For those who are new to my blog, I’ve committed to posting monthly accountability summaries in which I share what came into my wardrobe, what left, and how well I adhered to my shopping budget. Knowing that I’ll be sharing this information with my readers every month helps to keep me on track.
I generally do these updates at the beginning of each month, but I got a bit off-track during July, as I was closing out Project 333, doing my mid-year closet inventory, and posting an update on my “wardrobe benchwarmer project.” As a result, today’s update covers both June and July. I’ll get back on track next month and post my August accountability update in early September.
What Left My Closet
I’ll start with some great news… While I did not audit my closet during June, I was able to purge 34 items from my wardrobe in July! Since doing Project 333, it’s become much easier for me to let go of sub-standard items in my closet. In fact, my standards have become much higher since I now know I don’t need nearly as many clothes as I once thought. I’m proud of myself and feel I’m making excellent progress toward my goal of a pared down and carefully curated wardrobe.
In looking at my July “rejects,” I determined that many of those pieces were originally purchased at consignment stores or on sale. Not only am I a recovering shopaholic, I’m also recovering from my previous “quantity over quality” mindset. Because I felt compelled to shop pretty much all the time, I was always searching for the best “deals” so I could keep buying. This led to many, many purchasing mistakes that are now leaving my closet, many of them unworn or rarely worn.
Some Sobering Statistics…
You all know about my love of statistics. Here are a few sobering numbers I came up with yesterday:
- Of the 34 items that left my closet last month, 14 were purchased at resale stores and 8 were bought on sale. In essence, 65% of my July rejects were originally bought for “a song.”
- Only 8 of the items I released last month were actually worn a number of times and thus “earned their keep” in my wardrobe. Only one of those pieces was bought on consignment – all the others were purchased at full price!
Hopefully, I’ve learned my lesson about the lure of the deal and I will now stick with my new resolution of “quality over quantity.” While I’m not bashing sales or resale buys, my history shows that I must proceed with extreme caution in such situations. If I do venture into a consignment store, I definitely need to take my own advice!
Here’s a snapshot of the items that left my closet during July.
What Came Into My Closet
This part of the equation is not quite as rosy as what I reported above… I did too much shopping during June (fortunately, July was infinitely better) and most of what I bought came from resale shops.
All in all, I purchased 17 new items during June and July. Yes, I realize that’s too much and minimizes the positive impact of all of the great wardrobe culling I’ve been doing in recent months. I feel like I’m taking two steps forward and one step back and that’s making it take much longer to reach my minimalism goals.
The Impact of My May Shopping Hiatus
Those who have been reading my blog for a while may remember that I took a shopping hiatus during May. That pause in shopping was both beneficial and difficult for me. It benefitted me in that I was able to focus more on what I have in my closet instead of what I wanted to bring in. I was also able to focus time and attention on other things.
What made the hiatus difficult is that I had not cultivated new hobbies to replace my long-term and all-consuming hobby of shopping. As several readers appropriately pointed out, I was “white-knuckling” it through May and biding my time until I could shop again.
As soon as June rolled around, I was back in the shops. My first stop was my favorite consignment store, where I redeemed the credit I had there for pieces I had consigned. Although it’s possible to be paid in cash instead of store credit, I’ve always opted to use the store credit. While the store offers a higher percentage in store credit over cash, my main reason for selecting that option was so I can shop more. I won’t lie about that. I am still a shopaholic. I’ve made some great strides, but I still have a long way to go.
June/July Purchases – By the Numbers
Here are the stats on my June and July purchases:
- Items Bought in June: 14
- Items Bought in July: 3
- Total Number of Items Bought: 17
- Clothing Items Bought: 10
- Shoes/Accessories Bought: 7
- Items Bought at Consignment Stores: 14 (82%)
Clearly, I need to break my resale addiction, especially if I’m not only committed to spending less, but also to buying fewer pieces. Now, if I absolutely loved every item I bought and couldn’t wait to wear it, perhaps my resale predilection wouldn’t be so bad. But most of what I bought during June and July hasn’t even been worn yet! Here are some more numbers:
- June/July Purchases Already Worn: 6 (35%)
- June/July Purchase “All-Stars” (worn many times): 2
The Advantage of Buying Accessories Over Clothing
Only two of the already worn items are pieces of clothing; all of the others are accessories. Both “all-stars” are also accessories (a handbag and a pair of sunglasses). This tells me I’m better off buying accessories over clothing, as I’m more compelled to use those items right away.
In response to my recent “Answering My Own Questions” post, reader Tonya suggested I purchase accessories to cultivate the sophisticated and edgy vibe I want to add to my outfits. She reasoned that accessories take up less space and can be combined with closet basics to create different types of looks. Definitely very wise advice and all the better since I seem to have more success with my accessory buys anyway.
Here’s a quick look at the new pieces I brought into my wardrobe during June and July:
June / July Budget Report
Now on to my budget report… My monthly budget for clothing, shoes, accessories, and alterations is $250. Some have commented that this amount is too high and they may be right, although I feel a clothing budget is a very individual thing.
My clothing budget has been the same for a number of years, but I have far exceeded my budget each year for the past ten years! I wanted to actually stick to it for one year, then look at whether an adjustment is needed. I didn’t want to choose a lower number and set myself up for potential failure, so I kept the budget where it was and aimed to stick to it this year!
I’m Actually On Target this Year!
As of the end of July, I am basically on target for my 2013 clothing budget. In truth, I’m slightly over, but only to the tune of $16.36. In previous years, we might add a thousand dollars or more to my excess amount! This year, I should have been under $1750 as July came to a close, but my spending level was at $1766.36. It should be very easy to get back on track during August.
I feel confident that 2013 will be the year when I finally stick to my clothing budget! It hasn’t been easy, but I am committed to changing and being a woman of my word instead of someone who hides purchases, tells “white lies,” and practices “creative accounting.” I wasn’t proud of my past behavior, so it feels good to be staying on the up and up with my husband – and all of you!
Some Closing Thoughts…
It really helps me to do these accountability updates and I hope you enjoy reading them. For those of you who feel out of control with your shopping, I hope the progress I’m making helps you realize recovery is possible for you, too! Of course, there can be lots of ups and downs and stops and starts on the road to recovery. It’s not just about how many clothes we have, how much we buy, and whether or not we keep to a predetermined clothing budget. There is more to it than the external facts and figures.
Many of us who struggle with compulsive shopping have had periods when we were able to keep things under control, whether out of necessity, “white-knuckling” it, or sheer busyness with other activities and pursuits. We may have even thought we had put our shopaholic days behind us. I have to admit that I’ve gotten a little cocky on and off this year. I felt that perhaps I was moving into the “recovered” territory.
But not so fast! Then a difficult challenge, relationship, or emotion rears its ugly head and sends us back to the stores, be they brick and mortar or the all too easy and tempting online types. This is when it’s important to remember the tagline for this blog, “Trade your full closet for a full life.” I still feel gaping holes in my life and my heart and although I know no amount of clothing can truly fill them, I’m not sure what else to do. So I resort to the coping mechanism that’s been there since I was a teenager, shopping.
I need to find new coping mechanisms and new ways to fill my soul. I don’t write about that all the time because it’s harder to write about and sometimes the words elude me. But I will continue to explore these issues, for myself and others out there who wrestle with the dragon of compulsive shopping. I’m still “recovering” and it may be a long process, but I can – and you can – place shopping into its proper role in life. I will continue searching, and writing, to help us all get there!
First congratulations on keeping to your budget! It is not an easy thing to do after being so used to overspending. I think that it’s a process and setting realistic goals is a great way to achieve success. I like the new items that you’ve brought in, but from what I can tell many of them look similar to items that you already have. The standout, to me, is the orange blouse. That looks different from what I’ve seen, is a blouse, and looks very versatile (wear with dress pants or wear with jeans for a more casual look). Maybe you could test drive that to see if different is what you’re really craving in your wardrobe?
I have tried a shopping ban or hiatus a number of times and every time I have overspent in the following months. I think I am now convinced that they are like a crash diet. They’ll get you quick results, but don’t do much for the long term. I am more motivated than ever to find a way to shop that is realistic, responsible, and one that I am able to feel good about every month of the year. By the way, did you start April Benson’s book? It has led me in directions that I wouldn’t have thought to look and encouraged me to do things that I never thought I would be willing to do.
I think I’ve come to the same conclusion as you about shopping bans, Tonya. I like the dieting comparison because it’s SO true! Perhaps if we could heal the underlying reasons why we shop so much, we won’t binge after a ban. But for now, I think I will continue to work on shopping in moderation. Thanks for your observations about my new purchases. I DO have a tendency to be drawn to more of the same and I need to turn that around. I plan to wear the orange blouse soon and see how I feel. I am on the lookout for more blouses to help mitigate my knits overload. I love knits, but I do want to have a bit more variety in my wardrobe!
I just realized I forgot to respond to your question about Dr. Benson’s book! Yes, I did start the book and plan to blog about some of the exercises very soon. I’ve also spoken with Dr. Benson, as she contacted me after learning about my blog! We are actually doing a teleseminar together next week! I will post the information on the blog and on social media shortly.
How exciting! I will look forward to that.
The difference between diets and shopping bans is that you have to eat which requires you to incorporate healthy eating as a permanent lifestyle change. If you have enough clothes to cover yourself you don’t NEED to buy more. What you need is to accept how you look in what you have in your closet and find other things to do besides shopping. I find myself drawn to online shopping as avoidance behavior when I have things to do that I don’t want to do. That is sheer immature procrastination on my part. I haven’t figured out how to “just do it,” but I have found non-shopping ways to procrastinate (tv, books). I still need to work on reducing my procrastination, which seems to be rooted in anger at having to do something not of my origination, uncertainty about how to do it, fear of not being perfect, and overestimating how big a production it will be. Despite now being a senior, I think I have residual passive aggressive anger at a childhood of always being told what to do and what to think. Often the task I am avoiding is much less difficult to do than feared but that hasn’t made it easier to overcome my procrastination. External deadlines are the most effective way to get things done but then I avoid working on it until the last minute.
Sandra ‘The Now Habit’ is a lifechanging book on procrastination. Can really recommend it!
Thanks for your book suggestion re: procrastination. I own the book, but have procrastinated reading it! I guess I should put down the mystery and pick up the Now habit.
Sandra, You’re right in that we have to eat but don’t have to shop, at least not on a daily or regular basis. Both are about fulfilling a need but both can serve as ways to fulfill other needs besides sustenance and actual wardrobe needs. In order to shopping to take its proper place in our lives, we DO need to find substitute activities and NEW ways to fill our emotional needs. I’m a “work in progress” in that department, which is why I “binged” after the shopping hiatus.
The book recommendation came from FrugalFashionista and I thank her! I plan to get that book myself, as I definitely struggle with procrastination. I’ve read a few others, but I’m always open to new perspectives. Maybe it will help both of us, Sandra!
I see that you still have a number of prints in your wardrobe, which must create limitations on the number of times you can wear an item. I have very few print clothes — and I make sure that the print is WOVEN into the fabric (and not printed on) to ensure durability. For example, a woven tweed skirt (AKA, a “printed” fabric) is a better investment than a skirt that has a animal print or other pattern silk-screened on it. The woven-in pattern will not wash out or wear off. (Other examples: gingham, jacquard, woven tartans, pinstripe blouses, seersucker, etc.) Just another little tip for getting one’s money’s worth out of clothing. I use the “woven-in” rule for blouses, dresses, scarves, etc.
On the other hand, I build my wardrobe around prints! I love them, especially screen or digitally printed ones. It’s good to think about versatility, but when it comes to picking actual items, one must keep one’s instinctual preferences in mind.
I agree that one should follow one’s own sense of style! My comment about prints relates to the inherent limitations of prints when trying limit the size of one’s wardrobe by mixing and matching clothes.
Thanks, Dottie and Abby, for your comments. You both made some good points! It’s true that solids are often more versatile than prints, but I think a good mix of both helps to create an interesting wardrobe. Of course, how the mix is created is an individual thing. Dottie made a good point about woven prints being more versatile. After seeing that comment, I looked at my prints are was happy to see that most are woven not screen printed on. I do have a few of the latter and those were less expensive purchases. They likely won’t last as long…
I also wonder at the # of new items purchased (17) when you are trying to limit the number of clothing items per season to 33. You purchases equal 52% of your total goal. Seems like a lot. But as I only spend $20 per month on clothing, shoes, etc., a monthly allocation of $250 is a windfall! I too have learned restraint at consignment shops. Buying another person’s bad clothing choice does not always make it a good clothing choice pour moi.
I’m not sure I will ever count shoes and accessories in my 33, Dottie. That works well for some people, but I think I’ll just stick to counting my clothes. What constitutes a “windfall” is a very individual thing and I’m happy with where my budget is at the moment. What I’m working on now is using it more wisely and that will ideally mean buying fewer items, especially in terms of clothing pieces. You’re right that restraint is need at consignment shops. I’m still working on that one 🙂
I’ve just discovered your blog and am enjoying reading back through the posts. It strikes me that to move away from some of your bad habits you need some replacement activities. How about giving sewing and refashioning a try? You could hand sew to keep costs down. Since I’ve started doing this I’ve realised that with a little refashioning I can take some of my items I rarely wear and refashion them so that they become wardrobe basics.
Welcome, Elaine, and thanks for your comment! I definitely need some replacement activities to fill in some of the time I spend shopping. I like the idea of sewing and refashioning and love seeing what others create. I’m not sure if I will take that on, but it’s a possibility, along with some other ideas… Thanks for the suggestion!
Well done on meeting your budget! I really enjoy following your blog and reading about your journey – it’s very inspiring. Although I’m not addicted to shopping or clothes, I do really enjoy dressing well and I love the detail and thoughtfulness of your posts. I know you say you are still working on developing other interests to replace your shopping, but hopefully your blogging and writing are starting to fill that gap and helping to channel your energy and creativity, that’s a wonderful interest/hobby in itself!
Thanks, Kim. I’m glad you are enjoying my blog even though you don’t have a shopping addiction! My blogging/writing is starting to fill a gap. I enjoy it and find it fulfilling. It is a good way to channel my energy and creativity, as you mention. I am still looking for some other activities to take the place of shopping, but the blog has been a definite positive in my life!
I hope I’m not out of line here…
It seems you need pretty strict boundaries to keep you on track. Why not limit your shopping–for a month or two at any rate–to accessories? You look great in scarves. And your two successes from June were accessories.
My daughter and I take clothing to the Buffalo Exchange where there is a huge incentive to take credit rather than cash. We try to get at least half in cash.
You aren’t out of line, Frugalscholar. I appreciate all comments and suggestions, as long as they are respectful and not mean-spirited (thankfully, I’ve gotten very few mean comments!). You’re right that I need some boundaries. I’m going to rethink and revise my shopping rules and do a post on this soon. My accessory buys have definitely been more successful. Food for thought there!
With your encouragement, I had the confidence to count my summer wardrobe:
12 trousers & ls shirts
12 capris & ls/ss shirts
10 shorts/ss shirts (1 removed today–there were 11
2 pant suits with sleeveless tank tops(1 removed today)
3 skirts with blouses
3 dressy pants outfits
11 dresses (includes some winter dresses I failed to put elsewhere)
5 swimsuits (2 are too tight, but wearable and perfect style) swim class 3x week
I’m not yet ready to own up to how many shoes I own.
The things that went out the door today are items I bought out of desperation when I realized that my clothes were too tight to wear comfortably and the 10 lbs were not leaving soon. Over time I was able to find better larger size garments, so I am now sending to consignment those desperation outfits.
There is a lesson here, if I can remember it when I start to panic because I am missing something “crucial” which causes anxiety that is only relieved by shopping for it.
Congrats on having the courage to count and post your summer wardrobe numbers, Sandra! There is power in being open and honest about these things. It’s definitely helped me a lot! And congrats on being able to remove things that don’t work from your wardrobe. I’ve found that doing the wardrobe purging gradually has helped me to be less likely to run out to buy more to fill in the gaps. That way, we can gradually adjust to a new wardrobe size instead of cutting it in half in one fell swoop. Some people do fine with that, but for me (and maybe for you), slow, sure progress is what works best. Continued best wishes to you!
This is great that your clothing budget is still on track for this year! Finding new ways to fill your soul would certainly help curb your obsessive shopping habit. Have you ever thought of writing or blogging something else different? You truly have a flair for writing. I envy you as I’m a visual thinker.
Thanks for your kind words about my writing, Rochelle! I have done several other blogs in the past and lots of other writing, but I’m thinking of perhaps adding some new writing channels soon. I will definitely continue this blog, but I would be open to writing about other things as well. I will share other venues if/when they come along.
Debbie you have been able to analyse your reasons for each time you resume former habits so that is progress too. You have found that accessories are a great way to update and give a personal touch so you can concentrate more on those. But the real issue is, as you said yourself, that you need to replace the shopping “habit” with something else because this is true when breaking any habit.
While I wouldn’t suggest changing the name of this blog because of the help you are giving to others as well as working through your own situation, might I suggest that you do use your excellent writing skills to talk about other topics generally and in particular coping strategies and new ways to fill your soul because this is a subject to which all of your readers can relate.
You’re right in that awareness is progress, too, Megan. Often when one knows better, one does better, but it doesn’t always occur in a perfectly linear fashion. I won’t be changing the name of the blog! Even if I am even “recovered,” I will still write to help others. I feel recovery is a continuum that one progresses on instead of an end destination. I still call myself a “recovering anorexic” because I am not 100% over my food and body image issues. Sometimes I feel 95% recovered, sometimes much less, but there are still some challenges for me in those areas. I definitely plan to write more about “full life” issues. As the more acute issues with shopping become less strong, my focus is gradually shifting, so I’m sure my topics will shift as well. I am always open to suggestions for post topics, too!
I would love to hear more about how you are trading your full closet for a full life. After cutting my shopping obsession, I realized I needed something to replace it — so I joined a gym and renewed my library card. Two activities I used to love but “never had time for” are now back, center-stage, in my life.
Accessories! Yes! Not sure if I’m stating the obvious, but one thing I love abt buying quality scarves (Eileen Fisher is my favorite) is that I can wear them for the rest of my life — they flatter young or old, fat or thin, casual or dressy — I will never outgrow my scarves.
I will definitely be writing more on those topics, Elizabeth. Congrats to you for cultivating new hobbies that you enjoy! Regarding accessories, I have always loved them but often did the quantity over quality thing there, too. Happily, I’m starting to see the light. First with handbags and watches, then shoes, then jewelry, and finally clothes! There’s hope for me yet!
Debbie This is a wonderful updated. Thank you for your honesty, for your accountability and good writing within this post.
I love reading your blog. Although I don’t consider myself a shopaholic I still have far too many clothes and your blog helps me analyze and cull them more objectively. I’d like to suggest that you take cash instead of credit at the consignment shop. That’s what I do, and the pitiful amount those beautiful clothes fetch reminds me not to buy on impulse in future. I really enjoy your statistics of clothes worn etc, not being a mathematical person myself.
I’m glad you like my blog and all of the numbers, Katy. Thanks for stopping by to tell me so. You are so right about the pitiful amount we get for our clothes at consignment shops! I got a printout not long ago and found it depressing. I used to just donate everything and might start doing that again (I still donate a fair amount). What I am going to do, though, is shop with a list. If nothing from my list is at the consignment shop, I will take the cash instead of the credit. No more impulse buys!
Congratulations on sticking to your budget. I know that is a major step in the right direction. I’m curious to know more about the 17 items you bought. Were these to fill the identified gaps in your wardrobe (ie shopping from a list) or are these impulse buys? If you are filling gaps then I wouldn’t get too hung up on the numbers. Only you can identify how much is enough.
Many of the 17 items were impulse buys, Marion, and that’s a problem! When I shop from a list and buy things I’ve actually identified I need (or at least really really want), I do far better. Otherwise, I get caught up in the “good deals” that become bad deals when I don’t wear them! I may be a slow learner, but I think I’m finally starting to get it. From now on, my shopping list will be “King,” even at consignment stores. I said this above, but it bears repeating, “No more impulsve buys!”
I’m so glad I found ur blog!!!
I’ve been reading blogs on minimalism and most of them just don’t talk about excessive amounts of clothes. I have a problem purging my clothes. I have clothes from 20 yrs ago. They are all designer goods but now out of fashion…with shoulder pads etc. It’s all expensive and I can’t part with it. I thought about consignment but they don’t want it as its out of fashion or I get like 20 bucks for it and I just can’t wrap my head around it.
I can’t even count the items like what you and other readers are doing. It would be like double digits on everything. I have close to 2 bedroom full of clothes and everything else. It’s embarrassing!
I have curbed my buying a lot so I’m basically shopping in my own closet. Tons of stuff still have tags on it. Luckily I still fit in it.
I still go shopping but I’m pretty picky. I have to be as I’m usually buying designer items..
I hate how I gravitate to the same styles and practically buy the same things with slight detail difference in it. I’m trying to stop myself from doing that.
So please keep writing and updating your readers as you are inspiring me to start purging. I’m starting with the cheaper items and working my way up….
Anyone else like me out there???
Welcome, Annie! I’m glad you like my blog! I definitely plan to keep writing and will do regular updates on how I’m doing with paring down my wardrobe. I’m glad to hear you’re shopping less and doing more shopping in your own closet! I’ve worked with a few clients with situations similar to yours. What we ended up doing is selecting their favorite outdated garments and then taking them for alterations to make them more modern. This can be expensive, but may be worth it for some of your best designer garments. Re-fashioning those garments into other pieces is another idea. Some vintage shops may be interested in older pieces, but consignment stores are often looking for things that are 3 years old or less. Just proceed gradually and make slow progress on paring down your wardrobe. It will likely become easier as time goes on. Best wishes to you! There are many people in your shoes and there is definitely hope for you to create a more manageable wardrobe!
I have only recently stumbled on your exciting blog while trying to deal with my own clothes shopping addiction. As others here have said, you write very well and your unflinching honesty is both touching and inspiring. It’s sad that many of us aren’t just unhappy with how we look but have taken to pretty unhealthy habits to deal with how we feel. I think you look smashing – pretty, elegant and friendly!
Like many others, my addiction is prompted by the enjoyable high and the ever-present hope that if I have the clothes I’ll look like the unattainable ‘other’. Some hope. And then there’s the inevitable financial disaster to be covered up.
I have also engaged with Project 333 (omitting shoes, coats, jewellery and scarves), and I’m finding it quite wonderful both in terms of shopping the closet and in how much easier it is to put together an outfit for the day.
I’m also grateful for your tip in an earlier blog about Jill Chivers’s courses. I’ve just enrolled and hope that with your and her help I can shake my clothes shopping addiction. Meantime, strength to your cause my dear!
Welcome, Robyn, and thank you for your kind comments! I’m glad you decided to enroll in Jill Chivers’ courses. You will learn a lot of helpful and valuable information there! I know what you mean about buying clothes to try to look like the unattainable “other.” That has been a big problem for me, too. A big part of my journey involves becoming more comfortable and accepting of who I am and what I look like. It’s not easy but it is possible. Please write back and let me know how you are doing with Project 333 and “Shop Your Wardrobe.” Best wishes!
I found your blog through the Project 333 website, and have read through all your posts. Allthough I am not a “shopaholic” myself, I find your blog very inspiring and thought provoking. Your reflections and experiences are, in my opinion, interesting from a wider perspective as well – they touch upon many important questions. Please keep up the good work!
(Please excuse my poor English, I am not a native speaker)
Welcome, Hilda! Glad you like my blog and are finding it helpful, even though you’re not a shopaholic. I’ve actually heard that from quite a few people and I’m happy my words are having a larger reach than I originally anticipated. Your English is perfectly fine, by the way 🙂
Thank you for sharing your struggles and successes through your blog! Though not a shopaholic, I was convicted to reduce my wardrobe after reading “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess” by Jen Hatmaker. The book helped me see how fortunate I am compared to the millions who can barely feed and clothe their families. Perhaps one way you can replace your shopping habit is to use your talents to help others in need. Some nonprofits and churches collect gently-used business clothing to provide to low-income job seekers. I can see you being a perfect volunteer stylist for a program such as that!
Welcome, Great Lakes Gal, and thanks for your comment! I hadn’t heard of the book you mentioned, but it sounds interesting. I will have to check it out. I definitely donate a lot of clothing to charity (although I do consign some of my cast-offs), but I haven’t volunteered at a charity shop. I contacted the local Dress for Success twice about volunteering, but they never got back to me. I may look into other options soon. I agree that helping others in need is always a good thing!