You know when you wake up one day and think, “you know what would make me happy today, and over the next 6 months? Literally not buying a single damn thing that I walk past, touch, like and fantasise about wearing. Yeah, that should do it.” Well… I woke up like this. 💁🏻 It was mid-January and I’d spent a good couple of weeks thinking, planning, organising – and yet, I couldn’t budget. Sure, there were the rent and the bills and the food and transport and I’ll-come-for-one-drink occasions, but beyond that it was chaos.
My money went on things I couldn’t remember, and my space seemed to keep getting smaller, crushing under the weight of… well, all kinds of things I couldn’t remember. And so, I made the drastic decision to not go shopping or do any online shopping for 6 months. Easy, eh? Here’s the issue with it, though: I have the bad habit of going shopping when I need to get myself out of a bad mood, which is also the worst kind of mood to be in when you decide to curb your emotional spending habit.
It was when I was very much ok and even somewhat excited about the idea that I had to create an enforced shopping “fast”, followed by some majorly strict rules I would then feel terrible about breaking. That included telling my family, friends and the internet (hi!) about it, so that they would make me feel bad – just in case I didn’t. I tend to not feel bad when I feel good, so y’know. 🤭
I began with cleaning and tidying up my space, then filling up a bag with things I was ready to donate. A few other things ended up in my suitcase, the one I’m taking home to my parents’ house to empty there. Those things passed the do-I-really-want-this-? test, but I still didn’t have the heart to give away so they’re moving home instead. Then I pretty much wrote a blog post and didn’t shop!
I’ll be honest and admit that I did shop, though. I went shopping twice. The first time it was more or less an accident (yeah, right) that I describe here. The second time, there was this ad on my feed and I just couldn’t resist it. The top was gorgeous, and I have only so much willpower! I blame ads for it but really, I blame myself – but with a shrug and smile, because I don’t feel bad at all. I told you…
Two months of relatively-no-shopping-minus-two-slips later, I have come to a few conclusions:
Depriving myself of something I like doing isn’t all that great. This wasn’t an identity-based change, so it doesn’t feel like part of a whole new me. I’m unlikely to continue doing something I dislike long term, greater good or not (in this case, probably not.) Instead, it feels unnatural, restricting and makes me question myself and my own decision to force myself to not do something I want to do. Which leads to…
… saving money is great! I haven’t saved a lot, and most of it I’ve spent on other stuff, like gigs, new glasses, stand up comedy and a weekend in Spain (that I really hope still happens, given the corona virus situation.) But the point is that I would have probably bought / booked all of this anyway, and spent money on stuff on top, which would have left me… well… starving? I guess. My savings account looks a bit friendlier, too.
The real problem, if I can call it that, is that while part of my wardrobe mostly matches my lifestyle, part of it doesn’t – and that tends to be the part I invest in the most heavily. I’ll gladly rotate the same five tops when I go to work, but it’s the dresses that have “aspirational” written all over them that I want to buy. Like collectables, I like having them because they are beautiful, and we all want to own beautiful things because we feel like owning beauty is the same as being it.
Many of my clothes have the same quality to me that art must have to people with far more money. While that’s nice, I usually need to dress for the life I have rather than a fantasy life. That means that, well, they kinda just sit there… While I would like to sit on a beach, but I have no money left to go because I bought them instead! No more, or at least, not so much anymore.
I like shopping. That’s not going to change just because I am not shopping for a few months. However, not shopping for a few months has made me – ironically – focus on other things instead, and in time it has made me want to do it a less. I find myself more mindful of how I spend my time, I don’t crave impulsive shopping as much, and overall I have better control over my tendencies to just go grab something because I think it will look nice on my floor (I am still talking about clothes, yes.)
But the main reason why I don’t feel bad about breaking my rule twice is this: my intention, deep down, wasn’t to break some kind of record, but rather to spend less money on things that clutter my space for no reason. And I have already achieved that! I feel no shame for treating myself to a couple of things that I wanted. If anything, I feel pretty good about the fact that it was a couple of things and not more.
This is because I feel that I’ve learnt to live as I would like to keep living in the future, and I think that’s far more helpful than going to extremes. My shopping diet will gradually melt into my real life as I let go of some of the structure, but the heart of it will stay with me after spending this time paying close attention to what I’m doing. It may turn into a slight identity-change, after all.
I want to add that, while I believe in intentional purchases, timeless pieces and all that, I also believe there is nothing wrong with occasionally buying things to wear once or twice or just because they are beautiful and go well with those boots and you’re going out on Sunday. I’m not going to go into the ethical issues of consumerism or fast fashion, because I admit that I’m not doing this for ethical reasons, but I will say this: I am young, I live in London and I don’t earn a lot. All of these things will change in the future, but for the time being I can’t spend hundreds of pounds on ethically-sourced pieces that will soon need replacing. I regret not being able to make better, more conscious choices, but if I have to choose between a top that looks the same, but costs £5 here and £500 there? Yeah.
Ok, and now – the reason this post is called CURATE / CREATE? Glad you asked. What have I been doing with my time lately, other than avoiding the high street and ASOS? Also glad you asked. I wrote down 2 lists (I freaking love lists.) One, I called CURATE. I included here all the things I had too many of and wanted to go through: music, films, books, bookmarks, clothes, things.
The second one I called CREATE. This is where I listed everything I want to do (not happen to me – that’s a whole different list… I mean, topic.) These are things like my blog that I want to grow, my book that I want to finish editing, languages that I want to learn and a couple more things that are personal or that I haven’t started yet, and therefore haven’t mentioned them to anyone. Sorry, friends and strangers.
Curating my space, both physical and mental, gave me immense satisfaction. I have less of what I didn’t like anymore, anyway. I also have more mental space, energy and clarity. But the real reason why this felt so satisfying? Because removing, as much as adding, is identity-forming. When everything looks and feels cluttered you can’t add any more of the new, which leaves you feeling stuck and annoyed and not-like-yourself. I am carefully choosing what I allow into my space again, and I love the freedom and power this mind shift gives me.
Creating can only happen, I believe, once the curating has at the very least started happening too. Towards the end of last year I had a very heavy feeling that was difficult to describe – but it made any new thing or person or article or request or idea that came my way feel like a burden. I’d want to curl into a ball and stop the waves of more and more and more coming over me. Every time the phone rang I wanted to pull the duvet over my head, not because I was depressed (yay) but because I was overwhelmed. All. The. Time.
When I realised that everything began to feel like homework, I wanted not a digital detox, but a life detox. And so, I started to curate my own life and this made room for creativity, spontaneity and want to return to me. I haven’t started creating much yet, except for very minor things, so I will update you on this – but I am so very close to it that I can feel it. And I know it’s real, because I haven’t felt it in a very long time. Missed you, creative juices!
If, like me, you also started the year wanting to stop (or, at least, curb) bad habits and implement new, better ones instead, I’d be curious to hear about your journey. How you managed to keep a playful, open attitude, and treat it like a game. What you do with the frustrations you encounter along the way. What’s it like for you to try something new and learn more about yourself. And, how you give yourself the freedom to evolve over time as you learn and realise that some rules don’t serve you anymore.