Today, I’m pleased to share an interview with fellow blogger and ultimate reformed shopaholic, Jill Chivers. Many of you know Jill from her blog and her June guest post, “How a Shopping Hiatus Can Help.” But even those who are familiar with Jill and her programs will learn more in this post!
Jill shares more about herself and her journey and introduces her exciting new offering for compulsive shoppers, “Shop Less and Live More.” This new site includes free inspiration, as well as two e-products. More details at the end of this post.
I’m sure many “Recovering Shopaholic” readers are already familiar with you, but please share a brief introduction for those who are not.
I am an entrepreneur, and I’ve created businesses in the real and virtual worlds. I’m a speaker, writer, coach, professional facilitator and workshop leader and the feedback I receive about my work is that it inspires real and lasting change in how people feel, think and behave.
I’m married to the wonderful Dan who is my best friend and favourite person to be with, and the owner/slave of a demanding and slightly neurotic but always entertaining Ragdoll cat, Mango.
I was also a compulsive shopper for years. And for much of that time, I didn’t even realise it. I thought shopping was a harmless pastime or maybe a contact sport I had become very, very good at. Shopping was my favourite hobby. I had more than enough clothing, shoes, accessories, handbags, you name it, but I was continuing to shop and add more to a bursting-at-the-seams walk in wardrobe.
I had racks and racks of stuff I didn’t need, or even want. Why was I buying so much when I already had so much? I had no idea what the answer to that question was. But I knew I had to find an answer. Late 2009, I had one of those corner-turning, light bulb illuminating, Aha moments. I came to the hard, cold realisation that I was spending far too much on clothes (and shoes, and bags, and belts, and earrings, and all other adornments for the body). And what an important moment that turned out to be.
The path I chose to heal myself from a compulsion to shop was to take a year without clothes shopping. I had to stop the constant intake of new items into my closet; I had to put some space and distance between me and all this buying, and buying, and buying.
That year changed my life. My year without clothes shopping changed how I think and feel about shopping, and it changed my shopping behaviour. It also led me to change what I did with my time and talents and it drew me to work in this intriguing and complex field of compulsive and unconscious shopping.
I understand what it’s like to “shop til you drop” and yet still feel it was never enough. I know how strong the call of the mall is, and how intoxicating the buy high is. And I know how heavy all that buying and buying and buying can be.
That even though it can look fun — and shopping can be very attractive, at least on the surface — that beneath the tissue paper and logo-embossed bags, there’s an unhealthy, unattractive side to too much shopping.
That too much shopping wears you thin, wears you out, and wears you down. That even if you can “afford it,” there’s more than one way to be bankrupt and impoverished. And my main message to other women who shop too much is that it IS possible to lay that burden down, to stop the constant shopping, and to reclaim your life.
What is the “Shop Less and Live More” program and what does it include?
Well it’s less a program and more an invitation. I’ve created 365 postcards to inspire people to shop less and live more. These postcards are the product of my imagination and work and represent a lot of love, time, and energy. They are also a contribution I dearly wanted to make to the movement of conscious consumption.
I wanted to share this central idea: that life, rich, full and happy, is found in the things we do, the people we love, and the contribution we make. And that when we turn our attention to those things, instead of the acquisition of more and more things, our life does indeed become richer, fuller and happier. And these postcards are my way of making that idea tangible.
The postcards don’t form a traditional instruction-based program and it is not a step-by-step guide. It is likely different from anything else you have come across, in that it is an invitation to explore and to create for yourself.
This approach is radical because it invites you to think for yourself. From my work as a professional facilitator and the creator of innovative learning experiences, I have faith that not only can you explore for yourself and think for yourself, but that you’re better off if you do so.
What inspired you to create “Shop Less and Live More”?
My own journey was one point of inspiration – my healing from a compulsion to overshop has taken an interesting trajectory. In the last 18 months to two years, I have been drawn to widen my perspective (beyond the aspects of shopping my closet, wardrobing and style, which was my previous focus in this area).
I sincerely believe that we all wish to be happy, but we don’t know how to become so, or how to experience more happiness on a consistent basis. And the reason we’re grappling so much with being happy is because we don’t really understand what makes us happy. We think we do, but as we strive for what we think will make us happy, we become even more unhappy. It’s a cruel paradox!
I believe that what makes us happy are the experiences we have, the people we love, and the contributions we make. And those things have nothing to do with acquiring more and more things. And in fact, sometimes the determined focus on acquiring more and more things takes us even further away from happiness, and further and further away from a life we love to live.
And that’s what I wanted to spark within others, a reminder of what makes life worth living, and of what makes for a rich, full life. I want to encourage people to get in touch with their inner light, the inner guidance system that will lead them to explore and discover what happiness means for them, and to create and live a life they absolutely love.
And these postcards are one way to reconnect with that inner light, that inner guidance system.
Who is “Shop Less and Live More” for and how will it benefit them?
“Shop Less and Live More” is for people who love shopping and think of it as their favourite hobby – but who know deep down that they’ve put shopping in a glorified place in their life and made it too important.
It’s for people who shop frequently – perhaps every day or at least weekly – who know that it’s just too much, that they’re spending too much time and money on “incoming.” It’s for people who have a lot of stuff – clothes, shoes, accessories, handbags, and all the rest – but aren’t using all of it, perhaps not using even a quarter of it.
It’s for people who, when they’re not shopping, they’re thinking about shopping, perhaps even obsessing over some item (or many items) they’ve seen in the stores or online. They just know that their shopping is not quite under control – it just can’t be healthy to be thinking so much about shopping and things you want to buy.
It’s for people who keep the extent of their shopping a secret from others – and who feel bad about not being honest about how much they buy or how much shopping consumes them.
It’s for people who acknowledge that they need to shop less – but aren’t sure where to start or how to do it.
And most significantly, it’s for those who want to live their lives fully, richly and joyously – and who know that shopping isn’t the pathway to living that kind of life. “Shop Less and Live More” invites them to think about, to feel toward, and to discover other things – activities and ideas – besides shopping.
How do you recommend that the postcards be used, either for those who enroll in the program or those who access them via your website?
The postcards are deliberately designed to open up the space to play. It gives a place, every day, to start exploring new things – new ideas, new actions, new perspectives.
Each postcard invites you to stand in a different position from where you were before. Each postcard invites you to do something different – even if just for that day. And each postcard invites you to discover for yourself what you see, what that means, and where you want to go from there.
It’s important to note that the postcards are different from a traditional step-by-step program. This is not a program that “spoon feeds.” There are no instructions – but lots of invitations. There are no directions – but lots of thought-starters.
It is a radically innovative approach that invites people to explore and to discover for themselves, to do things differently. It invites people to create and then to live a life they love – one that puts shopping in its rightful place.
What is the difference between the postcard subscription program and the e-book and why might someone choose one over the other?
There are three ways you can access the postcards:
- You can visit the home page every day and find inspiration in the daily postcard that rotates there. All 365 postcards will appear on the home page throughout the year, and access to them this way is free.
- You can sign up for the paid daily email series, where a postcard is delivered fresh into your inbox every day.
- You can purchase the e-book, chock full of ideas and inspiration to live, not spend, your life every day.
So I’ve made it easy for anyone who wants to use the postcards as a point of exploration in their own lives to do so.
The postcards are the same no matter which way you access them. With the e-book, you receive them all in one downloadable e-book – so you get immediate access to all 365 postcards to use in any way you like, and you get to design your own “program” if you like! And with the email series, they are coming into your inbox, one every day – so you don’t have to come back to the website every day to get your daily dose of inspiration.
I leave it up to the individual to determine which mode of accessing the postcards will suit them the best, so that they get maximum value from the postcards. That’s my only intention – to invite people to access and to explore.
If someone were trying to decide among all of your great programs, how might they do that? Why might someone choose “Shop Less and Live More” over your “My Year Without Clothes Shopping” programs, for example?
“My Year Without Clothes Shopping” is a year-long intensive focused program. It is a step-by-step guide, organised around 12 key themes – one for each month. It has a lot of material – over 1000 pages in total. Each week, members receive a comprehensive tutorial via an email lesson and a resource. The weekly lesson is delivered via email and designed around the theme for that month. The in-depth resource is downloaded from our protected and private members-only area, and provides examples and exercises to experience that week’s content for yourself.
“My Year Without Clothes Shopping” is about examining and re-defining your relationship to your wardrobe and your shopping, and through that exploration, your relationship with yourself. It is a clear emphasis and focus on shopping within your closet. The women who do this program tend to have a strong interest in clothing and style. But their shopping has become unhealthy for them so they want to develop a healthier relationship to shopping, whilst also redefining their style, but on their own terms.
“Shop Less and Live More” is a much more open space. It isn’t a program. I’m not calling it that – it’s an invitation to explore. There are many areas you are invited to explore with “Shop Less And Live More” – it isn’t focused specifically or exclusively on style, although there are some postcards that invite you to explore your style some more (always in a “shop your wardrobe” kind of way).
The landscape with “Shop Less and Live More” is broad and wide, with lots of choices for the person who is accessing or receiving the postcards, who is most definitely in the driver’s seat! It suits people who aren’t as interested in clothing as those who do “My Year Without Clothes Shopping,” and those who want to be in the driver’s seat of their own learning and exploration experience.
What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
I’m working on an idea for a television series with a media production company here in Australia. It’s an intriguing process and I am learning a lot! I’ll keep you posted on how things progress!
I hope you enjoyed this interview – a big thank you to Jill for her very detailed and thorough responses to all of my questions! If you’d like to learn more about “Shop Less and Live More,” click here.
Feel free to ask Jill any questions you have – about her programs, her history, or your challenges – in the comments section below. You are also free to share anything you’d like about the topics discussed in this post – and on the blog in general. I’ll be back later this week with an update on my sessions with Bridgette Raes.
Interesting! I scarcely shop at all (it was not always thus) and working for a larger women’s retailer has further reduced my interest in shopping when I observe the shopping behaviors of others. I decided many years ago that life is too short and passes too quickly to spend a large portion of the (unknown) numbers of hours I have on earth in pursuit of the perfect pair of black sandals or white tee-shirt. It’s your family and friends who will come to your funeral, not your closet full of clothes (which generally are tossed or donated after you die). The world is full of opportunities to do other things than shop — and many other these other things can make your a “better” person: learning a new language, going to a museum, having coffee with friends, volunteering as a reading tutor for adults or children, taking a walk, etc. The list is endless. Get out of the store (or away from the computer) and enjoy life! The world is wide and full of endless possibilities that can’t be found on a rack of clothes.
Dottie- your words are wise and speak volumes.
I love the comment,” It’s your family and friends who will come to your funeral, not your closet full of clothes”. What a truism that could be expanded to include all things consumeristic- fancy houses, expensive cars, the latest toys and other shows of how ill spent one’s money, time and energy is/was
I’ve had to clean out the house of beloved family members, and it’s a very sad and arduous task. One family member had 4 closets crammed full of clothes plus three closets and 2 garment racks of clothes, hats, and shoes in the attic (a fire hazard). I took 10 carloads of clothing to a charity store. So that darling blouse we’ve all spent hours looking for may, eventually, become clutter for someone else to clear out. I keep my wardrobe small accordingly.
Thank you Jill for sharing your story! The postcards have great ideas for refocusing our priorities!
I also recently have been finding that my overshopping was a sad attempt to find joy/happiness in my wardrobe. While I’m sure a nice dress can inspire joy, clothing shouldn’t be the source of joy that we focus on. Finding happiness and fulfillment in everyday life- no matter uour circumstances- and finding even simple sources of joy can truly change your life! I have found that focusing on enjoying my life over my wardrobe (it’s the supporting actor at best, not the lead role!) has really made a difference for me.
I did not realise I was a “shopaholic.” I thought that my problem was with organisation and was forever trying to organise my wardrobe. It didn’t occur to me that the reason was because I actually had too much to organise in the first place. In my mind shopaholics were in debt and I wasn’t. One time when I was googling topics such as “organise your closet” the topic of shopping too much came up. It was very much an ah-ha moment, especially when I was able to tick all the boxes (Yes, Yes and Yes !!!!!)
I was forced to think long and hard about this and try to understand why I was shopping too much. Not only shopping too much but returning most of what I bought. Whether buying or returning, I was in the shops all the time.
I do really understand now my personal psychology with shopping – boredom, an unhappy marriage, trying to change myself and my life by changing my exterior, trying (wishing) to be something else, a way of not facing my reality (I need to get to the shops before I can do that!!!)
I love fashion and I studied fashion design and textiles at college many years ago and I am a trained pattern maker and dressmaker. I did not have time to create with a small child and as clothing became cheaper and cheaper it was barely worth the effort and so much easier to quick-fix at the shops.
With the arrival of TV shows like “What Not to Wear” and the plethora of books dedicated to “How to Dress,” This fuelled my anxiety about my clothing and whether I was wearing the right thing. My overshopping really took hold around this time. I think these shows/books were very damaging because dressing then became prescriptive. You have to have this or that in your wardrobe. I was sucked in to that.
I have come a LONG way since then. Restricting my color palette, wearing my “good” clothes, only wearing what I love has worked well for me. But I think the single best piece of advice of Jill’s is to stay out of the shops. It’s not easy but it works and gets easier. I have also developed another mantra for myself ” I can like it but I don’t need to own it.”
All the best to all recovering shopaholics!
I think it’s interesting that a lot of people equate “over-shopping” to being in debt. Most of the people I know who “over-shop” can manage the cost of shopping fairly well. Except, for some, they spend $$ on clothes that they could be using for other, more essential expenses. A case in point is an older friend who has spent an enormous amount of $$ on clothing, etc., but couldn’t afford to buy a house (no money for a down payment). She has spent over 45 years renting an apartment, when, with a little belt-tightening back in her 20s and 30s, she could now be living “rent-free” in a house or condo with a paid-off mortgage. She also couldn’t afford to fund a 401(k) or IRA. Consequently, retirement has been a lot more difficult for her. I too regret that I wasted $$ when I was younger on fashion, especially before I discovered how to maximize my wardrobe through a cohesive personal style and color palette. I wish I would have spent those wasted $$ on travel when travel was cheaper. The younger you are when you realize that “over-shopping” can be misdirecting your financial resources, the easier it is to rectify the situation. My friend who is still “over-shopping” as she approaches 70 is facing challenging years in her 80s and 90s. How important is a $600 pair of heels (and so forth) in your 20s/30s if it means choosing between food and heat in your 80s?
My favorite budgeting/financial planning site recommends spending no more than 5% of your NET income on clothing — but only if you have no consumer debt. If you are carrying debt to pay off previous purchases, then that debt is part of your 5%. Let’s say that your annual clothing budget is $1200 and you buy a $400 on a handbag in January that you’re paying it off at 12% interest (let’s just use simple interest; I haven’t had enough coffee to calculate the compound interest). You should be including the $40+ in monthly interest in your clothing budget. If you are paying the minimum balance, you could be “spending” 75% or more of your annual budget on the handbag, not 33%.
What a wonderful set of comments here!
Dottie – indeed there are many other things, limitless as you say, of things to do other than shopping. I’ve come up with 365 of these other things, but I’m sure it’s possible to come up with 10 times that amount – we are limited only by our imagination!
And yes Abgurl, the ‘obituary test’ is a bit morbid but one of the most effective ways of assessing whether something (or someone) is worth keeping in your life, and worth devoting more time to.
Leah, it’s my pleasure to share here, and I’m so glad Debbie has provided a space on her excellent blog for me to do so!
Meli, you have hit the nail on the head I believe — the clothing/wardrobe/style issues are secondary – the supporting act. Primary is your life and creating one you love to live. One of my favourite postcards is’ shop less and act like the leading lady in your life’ — we need to remember and live our lives now as though they were as precious as they really are.
Carolyn, I agree with you about the almost obsessive focus on clothing, wardrobing and fashion that we all seemed to jump on board with following the explosion of makeover shows and style books on how we should be dressing. When it comes to personal style, the person should definitely come before the style. And thank you for sharing that my advice to stay out of the stores (simple yet powerful) has been so helpful to you. I still use that strategy!
Dottie, it is fascinating to notice how much people seem to associate overshopping with debt. There are many ways to be impoverished, and financial impoverishment is only the most visible. Emotional impoverishment is one of the most difficult things to live with – but like financial problems, you can begin a journey of recovering from it.
And thank you again Debbie for creating such an excellent blog, and for supporting me and my new project by sharing it with your wonderful readers. Much love.
The financial planner I referenced also recommends spending 5% of net income on charity (meaning cash donations). This is an interesting way to assess whether one is “over-shopping.” If you are spending $XXX on clothing, would you be willing to donate an equal amount in CASH (not donated clothes and so forth) to your favorite charity? If not, you’re probably spending too much on clothing (depending on your circumstances). I spend $250 per annum on clothing (but I have a well-ordered wardrobe so I am just buying replacements and a few accessories to jazz things up). I donate way more than this in cash to several charities plus I volunteer weekly at a local non-profit organization, among other charitable activities. Warm clothing is very nice but tending to the needs of others truly warms the heart.
Thank you, Jill, for the wonderful interview and the thoughtful response to all of the comments. I think your “Shop Less and Live More” offerings will benefit many, as your blog and your other excellent programs have. I’m grateful to know you and to be part of the same team. Many people struggle with overshopping and want more for themselves and their lives. “Shop Less and Live More” will give all of us lots of fun and helpful ideas to explore. I plan to share some of my experiences with taking on your suggestions here on the blog. Stay tuned!
It’s nice to know that other people have struggled and successfully overcome their shopping demons and Jill’s blog is proof of this. Inspiring!