It has been nearly a year since I decided to start my 10 month shopping fast. It was September 2014 and I was psyched, I wanted to give myself a challenge, and I felt very motivated indeed. I had previously done shorter fasts with varying degrees of success, but this time I wanted to do it properly. My three main reasons for starting a fast were:
- I couldn’t physically fit more clothes into my closet.
- I wanted to save money.
- I felt slightly out of control.
I had more than enough clothes, I wanted to give my savings account a proper boost, and I wanted to enjoy the things that I already owned instead of always striving for the next new thing. I allowed myself to replace things like socks and underwear and wardrobe basics like everyday t-shirts, and I also allowed some leeway for a wool sweater, a winter coat, digital books and replacements for everyday makeup products. Just no more frivolous shopping. All in all that doesn’t sound too difficult, right?
The first 7 months of the project went very well indeed. I still bought things, but they were generally few and thought-out things like plane tickets and a graphics tablet, or replacements for things that ran out or wore out or shrank in the wash. When I did stray from my rules I bought things that I am still very happy about, like trips to visit friends or concert tickets. I feel like it is almost always OK to spend money on experiences as long as you don’t overdo it. I also ended up giving a lot of both clothing and home items to charity. I recycled 7 years worth of glossy magazines, and kept only my small collection of biannual runway magazines plus 3 or 4 special issues.
However, around April this year things started to veer seriously off course. My year had been shitty from the very beginning, and the general shittiness of it all was starting to take its toll. Why am I telling you this? Because when you have to spend the little remaining energy that you have on basic things like going to work and keeping the apartment looking OK-ish and maybe cooking something semi-healthy then
- You don’t necessarily have the best self-control when you pass something pretty on your way home from work, and
- You try to cheer yourself up.
It started when I bought myself a second hand Balenciaga bag to reward myself for jumping a major life hurdle. I don’t regret buying it, but I don’t think there are many people in the world who have less need for a bag than I do. When spring officially came around I convinced myself I needed a lot of new spring/summer things, and I bought a handful of tees and tanks plus some skirts and two pairs of shorts. On a work trip I did some shopping in Zara, because there’s no Zara where I live and you almost have to take the opportunity when it presents itself, right? I then traveled to visit my in-laws and there was some kind of crazy summer sale going on, so I bought three pairs of boots. And rain coat. And some makeup. Somehow, emoji stickers arrived the mail. All (okay, most) of these are excellent things that I love and that are in my daily rotation, but did I need them? Not even a little bit.
The silver lining
By now you probably think that I have deemed my shopping fast a complete failure, but that is not the case. Sure, I didn’t completely nail it, but the last 3 months felt more like the temporary slip-up of a good habit than a return to a bad one. What I mean is that the first 7 months gave me enough of a boost to make me want to keep going. I have everything I need, probably 2 or 3 times over. The goal was never to buy better things, I want to buy and own less.
9 Things I learned
- When I return home from buying something I don’t need I get really annoyed with myself. Which probably means that my inner minimalist is functioning, albeit sometimes too exhausted to pay attention.
- I also get annoyed when The Boyfriend buys something we don’t need, but since this is a relationship and not a dictatorship I have to let it go. Sometimes.
- We still don’t have room for more stuff. Not because we have replaced things we got rid of, but because my tolerance for knick-knacks has drastically decreased.
- You never run out of things to throw out or donate to charity. Ever.
- It is really impractical to de-clutter when you don’t own a car, so it is better to just not buy the crap in the first place.
- Trying to sell your crap online is really boring. Again, it is better to just not buy the crap in the first place.
- I have come to the point where even donating things make me feel bad, because what kind of life am I living if I can give away bags upon bags of perfectly usable stuff every single year? Cue rant about the unending cycle of consumption/the earth’s resources/ever-growing landfills.
- Unsubscribing from newsletters is always a good idea.
- My weak spots: travel shopping, bargain shopping and comfort shopping.
Let’s do it again
What I’m left with after completing my experiment is an urge to do it all again.The bottom line is that I don’t want this to be a fast at all, but a permanent change of my habits. The goal is not to become a cheapskate living in a über-Scandinavian all-white apartment with only 100 possessions to my name, but I would really like to reach a much healthier balance between my “need to haves” and my “want to haves”. In fact, over the last year I seem to have developed a kind of shopping mantra: What would Grandma do? I can’t tell for sure of course, mainly because my Grandma is no longer around, but she sure as hell wouldn’t spend her hard-earned money on frivolous shit she didn’t need. Here’s to living life Grandma style.