I’ve often shared that I learn a lot from my readers, and last week was definitely no exception. I received quite a few comments on my “March 2014 Accountability Update.” Many of these comments were, in essence, calling me on the carpet for my “creative math” related to my item limit accounting. I’m glad that some of my readers didn’t let me get away with changing the rules mid-stream and that they pushed me to take an honest look at my behavior and my justifications thereof.
Not only did many readers point out my creative math, they also offered helpful suggestions for how I might approach my shopping rules moving forward. In today’s post, I share some of the recommendations I was given, as well as the conclusions and decisions I’ve reached following deep introspection over the weekend.
Why I Changed the Rules Last Week…
Before I delve into the feedback I received from readers, I want to share a bit of the thought process I went through when writing last Thursday’s post. I had committed to buying only 38 new wardrobe items this year, but I was deathly afraid I wouldn’t be able to meet that goal. After all, we are only a quarter of the way through the year and I have already purchased close to half of my limit!
I was afraid that I would fail and disappoint all of you, as well as myself. So my mind scrambled for ways in which I could increase my chances of success. After some pondering, I came up with what I believed to be reasonable compromises that would enable me to more easily honor my commitment. I was so steeped in my fear that I didn’t realize I was being dishonorable in making the changes I enacted to my 2014 shopping rules. My addiction – and my commitment to protect it at all costs – was speaking louder than my integrity. I basically wanted to have my cake and eat it, too, as the old saying goes.
What My Readers Said…
As I mentioned earlier, I’m glad my readers didn’t let me get away with “weaseling” out of my commitments. Most of the comments were respectful but firm. Here are a few excerpts of what was said. To read the comments in full, click here.
- A couple of things really jumped out to me with this post. The main one being that any item that hasn’t been worn and goes to consignment doesn’t count. It’s probably not a coincidence that this new rule came about the same month that you got rid of a few things that you bought on consignment and couldn’t return. I understand returns, but if I make the choice to buy something on eBay and I know I can’t return it, I figure I own it. My hope is that it will encourage me to make better choices in the future rather than keep repeating the same mistakes.
- I wonder why you have decided that pre-worn donated or consigned items (limited to 10 for a year) are exempted from your total annual purchase. You’ve basically given yourself 10 “Get Out of Jail Free” cards. I understand the stuff that’s returned to the store, presumably for a refund. In this way, the sale is voided and your clothing budget is adjusted accordingly. But consigning or donating your clothes once bought — whether worn or not — is a negative hit to your clothing budget and so should be counted in your total garment count, too.
- I also think the “get out of jail” cards you have given some of your mistake purchases are a bit of a red flag. Consignment shops and online shopping seem like things that should just be avoided. Unless, for example, you already tried on a pair of pants in a bricks-and-mortar store and loved them, but just need to go online to get the “tall” size. And the items that don’t count seem a bit like a numbers game just so at the end of the year you can meet your target. But would it be so bad to honestly say you didn’t meet your target? As long as you understand why and can adjust for next year? It’s all going to be a learning process.
- I wanted to point out that you seem to be trying to expand your item limit by exempting shoes and purses. You have listed them in purges and in purchases in the past, and admitted to having many more shoes than you needed at one point. Lounge-wear is one thing, when you never count it in your wardrobe totals, but shoes and handbags you do, so it doesn’t seem to align as well.
- I think you’re shopping too much, and I think your budget isn’t doing what you want it to do. From reading your blog over the last many months, it seems the budget is a crutch. YES, you’re spending less, but I think you’re shopping because you CAN and have the means to, rather than because you really want or need to get new clothes. It’s an exercise in practicing HOW you shop, versus questioning the extent to which you NEED to do so. And that’s still shopping for the sake of shopping.
- What I noticed is when you say, “If I want to continue shopping through December,” you’re hitting the nail on the head. I want to spend less time, less energy, and less money on clothes. I want a smaller wardrobe, but I want all this while continuing to shop. Of course, this can’t work, but the hardest part is to come to terms with the fact that shopping for pleasure has to stop if we want to truly achieve these goals.
My Thoughts on the Comments
While I don’t like to think of my shopping rules as a sort of “jail,” I agree that I was letting myself off the hook by allowing myself some exemptions for shopping mistakes. If I am able to return an unworn item for a refund, the slate is basically wiped clean, but a resale purchase that is later donated or re-consigned is a horse of a different color. Once I buy a “final sale” item, I own it and it should count toward my item total for the year even if it is never worn. After all, at least 25% of my wardrobe was unworn during 2012 (see my initial “benchwarmers” post), but those items were still counted in my initial 2013 closet inventory.
I also agree that shoes and handbags should be included in my item total. My rationale for leaving those items out was so that I could still shop late in the year if I exhaust my item limit but still have money left over in my shopping budget. This exemption was entirely fueled by my shopping addiction, not by any real logic, as it is true that I still have too many shoes and handbags in my closet. While I don’t overbuy these types of pieces as often as I do clothing, I still need to be mindful of my numbers for these categories and continue to pare down that which isn’t being used.
Finally, the commenter who wrote that I am still shopping too much is absolutely right! She mentioned that my shopping budget is a crutch, as it enables me to shop regularly even if I don’t necessarily need to buy anything. I agree that when I have money available to spend, it’s like it’s burning a hole in my pocket. It’s almost begging to be spent! However, I don’t know how to remedy this, as I don’t feel ready to abandon my budget at this point in time. My fear is that I would shop without constraints and spend money uncontrollably. Perhaps I will be ready to approach my shopping differently come 2015, but for now I feel the need to retain the budget.
In addition to suggesting that perhaps I abandon my shopping budget, there were a number of other suggestions offered by readers for how I should move forward with my item limit and other shopping rules:
- Stop shopping at consignment stores and instead select two or three reliably good stores/brands to shop regularly.
- Stop all consignment and online shopping (with the exception of purchasing the tall versions of regular-sized items I’ve tried on in brick-and-mortar stores).
- Have a small separate budget for resale purchases to give myself a bit of “wiggle room” to meet my goals. The items purchased with this small budget would be exempt from my item limit.
- Use small items (i.e. chocolates, soap, candles) to treat myself instead of clothing.
- Abandon the item limit in favor of a strict annual dollar amount for clothing and related purchases.
- Omit the mistakes I have made thus far from my item limit as a “one-time allowance” and stick strictly to the limit for the remainder of the year.
- Add 10 items to my yearly item limit instead of allowing myself 10 potential purchasing mistakes.
- Divide my remaining item number by the number of remaining months to make it easier for me to stick to the item constraints.
- Do more wardrobe planning and use lists to limit my shopping only to priority items I’ve identified in advance. Keep “must have” and “nice to have” lists on my phone so I can refer to them anytime I shop.
I told you I got some great feedback and suggestions! I was definitely given some excellent “food for thought” to consider over the past couple of days…
What I’ve Decided
Thanks so much to everyone who offered me feedback on my March accountability post. I have taken all of the wonderful input from readers into consideration and here’s what I’ve decided to do moving forward:
- I’m going to keep the item limit for the year, as I feel that it’s been very helpful in getting me to buy less and think more deeply about my purchases. I will also keep my budget in place for the year and will continue to report my item limit and budget status each month for the remainder of 2014.
- Since I’ve struggled with buying too much, too fast, I’m going to impose a monthly item limit on my shopping for the rest of the year. I’m going to allow myself to buy 2 items per month for April through November and 4 items in December (for a total of 20 additional items this year). When added to the items I’ve already purchased (less the pieces that were returned for a refund), my item limit for the year will remain at 38.
- Shoes and handbags will be included in my item limit, as originally stated in January.
- I’m not going to place a moratorium on resale and online shopping, but I do plan to seriously limit both types of buying. I can only buy items in both situations that are on my shopping priorities list. No more buying things just because they are cheap or a “good deal”!
- If I buy items online, I need to wait until they arrive and I decide what I will keep before I can make additional e-commerce purchases. That way, I’ll be less likely to get in trouble with the math.
I also plan to take the advice to treat myself in other ways besides shopping and to be more diligent with my wardrobe planning. That type of advice is very wise and applicable to all of us!
I Commit to Staying Honest!
I commit to honoring my revised rules for the rest of year and to reporting my progress openly and honestly each month. I know that none of you expect me to be perfect and that I shouldn’t worry so much about disappointing you. Recovery from any type of compulsive behavior is not generally a linear process. Rather, it is more of a winding path with lots of peaks and valleys. I commit to sharing both my peaks and valleys in my future blog posts.
I may not be perfect, but I am improving. Each time I shop consciously and mindfully, I know I’m making progress. Each time I make a different choice than my longtime default option of overshopping is a triumph. Every time I look into my significantly pared down closet, I know I’m on the right path. I just have to keep going, keep taking things one day at a time, and never give up on myself and my recovery. If you’re still struggling, you need to do the same thing! We can get to the other side and put shopping into its proper place in our lives. I believe in myself and I believe in you!