As many of you know, I recently accepted a challenge from a reader to not shop for a month. I committed to go the entire month of May without buying any new clothing, shoes, or accessories.
At first, it was really easy for me to refrain from shopping. In fact, I started to feel like it would be “a piece of cake” for me to breeze through the challenge and I even considered the possibility of extending my shopping hiatus.
Then, It Happened…
Then, it happened… I learned about the Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Nordstrom’s sales, here’s the bottom line. They only have sales three times per year – two half-yearly sales in May and November, and the “Grand Poohbah” of sales, their Anniversary Sale in July. I can’t remember the last time I haven’t shopped at one of these sales. After all, Nordstrom is my favorite store, I love shopping there, and I’m a “regular.” Many of the salespeople know my name and greet me warmly when I arrive. I feel “at home” there, like I’m in my element.
I Can’t Get it Out of My Mind!
Interestingly, I pretty much forgot about the Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale this time around. I was humming along, writing this blog and doing Project 333, and focused on other things besides my old standby pastime of shopping. But ever since I was reminded of the sale the other day, I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. I’ve perused the Nordstrom website several times and bookmarked a number of items I’d like to buy. I didn’t add anything to my online shopping cart, but this was difficult for me, as I saw that some of the jackets and shoes I’d recently considered buying had been marked down considerably.
So far, I’ve successfully resisted the urge to buy, but I feel like I’m “white knuckling” it at this point. I discussed this matter with my husband yesterday and he said, “Better to buy things at full price than to buy things on sale that you don’t really need.” I know he’s right, and the full price for many of the items I want isn’t all that high anyway. Still the allure of a sale has a tendency to take hold of me such that I lose all sense of reason. I love the idea of getting a “deal,” as well as the possibility of being able to buy more with my money.
Fear of “Missing Out”
Old habits die hard… I’m afraid of “missing out.” I worry that if I wait until June to buy something at Nordstrom, the pieces I want most will be gone. The nature of my worry is far out of balance with reality. Not being able to add another jacket or pair of shoes to fifty or so that I already have is definitely not a tragedy of epic proportions. I know this, yet I still crave the items in question. I know my life won’t end if I don’t partake in the Nordstrom sale, yet I still worry about missing out. It doesn’t make any real sense, but that’s how I feel.
Striving for a Happy Medium…
I’ve learned so much about myself since starting this blog and particularly since beginning Project 333. I learned that I don’t need a closet full of clothes to dress well and look good. In fact, I feel more comfortable dressing with less, as I’m not overwhelmed by clutter, chaos, and too many choices.
I believe there is a happy medium between my pre-Project 333 packed closet and the minimalist state of having only 33 garments to choose from. In all honesty, I feel my “wardrobe sweet spot” is closer to 33 than to the almost 300 garments I started the year with.
Staying True to My Word
I am committed to honoring my promise not to buy anything new during May. That is my bottom line. How will I stay true to my word? Well, I gave myself a bit of a pep talk the other day. I reminded myself of the following:
- I’m doing Project 333 until the end of June, so I won’t be able to wear any new clothes I buy until July anyway.
- I have a lot of clothes, shoes, and accessories already and I don’t urgently (or even non-urgently) need anything new at this point.
- I am committed to my promise not to shop during May.
- I am committed to my goal of having a streamlined wardrobe filled only with items I love and wear regularly.
- I want to buy more ethically and sustainability made clothing.
- I am willing to pay more money for quality items that are produced ethically, suit my lifestyle needs, and are at least an “8” on a scale of 1-10. I don’t need to buy items on sale!
- I can shop again in June, which is less than a week away at this point. Not long to wait at all!
A Different Perspective
Reminding myself of these things has helped to calm me down. I was able to look at the Nordstrom website from a different perspective and far fewer items caught my eye. Those that did have been placed in my “shopping folder” (I dragged the links to that folder for “safe keeping”).
I’ve decided not to look at the Nordstrom website again until the beginning of June. Before I look at the site, I’ll take a moment to jot down any items I can recall that I still want. Then I will see if these items are still available. If so, I will evaluate their suitability for my wardrobe and lifestyle. I will allow myself to buy one or two items that meet those criteria. If nothing fits the bill or what I want is no longer available, I will be at peace with that reality and trust that there will soon be other opportunities to buy.
We Are More Than Our Clothes
There is so much more to me than what I look like and what I wear. I am a multi-dimensional human being, but I have been living my life as if shopping and having a huge wardrobe are of paramount importance. They’re not… The tagline for this blog epitomizes what I want to create for myself and what I wish for all of you – a full life. Right now, I have a full closet and a relatively small life. I don’t feel fulfilled and I’m not nearly as happy as I could be.
All of the “great deals” and “fab finds” I’ve purchased haven’t made me love myself or my life any more. How could they? Nice clothes are just that – nice; they don’t fill our souls.
The End Game – A Full Life!
At this point, I really don’t know what will fill my soul and lead me to feel happier and more fulfilled. I only know that shopping won’t do it and it never has. Oh, and I know one more thing. I will continue writing, searching, and striving until I find out what will make me happy. I fully intend to “trade my full closet for a full life.”
Great thoughts! Kudos to your husband for supporting you so well and to you for realizing that shopping the sale won’t fill your life with what you really want.
Juhli, Thanks for your comment. Yes, my husband is very supportive and I’m lucky to have him. He’s the brightest light in my life!
I think online shopping is a constant time suck and temptation. Sometimes I put things in my cart, turn off the computer, and wait for them to sell out! It’s a relief when that happens. There’s always another sale next year–or even sooner.
frugalscholar, You’re so right! Good idea to turn off the computer and wait for things to sell out. I’ll have to remember that one…
I remind my clients (and myself) of value of time.
Besides, all those sales are really just marketing ploys to get folks to buy more.
Wishing you the best!
Carolyn, You’re right – our time DOES have value! My husband always says the sales are arbitrary. I know he’s right but old habits die hard. I hope to be able to say “so what?” about sales before too long…
Oh boy, did you touch on some interesting things in this post. The first thing that caught my eye was Nordstrom. It almost sounds like you get more pleasure from how you feel when you go there rather than what you buy there. Also the fear of missing out. I know that feeling well. I also picked up on the fact that you were wanting a jacket and a pair of shoes. They sound like things that you don’t need as much as other items. I do the same thing. I love to buy summer shirts and oddly enough, sweaters (I live in Tennessee). Do you think it would help if you wrote down the things that you have a need for such as pants, a couple of blouses, and something stretchy and before you started shopping ask yourself what you are looking for in those items? Maybe even write it down and pull the list out when you are in the dressing room? That might take the emotion out of it and help you to get what you really need. I hope that you have an easier week and I appreciate your honesty. p.s. J Jill has stretchy pants in a tall inseam.
Tonya, You are very insightful! I do think I enjoy the shopping experience more than what I buy much of the time. You’re right in that I need other things more than jackets and shoes. I do have a shopping list and updated it the other day. When I do go to shop, I will make sure to review my list first. Hopefully that will keep me on track to buy what I need most! Thanks for the tip on J.Jill’s pants with tall inseams I will check that out…
Alas… yes, the Nordstrom half-yearly sale! Although I also always shop it, this year I did not, out of solidarity!
Terra, Congrats on not shopping the sale this year! I’m guessing that neither of us will really miss it and it will be a faint memory before too long…
There are so many things I want to say to you as I have really enjoyed all of your posts and I identify with so many of the things you write about. Hang in and do not give in to the Nordstrom sale! I also know the lure of the big Nordstrom sales and there is such a buzz online about the sales and this feeling of missing out when everyone else is scoring this great buy. But I realized a few years ago that everything I have ever purchased during these sales, I have regretted after. Nothing from one of these sales lasts very long in my edited closet – they always end up in the consignment/donate pile with much guilt and disappointment attached. My real turning point was going to the first early day of the anniversary sale and there was a Lord of the Flies mentality in the shoe department. Women were pushing other women off their seats and screaming at sales people. It was such a disgusting display that I will never shop that sale again.
I have shopping compulsion too. I always feel like the next thing I buy will be the Holy Grail of clothing items. Even if I really, really like something, it’s never that great.
Thank you for all that you are sharing! I look forward to all of your future posts!
Leah, Welcome and thanks for your comment! I have the same experience with sales purchases. They are rarely my favorites and often don’t end up sticking around for long. So why do I still want to shop these darned sales? Your “Lord of the Flies” sales experience sounds TERRIBLE! Perhaps I need to witness something like that to scare me straight… Glad you like my blog!
Terrific post! The big challenge for me this summer is to sit out the sales in my two favorite stores. If you can avoid the temptations of Nordstrom’s, I will be able to bypass my favorite sales…
I’m also trying to make small daily changes in my life, looking for a fuller life. A list of “small good things” that I can do any and every day has really helped me to curb shopping urges and also to get the stimulation and sense of fulfilment and belonging that I usually seek from shopping . Those small good things can also address address some of the other underlying needs. Hope you will also find many such daily small good things (and please do give us a progress report you do)!
FrugalFashionista, I love your idea of making a list of “small good things”! I will need to ponder what those are for me. Perhaps that will be a future post (adding to the LONG list…). Good luck on bypassing the summer sales at your favorite stores!
My experience is that the longer you avoid stores, malls, sales, on-line shopping the easier it is to go without “shopping” (vs. “buying”). I haven’t really shopped for clothing in nearly 6 years except to buy essentials (undies) or to replace a worn-out or otherwise no-longer-fit-to-wear garment. I spend less than $300 a year on ALL clothing purchases (including shoes, undies, accessories, jewelry) and I tend to buy high-quality items. The key is have a coordinating wardrobe of classic clothing styles (could be classically tailored or classic jeans and tees) that are designed and constructed to last a few years. Also important is to plan your purchases. For example if you know you need to buy/replace a pair of shoes, going to Nordstrom’s Half=Yearly Sale to acquire them makes sense — if you go to BUY and not SHOP. I define shopping as walking throughout the store looking for something to buy, trying on a lot of different things, and being seduced by sales, coupons, and other allurements. I work for a famous retailer and even the employee discount has not lured me into “shopping.” It has made replacing undies and other basic clothing a lot less painful, allowing me to come in under my $20/month clothing budget.” Fashion” is the opiate of the masses.
100% agreement with you Dottie on all points you make and most importantly on “buy” vs “shop”
Dottie, Excellent distinction between buying and shopping. I know I have done MUCH better when I’ve shopped with a list or at least a specific objective in mind. I like your ending quote, too: “Fashion is the opiate of the masses.” I know it’s been the opiate for me, but I’m finally breaking the cycle.
I think you will enjoy this post on Garance Dore’s Blog about her 5 Commandments of Style:
She discusses how she has shopped so much that she has lost the joy of owning something new.
Leah, Thanks for sharing! I loved that post and I’m sure others did, too. I’ve had the same experience as Garance. Perhaps after my shopping hiatus and through shopping less, I will regain the job of owning new things.
Yes, all those sales and all the new colors, styles etc…EVERY season is only someone else trying to make money off of us…I remind myself I am first and formost a human, not a consumer. And there IS always something new and pretty that would work for me everytime I go shopping, so resisting now does not mean there won’t be something just as nice or nicer next time. ( This is my self -talk everytime I walk through the mall! )
Julie, Excellent self-talk and great distinction that we are humans above consumers!
‘Better to buy full price than buying on sale items that you don’t need’. Truer words have not been spoken when it comes to overbuying. I have purchased several items this month mainly because my weightloss made it a necessity, but of course the two pairs of shoes I bought were not really part of that. 😉 However, since I learned to shop more wisely, I try to avoid sales like the plague and use discretion and much better judgement when paying full price.
Cornelia, Sounds like you’ve learned a lot. Using good judgment really is key, isn’t it? I tend to lose my head when shopping, but if I can keep my wits about me, I fare so much better!
I agree with Tonya’s comment about how you seem to enjoy more how you feel when you are in Nordstrom’s than how you feel about purchasing something. The salespeople recognize and greet you, they make you feel special. The feeling of being a special customer can be heady, and it can help you feel successful if you are unhappy about other things in your life. Its a little trip to fantasy land.
We didn’t have a Nordstrom’s here until a few years ago, but we have had a very nice Saks downtown. I would do the same thing, meander through Saks, soaking up the ambiance, feeling like I must be doing something right if I could afford to shop in in such a rarified atmosphere!
For me, I think it was tied in to a sense of self esteem I felt when I shopped in those kind of stores. Interestingly though, I felt the same whether I purchased or not–it was the heady sense of being in the store that I craved, not the end result of a purchase.
While I have always been a shopper, I have not always been a purchaser. I like to soak up the atmosphere of the store more than anything. To me shopping is about experiencing the display primarily, purchasing second. And I have been able to waste a lot of time looking at store displays!
Deby, You make some good points. I have usually been a shopper AND a purchaser. But perhaps if I can soak up the atmosphere more, I can feel a sense of satisfaction without having to buy anything. Of course, I also want to cultivate other hobbies, too, and meet more people to spend time with (doing things besides shopping). I share your love of store displays! I know someone who creates them and that’s always seemed like a fun job!
What a great blog and timely post! So happy to have found you (courtesy of Rowdy Kittens). For me, the solution is not to go anywhere near Nordstrom’s or my computer! LOL! That’s the only way I can resist the allure, which does lessen over time, as several readers pointed out.
PS. I thought for sure your punchline was going to be that you had your husband order the sale items for you, after promising to not give them to you until June. 😉
Elizabeth, Welcome and thanks for your comment! Your PS is funny… That didn’t happen, but I can’t say it didn’t cross my mind 🙂
You are doing so great! I, too, am in a period of transition right now – moving 60 miles north in a couple of weeks, quitting my job of 5 years, etc. I’m loving it and there is also some associated stress, especially at work. I decided I just need to disengage from my old work identity, train the new person, and move on. Soon after, I found this quote and put it up on my computer:
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” … Lao Tzu
Chris, Thanks for the praise and the quote – love it! Congrats on the exciting changes you’re making! I wish you the very best of luck.
I did not resist. I went shopping for new sandals, and when they didn’t have what I wanted in the store, I ordered them on-line…along with 2 pairs of non-sandals. It all went back. I did however, purchase on eBay a pair of metallic sandals from Target FOR THE THIRD TIME. I’d bought them last summer and totally loved them, but became convinced I needed a smaller size. Found the smaller size at Goodwill and donated the larger ones. Guess what? I was wrong about the sizing, and in a fit of minimalism decided I only really needed my brown sandals and so donated the smaller metallic sandals as well. (I think I mentioned this purger’s remorse on the 333 FB page.) Anyway, I now have them, once again in the original size, and I am going to wear them until they fall apart. Since only 3 months of the year is really sandal weather in Seattle, I predict I will have them for several years to come.
This sounds like a conscious and wise purchase, Renee. Sometimes buying things on sale works out well, but I used to buy a lot of things just BECAUSE they were on sale. That’s not a good practice, as it can lead us to buy things we don’t really love or need. What you did was smart, though, and I believe you WILL wear those sandals until they fall apart!