As human beings, we can sometimes be walking contradictions. We often say one thing and act in a completely opposite manner. This is definitely true for me in terms of minimalism and simplicity. I say I want a simpler and less complicated life, yet my past “maximalism” still hasn’t been completely exorcised from my psyche.
Another Type of Excess Besides Clothes
I’ll tie this discussion in to clothing and wardrobe shortly, but allow me to start with another personal example… I subscribe to a lot of magazines; too many, in fact. This excess happened gradually, as I regularly received low-cost subscription offers from a number of publications. I’d see the offer and think, “Only $12 for a year? Of course I’ll subscribe!” And so it went, until piles and piles of magazines were delivered to me each month.
As the magazines would pile up, I’d lament the excess and clutter around our apartment. As the stacks began to topple over, I’d either have to take the time to go through the magazines or simply toss them into the recycling bin, often unread. It took years for me to see the light, but I finally stopped accepting new magazine subscriptions. I decided the low subscription price wasn’t worth the time and energy I’d have to spend dealing with “magazine overload.” As many of my subscriptions ended, I let them lapse rather than renewing them.
A Dichotomy of Desires
Now for the contradiction… On the one hand, I was happy to finally be getting my magazine clutter under control. Yet on the flip side, I missed getting new magazines delivered to me every few days. Each time my husband would come home from our post office box, I’d eagerly ask him, “Were there any magazines?” If he answered in the affirmative, I’d be like a kid in a candy store. I’d tear open the glossy issue, anxious to devour the beauty and wisdom in the pages, even if only to skim the information while eating a meal or snack. If there were no new magazines on a given day, my heart would sink a little bit.
I understand that this doesn’t really make any sense. I want fewer magazines and less clutter, yet I also want to experience the joy of diving into new issues. What I really wanted was the experience of “new.” The same dichotomy exists for me with clothing. I love getting new clothes, but I become overwhelmed with having those same clothes. My closet has been bursting at the seams for years and I hated the feeling of overwhelm I’d experience whenever I opened my wardrobe doors. However, I wasn’t willing to give up the emotional rush I got from shopping for and buying new clothes.
We Can’t Be Happy with Such Opposing Aims
Therein lies the rub. With both clothes and magazines, I want less and more at the same time. Who can be happy with such opposing aims? If I buy less, I feel like I’m missing out on the joy of the new. But if I buy more, I feel overwhelmed and sad about the tremendous waste I’m creating. There’s no way I can read thirty plus magazines each month, just like there’s no way I can wear hundreds of clothes more than once or twice per year. I’ve always had good intentions to use what I had and not be wasteful, but the math just never worked out in my favor. There were just too many magazines and too many clothes for one woman to read or wear.
So how does one deal with the phenomenon of wanting less and more at the same time? Realizing the dichotomy of desires is an important first step in the process. We often go about our lives in such a “walking fog” that we don’t realize how our aims are working against each other. Once we’re aware of the contradicting forces within ourselves, we can take steps to turn things around.
Consciously Choosing Less over More
The next step is to make a conscious choice as to the direction in which we’d like to proceed. I’ve decided that I want to have less and to better use and appreciate what I have. I hate the guilty feeling I have every time I toss unread magazines into the recycling bin or take rarely worn clothing to the consignment store or charity shop. I want the things I jettison to have received abundant love and attention from me and I want to feel satisfied that I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of my reading material and wardrobe pieces.
After a powerful choice has been made, it needs to be quickly followed up by supportive action. Over the past few weeks, I’ve cancelled a number of magazine subscriptions. Whereas I previously just let my subscriptions lapse without renewing them, I’ve now opted to actually cancel them. Why wait until months or years from now to cut down on my information overload and paper clutter? It’s been extremely empowering to “take the bull by the horns,” so to speak, and reclaim some of my space and time.
Managing the “Less” Part of the Equation
With my wardrobe, it hasn’t been as straightforward and easy, but I continue to pare things down while bringing less and less into my closet. Just recently, I returned several unworn items that would have likely become “wardrobe benchwarmers.” I also continue to increase my standards for what deserves a place in my wardrobe. The things that don’t make the grade go into my consign/donate pile and I’m wearing the pieces that remain more regularly, even when all I’m doing is sitting in front of my home computer all day long.
So I’m dealing with the “less” part of the equation quite well. I’m de-cluttering and reducing the flow of new items into both my magazine rack and my closet. But what about the “wanting more” part of the picture? How do I quiet the ever-present “wanting machine”? That part has proved more difficult, but it helps to remind myself of why I desire less, mostly for freedom of time, monetary value, and peace of mind.
Project 333 – How it Helped and Its Aftermath
I remember when I was doing Project 333 this past April through June. Although I initially lamented the lack of available sartorial choices, I quickly realized that I felt much more peaceful and at ease with a smaller wardrobe. Getting dressed each day was infinitely easier and I liked a larger proportion of my outfits than I had previously. Since all of my “wardrobe benchwarmers” were packed away in boxes, I didn’t feel deep pangs of guilt each time I stared into my closet. Most of the 33 garments in my Project 333 wardrobe capsule were among my favorite pieces and were regularly worn during the challenge.
Following Project 333, I opened up access to my full wardrobe once again. At first, I was happy to have new choices, but my previous guilt and overwhelm quickly resurfaced, as I was again faced with a sea of clothes I neither loved nor wore. In the ensuing months, I’ve consigned and donated a significant amount of those unloved items, yet my wardrobe is still too large. Deep down, I want even less, but I still feel the urge to shop and buy new things.
Focusing Within Instead of Without
I’m happy to report, however, that my desire to shop is waning. When I find myself pining for more, usually in response to clever marketing ploys or other visual stimuli, I remind myself of the mess that I created through my overshopping. I ask myself if I really need that which I crave, and the answer more often than not is no.
Increasingly, I am working to focus within instead of without, not only on what I have but also on who I am. I ponder whether it’s really new clothes that I desire, or am I really wishing for new experiences. I think I want new clothes more out of habit than anything else. I’m not sure what else to want, as I’m still in that “in-between” place between being a raging shopaholic and a person for whom shopping is a periodic activity in response to actual lifestyle needs. I realize I need to have patience, take things one day at a time, and continue to work on myself and my life. Perhaps soon I will be happy with less and no longer pine for more.
Do You Want Less and More at the Same Time?
How about you? Can you identify with my competing desires for both less and more in terms of my wardrobe and other areas of my life? How do you deal with wanting more clothes (or whatever) while also wanting to streamline your wardrobe or other areas of your life? If you have words of wisdom for those of us who are still struggling, please share!
Fabulous article, Debbie! I share these feelings and struggle with them regularly. Even with a smaller wardrobe, I feel a sense of elation that I really have to investigate and analyze when I am wearing a new item or outfit. It’s a tough drug to shake, for sure. One thing that is helping to curb my shopping desires too has been my investigation into eco-ethical clothing manufacturing. It’s created an active distaste for clothing which harms our planet and endangers other humans, which, fortunately, means most stores are off the table if I’m shopping consciously…
excellent idea Rebecca, it also worked for me….a bit at least.
Thanks for your comment, Rebecca. I agree that learning about the realities of clothing manufacturing practices can help us to shop less. I know I’ve stopped visiting certain stores as a result of what I’ve learned. As I learn more, I wonder how many retailers have truly ethical practices. I fear there just aren’t that many!
I also found that learning more about the environmental and ethical impacts of most clothing manufacturing really changed my relationship with clothing. I am far more aware of each purchase and generally carry out quite a bit of research beforehand, which most often means planning and delayed gratification. This means my purchases are now fewer, more thought through and so much more satisfying!
This brought back memories for me. The first thing that I think I stopped over buying was home decor. I had enough stuff to decorate three houses. I had a yard sale and more than one person asked if I owned a store or remarked that it looked like Pier 1 in my garage. I was embarrassed enough that this made an impact on me. Since then I have only bought something for my house if I have a specific need. This led to cutting back in other areas. The one that was different for me was clothing. I still struggle to approach that in a practical way. The only thing that I have found that has made “the want” less is to spend my time and effort on things that have nothing to do with clothing. If I’m thinking about clothing in any way the want is there. My days used to look like this: Work/chores done as fast as possible and the rest of the day was spent surfing online stores. Today was work/chores, a long walk in the beautiful fall weather, a half an hour of a meditation tape, and watching a world series special (yea Red Sox!). If I do these things I generally feel happy. If I don’t I start looking online for things to buy or reorganizing my closet for the tenth time and the want comes back.
Tonya, you have touched on an area that has been my secret binge — home decorating. At one point in time I had well over a dozen comforter sets for my bedroom, with matching sheets. My son’s friends used to laugh at how many changes of sofa pillows I had. I always wanted everything to look different. My eye would become jaded looking at the same colors and patterns. Although my wardrobe was certainly unmanageable, my decorating binging was worse. That, along with my penchant for buying a different house (always a fixer upper) every few years ( until I got bored with it once it was fixed up)– has wrought plenty of financial stress.
Debbie, on the magazines—I now am part of a Soul Collage group that meets every few weeks and I donate all my magazines to our pool for images to use in collages. Perhaps ou might enjoy Soul Collage too! It has certainly helped me to focus my thoughts, be creative, and develop new friendships!
Tonya and Deby, I think many people overbuy home decor items. That isn’t an issue for me because I live in such a small place, but I know it’s an issue for many. I think I didn’t want to open that can of worms because I’m sure I would have gone overboard there, too! I used to have too many “knick-knacks” and collectibles, but I am not so into those things anymore.
Tonya, your point about keeping busy on non-clothing related activities is a good one. I’m finding more such activities to enjoy and it’s helping to lessen my urge to shop as much.
Deby, thanks so much for the suggestion about Soul Collage! I just looked it up and there is a group not far from where I live. I will definitely check it out, as it seems to be right up my alley!
Here’s another idea for excess magazines: I worked in residential homes and a day program for adults with developmental disabilities, and for many, magazines were a source of interest and creative resources for collage, making paper beads for jewelry, and many other crafts. There may be an organization near you that would appreciate donated magazines. (Incidentally, I’ve found that foodie magazines or home decor spreads can be really great for making sets of magazine beads in striking, sophisticated color palettes.)
Excellent idea, Sabrina! Thanks so much for sharing. I will look into this to see if I can find a good place to donate my magazines.
I am not as eloquent as you, but I totally get this article. This is one of the reasons I ended up with 200 pairs of jeans and 20 extra kilograms..I haven’t gotten a handle on the weight and the clothing situ ispretty awful. Your site and my blog help..but there’s a way to go.
Thanks for your comment, Francesca. I’m glad you liked the article. I think many women struggle with both shopping and eating issues. I know that both have been problematic for me for many years. As the eating issues improved, the shopping worsened. Peeling the onion of why we overshop can take a long time, but it’s definitely a worthwhile activity.
I can relate to your magazine woes. I used to buy fashion, home, gardening and cooking magazines. I stopped 4 years ago and now only buy a Vogue at the airport when I am travelling. The main reason was that I could not let the magazines go. I HAD to go through them ALL to cut out inspiring articles or pictures. Having piles of magazines created mess AND created work for me as well as a sense of anxiety that I might miss a great recipe or great outfit idea if I threw the magazine away. I realised I was creating more and more tasks for me to do, more things to manage and so I stopped, took a deep breath and threw the lot away and have never revisited that habit again. And you know, I really don’t enjoy cooking anyway and I have only ever used a fraction of the recipes that took me so long to cut out and file.
Yes, fear of missing out (FOMO for short) certainly applies for me with the magazines. I wonder if I might miss an article that could change my life. How brave of you to toss out the lot! I have a pile in my bedroom right now and your comment is inspiring me to toss them and save myself a bunch of time and energy! I feel anxious about doing it, but I would guess that within a few days (if that), I won’t care at all.
Lol, Debbie, just throw them out. And DO not even start flicking through them.
For me, magazines were just another distraction and time waster and something else to have to organise. I have enough to organise and streamline in my life so I can live without them. I am unable to simply read a magazine and then pass it on. I have to re-visit, mark pages, cut out, collate and organise (into well organised folders of course.) It’s too much for me. It’s about knowing myself a bit better. I am better off without them and I have never missed them. They didn’t add much to my life enjoyment, they created mess and stress.
I’ve started feeling this way about some of my hobbies. Last weekend I freecycled my soap-making stuff because I realized that it wasn’t fun anymore and that I was thinking of it as yet another chore on my to do list. My resolution is to avoid all new hobbies and just stick to the stuff that has made me happy for years now – reading, knitting, music.
By the way, freecycle is another great way to donate things directly to someone who wants/values them.
Hi Debbie, I’m Cristina from Switzerland (sorry for my bad english) and I really love your blog! I think you’re doing a great job with your analysis, I really miss your posts when you don’t write for a couple of days! 🙂
Although I’m not a shopaholic (I just love fashion… quite a lot 😉 ), I’m really trying to simplify my wardrobe (strangely, I don’t shop a lot for other things), because I feel I am happier with few things and a lot of empty space around me.
I perfectly recognise myself in what your write in this post… I have a beautiful closet full of great items, when I don’t shop I’m more creative with my outfits and feel probably happier, but I miss the “hunt” for new things and the excitement of the new… Sometimes I look at all the new arrivals on my favourite online stores even without knowing what I need/want and that’s not a good thing to do, I guess.
Thank you for all your great posts, I will go on reading your blog!
Welcome, Cristina, and thanks for your comment. Your English is just fine and a lot better than my French! Your point about being more creative with new outfits – and happier, too! – when you don’t shop is a good one. The same is true for me. I’m glad you like my blog. I thank you for reading and for your kind words.
I can definitely relate to that, thank you for this well written post!
I have never had an overwhelming closet, but I used to have too many books, DVD, video games, CD and other similar collectibles. I knew my shelves were full and that I almost never re-read a book or re-watched a DVD save for a few favourites, and wanted to sell all the surplus, yet I felt the need to add new things regularly. I think you are right, it is a question of choice, of directing our energy toward something else instead.
When I decided to spend my money on experiences rather than objects, I would ask myself “what else could I do with these 25€ of DVD?” and the answers were multiple: restaurant, hammam session, an evening out with friends… and I put back the DVD to its shelf.
I have felt that kind of challenge with clothes lately though. It took me over 2 years to find a type of outfit I feel good in (that seems to correspond to the image I want to project, that is comfortable, that makes me feel good in my body…), and now that I have found it, I feel a renewed desire to buy new clothes to fit in that newly refined “uniform” of sorts. Things haven’t got out of hand so far, but it is true that I feel like walking a fine line between wanting to curate my wardrobe, keep things small and spend little money on material items, and treat myself with a new piece now and then. I guess it is a question of balance between splurges and excessive deprivation…
Kali, I love your blog and read your posts about the books, DVDs, etc. I struggled with books a lot myself and used to feel as you did about spending money on going out to eat and such activities. Now I wholeheartedly agree with you that it’s far better to spend money on wonderful experiences than on items that will mostly just collect dust!
Debbie your posts are getting better and better!
I’m a maximalist, but it’s complicated because I am married to a minimalist. When I did the family work outlined in TBONTB, I realized that some of it is because I have a dual heritage. My mother’s family list nearly everything in WW2 but their family traditions were strongly Russian, all about abundance and generosity, even when they had next to nothing. When they became more prosperous, they became hoarders; my mother became a shopaholic and I learned most of my ways from her. My father and husband are the opposite, stern Protestants who like minimalism and abhor anything ostentatious.
Beside clothes, I have lots of shoes, bags, make-up, and books. My kitchen, fridge and storage cupboards are always full. I’ve taken small steps towards using up the glut and simplifying my life, but it is difficult – almost going against my nature. Generosity, abundance, resourcefulness are some of my core characteristics, and I often feel that my role in life is to be the supplier and provider, the motivator and the dynamo and the generator of ideas. If I don’t do that, do I have any value? I’m slowly trying to come to terms with what would remain if I didn’t have these roles. It’s tough, and really new terrain for me.
Thanks for your kind words, FrugalFashionista. I’m glad you liked this post. It’s interesting how many facets there are to our shopping and accumulation of clothing and other items. They are never really just clothes, are they? Family history and the way we see ourselves play large roles in the big picture of things. As you are realizing your roles, perhaps you can find new ways of meeting them or perhaps alternate roles that would be just as fulfilling. Not easy, to be sure, but the awareness of what you’re doing gives you new choices and possibility moving forward.
You might want to consider that in some ways, keeping all that stuff in your life is actually the opposite of the traits you define as your core characteristics. By hoarding things you do not use, you are not being generous to those who have less. Likewise, the abundance may stem from a fear of scarcity – a feeling that you may not always have so much so you have to take extra now while you can. By cluttering your environment, you surround yourself with the old, and don’t open yourself up to new possibilities. I don’t mean this as criticism and perhaps I’m totally off base – just thought I would throw out another perspective on your situation. It resonates with me because my mother is a hoarder and it’s something that is on my mind a lot. I thought your word choices were also a little revealing – minimalism does not necessarily equate with sternness to me.
This article is absolutely spot-on… curbing down your desires might be the real difficulty of paring down your stuff, far more than taking the decision itself. I really can’t say I’ve found a solution for that.
But one of the little “tricks” I did find for myself is to make the eager anticipation last longer for each item, instead of indulging it every time. This also has the advantage of allowing you to think longer and choose better. I still have the urge for new things, but I calm it by browsing for the perfect piece instead of calming it by actually buying. As a result, shopping still occupies a lot of my mental space, but at least my finances are ok. Once I’ve settled on something I really like (I’ve become pickier and pickier, so this period tends to get longer every time), I wait as long as I can and save it for the day I really WANT something new. This way I can indulge without guilt.
One of the unsuspected advantages of this method is that the “gratitude” for each item also lasts for much longer. The desire for something new is slower to reappear as I’m so happy with my new piece that it occupies my thoughts for a while.
In one word, working on refining the process of desire itself can help tremendously !
Now I’m really not sure how to win back my mental space. Something inside me is so scared of letting go…
Thanks for your wonderful tip, Clara! I agree that anticipation can be a useful tool in combating overshopping. I used to buy things right away, but now I’m trying to wait a little while to be sure I still want the things I’m considering. I didn’t really think about the gratitude part of the equation, but that’s a very valid point! I think winning back the mental space will happen in time. I know I’m spending less time with online browsing than I used to and I have more mental space than I did even a few months ago, but it’s been a very gradual process.
Cleaning out the house of a deceased loved one some years ago provided me with all the incentive I needed for “letting go” of stuff. I often think, if I die tomorrow, what will my house and possessions say about me? And, what kind of burden will I be leaving for someone to manage at a vulnerable time in their lives? I would rather invest in experiences (including travel) than in things because things get old, break, become outdated, and, too often, disappoint in some way. I too had a series of garage sales and sold stuff on-line and through consignment shops, netting over several thousands of dollars. However, what I netted was a fraction of what I paid for all that stuff, so I still “lost” money — a lot of it. This experience also made me see that the stuff I valued was seldom valued at all by other people. Ouch! I now hardly ever buy anything unless I absolutely need it (not “want” it). Oh, yes, no more newspaper and magazine subscriptions and fewer trips to the recycling bins.
Dottie, you are spot on. When my grandfather died there was a huge amount of cleaning up to be done. He was very much from the make do and mend generation but still had 50 years worth of junk to get rid of. The ONLY things that everyone wanted to preserve were the things that reflected him as a person and his life – his school reports, war medals, letters and photographs.
You raised a very good point, Dottie. I haven’t had to clean out a house of a deceased loved one, but I know my mother-in-law has a tremendous amount of stuff. Fortunately, she’s gradually paring things down, but it’s a painstaking process for her. Far better not to accumulate so much stuff in the first place! I’d like to go that route and save others the pain and anguish in the future when I’m gone (hopefully many, many years from now!).
Me too! Cleaning out the house of two deceased and deeply loved family members provided me with all the incentive I needed for “letting go” of stuff. I often think, if I die tomorrow, what kind of burden will I be leaving for someone to manage. And in the process of letting go of things I’ve discovered how peaceful I feel having less and being able to be organized and not have excess stuff spilling out of the cupboards and closets.
But even though my wardrobe is now small and better fits my lifestyle, and my home is filled with less stuff, I still go through cycles of wanting less and more at the same time. It’s like ten steps forward and sometimes three steps back, but I’m on the road towards less.
Celebrate those steps forward, Terra! You’re making wonderful progress. It seems like you, Dottie, and Carolyn were all “scared straight” about clutter when you had to clean out the homes of deceased loved ones. Now you won’t leave burdens for YOUR loved ones -bravo! You are SO right about the feeling of peace that comes from owning less stuff! As I pare down my wardrobe, my almost constant anxiety is lessening and I’m feeling much more calm these days.
I find I have too much of everything, so it is a conscious effort not to shop and try to use up the things I already have. I stay out of stores but online shopping is so seductive.
I have figured out that my over collecting of things stems from a childhood in which I didn’t have what I wanted (what my peers with college-educated professional parents had). Part of it was the family budget, but most of it was my parents insisting on making all the decisions, even as a teen. At 14, my mother insisted on choosing my clothes from the store where she worked. I felt embarrassed wearing her choices, not because they were bad (my mom was a real fashionista) but because they were different from my peers and not my taste.
So I know why I overbuy, but how to convince myself it isn’t needed. That is the problem I struggle with. The only solution, absent therapy, is to avoid temptation. It works intermittently, but my inventory is shrinking, and less is coming in.
I have no advice because our individual drives are unique, and even when you identify the drive, you still need to struggle with a solution that works in the long term. Good luck.
I think you’re doing well with paring things down, Sandra, and with making important realizations about why you’ve been compelled to overbuy. You’re right that online shopping can be seductive, so it helps to avoid temptation by not subscribing to email notices and signing out of online stores so you have to sign in again (with all of your information) in order to buy anything. You’re also correct that we all need to come up with our own solutions, as there is no “one size fits all” cure-all. But we can take tips from others and try them out to see if they work for us.
I think the process of looking “within” takes time and practice. Weeding out the closet takes a lot of emotional work. I know I have slowly made strides. And when I do purchase an item, I am better at returning duplicate items. Realizing that the one item perfect pair of pants is enough, two is nice but not necessary.
Off to consign some more clothes. Thanks for the inspiration Debbie.
Congrats on your great progress, Marianne! Reducing duplicates and realizing that one is often enough are very big steps. I’m glad you’re finding my blog inspiring!
This resonates with me. I constantly struggle with ahopping. I do not need anything, but It is like i go stir crazy if I dont getout and shop once a week. Then I come home, usually from Target, and feel like crap for spending money on things I don’t need. Most of the time I return half or more of what I bought, which is an extra trip out, which is wasted gas. Then I feel guilty about that. Why do I do this to myself?
I can identify with your frustration, Paige. I often get stir crazy if I go too long without shopping, too. The good news is that the time intervals are getting longer. We can overcome our shopping struggles, but it takes time and hard work. Shopping can be a vicious cycle, but it serves some sort of emotional needs within us or we wouldn’t do it. We need to determine what those needs are and find alternate ways of meeting them. I wish I had all the answers, but I’m going to keep going until I find them, and I will continue to write about what I’m realizing and learning!
I haven’t taken the time to respond to a post in a while, but I wanted you to know that I am still reading, enjoying, and learning from your articles. I can relate to this topic very much, in that I read a lot about minimalism and I have a strong desire to own way less than I currently do, yet I have a very hard time putting it into practice. Sometimes I feel like such a hypocrite. Your blog has helped me a lot, though, as I continue to bring less and less into my life. You have caused me to stop before buying and question whether I am fulfilling a need or just a want (that will pass very soon). I am also at the point now where I would rather wear out a favorite item with over use, rather than having 10 mediocre items that are less cherished. I used to think I needed to rotate what I wore so I could be seen in different outfits all the time, but really – who cares or notices? Absolutely no one.
I’m glad to see you comment again, Andrea. I’m happy my blog is helping you to question your buying more and more often. You’re right that no one really cares or notices if we repeat our outfits. Unless we’re style bloggers (most of whom are shopaholics from what I can tell), our outfits are not a topic of major focus for those around us. Your point about having one favorite item that you wear and wear instead of 10 mediocre items is spot on! That’s a big focus of mine now and my wardrobe is getting smaller and smaller as a result.
I stopped subscribing to magazines many years ago for the same reason, (and because the fitness magazines that I favored over things like Glamour and Cosmo made me feel bad about myself). But lo and behold, what is on the corner of my desk but a stack of free parenting magazines, along with the magazine that comes with our AAA membership, the university alumni magazine, and a handful of magazines I have purchased in the checkout line while conveniently forgetting that with two toddlers I *never* have time to read magazines! They are all going into the recycle bin Right Now.
Good for you, Renee! I’m glad I could help inspire you to purge some magazines from your home. I used to read the fitness magazines a lot, too, and I agree that they don’t necessarily make us feel loving thoughts about our bodies. I think magazines are much like many other things in life. They are good in moderation, IF we actually read them! I had applied my “more is more” attitude to magazines just like I did to clothes, but I am now more of the belief that LESS is more.
Thanks for the great post – this is exactly how I am but I “never” realized it, or at least didn’t know how to voice it, until now when you have put it into words — Brilliant! And thank you for some really good tips too to manage it. I say that I want simplicity and minimalism but obviously have to change some of my “hobbies” to focus my attention elsewhere.
I’m glad you liked this post, RM. I hope you find the tips from me and others helpful in your journey toward simplicity and minimalism. There can be lots of ups and downs on the journey, but if you keep working at it, you’ll make progress and get to a much happier place.
I would like to share a different perspective that may help your readers. As a part of my job, I administer the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I have spent 15 years learning about personality preferences. I have observed that people who have a strong preference for Intuition love to try new things just for the fun of it. They also spend a lot of time thinking about new possibilities and difference ways of doing things. I can see where shopping and looking at magazines fulfills this real need for people who take in information via Intuition. To read more, click on this link
So maybe we need to accept this as true of ourselves and look at other ways of meeting these natural needs. One thing I have done is to find some other clothing related hobbies besides shopping. Here are a few I have found:
Polyvore – Allows me to find clothes similar to mine and make capsules. Then I make individual Polyvores of outfits. I can save them just for me or publish them on Polyvore. I avoid the shopping links and just create outfits. I get the creativity without shopping or digging through my closet.
Stylebook app – Similar to Polyvore only you take pictures of your own things. Then you make outfit pages for inspiration. You can also track what you wore and when. It is time consuming to set up but having pictures of your clothes makes you realize how pretty your own things are. Suddenly the stuff online and in magazines doesn’t look so great.
Learn to make simple jewelry – I have taught myself to make all kinds of earrings, necklaces and bracelets. When I get bored with them, I take them apart and make different ones. I use Pinterest to find ideas for new creations. This hobby really feeds my need for creativity.
I guess the main thing I am trying to share is that shopping fills real needs. Find out what those are for you and then find other creative ways to meet those needs. It will probably be different for different people but the needs are real and deserve to be honored.
Interesting comment Anne! I guess I have a relatively strong intuitive tendency – at least I love constantly trying new things. I really started overshopping only when I stayed home with very young children. I used to travel, socialize and take courses during my free time but those things can be hard when you are stuck at home taking care of babies. Shopping became an outlet.
I tried to become happy by continuously purchasing new things. Right now I think that experiencing and sharing are much meaningful and make me much happier. For me the big underlying need has been a need to feel alive – now that I’m travelling again and making a conscious effort to invest in experiences (cultural experiences are my kind of thing), constantly learning new things and focusing on my real-life interpersonal relationships, shopping is much less tempting.
I love this comment, Anne. Thanks so much for sharing! I am a very high intuitive and what you wrote makes a lot of sense. I really want to learn more about the Myers-Briggs, as I find it all very fascinating. I like what you said about shopping honoring real needs and that we can find other clothing-related (as well as non-clothing related) ways of meeting those needs. Thank you for the concrete suggestions! I would love to try Stylebook, but I have an android phone 😦 Maybe they’ll release the app for android soon…
FrugalFashionista, I’m so glad you’ve found alternate ways of meeting the needs that shopping was fulfilling for you. Your life sounds quite rich and meaningful, so I can understand how shopping wouldn’t hold as much of an allure for you these days.
I think everyone should take the Myers Briggs test. At my job, I require all new prospective hires to take the test in order to determine if their personality type is compatible with the position they are interviewing for. I’m an INTJ, and intuition definitely plays a part in my clothing selections, but at the same time being a TJ, its easy for me to be dispassionate about most articles of clothing and assess them with a clinical eye once I realize what I should be improving. INTJ’s don’t like to fuss much with their clothing because we are usually focused on other things, and because our social radar is our weakest aspect, we often don’t pick up on cues about what is appropriate attire, behavior, etc.–so in my case, before I started purging, I had a wardrobe of “mood clothes” that in many instances simply didn’t work for my real life.
Debbie, based on the comments, it seems lots of us struggle with this! I understand the need for *new*. There’s something appealing about variety & freshness. I also struggle with wanting less stuff, while wanting to acquire more… go figure! I’ve been through various “collections” over the years, including magazines. I’ve mostly given up on collecting things, though I still have the remains of some collections.
I used to collect Hallmark Christmas ornaments. I gave that up years ago, but I still enjoy the ones I have and purchase 1 or 2 each year. The good thing about ornaments is that they come out for the season, I enjoy them, then I pack them away til next year.
For years I quit subscribing to any magazines at all because I had such a problem letting them go. Same thing with paperback novels… now I read books on my Kindle or ipad and it’s much easier because I don’t have to get rid of them. I get 1 magazine subscription… I finally caved & subscribed to Real Simple, because it’s SO much cheaper than buying it by single issues.
I guess the urge to acquire is deep seated in our psyche. Sometimes it’s easier for me to just give something up altogether, rather than try to limit it. Once I get over the initial shock, it gets easier and I don’t think about it as much. Of course that doesn’t work with clothes~ because eventually you’ll always need something.
You raise a good point, Diane, about it being easier to give things up altogether rather than limit them. That was true for me with shopping, in fact. I have had a number of times when I went “cold turkey” on shopping (usually out of necessity due to debt issues and the like) and I found that easier to do than sticking to a budget and item limits, like I’m doing this year. I think it’s good for us to learn to do things like shopping in moderation because you’re right, we will need things again at some point. I love that you just selected one magazine you love to subscribe to (I love Real Simple, too, but it’s only one of many to which I still subscribe…).
LOL, Debbie! Real Simple inspires me to TRY to keep things simple. I’m drawn to magazines & books about decluttering. If there’s an article on the cover about clearing clutter… well, it’s tough, to convince myself to leave it in the store. Of course I have a collection of books about decluttering! So… at what point do books about decluttering become clutter?? 😉 I wish you luck at cutting back on your magazine subscriptions.
Another excellent and thoughtprovoking post. Thank you Debbie!
I had y first child a few weeks ago and all of a sudden I am shopping way too much stuff for him. Yes, he needs all sorts of “stuff” and yes, we live in a cold climate, but how many wool/ silk blend outfits/ pjs/ hats does a newborn really need? Not to mention blankets etc etc etc. Any suggestions on how to curb this “shopping for my baby”-addiction? I do not buy myself much (shopping clothes for myself is more of a chore..), but now I fear I might end up hoarding baby stuff..
Hilda, I think it is pretty normal to go a bit crazy with shopping for a new baby, especially your first. It’s natural to want to wrap them up in pretty things and show them off. Plus, it is so much easier to shop for baby, there so many cute things out there for not too much $$$ and fit is not an issue.
They just don’t need that much all at once though. In 3 months time you will have to buy more again, and then 3 months after that and so on…. Congratulations on your new baby.
Congrats on the birth of your baby boy, Hilda! CS gave you some really great feedback. I think the fit issues (babies grow SO fast!) will help you to curb the shopping, but in the beginning, you’re probably just so happy and excited to have a baby that you want to spoil him. But remember, babies don’t really know or care what they’re wearing, so the new clothes are really more for you! That’s not necessarily bad, but just important to remember. Why not try to just buy one or two things at a time and then wait until the next month before buying anything new for baby? Or wait until he’s worn or used all of the new things before you buy him anything else? I’m doing that with my new clothes (by category) and it’s helping me to buy less. Most of all, enjoy your time with your newborn!
Thank you to both of you for kind messages and sound advice!
I love minimalism in my home and achieve that quite easily. Just recently I purged some cookwear because I knew I would never use them again. I despise excess in my living space and clutter exhausts me. Purging from my general living space is a breeze for me.
My clothing is a different thing and I am at a loss to explain why. I dream of having a minimalist wardrobe where every piece is just right, where I can open the doors and see a harmonious selection of clothes, shoes and accessories. It’s not happening!!!
I have shopped twice this week already and bought home 2 garments. I am happy with them and they are keepers as they actually do fill a need, and I have already worn one BUT I am feeling pretty disturbed tonight about the amount of clothing in my house. Sick actually.
I am trying to pare down my wardrobe in the spirit of Project 333. I have been approaching the task differently to how I have normally culled my closets in the past which has just meant some random tossing of things I knew I didn’t like or were no longer wearable.
I also keep a minimal wardrobe of sorts by removing clothing I am not wearing or loving but in truth I really just move them from point A to point B. In other words they go downstairs and into my wardrobes designated for storing out of season, out of use, unloved, not sure about, needs mending etc etc – in other words, out of mind.
This time I have painstakingly counted and listed every single item I own + comments against each item in an effort to understand what is going on a bit better. I have OVER 300 items of clothing (and more because I counted some things as groups, for example “white T-shirts” and I haven’t included exercise clothes yet.) This does not include shoes, boots, belts, bags, scarves or jewellery. At the moment I don’t have the energy to go there. There’s not much minimalism going on in my closets.
They say that we wear only 20% of our wardrobes which means that I am wearing about 60 items. I’d say that would be reasonably accurate. I am going to do the figures on that over the next week.
What I am seeing about myself though is a total inability to LET GO of my clothes. When I bring things in I am obviously not letting anything out. Many of these things I haven’t worn in years. A lot of things I wouldn’t wear if you paid me so why can’t I let them go??????? I have bagged up a lot of things now but it is going to be a huge challenge for me to actually dispose of them.
Although I love less in most areas of my life, it’s clear that there is something that’s quite different when it comes to my clothes. I really hope I will be able to figure this one out because I feel like I am tormenting myself – and maybe that is exactly what it is, a form of self-torture.
I can identify with what you wrote, Carolyn. It’s been much easier for me to purge items in other areas of my home besides clothing, too. There are a lot of emotions embedded in clothing for many of us. Two things helped me with becoming more ready to release my clothing. One, I’ve done it SLOWLY! When I’ve tried to purge things too quickly, I’ve tended to panic and bought more to fill in the gaps. Two, doing Project 333 helped me a great deal. While dressing with 33 garments for 3 months was hard for me at times, it DID show me that I didn’t need 300 garments! Since I did Project 333 from April through June, it’s been much easier for me to pare things down. Why don’t you give the challenge a try, or perhaps create a modified version for yourself if the rules seem too daunting. No need to get rid of anything else at first. Just put them somewhere else (I used plastic bins and put some things in another closet) for the time-being. I really think it would help you. It was a “game changer” for me!
It sounds as though your brain might be giving false “helpful” signals of disaster should you let go of anything. The moving of things from point A to point B is usually called churning. It means that you change the shape and location of your excess stuff but never actually remove it from the house. Lots of folks bag up stuff for donation and then move it to the vestibule or their car trunk and there it stays for years. See if the info in this website might help to understand your difficulty in discarding.
I co-moderate an online self-help group for hoarding and your description sounds like something I recognize.
HI Vildy. That’s interesting. I have never thought of myself as a hoarder as I am nothing like the hoarders I have seen with their houses stacked to the roof. In fact, the opposite I am quite minimalist in the home. I don’t feel as attached to homewares. I don’t shop for them in the first place as I am happy with the way my home looks overall and I hate lots of things surrounding me.
But my clothes, shoes and accessories are a different story and I get extreme anxiety when I am purging them. I don’t even know why. Partly because making a final decision makes me feel nervous. Eventually I can do it but I need to go through a lot of angst beforehand. And I am guilty of “churning” for sure. I have also put bags into my car to drop off which I end up rummaging through and retrieving items.
I always DO feel better when I have lightened the load and I know that I will feel like that but getting there is a battle.
I have, in fact, wondered if I might have a touch of OCD. Symmetry and balance are very important to me and I need to keep the inside of all my cupboards in a certain way. When things look out of balance I feel tense and am compelled to correct that. Often, my wardrobe woes are because it is unbalanced – this could be the amount of one garment over another or that the color selection is not harmonious as a group.
But today was a good day. I actually got rid of a big bag of unwanted clothes. Took me a while to get there (which includes a lot of checking!!!) but I did and I feel pleased about that. Thanks for your reply
Wonderful that you made up your mind and followed through. We knew you could do it and now you’re own knowing you can do it is part of your history – how you deal with things. And most people think motivation leads to action but actually action inspires motivation. So hopefully your good day today will lead to an even better day tomorrow with whatever you’re up to.
Wonderful exploration here, both by you and in the dialogue. Just read this brief piece on the same theme and thought you might like it
Welcome, Vildy! I’m glad you enjoyed this post. I loved the post on The Nife en L’Air, too. Great minds think alike, as I shared it in the links section of post today.
I definitely relate to wanting more and less at the same time – actually, sometimes I think that thinking about a minimalist wardrobe makes me want to buy more. I don’t have a very large wardrobe, but when I think about cutting it down further, I often think I need new things, like the perfect jacket/pair of boots/whatever instead of the several I have now.
I like magazines, too, and have tended to accumulate them in the past. Have you ever thought about checking out magazines from the library? At my local library you can’t check out the current issue, but you can check out all the others from the last year. I do this sometimes and it’s great because you have the fun of a magazine but not the burden of owning it and no guilt if you don’t really read much of it. (Just make sure to return it on time to avoid late fees.) In fact, for me the library is a type of replacement for shopping. I like to order library books online – it’s kind of like online shopping but there’s no downside! Obviously it’s not the same as clothes shopping but it seems to fill some of the same needs for me. It’s fun to impulsively order whatever I feel like, and it’s free, and I don’t have to keep it.
Another thing that helped me get rid of magazines and things in general was reading Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things. It’s an excellent book. I wouldn’t be considered a hoarder, but reading this book made me realize that some of my thought processes about accumulating things/not wanting to get rid of things are very similar to those of a hoarder. That made it easier to release some of those patterns of thinking.
Anyway, great post and I really enjoy your blog! It’s been very thought-provoking for me.
Thank you for your comment and suggestions, Heather. My mother-in-law recently cancelled most of her magazine subscriptions and is checking the magazines out from the library instead. Your suggestion may be the push I need to do the same. How great that checking things out from the library is fulfilling your online shopping need without the expense! I appreciate your suggestion for the book “Stuff…” I will add that to my reading list… I’m glad you like my blog and enjoyed this post!
I never have been a big magazine reader but would read and reread an issue new or old if I got my hands on it. Now I have about 20 or so blogs on different topics that I read on a normal basis. There is almost always a new article to read each day and I can pick based on my mood, if I want to be creative and crafty or get insperation on fashion or minimalism. It is also refreshing to see real women rather than airbrushed extremes.
Welcome, Lydia, and thanks for your comment, as well as the link you posted. My problem is that I read BOTH fashion blogs AND magazines! I’ve been working to cut back on both recently in order to save both time and money. My goal is to have a smaller selection of blogs and magazines that I love instead of going for “more is more” like I also did with clothes. Both blogs and magazines can both be great, but there can definitely be too much of a good thing!
I recently discovered your blog–after yet another round of clothing bingeing and purging. I am so glad to know that other people have these feelings and compulsions! I don’t desire others to go through this necessarily, it just feels better not to be alone.
This post especially hits home–in fact, I emailed it to my husband and told him I could have written it! Because I am still in my 20’s, however, I think that you have much more wisdom in a lot of this than I do. Your thoughts on just wanting a new experience but shopping instead out of habit gave me a lot to think about! I have so wanted to travel the world and so far have not been able–but I can so travel to the local shopping malls! Also my hope of traveling always leaves me with a mental image of how I’ll wear all these clothes on my adventures–some day. I noticed you also address THAT in your posts 🙂
Thanks for your words. I so appreciate finding them.
Welcome, Robyn! I’m glad you found my blog and that it’s helping you to feel less alone. It’s done the same for me, too. Like you, I don’t wish compulsive shopping on others, but I’ve been happy to be able to share thoughts and feelings with those who find this blog/community.
I think it’s great that you’re focusing on turning your shopping behavior around while you’re still in your 20’s. I’ve had a shopping problem since my teens but I only realized how much it was affecting me in my 40’s. So good for you for wanting to change while you’re young. I hope you’ll be able to enjoy traveling and other non-shopping adventures soon!
I have also been guilty of too many magazine subscriptions in the past, Debbie. One day, I looked at a large stack of unread magazines and realized, I’ll never get through them all. I had too many other obligations at the time, and finding time to read magazines was very scarce. I let all the subscriptions lapse and I haven’t had a new magazine subscription in at least 10 years.
I know I’ve mentioned before, one thing I am very interested in, is that elusive ‘minimal Parisian wardrobe.’ For a while, I thought this meant I needed to own lots of black, grey and navy, so that is what I shopped for. Well all that did was saturate my closet with dark pieces, and I do not like to wear all dark outfits everyday. Then I thought I needed to own higher quality, more classic in style items (white button down shirt, black trousers, black ballet flats) so I searched for my ‘perfect’ pieces at higher price points. Again flooding my closet with items that do not work for me (I’m a jeans, boots, and knits kind of gal).
What I wasn’t realizing, was that what attracts me to the Parisian wardrobe mindset, isn’t all the dark colors, or owning all classic in style pieces, but owning a small, remixable wardrobe. With that in mind, I have started approaching my wardrobe with ‘new eyes’ and stopped wanting more clothes so that I can have a ‘Parisian wardrobe’ of less items that remix easily. In doing so I finally have realized to stop shopping for pieces that do not fit my style preferences and needs and instead focus on the core essence of the Parisian wardrobe, at least to me.
Since I wrote this post, I have cancelled some magazine subscriptions, but I need to cancel more. I’m sure I have fewer obligations than you do, but I still feel that I don’t really have time to read all of the magazines, plus the blogs and other online information I read. As for the wardrobe, those “must have” lists can be dangerous. I’ve figured out that many of those items just don’t work for me and my life, but I had to learn the hard way! I like what you wrote about the core essence of the Parisian wardrobe. That makes a lot of sense. I, too, would love to have a small, remixable wardrobe.