I am a coveter, which is a weird admission to make. But I say it with all the seriousness of a person who might say, “I am an alcoholic,” or “I am a sex addict” or “I am a binge eater” (which I am, and is germane to the topic.)
I made a decision in December 2020 that I would stop buying clothes, at least for one year. It was a kind of New Year’s Resolution, which was important to me for lots of little reasons, but mainly, I wanted to stop wanting what I don’t or can’t have.
This constant pull, an almost visceral need for something new makes me miserable. I most often experience it in regards to cool things other people have. “I want that too!”, but I have never gone into a store and not found something I want. It doesn’t mean I always get it. But I always find ways to convince myself that my life would be better with something new.
It has been two months and twenty-six days since I started my Buy No Clothes in 2021 challenge. I have wanted things, I have craved things. I have been so sorely tempted, down to petting a beautiful green scarf in the store and actually holding it in my hand.
Most of the time, I am Gizmo. Cute, fluffy, a little bit silly. Innocent. Not looking for trouble.
And then something will happen. I will have a thought. Something will catch my eye. An article. The boots of the lady at the bus stop. My son’s teacher’s mask. A friend’s adorable (and so practical!) new purse. The black leather motorcycle jacket my sister-in-law bought five years ago that I still think I need. The list goes on.
Then, there is a sudden, intense feeling of dissatisfaction. The Gremlins have hit.
This feeling can result in any number of actions: a quick search on Amazon just to see how much that purse cost, or me, taking a detour on my way to the Post Office to stop at the thrift store to see if they have any black leather jackets. Inevitably, these little actions open wide the door to temptation. Because once I am on Amazon, there are one hundred things I want. There may not be black leather jackets at the thrift store, but there are knee-high Prada boots in my size for 12€.
Sure, knee-high Prada boots for twelve bucks are a steal! It would be a crime to not buy them.
If you are anything like me, this scenario sounds familiar. We are the same.
Well, yesterday the Gremlins hit me again. I wore a super cute outfit: a red skirt with a white top I had refashioned and my lacy black leggings. The impetus for the problem was footwear (this is a very common problem for me as evidenced here, here, and here.)
Here is a snippet of my internal dialogue yesterday morning:
“It’s nice today. You should wear your white Adidas. Yes, that’s a good idea. Oh but don’t forget to pull the leggings down over your heels so they look like stockings. Oops. They are too short. Ugh. I hate looking like I’m wearing leggings. It makes my legs look so short. What I really need are black socks that aren’t too long, but just barely overlap so it looks like they are stockings.”
I know for a fact I own no black socks. I also know that I have said to myself that I will not buy any clothes, even socks until 2022. I have plenty of socks. PLENTY of socks. I just don’t own the right black socks.
“Hmmm. You know, I have to drop by the Post Office,” I continue. “I’ll stop at Calzedonia (the sock store). Just to see if they have what I think I need.”
Right then and there, I was already starting to convince myself that I had found the one exception to my rule.
I knew I was playing with a limit, I knew it, and I was uncomfortable with it. I had myself convinced.
Then, something magical happened. After I came home from dropping the scalawags off at school, ostensibly to pick up my purse and go to the Post Office (and Calzedonia), I happened to check my FaceBook and saw that people were asking to join the I want to stop shopping! Group I had created. There was a big rush of wind underneath my wings.
I want to stop shopping! Dang it, I am not the only person who faces this. This speaks to others, too.
The Lifecycle of Emotions
I read somewhere that the lifecycle of an emotion lasts about ninety seconds from its start to when it has been processed. Emotions are complicated, and I am not a psychologist. If I find where I read that, I will share. But what was suggested was that we need to allow ourselves to fully experience the emotion, let it complete its cycle, in order to move on from it.
Often, we try to abort our feelings by telling ourselves “You have no right to be sad about this!” or “Stop being angry!” But feelings are not rational. They must be experienced fully and then they lose their power. The overwhelm of them dissipates as they complete their cycle.
So I decided to let the feelings of dissatisfaction about socks (yes, I realize this is superficial) wash through me. I let myself feel incomplete, fully let the cycle of wanting complete itself in my heart.
And then I was able to let go. I’ll buy black socks next year.
Bingeing and Purging
I mentioned that I believe there is a link between my need to have something new all the time and my binge-eating. I will go into more detail about this in a future article, but here is what I know is true: my closet is the result of forty-three years of bingeing. I have gone through various purging episodes, call them “decluttering”, call them “KonMari”, call them what you will. These two issues are intimately related and I believe that as we deal with one, we can deal with the other.
Self-respect is the fruit of discipline; the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.Abraham Joshua Heschel
A Time for Everything
I want to leave you with this thought. There is a time for everything. There is an appropriate time to shop. There is an appropriate time to eat. By learning to say no to ourselves when it is not the appropriate time, we will better be able to discern when it is the time. But this learning takes time!
You know the song. But as you think about your journey to shopping less, read the lyrics through and see how very much they apply to the season you are living in now:
A Time for Everything
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up searching, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8