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Why I’m Not Buying Any Clothes This Year

Not a stitch, folks. Not even from thrift stores either! Here is the tale of my clothes-buying ban.

The Inspiration

Early in January upon a rainy morn, I started clicking around one of my favorite personal finance blogs, Frugalwoods, during some down time at work (don’t tell the boss, please). I came upon this article about how Mrs. Frugalwoods, a self-proclaimed fashion aficionada, hasn’t bought any clothes in over 2 years – even through a pregnancy!

Clothes I make, like this sweater I made last year, are the exception.

I read through a couple of other posts she wrote on the topic, and slowly realized that if she could do this, I could definitely do it. She wrote about the benefits of not having to think about what to wear, of becoming more creative with the clothes she already had, and also about not creating more and more clothing waste with fast fashion. Oh, and of course, lots and lots of money saved.

I self-assessed and realized that at that point, only a few days into January, I hadn’t bought any clothes yet in 2017. I decided to give the clothes-buying ban a whirl for 2017.

Why I’m Doing It

I’ve never exactly been “into” fashion, but still have a problem with buying clothes I definitely do not need. Target is a weakness of mine, and I’ll often find myself walking out of there with the toothpaste or laundry detergent that I needed, plus a new sweater or socks or shorts that I decidedly did not need.

I also have a weakness for “athleisure” clothing and anything Nike in general. For a while there, I really did need to buy a few more sports bras and running tights to keep up with my morning running habit, but at this point I have plenty of running clothes to last me between laundry loads and anything else I buy is just unnecessary.

Finally, I just had too much clothing in general. When Anna and I moved into the Avocado House, we found our storage space cut down pretty considerably, so we made sure to get rid of a lot of clothing before the move. We donated bags and bags and bags to our local Goodwill, and our closet here in our new place is still bursting. Considering that fact, along with the fact that I do have clothing I need for any occasion that may arise, and the fact that we want to live in a van for a year (hello, no storage!) I knew that I needed to avoid inflating my clothing collection.

What I’ve Noticed So Far

I’ve found instating this ban for myself has reduced my stress and cognitive clutter in a few different ways.

First off, a blanket ban means no matter what, if it’s clothes, I’m not buying it. Since instating it, I’ve discovered how many times in the typical day I see some article of clothing or shoe-ing and think to myself, Oh, I like that, maybe I should get one for myself. It’s a lot of times per day. 

Now that the ban is in effect, however, I can just cut myself off and think, Nope, not gonna get it. I don’t even have to take the time to consider what it is, how expensive it might be, where I might find one… just nope, nope nope. It’s not happening. No more wasted mental space.

Free up mental and financial space for the things that really matter – like reaching the top of Stawamus Chief with your one-and-only.

Another thing I’ve noticed is how I (and I suspect many of us) allow clothes to substitute for other things that we really want. For instance, I caught myself eyeing a woman’s fancy Lululemon athletic pants and thinking, I’d like to have a pair of those. But then I realized that it wasn’t really the pants that I wanted so much as it was to be the kind of person who works out daily and then walks around downtown still looking fabulous in her stylish athletic gear.

Often, I find that below my longing for an article of clothing, there lies a deeper longing for the kind of life or to be the kind of person that I perceive that article of clothing as describing. It was that moment with the Lulu pants that really made me realize this, because then I thought to myself, Hold on, I don’t need the pants to become that kind of person, all I need is to actually up my game and work out every day. I already have plenty of athletic pants. It’s my lifestyle I truly want to change.

The Trap Of Advertising

Clothing and shoe advertisers make their money on convincing us that if we want to change our lifestyles or our personalities, all we need to do is pull out the wallet and buy some new clothes. We all fall victim to this. When I see that woman at the farmer’s market wearing comfy leggings, cute moccasins, an oversized (but cute!) sweater, and a perfectly messy bun, I automatically assume she has a delightful and whimsically stress-free existence where she does mid-morning yoga on weekdays in her apartment filled with lovely indoor plants and the aroma of fresh-brewed, free-trade coffee.

Buying cool hiking and athletic clothes won’t make me the kind of person who hikes to beautiful alpine lakes – only hiking to beautiful alpine lakes will!

Of course I know nothing about her, but some part of my brain that’s been conditioned by advertisers tells me that if I just buy myself a nice floppy sweater and some moccasins, I can create the same kind of stress-free, whimsical life I imagine that woman has.

Of course, it’s not true. I have no idea what kind of life that woman has, and even if it looks exactly like I imagined it, simply buying the clothes she has won’t get me her lifestyle.

It’s valuable to notice these things we imagine, though, because they give us insight into things we truly want for our own lives. From my farmer’s market run-in with Stress Free Lady, if I take a step back from the part of my brain that is conditioned to tell me to buy something, I can examine what it is I truly want: less stress in my life, and more time for the things I enjoy, like yoga and coffee.

Then I can take note of those things, and proceed to build, bit by bit, the kind of life I truly want, all without spending a penny.

Next time you find yourself longing after an article of clothing or a pair of shoes that someone else has, ask yourself: Is it really the clothes that I want, or do I actually want to change my life? If the answer is the latter, all the power is yours, and you probably won’t have to spend any money to do it.

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2 Comments

  1. yes, yes, yes!

    I’m so with you on outright banning something being easier to stick to. And it exposes/changes the mental habits so much faster – at least for me.

    Not shopping at Target changed my life, haha. I didn’t realize how many times I *thought* about buying things because I wasn’t actually buying all of them. But it was a constant stream of impulses that were just delayed, not dealt with, until I stopped going there altogether.

    I struggled a lot with buying clothing for biking last year – it was hard to separate what I wanted just for the look versus what would really make cycling easier. It helped knowing REI has a very generous return policy, and it turns out my few choices did make a big difference in comfort.

    • Flo Flo

      Yes, that’s exactly what I mean! It’s incredible the amount of mental energy we waste wanting things. And like you say, it wasn’t until I placed a total ban on it that I realized how much time I was wasting thinking about things I wanted to buy.

      When it comes to sports, though, I definitely agree that having a few choice “specialty” items really makes a huge difference. I’ve gotten to the point with my running gear (10 years of regular running) where I don’t truly need anything for comfort, and anything I buy is to try to make myself feel like I’m in a Nike commercial…haha. But my hiking boots purchase (at the REI garage sale last year!) were a total game changer. No more twisted ankles! There’s definitely a balance to be found when purchasing gear for healthy and generally frugal hobbies. Glad to hear biking is going well for you!

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