I started my push towards wardrobe minimalism in earnest a month or so ago. Why? because my closet was suffocating me and I was overwhelmed every time I looked inside. I had too many things that I loved, but didn’t wear. I had too many things I didn’t NEED, too many things I knew I should never have bought.
In the last month, by purging things I didn’t wear, wouldn’t wear, or don’t need, I’ve gone from one and a half closets down to half, plus a few drawers in dressers & one plastic storage box of things to purge if I don’t wear them this next season. I still have too much. And I still feel moderately overwhelmed when I look in my closet, but not nearly as much as I did before.
I do not need as much as I have, but I am waiting for the weather to change to see what I should purge next. My life/lifestyle is such that I truly only need about half the things I do have to be clothed and happy. With one small catch: I LOVE to shop, and I don’t want to quit.
In case you haven’t noticed, you’re reading this on a shopping blog. Or a fashion blog, if you want to call it that, but I make my living shopping and talking about shopping, what I wear, and where to buy it. I have to. It is my passion, it’s what I have done for ten years.
Although I’ve never admitted to being a “shopaholic,” I think when I started Grechen’s Closet in 2004 I was already on my way.
Although I’ve never admitted to being a “shopaholic,” I think when I started Grechen’s Closet in 2004 I was already on my way. I didn’t spend as much money on clothing as I do now, but I spent more than I should have, and remember hiding purchases from my husband at the time and not telling him how much I spent. A sure sign of a problem if ever there was one.
Recently, and the impetus for this major/final push towards minimalism, I’ve been through a couple rather traumatic (to me) events in my life, which I dealt with by shopping & spending much more than ever before. Yes, I was a shopaholic: I used shopping and buying to assuage my fears about moving to a new city, and to deal with the crushing loss of my dog. I bought without enough regard to what I was spending, or whether I needed the item or not. I didn’t have a vision or a plan, I just shopped for entertainment, and to lose myself for a bit. I also craved the social interaction I got from shopping. Somehow, I always manage to make friends with sales associates!
I have always been afraid of becoming addicted to something; I expected it. I guess I could have been addicted to something worse than shopping. It could have been bad. It was bad, I suppose. I don’t have any savings at all, no emergency fund, no contingency plan, no retirement accounts, and I relied too much on my husband to take care of most of my share of the household expenses.
It’s a rush. I would get a jolt when I found something I’d been looking for, or researching forever, or was “the perfect” whatever, then complete my order online, and then sort of deflate a bit. Ok. The rush was over. But then I would track my package, looking forward to the day it arrived. Waking up that morning planning my day around the UPS truck. Once my package arrived, I’d open it, take it out, try it on, hang it in the closet, and then deflate again. Excitement over. Back to real life.
Excitement over. Back to real life.
This is my struggle. I have stressed out enormously over shopping. Trying to find THE ONE THING that will satisfy me, and fill that hole in my closet. It’s a never ending quest, because there is no ONE THING. And the hole I am trying to fill is an emotional one.
All of this is compounded, I think, by the fact, again, that I write about shopping for a living. I chose this career path, and I love it, but I wonder if I chose it BECAUSE I’m a shopaholic, and needed an outlet for it? or if I became MORE of a shopaholic because I write about fashion, shopping & personal style. Does it matter?
The fact is, that I don’t plan on quitting Grechen’s Closet just to go into “recovery” or to minimize my wardrobe. That is not the point. I have been shopping consciously for many years, and thinking about having less for many more, so I am ready and willing to embark on this path of wardrobe minimalism – of having less. And I will write about it. That is what I do.
So, yes, I do spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about shopping, shopping, buying, and then talking about shopping, what I bought and why I bought it. But you wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. And I wouldn’t be me.
I know now that I just need to be much more aware of my EMOTIONS when I shop, and recognize why I buy what I buy. That is my ultimate goal; to fix the underlying EMOTIONAL problem that’s contributed to my shopping addiction, NOT necessarily to have less. I think inevitably, I will HAVE LESS, because I want to, and it’s a natural progression of not shopping so much, but without fixing the emotional need that drives me to shop in excess, I will never really reach my goal of minimalism.
I will not fix my problems by sticking to a specific number of items, doing one-in-one-out, or having seasonal capsule wardrobes. I will do it by being more aware of what I’m feeling when I feel the urge to shop and buy.
So far, since the beginning of June (what I’ll consider the start of my official “minimal closet” exercise), I’ve purchased 11 items, three were returned. Two items were running specific (Lululemon skirt & Brooks running shoes), four were by James Perse, I got one pair of SoLow cropped foldover leggings, and a pair of Charlotte Stone sandals.
I can tell you with certainty, that if I wasn’t on a budget or engaging in much more conscious shopping than usual, I would have purchased MUCH more than I did
I can tell you with certainty, that if I wasn’t on a budget or engaging in much more conscious shopping than usual, I would have purchased MUCH more than I did, given that both the James Perse and Nordstrom anniversary sales were going on. I could easily have bought many, many more pieces at James Perse; I usually do during the sale. And while I do often love everything, I’ll admit that I buy because the prices are so good, not because the items are things I need.
In conclusion: I love to shop. But I no longer think I’m “addicted to shopping.” I’ve managed to overcome the pull of the mall (or the James Perse store) for several months, and I’ve made progress in terms of not buying what I don’t need or love. I can close my Shopbop browser window without checking out. And while I know now that there’s not such thing as the perfect wardrobe, or the perfect pair of jeans, I can accept that what I ALREADY HAVE IN MY CLOSET is perfect, because I bought it, I love it, and I already own it.
And while the point of minimalism for a lot of people is to free up the time/energy they would have spent on shopping so they can focus on other pursuits, perhaps more meaningful to them, for me, it is so that I can realize that I am good enough without all the stuff; that I have everything I need right now.
I am NOT going to stop thinking or talking about shopping, not any time soon. I just hope to do it in a more meaningful way, while encouraging others to shop not as a way to kill time, or fill an emotional void, but as a way to acquire things they love, and that will enrich their lives.
a simple, well-made cashmere sweater that will last for years, and makes you feel warm and cozy inside and chic on the outside the moment you put it on is absolutely life-enriching
I know what you’re thinking: “clothes can never enrich your life,” but I will disagree and argue with you on that one until the cows come home. Clothes, or things you own will NEVER enrich your life as much as watching the sunrise, walking your dog, or helping people who need it will, but a simple, well-made cashmere sweater that will last for years, and makes you feel warm and cozy inside and chic on the outside the moment you put it on is absolutely life-enriching. Tell me it’s not. As is a great pair of jeans. I could go on.
If you’re a shopaholic, or just someone like me, who loves to shop, and then talk about it, I don’t have any profound words of wisdom for you if you’re also thinking about moving towards a more minimal closet. Sorry – I don’t even know what I’m doing. I only hope that reading about my journey and my issues will help you on yours.
read more in the series: