I have been a legit shopaholic since the beginning of my career.
I remember burning up my entire salary on clothes, shoes, bags and what not. I went full-on Rebecca Bloomwood on my wardrobe. Who else can relate to – “My heart never beats as fast as it does when it sees a ‘reduced by 50 percent’ sign”?
Every piece of clothing on the rack or on my mobile screen looked like something I needed. I never seemed to have enough. You know how it is. Those sales Emails and Facebook ads made me weak in the knees.
Hitting the ‘Buy Now’ button felt like a sugar rush. A new outfit gave me such a high that I forgot about the cash I was unloading. Somehow there was always an excuse to keep buying something new.
Maa hoped it was a phase and that it would get over soon. For years she tried to counsel me, kept explaining the importance of saving money and starting young. But I didn’t care much. Tathagata was my second full-time counsellor. But again, I didn’t pay much heed.
Gradually, my wardrobe fattened and my bank account slimmed. I started to realize that I didn’t even wear half of the clothes I was buying. I got bored of my wardrobe quickly, pushed most of the clothes to the back and never looked at the pile. And then when I had to go out, none of my clothes were good enough. So I had to buy more. Wardrobe crisis is toxic. It can eat you up whole and chew you out if you let it.
I could see that it was getting out of control and I had to do something about it.
So in 2019, I set myself a goal. I would stop impulse buying by the end of the year.
The first thing I did was organizing. The moment I did that, I found forgotten clothes everywhere. So I placed stuff in a way that would make them visible to me every time I opened my closet. I was desperately trying to find ways to force myself into the habit of not spending, telling myself that this is it. But the pull of new clothes and accessories was too much. And I wasn’t emotionally equipped to fight the temptation.
Towards the end of 2019, I was right back to where I began. So I did some thinking. I concluded that the goal I had set for myself was herculean. It was impossible for a shopaholic like me to snuff out impulse buying at one go. I needed to take small steps.
So I set myself a new goal for 2020. I would have one empty shelf in my closet by the end of the year.
I started to track my expenses rigorously. I deleted all shopping apps. I made a choice every day to stop spending on unnecessary things. The lockdown helped. The less I went out, the less need I had for new and expensive clothes and accessories. Also, the possibility of having my job on the line from a pandemic-stricken volatile economy kind of woke me up. I realized I had a responsibility towards myself to justify the money I was spending. So I became more conscious about every rupee I spent. I wanted each to count.
To be able to do this for the long-run, I started an exercise that Tathagata taught me. Every time I was tempted to hit the ‘Buy’ button, I stopped for a second and asked myself, “Do I need this?” The answer was always “No”. I missed shopping terribly but I was determined to not spend on things I didn’t need. The empty-shelf goal had to be achieved.
For the first time in my life, I found myself sticking to good spending habits. My priorities changed. I was saving money and making better investment decisions. I was no longer perpetually broke. And most importantly, I wasn’t feeling the guilt of impulse buying anymore. Maa’s counselling on expenditure started making sense to me. I wish I had listened to her back then. But it’s better to start late than never, right?
I’ll be honest. It’s a task to keep reminding yourself that you don’t need to buy stuff. It was a huge change from my shopaholic mindset. The temptations were numerous. Clothes were my comfort blanket. Clothes were my cultural currency. An outfit can set you apart from the crowd, right? So I had hunted for holy grail garments, monitored price dips like my life depended on it and closed in on the buy at the lowest price. It felt like a win.
But this time, I had my mind made. I had to do this for myself. For real. The empty-shelf goal was within reach. So, here’s what happened – I didn’t buy any clothes or accessories for myself all year in 2020. (Gifts don’t count).
Once I stopped shopping, I had a lot of time in my hands. It’s incredible the things you can get done when you are not shackled by endless scrolling, trying on, returning, thinking, thinking and always thinking about shopping.
I discovered the gift of donating. My grandmother-in-law donates old clothes to an ashram whenever she has a pile. I have now started my own charity pile.
By September, I was finally able to achieve my goal. I found my empty shelf staring back at me, cheering me on. It was a huge pat in the back. Gosh it felt so liberating! Like a burden was lifted off my shoulder. I look at the empty shelf almost every day now. It gives me so much joy. This victory is my very own. But I didn’t do it alone. I had help.
A year of not buying clothes has had a massive impact on me. I don’t feel the rush to stay on top of trends anymore. I no longer need to remember sale months. Now I know that I can work with what I have (I have discovered the art of layering). I am more in control of my wardrobe and not the other way round. It makes me happy knowing that the money I earn has a purpose and a plan.
This entire exercise has simplified my life a good deal. It has helped declutter my wardrobe and my mind.
When I stopped buying new clothes, I became more aware of the type of clothes and accessories I own. I learnt about fast fashion. I found myself keen to know more about what my clothes were made of, where they came from and how they impacted the environment.
Did you know that only 10% of the clothes manufactured are donated to charity and thrift stores? The rest ends up in landfill. It’s an eye-opener. We gotta take care of the planet, guys. It’s the only one we got. I am learning more about sustainable clothing choices and supporting local brands.
I am also learning that experiences matter more than materials. Investing in travel and family things have brought me so much more joy. I am learning to let go and not base my self-worth on material things.
A whole year and some more into the clothing detox, I can see that somewhere along the way, I had given my clothes too much power. And time. And money. I have watched myself fall prey to consumerism too many times.
But thankfully, I have also watched myself rise from the depths of my overdraft with every bag, shoe and dress I didn’t buy. To be clear, this doesn’t mean I will stop shopping altogether. But now I will shop only when I need something. I have broken up with my need to splurge. Social media ads and shop displays have got nothing on me. I still get the trend flu. But I also know now that it can be medicated with the items I already own.
I’ve read this somewhere – it takes half the length of a relationship to move on after a breakup. Which means I still have a long way to go to kick impulse buying out of my system for good. But babe, I got this. Watch me!