You should really stop shopping! Part One: Living off the Land

It’s a thought that may have crossed your mind once you got home and balanced your checkbook and realized that maybe you shouldn’t have bought that silky navy blue top.

Or maybe you found yourself hiding the evidence of your purchase from the people you live with…and when you wore your purchase for the first time and were innocently asked, “Is that new?” you sweat a pair of twin pitstains into your silky navy blue top.

It might have crossed your mind because you went to hang that silky blue top up in your closet and realized that you would have to buy more hangers because there wasn’t one for it. Because there wasn’t a hanger for it, you displaced the lacy white sweater you bought last season that you have only worn once to make room for the silky blue top.

You are standing now in your closet, holding a lacy white sweater that you remember very clearly buying, thinking it was the most exquisite thing you’d every owned, and swearing that it would be the last thing you would ever buy, because it would finally fill that hole in your heart.

That hole. The one you seem to have been born with.

The one that nothing can fill up. No amount of money spent shopping, no amount of time spent crafting. Nothing can fill that hole.

Offhandedly, you say to yourself, “You should really stop shopping.”

I want to stop but I just can’t

Q: How do I stop shopping?
A: Stop shopping. Full stop.
(Haha. Just kidding.)

Living off the Land

Orlando circa 2002 with Genevieve and Russ-Ross.
We had a Polaroid camera, the contents of our kitchen cabinets, vintage table settings and our youth to keep us fed and entertained.

Twenty years ago when I lived in Orlando in the same four-unit building with Genevieve and our other neighbor Russ-Ross (long story), we used to regularly drag our furniture out into the yard and have dinner together. At that time, I remember Genevieve using an expression which has become a staple of my family’s meal-planning philosophy: “Tonight, we are going to live off the land.”

This meant that we were going to eat what was on-hand. No one was going to run out to the grocery store to buy something to eat. There would be leftovers of this and that. An odd-ball can of corn with mexican spices? Sure. Somebody will eat that. A few dried cranberries? Yes please! I remember very clearly that my indulgent husband and I brought a tub of frozen chocolate Cool-Whip to the festivities once.

We always set the table with our most fabulous dishes, our best linen napkins and our finest vintage candlesticks. Our tables looked amazing. I don’t really remember how the food tasted, but we had so much fun that it didn’t matter.

Living off the land is the first step to being able to start over. Living off the land can either be dreadful (eating those two-day old leftovers over the sink) or fantastic (eating Russ-Ross’s leftovers on vintage plates in our yard while wearing a fabulous apron, using mismatched silver spoons to dig into frozen chocolate Cool-Whip and delicately removing the evidence with monogrammed napkins.)

Learning to live off the land is the first concept that will help you stop shopping. Make it fabulous. Make it fun. Look at what you currently have with new eyes and share it with other people. Sometimes other people’s eyes is what it takes to love what we have.

The first step to stop shopping: Live off the Land.

So really. How do I stop shopping?

Over the next week, I am going to suggest some steps and homework to help you stop shopping, and it will, I promise, go deeper than just “Stop Shopping” and “Live off the Land”.

It will require that you do some soul-searching. Please set it in your heart right now that your goal for this week isn’t to stop shopping. Your goal is to start loving what you already own.

Homework Assignment 1:

For your first homework assignment, I want you to take a notebook and stand in front of your closet. I want you to pick out five items that you wear regularly. Not items that you love. Just items that are on your most frequent rotation. They might be in your washing machine right this very instant.

In your notebook, create a name for each one of those items. Here are mine:

Again, these aren’t necessarily my favorite items. These are the items that I wear the most often.

Giving each item some space on the page, I want you to make note of:

  • approximately when you bought/acquired the item
  • where you bought it/how you acquired it
  • how much, if anything, you spent on it
  • what makes it something you reach for
  • why you like it/love it
  • how you feel when you wear it
  • a memory of a time you wore it

At the end of this article I have included a sample version of this exercise from my own list.

It’s your turn! Join us in the I want to stop shopping! Facebook group and share your stories, or tag #lilyfieldschallenge on Instagram.

Tomorrow and the rest of the week:

We will start by examining the reasons why you shop and why you want to stop. This can get painful, but we are in this together, all right, sista? You, me, and dozens of other ladies who have been shopping all our lives looking for something to fill our soul that never ever will.

Then we are going to look at the best way for you to motivate yourself towards your goal and set rules and a time frame for your challenge, based on why you want to stop shopping and how you are most motivated.

We will help you find an accountability partner (news flash: spouses are not useful in this effort. You will need to find someone else!) which is the secret weapon you will have in meeting your goal.

We will talk about ways to resist temptation and avoid temptation altogether. We will crowdsource techniques to encourage yourself that do not include shopping or browsing.

We will discuss self-talk and addressing ourselves in the kind way we might use with a stranger, rather than the impatient, snippy, exasperated way we might use with a child.

But here, in a nutshell, is your How-To Guide to Stop Shopping:
1. learn to love what you already own
2. learn to love yourself.

Sample Exercise:

My yellow wrap sweater:

  1. When did you buy/acquire the item? January 2019
  2. Where? At the Ding Fring thrift store in Wittenheim
  3. How much did you spent on it? 3.50€, although it was brand new with tags still on it.
  4. What makes it something you reach for? It’s a wrap sweater. No matter how bloated I am feeling (ah, the joys of perimenopause), it can be adjusted to accommodate the bloat and still look chic.
  5. Why do you like it/love it: I didn’t love it at first (see bonus memory below) but as I have lived with it, I fell in love with the happy daffodil color and the gathering details at the sleeves.
  6. How you feel when you wear it? I feel like Springtime.
  7. Recount a memory of a time you wore it:
    -My favorite memory of this sweater was wearing it at my brother-in-law’s wedding, where I was cantor. It was the first time, after twenty-some years of marriage, that my husband’s family had ever heard me sing. I faced the clashing of my two worlds in that sweater and survived.

    -Bonus memory: Immediately after I bought the sweater, I was on the phone with my MIL, talking about what we were going wear to the wedding. I told her I bought a “gilet jaune” (a yellow cardigan, also, incidentally, the name of the social protest movement in France which was at its peak at that time.) I remember the awkward silence and her nervous laughter, after which I proceeded to explain that it was a wrap sweater, not a yellow traffic vest.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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