3 Reflections on My Year Without Shopping (So Far)

Shopping bans can be beneficial, but are they right for you?

With Christmas gone by and the new year already begun, it’s the perfect time to reflect, be thankful and consider goals and resolutions for the new year.

As minimalists, or those aspiring to live with less, it can be appealing to attempt the seemingly impossible. I’ve often heard myself make sweeping statements about my grand intentions, with little thought to the why behind the what.

In April, after watching The True Cost for a second time, I announced to my husband that I wouldn’t be purchasing any clothes for a year. I was emotional and moved by the documentary and felt that I needed to take drastic measures to curb my fast fashion habits.

While my first viewing of the film sparked a similar emotional response, I noticed that my behaviour hadn’t entirely transformed. Sure, I was consulting ethical fashion guides and being more considerate with purchases, but I still couldn’t resist a bargain and was purchasing far more than was necessary.

Upon watching again, I felt certain that I had to do something radical to challenge my default consumer mentality.

It’s Tough Not To Buy

It’s been 9 months since I embarked on this challenge, and challenge is absolutely an apt name for it. My desire to shop still exists and there have been plenty of moments where I would have happily quit and bought a cute skirt.

I’ve found myself feeling frustrated with friends as they show off their new purchases, jealous that I can’t participate.

Meanwhile I’ve become more creative with the clothing I already own, restyling old pieces in entirely new ways. I’ve made lists of what I wish I could buy, and pinned many many cute outfits on Pinterest.

The process has had ups and downs and many valuable lessons along the way. But, before you go ahead and write ‘no shopping’ on the 2019 resolutions list, let me share with you what I’ve discovered. You may be surprised to learn that I don’t think we all need to go on a shopping ban.

When I slowly started sharing my intention with the people around me, I was met with gasps, bemused smiles and a lot of questions.

‘Are you trying to save money?’

‘What if your jeans wear out and you need a new pair?’

‘What if you need more socks, or underwear?’

‘But you’re still buying second hand, right?’

It dawned on me that, although it’s hardly a heroic feat, people were perplexed by my decision to stop shopping. Some praised my efforts, though I had just begun. Some questioned my motives somewhat cynically.

Many fantastic conversations have been had as a result of my shopping ban, but that doesn’t mean I’d recommend everyone else try it too.

I’ve come to realise a few things since giving up shopping. I’ve outlined three here that have been of particular interest to me.

1. Our Wardrobes Should Be Full Of Things That Make Us Feel Wonderful

Clothing really has the power to alter how we feel. There are outfits in my wardrobe that make me feel confident and creative and fun – even the most mundane day is exciting in those clothes.

Given the choice, I’d always want to be dressed in clothing that empowers me to live boldly. But I’ve noticed some other pieces floating around my wardrobe, in amongst the gems that leave me feeling like a wonder woman, are the items that do just the opposite.

It could be the fit or colour or fabric or something entirely unexplainable, but somehow these threads have found their way into my wardrobe. You know what I’m talking about, right? It’s the top that just doesn’t seem to work no matter what you style it with, it’s the dress that’s almost perfect but not quite. The pieces that leave us frustrated and perplexed and questioning our style credentials.

Since giving up shopping, I’ve also decided to give up the clothing that doesn’t make me feel fabulous. I’ve passed those pieces on to new homes, sharing with friends or donating to charity shops.

In pairing my wardrobe back to only the things that make me feel wonderful, I’ve created a kind-of-capsule that is brimming with bits I love and that inspire me.

2. My Old Shopping Habits Were On Autopilot

Before embarking on my year without shopping, I purchased clothing often.

Whenever I had the desire to shop, I scratched the itch. Even if it was just a quick dash to the local thrift store, I was always adding to my closet.

I didn’t know what it meant to say no to my desire to buy. We’re constantly bombarded by clever (and not-so-clever) marketing that suggests we need more and more and more. We’re tricked into thinking we couldn’t possibly be content with what we have, but that as soon as we acquire the shiny new thing, well maybe that’ll just do the trick.

My purchases were often dictated by bargains – I would settle for something I sort-of liked as long as the price was right.

Taking a break from shopping has allowed for some serious self-reflection. It’s been a chance to take stock of how and why I do what I do. Though I don’t believe a shopping ban should be employed by all, I do think it’s interesting to challenge our consumer habits, even just for a short time, to see if our default behaviours align with what we really care about.

It’s hard to break bad habits, it’s really hard to relearn good ones.

But if I admit to caring deeply about the harsh realities of the fashion industry, I must take responsibility for the part I play and consider how I can participate positively.

When I start shopping again, it’ll be a chance to put my money where my mouth is and support those who create beautiful clothing with sustainability and human flourishing at the core.

3. The Fashion Industry Doesn’t Need Abstinence, It Needs Redeeming

Ultimately, the many issues within the fashion industry are not solved if we all decide to stop buying altogether. People need to passionately participate in the fashion industry in order for it to be bettered.

We can’t bury our heads in the sand, but we also can’t carry on over-purchasing cheap stuff we don’t need. Consumers have enormous power and capacity to create positive change.

Participation doesn’t just mean purchasing, though that is part of it. It’s educating ourselves, it’s educating others, it’s asking big businesses to change and do the right thing, it’s challenging legislation, it’s supporting local makers, it’s asking tough questions and working hard to find answers.

The betterment of the industry doesn’t happen through one person ceasing to shop, it’s a collective effort, people like you and me working hand in hand, taking small steps towards the betterment of fashion.

Takeaway – Be Real With Where You’re At

My intentions weren’t clear when I began my shopping ban. It was a spur of the moment, emotion-fuelled decision. Had I thought it over a little longer, I might have realised the mammoth task ahead and changed my mind. Can it be beneficial? Absolutely! Is it necessary? No way!

As we journey into a new year, I encourage you to check in with yourself – be real with where you’re at.

Does your closet need to be rid of some pieces that don’t make you feel fantastic? Could you use a shopping break to help evaluate your buying habits? How are you currently participating in the fashion industry? Do you feel happy with your answers, or are there some changes you want to make?

I eagerly await the day (in 14 weeks to be exact), when I can resume purchasing with a fresh outlook on how to do that well. Until then, there is much more for me to learn from this time without shopping. Let’s be kind to ourselves and to one another, we’re all learning as we go.

Let’s seek to be empowering, to work together and to use fashion as a force for good.

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