Graffiti of two cavewomen with spears hunting a clothes rack

What I learned during my 10 month shopping fast

The beginning

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 non-shopping

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.

The slip-ups

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

  1. You don’t necessarily have the best self-control when you pass something pretty on your way home from work, and
  2. 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.


18 thoughts on “What I learned during my 10 month shopping fast

  1. Kirsten says:

    I really enjoyed the post about not-shopping, because I can absolutely relate to your thoughts. It’s hard to break the shopping habit and to be fair it is also hard to shop for the scandinavian weather, but also so fullfilling when you succeed.
    Anyway, this last post inspired me to return a bunch of things that I bought, but haven’t used yet. Goodbye shirts and trousers, that were really nice, but also not necessary!

    • That’s great, Kirsten! And thank you for the lovely comment :)

      The Scandinavian weather is a tough one indeed. I have basically been wearing the same clothes since April, i.e what most people would call fall clothing. Fall clothing is 3/4-of-the-year-clothing around here, but alas you also need to be prepared for deep snow/pouring rain/that one week where it is blistering hot (at least by Norwegian standards). Then of course you go on holiday and it’s all useless!

  2. Courtney says:

    Hmm shopping like Grandma would sounds a bit like don’t eat anything your Grandma wouldn’t know what it was and they are both great pieces of advice.

    My grandparents lived through pretty tough times and never brought anything they didn’t already have the cash for which I think is a great way to go about purchasing. The cycle of consumption which derives from the need for instant gratification is not easy to overcome but I think it helps to ask yourself what will this new purchase do for my life? I eat out for brunch a lot and so a lot of my disposable income goes into great food… Money well spent I think!

    • That’s a great point, I actually keep that one in the back of my head a lot of the time too. A make an exception for protein bars though since they’re so practical to keep in my bag in case I get full-on hangry!

      I love to eat out but it is very expensive here in Norway, definitely more of a special occasion thing. It’s so enjoyable though. You can’t beat good food, good wine and good company :)

  3. JuJuZitroni says:

    i enjoyed reading your updates. i kind of went on a fast/challange myself after buying 12 pieces of clothing last year and feeling like beating that number this year. so far i bought 3 clothing items. (okay 4 if you count sleepwear.)
    but i now feel the urge to replace some stuff and buy things to make my wardrobe feel fresh again.
    needing new shorts for a festival and meeting friends in the city made me visit shops again and that made me want to buy stuff… really confusing for me: i see so much clothes i like in the summer time now. i have always been one to dislike summer fashion and love fall fashion…
    not buying stuff made me unwilling to spend my money on clothing and make-up which is kind of good but also annoying when it comes to real needs like replacing my dead summer shoes.
    man, can you see i sometimes miss blogging?^^

    anyways, granny lifestyle forever!!
    (on that note.. i am sure i’ll pick up stitching again when the summer is over. seems more like a dark-outside-cup-of-hot-tea-activity to me. but i havent forgotten and you will get your stiched quote!)

    • Wow, well done Juju! 12 pieces is great! I kind of want to see if I can buy absolutely nothing, at least until Christmas. I would make an exception for a beautiful, long and super-warm winter coat, but only if I stumble across one that is absolutely perfect.

      Hah, I’m the same, I loathe summer clothing. I can never wear it for long enough to get the hang of it, and I can never get comfortable with all that exposed skin. Once I manage to scrub and primp my feet into an acceptable state it is already fall again. But that’s good that you see things you like!

      And don’t sweat the stitching, take all the time you need. Let me know when you’re about to start, so I can get started on that drawing of yours :)

  4. Oh how I was looking forward to this post! It’s interesting to see some of the process and some of the learnings are the same for both of us :)

    “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.” : that! Same for what you say about the hassle of selling stuff. In time I’ve come to start seeing things as future clutter, which helps A LOT with dealing with shopping urges. When I was in Thailand – well I bought a few things there don’t mistake me – I remeber seeing a lot of wooden oriental stuff, the kind I love, but thinking “hey, imagine finding a place to put it in your home, packing it for a move, if you don’t have a place for it what will you do with it?”

    I guess the bottom line is that I started seeing items for what they were: are they useful or not? Will they have a place in my home and life, really bring additional value ? In other words, they become “objects” again, and not social status or comfort stuff. Most of the time.

    Thanks for recording that journey though. Funnily enough, I’m also ready to start another shopping recasting as well, as if that kind of experience left you hungry for more :)

    • Oh yes, the future clutter thing! I’m getting good with that, at least with decorative items and kitchen stuff. The Boyfriend bought a speciality tool for chopping up minced meat in the frying pan a while ago and in my head I went ????!?!?!?!?! Why do we need a special gadget just for that one task ????!!!!?!?! but I counted to ten and said nothing. Those, I’m good at avoiding those. But them I go and buy a hat and never wear it, so I still have a way to go ;)

  5. Kasia says:

    Great and thoughtful post Maya. How did you manage to bring yourself to recycling 7 years worth of magazines? I am impressed because as much as I find getting rid of unused clothes relatively easy, I am a word hoarder and find getting rid of magazines difficult even though I don’t really buy them and mainly talking about free ones here!

    • Actually, I went through the first half of my collection very thoroughly: I leafed through them and ripped out any photos or articles that I wanted to keep before putting them in my recycling pile. After a while I got so fed up (it took FOREVER and made my tendonitis flare up) I just chucked out the other half without even opening them. Haven’t missed them for a second, and to be honest I’m not sure I’ll every actually do anything with the images and articles that I kept. I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up recycling those as well, a bit further down the road.

  6. Kasia says:

    Oh I feel for you! It is so time consuming to look through every single issue and rip out pages. The thing is, even those magazines and pages I keep, I hardly ever look at them so what is the point I ask myself…

    • Exactly! And most of the things you can find online with a quick search anyway, so if it’s really important you could just look it up and pin it to Pinterest, or even just snap a photo of it.

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  8. YES to WWGD! I feel like you summarized exactly where I am right now, too. Guilty that I have so much to keep donating because why in the world did I even buy it all? And annoyed with myself when I come home with things I don’t need. I’ll be putting myself on a fast as well in hopes of adopting a new “less is more” lifestyle. Thanks for the post!

  9. Gozde says:

    I just discovered this great blog and i love it :) Great article really but as you said the key is to make it a principle of life rather than a once in a while detox regime. And it indeed is true, the need to buy less but higher quality things definitely comes with age ;) Bisous!

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