style, I still have a vast archive of posts for you to explore. You can check out some of my articles for the first time or re-read your favorites (also see my “Start Here” page), as well as the insightful comments of fellow readers. And beyond that, there is the wonderfully supportive and highly prolific “End Closet Chaos” private Facebook group. There are close to 750 members now from all around the world and new members and topics are welcome. I invite you to check it out, even if you just want to lurk for a while. You’ll learn a lot and gain valuable perspectives even if all you do is read what others have to say!
Now it’s time for you to chime in:
- Do you feel you’re still a shopaholic (if you ever were one to begin with)? Why or why not?
- What positive changes have you made this year (or in recent years) in terms of your shopping behavior, wardrobe, style, or life overall?
- In what ways do you feel you’ve fallen short and continue to struggle?
- What changes do you hope to make in the coming months in order to end the year on a high note?
I invite you to share your thoughts on these topics, as well as what I had to say above (but please remember, I’m already harder on myself than any of you could possibly be). Thank you for reading and for your support. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be back next week with a balance goal update and either a photography interlude or a purchase review.
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I also invite you to join the End Closet Chaos private Facebook group, where you can interact with others about the topics discussed here.