Slow and Steady Wins the Race Against Overshopping and Closet Chaos

The following is a guest post from Esther, who shares how taking on two challenges over the past year has helped her to gain control of her shopping, pare down her wardrobe, improve her personal style, and feel more at peace with herself. 

Ever since I was a teenager, I have always felt “out of step” and like I never knew how to dress. I longed for a uniform so I didn’t need to stress out about what to wear. In my search for ease, I actually started buying and buying. Ironic, isn’t it? I was always attracted to minimalism but went in the opposite direction. On top of that, I picked a profession (or it picked me) where I lived in workout clothes. Remember when those “track suits” were popular? That was the closest thing to a uniform I ever found. Meanwhile, I had tons of clothes but “nothing to wear”!

Fast forward to July 2015 when I asked my daughter to help me find a style. She suggested that I use both Pinterest and Google. It was through my online searching that I found this blog. That was the first time I realized I was a shopaholic. When Debbie’s private Facebook group started, I was “home.” I became a daily contributor, even though it took me a while to do outfit of the day (OOTD) posts.

My Shopping Ban

Stop shopping, shopping ban

Then someone suggested that I do a shopping ban…

When someone in the group suggested doing a shopping ban, I thought it would be impossible, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. At first, I chose to do a one-month ban during the month of February this past year. I remember January 2016 like it was the “last supper.” I went crazy with buying during the January sales thinking that I would never shop again after that.

The ban was hard, but I did it.  One thing that helped was removing myself from about 50 email lists in order to cut down on temptation.  Whenever I passed something up online or in a brick-and-mortar store, I was very proud of myself. March came around and surprisingly, I didn’t end up buying all of the things I had promised myself I could have after my one-month ban was over.   Even though I was “free” to shop again, somehow I didn’t want to.

The One-a-Day Giveaway

That same month, I saw a post in my Facebook feed about a 40-day item purge, during which the commitment was to get rid of one item each day.

one-a-day giveaway

This image started my one-a-day giveaway project.

I decided to take the plunge, posted about my intentions in the group, and asked others to join in.  After the 40 days had elapsed and I had honored my “one-a-day giveaway” commitment, I decided to keep going and asked permission from the group moderators to make it a daily entry in the group. As of today, I am up to 343 days and that means 343 pieces of clothing gone… one item at a time!  Somewhere along the way, I added a daily household item to my giveaway as well, so I’m getting rid of even more things that I’m not using.

More about the Ban…

Back to the ban…  From March through May 2016, I was not on a shopping ban, but seeing how much stuff I already had in my wardrobe influenced me not to shop. Then someone in the group said, “I’m doing a summer shopping ban from Memorial Day through Labor day.  Who’s in?”  That seemed like a long time to go without shopping, but I ended up saying, “I am.” That longer shopping ban was sometimes challenging, but it felt good.  Staying focused is really the key and I find it very hard, which is why the support of the group has been life-changing for me.

With the group’s permission, I made a one-time exception to my ban so I could buy two souvenirs while at the Texas meetup in July. Honestly, I could have skipped buying those things, but I learned a valuable lesson and I loved my time at the meet-up.

In August, I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and had to spend a small fortune on shoes. Again, I shared what was happening with the group, who convinced me that I wasn’t actually breaking my ban to buy something that was medically necessary.  I didn’t buy anything other than the shoes I needed so that my feet would stop hurting so much and I could do my job (part of what I do is teach yoga and Zumba classes).

A Year and Counting!

When Labor Day came along and it was the official end of my shopping ban, I renewed my commitment not to shop through the end of the year and then again on New Year’s Eve.  At this point, I’m not even sure when I will end my ban. I feel the ban has been a pause for me to breathe and take a step back from the vicious cycle of overshopping. It has enabled me to take stock of what I do have and it’s helped me to look internally at my closet – and myself.

I now put more effort into creating outfits and to using what I already have.  I feel more peace with myself and I’m not always looking externally for a “fix” or looking for outside approval about how I dress or act.  I’m learning to like and accept myself as I am at this moment.

Esther's Story of Recovery

A more peaceful Esther, who now likes herself as she is. 

This process of the ban and the daily giveaway has helped me to be more mindful. The beauty is that one thing leads to another and then we can see how everything and everyone is inter-connected.  Now it has become such a part of my daily life:  posting and purging and planning (the 3 P’s). I still have lots more to go but am enjoying the journey.

A Bit of Advice

If you’re thinking of starting a shopping ban of your own, I recommend that you start small so you don’t overwhelm yourself.  As I mentioned above, I just started with a month and took it from there.  If I set out to do a yearlong ban from the get go, I may have thought it was too much and wouldn’t have been able to do it.  But I took it one step – and one day – at a time.  Sometimes we overwhelm ourselves – I know I do – but small changes can lead to big changes.

The same thing is true of paring down your wardrobe. Some people choose to do one big purge, but my one-a-day giveaway has had the same effect for me over time and it was less daunting to do.   It doesn’t have to be on a daily basis, just however it works best for you. It hasn’t been a full year yet for me with that effort, but I’m getting there.

Some Comments from the Group

After Esther shared the story above in the group, she received a lot of encouraging comments from other members.  Here’s what some of them had to say:

  • Your daily post is my favorite. I look at it and it gives me inspiration!
  • Thank you for sharing. I went through my closet last night, trying to organize so the clothes have breathing room and don’t wrinkle. I want to shop the closet and make better choices going forward as I work to lose weight. Reading about your journey is inspiring.
  • I am SO impressed! The work you’ve done on your wardrobe, style, and yourself is awesome. I think you’re a true inspiration to me and this group.
  • What an inspiring story! I need to jump on that ban. I think I can start with a month and take it from there. So today is the beginning for me. Thank you for the motivation!
  • I think it is so impressive how you have been able to keep up both the shopping ban AND the daily purging. Thanks for all the inspiration!
  • Impressive is the word – you just keep plugging away every day (which is actually how the fitness thing goes). You inspire me every day, I don’t get on here much to see what you are letting go of, but just knowing you are doing it helps me continue to take the right next step.
  • I love how you’ve jumped from one challenge to the next. It’s very inspiring to see that the real reward for accomplishing a goal is not more shopping but moving on to more freedom! Adding decluttering to your ban is like icing on the cake. Now thatI haven’t shopped in a while, I’m starting to feel more liberated and more open to decluttering as well.
  • I love your story! Your commitment to your goals is so inspirational! Well done! I want to do the same with exercising, which is my number one goal for this year. What I’m taking away from this is that I only just need to get started and feel proud for every little step I take. Thank you for sharing!
  • What an inspiration to be a better steward of all the many blessings that I already have instead of always seeking more, more, more!

Here’s what I had to say to Esther, who has become a good friend of mine through our interactions in the group and the Texas meet-up:

It has been inspiring for me to watch your progress over the past year-plus. I’m in awe of your resolve to keep up with your shopping ban and the “one-a-day giveaway.” See how you have motivated others to join in! It’s been great to see the thread grow in terms of participation. You are well on your way to ridding yourself of “closet chaos.” Your journey is a testament to the old saying, “Slow and steady wins the race.” A little at a time really adds up.  I wish you continued progress!”

A big thank you to Esther for sharing her inspiring story with us!  If you have any thoughts or questions regarding Esther’s story or would like to share your own experience, please feel free to comment.

19 thoughts on “Slow and Steady Wins the Race Against Overshopping and Closet Chaos

  1. Esther it has been so inspirational and a privilege to follow your journey. You are an amazing women and your purging also inspires me, even if only in bits and pieces. I’m so glad your shopping ban is bringing clarity to your life. Taking a step away from the madness helps although unlike you I can only manage a few weeks at a time. Glad you have found the support you needed, as have I, in our group. Big hugs and thank you for sharing your story.

    • Thank you Di. You also are an inspiration to me. I remember looking at you as inspiration to put a picture on ootd. You have been there each step of my journey. Always a kind word and support. Thank you!

  2. Very inspiring. I have already begun a ban on shopping for this month. This article makes it seem all the more doable. Last year I really purged a lot throughout the whole house, but I still have a lot more to go in my bedroom. I think I will follow in your steps in giving away one thing a day for the next month and a half. Thanks for sharing. I am now ready to get started.

    • Congratulations on getting started and for including the whole house. It’s funny how things seem to multiply and appear when you let your guard down. Being mindful and steady seems to be helpful. By doing it every day it seems to get into your head that it is a way of being not a one time thing. I’m all for being a turtle.

  3. What is helping me is undertaking an inventory of all my clothes. I am on a shopping ban until it is completed. Once it is done I can see how many pieces I actually have which will deter me from buying anything else. I gave away a few pieces rather than inventory Theo because they were not being worn. I have also unsubscribed from the temptations of retailer communications.

    • Congratulations on the great work you have done so far. I think the key is to get everything under control and then mindfully shop. I know I got into trouble when I just randomly shopped with no coordination or plan in mind. By slowing down and taking an inventory you are mindfully planning your next step. Also getting off email lists was an important step for me. I was always being tempted and had to call on will power which didn’t always work. Better to not be tempted in the first place. Keep up the good work.

      • I got into trouble the same way, Esther! I always just shopped for what “grabbed” me, with little thought or consideration to what would help to expand my wardrobe. Slowing down can really help. I’m doing that now with my every other week purchase plan and I have actually only bought ONE thing so far and it was a very deliberate purchase. I’m going to wait until a definite need or something that I know I will wear a lot comes to mind and just work with what I have in the interim. I agree that it helps to get off the mailing lists and to stay out of stores. We often don’t realize we want something until we see it. Out of sight, out of mind!

    • Thank you! It is quite an undertaking and one I kept putting off for way too long! But I try not to ruminate over the past and just deal with it in the present so my future is less cluttered and in turn less stressful.

  4. Good time for me to read this post. We recently moved and I purged and downsized what I thought was a ton of clothing. I did seven trips to consignment stores, three trips to vintage and bags of clothes to my family and some donated to charity.
    I picked out a clothing capsule of about 30 pieces to work with on a daily basis and gave myself permission to treat the rest of my closet as “the mall” where I could shop for looks as needed.
    I thought I was doing well. Then I moved to our downsized apartment and my much smaller closet. Oh boy … I still have a lot of purging to do.
    I need to find my own way to keep clothes moving out. Nothing’s coming in unless it’s a replacement for a core item I’ve worn out but still need.

    • So funny you said that about moving because that is what I always thought. I’ll deal with it when I move. But then I thought why not now, so I can live with less clutter. I aspire to doing a capsule wardrobe just to experience what that is like. It sounds like you are well on your way and have developed some good habits. The idea of replacing when needed is a good one to follow. Good luck with downsizing even more. I know you can do it.

      • Moving has helped me to downsize, too, but it’s freeing to live with less clutter. As for capsule wardrobes, it helped me a lot to do that a few times. I’m not one who wants to do it continually, but doing it every so often has led to a lot of great benefits, including better appreciating what I have, being more creative with outfit combinations, and identifying wardrobe gaps.

        I’m really in awe of what you’ve been able to accomplish and I’m so grateful that you were willing to share on the blog. It’s good to be a turtle 🙂

  5. Bravo Esther. Beautiful article detailing your journey. I’m inspired by your wisdom, power and pause. I love what you said, “that the process of the ban and the daily giveaway has helped you to be more mindful. The beauty is that one thing leads to another and then we can see how everything and everyone is inter-connected. ” I whole heartedly agree and can see your spirit shine through your story.

    • Thank you Terra. It takes one to know one. I know you have a strong and noble spirit. As we know clothes and our things are just a tool to get to know ourselves better. It’s important to know we are all on our own journey and constantly discovering more about ourselves and others. It is wonderful being on this road together. I love meeting and traveling with like minded people.

  6. I love that this blog celebrates the very different paths we all walk to get to where we want/need to go. Here’s to slow and steady!

    • Thank you, Jane. I love the “stories of recovery” because they show different paths toward the same ends. My journey has been winding with lots of ups and downs and has taken a long time, but some of the guest posters have experienced more rapid or just different paths. I love Esther’s story of slow and steady and am glad it was inspiring to readers.

  7. Hi Esther,
    I am currently doing a combination of a shopping ban and mindful shopping. I have a notebook by my computer and look at Ebay and Poshmark a few minutes each day and write down a few things that interest me instead of a maxing out my watch list on Ebay. (If I am really interested in the item, I put a star next to it.) I find that by the next day, the item has lost it’s allure.

    I have not bought any fashion items or accessories since Dec 15, 2016. I have done this more to slow the stream of items coming into my closet. It has been interesting to see what my shopping triggers are and what goes through my mind when I see an item that I like. Now, it has become a sort of game to see how long I can go without buying a fashion item or if I can do without a product in another category. For example, I ran out of foundation last week and decided to try using tinted moisturizer instead. After using tinted moisturizer for a week, I decided to buy more foundation which is fine.

    I am taking better care of my clothes. I bought a Gleener Fuzz Remover for my sweaters and a little clothes steamer by Joy Mangano. Both items work very well. My sisters think that my experiment is hysterical but I will say that I feel a little freer somehow. Looking for other sources of pleasure besides shopping has been my biggest struggle. (Also, I read the book “Happy Money” from the library and it was very interesting.)

    I am not on Facebook because I would just spend more time on the computer than I need to at this time at my life but thank you for sharing your story!

  8. Very inspiring!
    The fashion industry has successfully managed to turn American women into clothing bulimics. We binge and purge over and over. Much clothing is made for exactly this, falling apart, pilling, made cheaply for quick wears. Meanwhile, designers change fashion more and more rapidly, and we run, panting, to keep up: flare legs, bootcuts, skinny, kick flare, ankle, on and on, with different shoes and shirts to go with each style.
    It’s great to see someone step out of the rat race.
    I’m starting to think, with all of the waste of our money and time and energy, and the environmental damage we are causing, we women are making fools out of ourselves, and reinforcing everything that is destructive in gender roles.

  9. Retirees should definitley downsize clothing and everything else, stop following fashion and wear classic cuts. Some of us ditched the dresses and skirts and wear capri pants and pants casual and dressy. Using neutrals on the pants, I chose my best colors (shades of blues, greens mainly) and everything goes together. Shirts or blouses I wear with sleeveless tanks or plain tops in solid colors or plaids. Have two neutral blazers. Got rid of jewelry except several pearl necklaces, no scarves, have two pair of dressier black shoes to wear with pants. Other shoes are athletic joggers. Have several mini bags in neutrals. Still need to downsize some, and figure how many times item worn each year and do an audit of each category. Very helpful article I’ve read : What is a normal size wardrobe?

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