It’s now April and Spring has sprung (at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere…), so it’s time for my March accountability update. If you’re new to “Recovering Shopaholic,” here’s the deal… I’ve committed to posting monthly accountability updates as a way of keeping myself honest and on track with my wardrobe and shopping goals. These posts include what came into and left my closet during a given month and how I did with my shopping budget and rules.
What Left My Closet
During March, I purged 8 items from my primary wardrobe:
- 5 regular tops
- 2 cardigans
- 1 pair of pants
Here’s a snapshot of the pieces that left my closet last month (one of the tops is not pictured):
In addition to the items mentioned above, I also purged 5 workout tops, 6 pajama tops, one pajama bottom, 5 bras, and 3 scarves from my wardrobe. Since I’ve been playing “The Minimalism Game” (my husband and I started it on March 26th), I’ve been focused on clearing out all the items in my home that don’t add value to my life. I’ve been letting go of other things besides clothing, but I’m happy that I’m continuing to streamline my wardrobe in the process.
Why I Purged These Items
In addition to posting photos of what left my closet, I also list why I decided to release these pieces from my wardrobe. Pinpointing our reasons for purging wardrobe items can help us notice patterns and avoid future mistakes. Listed from left to right, top to bottom (from the photo above), here’s what I let go of and why:
- Black and grey striped waffle top: The original long sleeves on this top were too short, so I had them shortened to ¾-length last year. Unfortunately, however, my tailor shortened them too much, such that the sleeves would ride up over my elbows whenever I bent or raised my arms. I grew tired of “fussing” with this top, so I let it go.
- Black/white/cobalt sweater: I bought this sweater on sale in early 2013 because I didn’t own any sweaters and loved the colors of this one. Sadly, I found the acrylic blend material itchy and was unable to wear the sweater without a long-sleeved top underneath. Since it doesn’t get all that cold where I live, I rarely wore the sweater. I decided to pass it on after having only worn it twice this past winter season.
- Dark green boyfriend cardigan: I bought this sweater online during February but never wore it. The color was much darker in person than on the store’s website and I didn’t find it flattering on my skin tone. The top button also hit me at an odd spot. I returned this cardigan to the store this past weekend for a refund.
- Grey polka dot tee: I wore this tee a number of times since I bought it in late 2012, but the printed on polka dots had begun to fade, making the top look cheap (which it was…). Moving forward, I’m only going to buy prints that are woven into the fabric, as those look more expensive and better stand the test of time.
- Grey striped cardigan: I bought this cardigan at a consignment store in February, but I think I was dazzled by the color, print, and brand. I was also shopping while upset, which isn’t usually a recipe for buying success. I tried to wear this sweater a few times, but just didn’t like the way it looked on me. I re-consigned it a few weeks ago, unworn.
- Navy cotton pants: These pants were over five years old and had passed their prime. They were worn out and faded and it was just time for them to go!
- Red sweater: Sigh… This is another consignment fail from this year! I bought this sweater in January and thought I really liked it. But after my Project 333 term was over and I could wear it in March, I just didn’t love it. The neckline was too low-cut for me, and the sweater never made its way out of my apartment. I’m glad I’ve really cut back on my consignment shopping (and am considering stopping it altogether!) because clearly I’m still making mistakes. I’m better off shopping at retail stores, sticking to my list, and spending more money!
- Light grey ruffle tank (not pictured): Another strike against me in terms of resale shopping. I think some of the resale shops are guilty of having “skinny mirrors,” as I never would have bought this top had it looked the way it did on me at home! It had too many ruffles and one of them hit me right around my rear end – not the most flattering look ever. This tank came into and out of my closet within the same month and was never worn. I wasn’t even able to consign it, as it was turned down (I was too embarrassed to bring it back to the store where I bought it, so I tried another store). I had to donate it and lose out on all of the money I paid for it.
If there’s a “silver lining” to my consignment sob stories, it’s this… In the past, I would often tailor my ill-advised resale buys in an effort to “make them work.” While I considered altering the red sweater and the grey ruffle tank, I ultimately decided against it. I’m tired of throwing good money after bad and trying to rescue garments that I shouldn’t have bought in the first place. Sure, I’m out the money I spent for these items, but at least I didn’t throw more money down the proverbial toilet. I may still have a lot to learn as I strive to become a better shopper, but at least I’ve learned some powerful lessons!
What Came Into My Closet
During March, I added five new garments to my wardrobe. Two items were purchased at a consignment store and three were bought at the mall. Here’s what I bought:
- 1 skirt
- 2 cardigans
- 2 tops
I also ordered a few items online that I ended up returning. I find that I don’t have a lot of luck with my online orders. It’s difficult to gauge colors and fits from the photos posted to e-commerce sites. Online reviews can be helpful, but there’s a lot of subjectivity involved, as well as quite a bit of variance among the comments.
Although online shopping can be frustrating, I will likely continue it, as I’ve had a lot of trouble finding the items on my shopping list in the local stores. Who would have thought it would be so hard to find a replacement for the grey skirt I had to donate a year ago due to an alterations failure (I’m still lamenting that one!)? Or black jeans that aren’t like sausage casings on my legs or cropped to that unflattering ankle length that’s inexplicably popular right now?
But I digress… I could go on and on about my “beefs” with the retail and fashion industries (and have here), but I need to stay on topic if I don’t want this post to get too terribly long. So back to what I bought last month… Here’s a photo of the garments I added to my wardrobe during March:
Why I Added These Items to My Wardrobe
I believe it’s important for us to understand why we buy new pieces, as becoming more aware of our purchasing motivations can help us to shop smarter. For this reason, I share my reasons for buying the new pieces I add to my closet each month. As you can see, I continue to make mistakes, but I believe that if I keep analyzing my purchases, my error rate will continue to decline as time goes by.
Here’s a list of what I purchased in March 2014 and why (listed from left to right, top to bottom):
- Black and white geometric print skirt: Although midi skirts are supposed to be a big trend for spring/summer, I haven’t seen many of them in the stores. Where I live, it seems to still be a sea of maxis, minis, and pencils, with very few other silhouettes on display. So when I saw this fun printed skirt at a consignment store (I was there to drop off my recent cast-offs), I tried it on. I was pleased to see that it was a perfect fit! I look forward to wearing this skirt as the weather warms up. I have tank tops in both the cobalt and yellow tones within the print, and I can also wear the skirt with both black and white tops.
- Grey scoop-neck tee: I have recently streamlined the color palette for my wardrobe and included grey as one of my key neutral tones. As such, I wanted to add a few additional grey options to my closet. This tee was inexpensive and fit me perfectly. I feel that it will provide me with a number of additional outfit options for the warmer months.
- Navy summer weight cardigan: As I’ve mentioned previously, I run cold in terms of my internal thermostat. Even in the summer, I often need to wear a jacket or cardigan to keep warm, especially in the evenings. I can see myself wearing this cardigan over tanks and tees with pants during the summer. It’s a different silhouette from most of the other cardigans I own, which is good because I’m trying to vary the styles I wear a bit more often. I had considered letting go of navy as one of my neutral colors, but I decided that I still enjoy wearing this color as a less heavy alternative to black.
- Purple printed blouse: I like this blouse because the colors are in my palette and the print is not a stripe (I’m trying to vary the prints I wear, too). I have mostly knits in my wardrobe, but I like to include a few blouses in the mix, too. I have already worn this top out to dinner and like the way it looked. Sadly, it was a bit fussy, which wasn’t evident to me in the fitting room. I had to re-adjust it fairly often during the evening, which was mildly annoying. I think I will still wear it, but I doubt it will be as versatile as I had believed it would be.
- White cardigan: For someone who counts white among her core neutrals, I have very few white pieces in my closet. In fact, most of the white in my wardrobe is part of prints (primarily striped items). I decided to bring a few more white items into my closet in the coming months. This cardigan is soft, a decent weight, and has ruched sleeves that are a good length for me. While I will have to struggle to keep it clean, I feel it will become a wardrobe workhorse.
2014 Item Limit Update
As I mentioned in my shopping and wardrobe goals post, the maximum number of new items I may purchase this year is 38 (half of what I bought last year). While I am retaining this item limit, I have decided to make a few changes to the overall rule:
- Only clothing items are included in the item limit (but not undergarments, workout clothes, and pajamas). I was originally going to include shoes and handbags as well, but I do not have a problem with overbuying these types of items. In recent years, my overshopping has been limited to clothing, so that’s where the item limit needs to be focused. Of course, all other purchases I make are still subject to my shopping budget for each month and the year in total.
- If I buy an item and either return or donate/consign it before it is worn, it does not count toward my item total for the year. However, this exemption only applies to a maximum of 10 items, as I do not wish to perpetuate the buy and return cycle that has been problematic for me during recent years. I want to allow myself some mistakes, as I am continuing to address my shopping behavior and challenges, but I don’t want to say “the sky is the limit” in terms of how many purchasing errors I can make.
- Online purchases are not including in the “10 mistakes” stipulation, as it’s difficult to discern color and size variations from e-commerce photos and descriptions.
NOTE: I have made additional changes since the time of this post. Click here to learn why I made those changes and what they were.
With all that said, the number of garments that I have bought – and kept – so far this year is 15. That means that I can only buy 23 more items of clothing between now and the end of the year. Clearly, I need to slow down the rate at which I’m buying new clothes if I want to continue shopping through December. I have considered setting a monthly limit for myself, but I’m going to give it another month or two to see if I can learn to moderate my shopping. Ultimately, I would like to have as few rules in place as possible and learn to shop more consciously and wisely. I’m not there yet, but I’m pushing myself a bit to see how I do.
March Budget Report
My budget for clothing and related purchases (shoes, accessories, alterations) for 2014 is $3000. My March budget was $250 (unlike in 2013, my monthly budget will vary this year). I spent a total of $229.19 last month, slightly below my budget.
My expenditures for the year to date add up to $680.28, which means that I am currently under budget by $69.72. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I was over my budget at one point, as I had bought a pair of jeans and ordered a few items online, all of which I ended up returning before the end of the month.
I find it difficult to keep the math straight when I do a lot of shopping, particularly when I shop online. Sometimes it’s necessary to buy multiple options when shopping online, as my success rate is generally quite low. But this can also get me into trouble if I don’t keep track of what I’ve ordered and how much I’ve spent.
If I buy things online, I really need to wait until each shipment arrives before I buy anything else. That way, I can calculate the total spent for items I’m keeping and subtract that amount from my budget. Armed with an adjusted total, I can then either refrain from shopping for the rest of the month or proceed cautiously with any additional buying I elect to do. If I “miss out” on any “deals” during my waiting period, I have to let that go. It’s more important that I stick with my budget whether shopping in brick and mortar stores or online.
Recovery Tip – Set an Item Limit
I’ve said this before, but I feel the need to reiterate how helpful I’m finding my item purchase limit to be. It really is a “game changer” in terms of my compulsive shopping recovery process. It’s forcing me to stay away from the sales and consignment shopping that was my default behavior in the past and instead shop far more mindfully. I used to come home from shopping trips loaded up with bags full of discount buys, many of which were rarely worn. I now have to shop for just a few quality pieces that meet my real wardrobe needs.
If you struggle with buying too many items on a regular basis, especially if many of these purchases end up being mistakes, I highly recommend that you adopt an item limit for yourself. This can either be a monthly limit or a limit for the entire year like I have. Either way, I recommend that you not set the bar too high in the beginning. While I hope to eventually buy fewer than 38 garments within a given year, that number represents a dramatic decrease from what I bought in previous years. I will be very proud of myself if (when!) I stick to this limit, and I will likely lower the number some more next year.
The objective with my recovering shopaholic project is to continue to grow, learn, and improve. I’m not striving for perfection and I know that recovery doesn’t usually occur in a straight line. Rather, there are often lots of ups and downs along the way. I try not to beat myself up too much for my mistakes, as that doesn’t help me to change.
Although it’s not my usual modus operandi, I’m trying to show more loving kindness to myself as I work to progress from being a recovering shopaholic to a recovered one. If you’re with me on this journey, I recommend that you do the same. Remember… we didn’t get this way overnight, so it’s not reasonable to expect that we will turn it around that quickly, either. As the old saying goes, slow and steady wins the race.
Before You Go… A Few Links to Share
I read a lot of articles (as I mentioned earlier this week, I’m a recovering “information junkie” as well as a recovering shopaholic!) and frequently come across information that may be of interest to my readers. So from time to time, I’ll share some “useful links” with you at the end of a post. Here’s the latest installment:
- “Food, Shelter, Clothing and Optimal Wardrobe Size” – Janice from “The Vivienne Files” provides her input on a subject I wrote about last week. Not only are her insights witty and helpful, she also mentions “Recovering Shopaholic” in her post!
- “Buying Out of Bitterness – And How to Avoid It” – Emma from “This Kind Choice” writes about her tendency to shop when things go wrong in her life (boy, can I identify with that one!). She also offers some useful tips to avoid shopping during your down times. Also helpful is Emma’s post on “Fibres, Yarns, and Fabrics, and check out her “Stylish Thoughts” interview on “Inside Out Style Blog.”
- Lisa, a frequent commenter here, recently started a wonderful blog called “Shopping Brake,” which chronicles her journey to shop smarter and shop less overall. If you love my introspective posts and focus on numbers and statistics, you’ll love Lisa’s blog, too!
- “How to Look Stylish with No Extra Effort” – Another great post from the incomparable Bridgette Raes! In this article, Bridgette refutes several common style myths and shows some useful examples of side-by-side boring versus fabulous outfits that take the same amount of time to put together.
- “How to Build the Perfect Wardrobe: 10 Basic Principles” – Anuschka of “Into Mind” is one of my favorite bloggers, as she exemplifies the premise that we don’t need to shop all the time and have packed closets in order to be stylish. She also offers concrete tips to help us take our wardrobes to the next level.