Following on from my initial post in April telling you all about my not buying clothes experiment, here is my update 7 months in. It hasn’t all been plain sailing but the lessons I have learnt have been worth it.
When I first started this experiment I had recently just de-cluttered my wardrobe so I had just the items I loved and it felt like a new wardrobe. A few months in and not surprisingly I was getting the urge to shop.
Along came my trip to Thailand combined with my new challenge of minimalist travel, which posed new difficulties for my experiment and general ideal of not wanting to buy unnecessary stuff.
What did I buy?
I should admit at this point that I caved and bought 6 new items for the trip (one which needed replacing so doesn’t really count) and 1 new item that was non-trip related.
Why did I cave?
The reasons why I decided to cave were illuminating and provided me with the most valuable lessons.
- The pursuit of intentional living
Ironically, minimalist travel posed an added difficulty for my experiment. I only had hand luggage, which not only saved me worrying about my luggage getting lost at flight connections but meant everything I took with me had to be essential.
My first purchase, while not strictly clothing but could be classed as unnecessary stuff was a Patagonia holdall. I spent time researching ethical companies and what would suit my minimalist needs, so I made an intentional well thought out decision before investing £60. Living more intentionally is my ultimate pursuit and travelling is something I love to do, so to find a way I can do it more intentionally and buy a bag that will last for many more years is a good reason to cave.
My next couple of purchases were out of fear of being bitten by mozzies! I was so concerned about getting Malaria or Dengue Fever that I was prepared to spend on clothes even if it meant ‘failing’ my experiment. I bought two pairs of light loose harem pants, which worked a treat thanks to my research, but in retrospect, I’m not sure how often I will wear these in the future. Interestingly, fear overrode my strong desire not to consume.
- Keeping up with the Joneses
One of my worst purchases was out of vanity and it was a snap decision. I bought a white vest top to match my mozzie free pants on a whim. I shoved it in the basket and off I went without much thought. The top didn’t really fit and I did have other tops that would have been fine. It amazes me that despite being very conscious of these decisions now, I still falter and make mistakes.
Another bad purchase was a crop top style bikini. I already own 3 bikinis but yet I couldn’t fight the nagging feeling of wanting to keep up with the Joneses and get the latest trend. The bikini was actually uncomfortable in the end so a wasted purchase.
While out shopping for the above, I was also drawn to a long cardigan, which is the same as my all time favourite. I justified this purchase as an extra potential outfit for work since I had worn a hole in my old one. This has been well worn from day of purchase and was in fact a good buy but it shows that it is hard to resist temptation in the modern consumer world.
So what did I learn from all of this?
- I still love shopping or should I say intentional buying. The economy relies on us spending but now I’m more drawn to spend on experiences or well thought out purchases that I can really value.
- Sometimes there are genuinely good reasons to overrule the not buying clothes rule – looking after my health was one of those reasons.
- This experiment has made me really aware of why I buy
- Everything has a cost: our decisions and choices have a direct impact on not only our own stresses and amount of stuff we own and therefore have to look after but also on the planet. I feel more in tune with the wider impact of consumerism and the amount of waste we produce that gets dumped and forgotten about.
- It’s not easy in a consumer culture- there are temptations wherever you go.
Here are some tips if you want to trial not buying clothes for a year:
- Tackle your wardrobe and keep only things you love before you start this experiment so you feel like you are starting afresh.
- If you’re getting the urge to shop, see if your friends have any hand-me-downs to spice up your wardrobe and opt for the one-in-one-out rule.
- Remember that it may not be possible for you to avoid purchasing some things so treat it as a learning process and reflect on decisions using them to make more intentional purchases in the future.
- Aim for quality not quantity especially if the item has been more ethically sourced, fairly traded and is a ‘buy me once’ item that is guaranteed to last a certain number of years. It is far too easy to be drawn to bargains.
- Return to the make do and mend culture– repair clothes that you loved to give them a new lease of life. I had my favourite pair of patent leather shoes re-heeled instead of buying a brand new pair saving me £40.
- Focused intentional buying is better than wandering round the shops. For me, internet shopping works as there is less temptation, but do what works best for you.
- If you need some more reasons not to buy clothes this is a great article.
So despite having ‘failed’ at my experiment I have bought less than I would normally, saved money and I have learnt that intentional buying means I am better at making choices enabling me to do my bit to protect the world we live in.