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:
Grechen, thank you for writing such an open and honest post. You sound like you’ve really been looking inward, looking at the “root cause”, of your shopping. And you’ve made great strides!
Many of us deal with our emotions in ways that put a bandage over the feelings vs. really trying to figure out what’s going on. Whether it’s with drugs, or food, or gambling, or shopping. We just have to take things step by step, right? and the fact that you’re even recognizing it and taking action is so great! I do appreciate your site and you. I remember finding your website several years ago when I too was a “shopaholic”. I tapered down on the shopping myself lately now that i have two fur-kids to feed and care for 🙂 My alternatives to shopping these days have been going to yard sales/flea markets/thrift stores and you’d be amazed at some of the incredible finds I’ve stumbled across for such little money! Anyways, i’m rambling now…but thanks again for writing this.
Thank you for sharing such an honest post. Looking back at the times when I’ve overspent my shopping budget it was during times of stress, depression, or boredom. Identifying and working on these problems have really helped me curb my spending habits. Like you, I’ve also been thinking a lot about needs vs. wants, and the idea of shopping responsibly as part of being environmentally aware. I look forward to reading more of your posts on minimalism.
Thank you Grechen – what a lovely, honest and brave post. I can relate to so much that you have written and am currently undertaking a somewhat similar quest. Sometimes I succeed – others not so much. I look forward to watching your journey – I am rooting for you!
Yes, yes, and YES! You’ve got it down, and now you’re putting it into practice, which is what life is all about. It has to be workable and not ascetic…unless you’re joining the nuns.
The women above said it perfectly: You are SO honest and willing to take an inward look…a lot of us don’t because we don’t want to change.
Great insights! And your posts have helped me more than you’ll ever know 🙂
I found myself really needing to back away from shopping, due to retiring:). I find I can get almost as much pleasure from 2 new gray UNIQLO tees as I used to get from a gray Lela Rose dress. I think things can bring happiness, but it’s also quite possible to pare back a lot and find the same pleasure.
And I’ve expanded the aesthetic search to furniture, which I truly need, and my garden, which needs me:). I think it’s great that you are on this path, and that you share it.
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Grechen Reiter says
thanks henny 🙂 i love rambling…keep going if you want! i ramble all the time…
i used to go to thrift stores in austin every once in a while, and i bought some things too, but do i have any of them now? no. an important step for me has been to recognize that when i buy something first, because of the price, it’s usually not the right thing for me. period. out of all the things i have left in my closet, i only bought a small percentage of them on sale. it’s a death trap for me…sales…unless it’s james perse 😉 but even then sometimes it is too.
Grechen Reiter says
thanks for your comment dee!
Grechen Reiter says
no. not joining the nuns. 😉
Grechen Reiter says
thanks andrea – i definitely have my good & bad days…i think i just try to remember not to take it all too seriously, and just breathe – get back to center and remember what’s REALLY important. that helps me when i slip…
Thank you for such a gracious, insightful, respectful post. I don’t comment much, but I always love reading your blog.
Check out the Recovering Shopaholic blog if you have a chance. Excellent posts and comments.
Grechen Reiter says
thank you! yes, i already read her blog and enjoy it –
Grechen Reiter says
thank you for taking the time to comment robin!
I fully admit that I am an emotional shopper as well. Especially lately, I’ve been going through things and so I turn to shopping to make myself feel better. But, I’m also like you.. I look in my closet and at times I’m like.. why do I have so much stuff I rarely use and I keep buying more? I want to fine tune my wardrobe. I will never have a ‘small wardrobe’. I am passionate about clothing and shoes and they make me HAPPY. But, I want to keep it focused. It’s hard. I’ve definitely improved over the years but sometimes I go.. why did I buy this again? lol
I can completely identify with this. The good thing is that you’ve recognized the root is emotional and are starting to dig into that. Best of luck to you on this journey to minimalism.