Jill ponders her year without shopping in a fun, fresh, engaging and occasionally informed way

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Don't You Want Me Baby?

Greetings and welcome to blog #6. Not a lot happening at this time of year, is there? The week after Christmas, the days leading up to New Year's. The Diva emailed me this week and used the word indolent to describe her and Terry's approach to life at this time. So true - it's an indolent time of year. Not sure if that will catch on in a new song in next year's wave of Christmas CDs ("well, the weather outside is balmy, the garden is full of palmies, we are feeling indolent... let it sun, let it sun, let it sun" - hmmmm, catchy? I think not...) but it does capture the mood in one economical word. At least for some.

Me - Indolent? Including me! Not a lot been going on. Some days I feel like my biggest achievement is I have saved money. In that, I haven't gone anywhere where money could be spent (including my office where lots of money can be spent tap-tap-tapping on the keyboard attatched to the world wide web). None of these lunatic Boxing Day sales for me! They're crazy - people lining up from 5am outside department store doors, contributing to the overall stampede feeling usually reserved for major league football matches held in enormous stadiums. And the odd assortment of items purchased (well, those reported upon) - a silver evening top, gumboots, the Twilight trilogy on DVD and a Breville mixmaster. Who are these people???
Instead, I've stayed close to the homestead. I've been doing some home cookin' -- something I'm as surprised as anyone to note how much I have enjoyed (and those on the eating end seem to be, too). I've done some holiday reading (why it's "holiday reading" I'm not sure as the books are remarkably similar to non-holiday books - it's reading and I'm feeling on holidays, so maybe that's why we can call it "holiday reading"?). I've even gotten into our pool (Dan felt that evidence was required of me actually being in the pool as it is such a rare occurrence (too cold for me usually, even in our hot climate) so we have photographic evidence that what I say is true - to be supplied on threat of death only). Since we have guests, a swimsuit was in order and it was then that I discovered - gasp! - that several of my swimsuits have had the richard, gone to swimsuit heaven, lost their vavoom (well, their elastic, and in key places too) and needed to be chucked out (as we so elegantly say things). And I've only had them for 6 years!
Chuck out Bag. Which got me thinking about how and when and under what circumstances I let things go (euphemistically more elegant than 'chucking out', but same result - it's bye bye baby). I can't remember the last time I got rid of an item of clothing (except said swimsuit) because it had worn out. Julie was visiting us recently and was saying that that is probably her #1 or #2 reason she gets rid of clothing - they're done, finished, reached the end of the line, kaput, had it. They've been worn to death.
Why do I get rid of clothes? Mostly because I don't wear them any more, and it's not because they're worn out. It's because the style doesn't seem like 'me' any more, or I've discovered something about the fabric (it scratches or runs in the wash, for example). I don't feel good in it anymore is another reason; or I'm just tired of it. I keep a "chuck out bag" --- that's the photo above, posing with said elastically-challenged swimsuit now residing safely inside it, beside our pool with our dog Indigo behind the pool fence in the background keeping an eye on proceedings --- in my walk in closet. Whenever an item of clothing needs to be let go, made redundant, pink-slipped, downsized - into the bag it goes. (yes, even my chuck out bag is animal print, how did that happen?!?).
Seasonal chuck out time. Around this time of year, fashion magazines will usually run an article about how you need to do a Serious Review of your wardrobe at least once, preferrably twice, a year (spring and autumn are the ideal seasons). Whilst I like that idea and in general think it's a good one, I have more of an all-season approach. I keep my chuck out bag permanently in my closet, and the very moment an item has been branded as Had It - into the bag it goes. Unless it has yet to be brought to my attention, there's nothing hanging or folded in my closet that I don't wear. If my friend Helen (image consultant extraordinaire) is visiting from Melbourne, we'll usually spend a little quality time in my walk-in room of a closet and she'll watch and comment as I parade a variety of clothing items in front of her. This constitutes a Serious Review in my book, but it rarely happens at the turn of the season.
So what I'm wondering is how many items of clothing I'll wear through in the coming 11.10 months left of the challenge. How many things that I'll wear to death - that no amount of soaking, re-stitching, hand-washing and towel-drying (away from direct sunlight) will fix. To go shopping to find something I actually, truly ruly, madly, deeply need -- as opposed to buying something simply because I want and desire it. To feel I am fully using and enjoying what I already have rather than perpetually topping it up. That's the essence of what Shopping My Closet means. Right?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stimulate me! (I think)

G'day and welcome to blog post #5. It's a very toasty Tuesday here in Queensland, with only 34.5hours of shopping left until the stores close for Christmas. Not having been in a "proper shop" for a couple of weeks now, I found myself feeling more than usually stimulated by the fruit & veggie section of Woolworths today. It's like I'm on some kind of sensory-diet, where my levels of stimulation are being lowered - none of that "oh look, orange knit tops!" or "oooh, animal print sandals" or "hey, a sale rack - 50% off everything!". Without that degree of stimulation of a semi-regular basis, my threshold of stimulation seems to be lower, so that being around all that colourful fruit and vegetables is actually kinda interesting. Rather than simply a necessity. I know it's fashionable for celebrity (and wannabe celebrity) chefs to get very excited about fresh, firm zucchini and rocket leaves and organic grape tomatoes, but the fresh fruit and veggie section has never held much allure for me before.

I want! (or do I?) Which has got me thinking about the nature of wanting, and where it comes from. Do we want new things because something in our inner soul cries out for say a new pair of jeans or t-shirt or Converse sneakers? Or do we want things because we've kinda been trained to want them? Maybe brainwashed is a better word than trained. How do we know we want something? And I'm speaking specifically of clothing here, because that's what this 12 month challenge is about, but the question would apply much more broadly than that.

For me, it's unusual for me to know I want something until I see it. On rare occasions, I have discovered a "hole" in my wardrobe and determined it needed to be filled and then I've gone out, in a heat-seeking missile fashion, and found it, bought it, and made it part of my clothing family. More often than not, I don't know I wanted something until my eyes layeth upon it. I was blissfully ignorant that the world even possesed say, a pair of animal print wedge sandals made in France. And then -boom! - I saw them in a shoe shop window in Perth and I wanted them. I recall going into the store in question and saying to the sales lady "I was happy until I saw these shoes". A situation I soon rectified - happiness being a state I obviously hold in high regard because I moved very quickly into action to breach the gap in my newly-acquired state of unhappy-now-I've-seen-these-shoes-and-they're-not-mine and happy-again-now-these-shoes-are-mine-all-mine! (accompanied by a maniacal laugh).
The shoes in question can be viewed above, purchased in Perth in 2006 for an exorbidant sum (from memory, they were over $300 - I blanked the exact cost out of my mind after purchasing them, they were the most expensive shoes I have ever purchased) whilst I was wandering around the Hay Street Mall after running a leadership workshop for a big client. Apart from absolutely leerving them and thinking they were stunning and I'd never seen a pair of shoes like them, a part of me felt like I kinda deserved them, too - I'd been working really hard, yadda yadda yadda, and this was some kind of reward. If you love shoes, you might be able to relate to my desire to acquire them. If, like my friend Jenni, shoes are not your thing (she owns less than 10 pair - which is incredible to me, and she has access to like proper shops and everything, living in the city as she does - it's not as though she lives 8 hours out the back of Chinchilla and gets "into town" once every 6 weeks to load up the ute on household supplies) you probably wouldn't be tempted by shoes in a window and possibly wouldn't have been walking by said shoe shop window in the first place.
Stop watching! So, the nature of wanting and how we are induced into wanting things by the world of commerce, advertising, marketing, the media in general and shopping centre design is fascinating to me. I've been known to be flipping through a magazine, find something I love, then madly seek out the stockists page so I can source the item of desire. Minutes ago, I didn't know The Thing existed, let alone changed my afternoon plans so I could seek The Thing out to buy.
Is the answer to limit exposure to magazines, media, advertising and shops? Images of Kelly McGuinness in the film Witness spring to mind (the Amish clothing had no exposed buttons, because they were deemed to be "proud" - what would they make of my clothing, the primary purpose of much of it being pure adornment?). Nothing extraneous was ever purchased or worn - the plain necessities were all they had.
For someone like me, not being exposed to things like that feels like a punishment - I enjoy the stimulation of shops, movies, television, magazines - all that stuff! I don't want to live in a stimulation-free world, where there is no temptation because it isn't a part of the landscape in which I live.
But maybe part of the answer lies in taking a moment between "oh, isn't it gorgeous!" and "I must make it mine" to ask myself some better questions. My Dad's favourite shopping question is "do you really need it?" which in my teenage years and wardrobe-acquiring 20s seemed like a crazy question - unanswerable almost, irrelevant surely. It wasn't a question of need, it was one of want! Now that I'm on this challenge, I'm wondering if that isn't a "better question" to ask myself (yet again, Dad was right). Maybe some other questions might be "what will this item add to what I have?" and "what will buying this item bring me?" (oh and what about "will I still love you in the morning?"). If the answer is a momentary thrill and a larger VISA balance at the end of the month and not much more, that may be a compelling argument to leave it where it is.
Austerity consciousness? I've done a lot of reading over the years on the power of mindset - prosperity/abundance mindset vs. a poverty mindset. You can't 'spend your way into prosperity/abundance', but part of the thinking to creating more prosperity and abundance in your life is the belief that you have enough. Right now. In this moment. Not repeating the words in a mantra-like fashion, but actually feeling the fullness in your life. Putting your attention on what you have right now, rather than focusing on what's missing, or where you feel your life might be lacking or empty. I wonder if that's a big part of the answer - instead of allowing the stimulation of "everything out there" to manipulate me, instead turn my attention to the fullness I feel "in here". Not removing all stimulation from my life, but equally not allowing the stimulation of the moment to overcome that steadier, stronger, inner sense of fullness that I can connect with whenever I am still for a moment, even if that's right in the middle of a busy shopping centre. It's an intriguing thought. Right?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Size does matter - shopping centre envy

So, here we are at blog posting #4 (if you're just joining us, scroll to the bottom to read all that's gone before, ahem, yes, cough, all 3 postings.).
I met my bestie, Tara (that's us, left) at Chermside Shopping Centre in Brisbane on Tuesday afternoon. Chermside is Australia's 9th largest shopping centre with over 122,000 square metres of shopping pleasure (or hell, depending on how you view these things). Seems like a crazy spot to meet for someone going on a 12 month challenge to not shop, huh? Well, the reason is that it's convenient for Tara, full-time working mother of three young'un's under 7, a lady with not a lot of spare time..... and it's about as equidistant as we're likely to get coming from two different directions. We also set the date long before the challenge was even a kernel of thought in my mind.
Chermside. When I was telling Tara about the Gruen Transfer, she was sure that Chermside must be the model site for it - a circuitous design that disorients the visitor and leads you further into the shopping centre (leading you past store after store, most of which you had no intention of looking at, let alone going into, but whose wares entice you from their windows -- "visit me! don't I look lovely? you want to come in and pick me up and take me home!".... kind of like a bad night at a local disco). Not only that, but Chermside/Gruen Transfer Model Site has exits that are challenging to find and a general sensory overload that inundates every sense to capacity if not beyond.
At Chermside the other day, 10 days before Christmas, I noticed two types of shoppers. One was the glazed-eye, meandering type who seemed slightly dazed and confused, perhaps uncertain of where they actually were (or what the *&$% they were doing there). They walked slowly and in an aimless fashion, or they stood around with an unfocusesd, middle-distance stare, keening slightly to the left. The other type was the frenzied, harried shopper who was hellbent on achieving some goal (possibly some version of this: get in! get the thing! get out!), who in their frenetic state were knocking small children, elderly patrons and glazed-eye shoppers rooted to the spot out of their way. Both type of shoppers seemed to be over-stimulated but with vastly different results - one catatonia and the other mania. Maybe those states are worthy of capitals, like cities - come to Catatonia: a land of peaceful ignorance, where nobody will ever bother you again (even if you are surrounded by hordes of people!). Or if you prefer, visit Mania: a region full of stimulating sights, sounds, tastes, smells and endless opportunities to lose your mind (and lower your credit rating)!
Whoa - how big can they get? These shopping centres, they're massive. Humungous. Chermside is Australia's 9th largest shopping centres, and the biggest one in Oz (Chadstone in Victoria) isn't much bigger than it (186,000 square metres). But around the world, shopping centres are of city-sized proportions. It's a mind-freak to consider how how huge these places are. The largest shopping centre in the world is in Kuala Lumpur and comes in at a whopping 700,000 square metres. Next up is the South China Mall at 660,000 square metres and another in Beijing at 600,000 square metres. The Phillipines has the next two spots, one at 460,000 and another at 390,000 square metres (400,000 square metres is around 75 football fields).
In the USA, the King of Prussia mall (an amalgamation of two malls in Philadelphia) has the most shopping per square feet in the country, whilst the Mall of America in the Twin Cities (Minnesota) is the most visited mall in the country, some say the world.
In Europe, the largest shopping centre is in Gateshead (near Newcastle upon Tyne) whose tagline is "if we don't have it, you don't want it" - with 330 stores, they might have a reason for making such a claim (unless perhaps it's a consumer debt-free existence you are seeking).
In the Middle East, the Dubai Mall is the biggest, the entire mall is over 600,000 square metres, although the shops take up less than one-third of that space - the rest is for Mercedes Benz golf buggies to be able to drive 2-wide down the aisles. Ok, I just made that up - but it's possible, right?
Is it any wonder? .... that people finid themselves in an "altered state" when they visit these malls? They're overwhelming enough when empty (whenever that is - I had to use my imagination to envision an empty mall). So when they teeming with people, they positively drown the senses and overload the mind. Hello Catatonia and Mania! To stay of sane and stable mind whilst spending any time at all in those places is an effort of such supreme concentration that one needs a long lie down afterward. It's exhausting!
Was I tempted? So, you might be wondering if I was tempted to look in any of the shops or (gasp!) buy anything the other day. Seeing as it was Day One of the challenge, if I had've bought something, I'd have to have committed hari kari immediately in a spasm of shame. So, the answer is NO, but it's not because I have suddenly entered a zen-like state of non-desire (although I can feel some stirrings in that direction), but more because I was very focused: - I met Tara, we walked in a focused fashion to our usual coffee place (the Shingle Inn, why it is named such, right in the middle of a fluorescent-lit shopping centre, next to Target, is beyond me - it no more resembles an Inn than a pork chop and what is shingling is anybody's guess), we chatted for 2 hours, we left. Very similar to the approach we would take to getting to Business Finance in third year of our business degree - let's get there, let's get through it, let's get out. Same same, except the middle bit (the chatting) is much better than sitting through 2 hours of bizfin. Although, such fond memories of attempting to remember how to calculate the adjusted present value of an asset, and let's not even get started with parallel shifts in the yield curve.
I'm also keeping a clothing diary in my head, although I'm considering adding it to these blog
postings (am unsure if that would be pushing the friendship just too far - a rundown of what I've been wearing).... this is to test my theory that I have so many clothes that I'll run out of days (in a year) before I'll run out of clothes if I aim to not wear the same outfit twice in that time period.
All well. So, it being Friday here in Australia and 4 days into the challenge: so far, so good. Am feeling relaxed, a Chill Jill, and as sanguine as I ever get (definition of sanguine: confidently optimistic and (I love this bit) inclined toward a healthy reddish color). Yeah, baby, it's a reddish colour alright. Right?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Official Start

Well, it's Tuesday December 15 2009. The official start of the challenge. And this is Blog Posting #3 (for what's happened earlier, scroll down to the bottom of the page and start reading upwards... in a strange quirk of technology, blog postings occur in reverse chronological order. If you already know this, then please roll your eyes now - I include this info bcz someone over the age of 35 may be reading this and not know how blogs work. Or they may just enjoy repetition).

Last Item Purchased. The photo (left) is of the last item I purchased before the challenge started. If you know me, you'll know that I have a full-blown fetish, a love affair, with animal print. And I'm not exclusive about it - I like them all: leopard, cheetah, zebra, giraffe, tiger, oscelote, reptile. Not a lot of Tasmanian Tiger to be found. Panther is all the rage in Melbourne and New York City but I don't tend to wear a lot of it (too harsh for my colouring). I purchased this dress in a rather fabulous pre-loved store in Brisbane city, called Revamp. I bought it on December 4 and it cost me $85. Fabulous cross-over style with some detailing on the side, and even though I don't wear a lot of short-sleeves (where are my Linda/Terminator 2 arms??? oh, that's right - you need to do exercise to get them!), these are great for this type of dress.

The Diva (Judy, my friend who is joining me on this 12 month challenge) tells me her last purchase was on December 10 and it was a grey and black asymmetric hemmed long-sleeve top in a sort of animal print with some bling on the shoulder. She got this fabulous item on sale in the Queen Street Mall in Brisbane.

A Year in (Clothing) Review. This last year, 2009 that is, has been .... what is the word I seek? It's been so many things, it's hard to economise and give it just one. Challenging for sure -- financially things were different than in 2008 when I was doing lots of corporate leadership workshops for a huge client. That work ended (rather abruptly, I had whiplash for weeks after hearing the news) in December 2008. As a result, my 2009 was suddenly looking a lot less populated with places to go and people to see (and facilitate workshops for). We started a new business, I'm Listening Now, which was an exercise in exploring my own creativity and resourcefulness, and not without its own challenges. Anytime something big ends or starts, it's a period of transition, right? Well, that's what 2009 has been for us.

Where did the money go? I have been reflecting on what I've spent money on (and where) over the last year. And here's what I've noticed: most of my clothing purchases have been made while travelling, when I've been away from home. We were overseas 3 times this last year and I did way more shopping during those trips that I did when I was at home. When I'm at home, I rarely go trawling through the shops. If I do go shopping when I'm at home, it's rarely in that wander-y kind of way that happens when I'm travelling - I'm more focused. I go where I need to go, I get what I want, I go home.

And because there are a number of small shopping districts (and only one large shopping centre) on the Sunshine Coast where I live, the Gruen Transfer rarely comes into play (want to discuss the Gruen Transfer some more, perhaps in a future post? Let me know, as its such an interesting phenomenon about how people react in shopping centres, and how shopping centres are designed to disorient customers). My favourite store of this type is Timbuktu to Kathmandu in Noosaville - the most fabulous bead store in the world! (ok, maybe it isn't, but I say that with at least a little authority, having visited many bead stores in Australia and quite a few the US). It's located in a midnight blue building right next to a BP service station -- not an enterprise that lures me in very often, although the lube oil display is often quite attractive.

(By the way, 3 overseas trips sounds like a lot of travelling for "people in transition" right? Well, let me explain that I'm a volunteer board member on a professional association based in the US. I donate my time to this organisation and in return, they pay my way to attend specific meetings in the US, and in 2009 that happened to be two meetings - one in Dallas in August (oh the joy of being in the southwest in high summer! could we crank up the temperature guage just one more degree - from simmer to boiling - and while we're at it, make it DRY!) and the other in San Francisco in November (there may not be a heaven, but somewhere there is a San Francisco)).

Starting this challenge today feels like an important day because it's the day I've made the commitment to start on. But it doesn't feel like a big tough day. I didn't rush out yesterday and buy up big, I didn't get online at 11pm for any last minute purchasing. I haven't bought anything since the dress (in the photo above) on December 4. So whilst there is some emotion around Today Being The Day, it's a quiet kind of feeling.

When in Rome....Ok, so if you're interested in a bit of a review of what I've purchased when travelling this year, here goes. If this doesn't interest you, please feel free to skip this paragraph///. When I was in California, both earlier in the year (the March trip was a 10th wedding anniversary gift to one another, although I know how much Dan really wanted to buy me a large piece of jewellery instead... what a sport - going on a trip with me to California instead!!) and in November in San Francisco, I bought a few things including: animal print jacket x 2 (one kind of giraffe, the other zebra), Lucky jeans in black, AK jeans in dark denim ($18 from Ross!), fabulous 'bling' animal print belt, some underwear, those Converse shoes I spoke of in an earlier post, knit top or maybe two, earrings (about 4 pair - easy to transport home, no need for an additional bag usually), and some fabulous stuff from a great consigment store in Walnut Creek - animal print cardi/jacket and an animal print sheer silk shirt. And some fabric from Britex (the most amazing 4-storey fabric store on Union Square). That's about all I can recall that I purchased in California. In Dallas I also bought some things (summer stuff was on sale then, which was great for home with summer on the way) - white capri pants, black capri pants, some underwear, a silk cheetah-print shirt, a sheer silk shirt (great for summer with our hot sun - provides coverage for the arms and the silk means its cool; and this one was reduced), a butter-yellow jacket in soft cotton to coordinate with shoes I already have in the same colour, and a handful of things from two fantastic consignment stores - designer jeans for $20 x2, a Dolce & Gabanna silk shirt (new with tags) for $50, leopard-print low-heeled slides with rhinestones (new, never been worn) for $20. When I was in Sydney in October, Julie took me to the Paddington markets (she practically begged to take me, what could I do??) and I bought a silk kaftan-style cross-over flowing shirt thing that's clearly hard to describe (fabulous print/colours - my "warm light" colours with some animal print sprinkled through it).

Now that I type it out, it seems like quite a lot. It is a lot. And all to be added to an already full wardrobe - well, you can see my problem. I thought about editing that list of purchases, leaving out some things because once I typed it out (and it's taken me quite a few iterations, bcz I kept remembering items I'd purchased), I started to see exactly how much I'd bought. If my wardrobe at home was bereft, a veritable Mrs Hubbard's cupboard, it might be plausible how I could justify so many purchases. But my wardrobe at home was already plentifully stocked with lovely things. Items on sale and consignment stores are particularly delusion-inducing and alluring for me - it's almost like they're giving it away. Sitting here typing this now, I'm feeling a range of emotion - some pleasure at all those lovely things and some guilt, too. That's way too big a topic for this already long post, so I'll leave guilt and the wondrous gift it keeps on giving to another post.

If you're a shopaholic, you may have enjoyed reading about all those purchases. I know how much I enjoy reading about what other people are wearing and buying. Clothing is a joy! In novels, it's often one of the highlights if the author describes what the characters are wearing and packing for trips and washing and whatever else people do with clothing. So I'm guessing that at least for some of you, reading about all of those purchases was interesting and you enjoyed it. If you're not a shopaholic, god only knows what you're thinking as you were reading about all that; I don't even want to guess.

And they're off. A big thank you to those who have supported me so far -- read the posts, emailed and phoned me, offered support in various ways. And to those who haven't gotten in touch yet, I'm sure you have your reasons. (and if you're a close friend, they better be good!). I'm really looking forward to the interest this conversation is sure to generate. There's a lot to this topic and there are many experiences and viewpoints around it. Right?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Challenge Accepted!

Most of you know that the way blog posts work is the most recent one is at the top, right? And if you want to know what things were said 'in the beginning', you have to start at the bottom, and scroll upward. It's the internet's version of Farsi. So, all that means is that this is the second blog posting, and as these postings are going to hopefully tell a story, it follows on from the one before it, which you'll find below. Blog navigation lesson completed, here's what I actually wanted to share with you today.

It's Sunday - a blazing hot day, the air still and sultry. A great day for drying laundry on the line, or to steam open your pores. Skin already sticky at 8am, I was doing some virtuously sweat-inducing housework when the phone rang. "Hallo darling", said the Diva. My friend Judy Glen (pictured with me, left), an opera singer and comedian, had just finished a 10-gig week at the Lord Mayor's invitation in Brisbane, and had just read my new blog about a 12 month month challenge of no clothes shopping. Ding! A bell had rung for her, too. Judy and I are similar in many ways (height not being one of them). We share a passion for all things "girly" - clothes, accessories, shoes, handbags, makeup - human equivalents of peacocks, anything that can adorn the body is considered a good thing.

Sharing the journey. I was thrilled when Judy said she'd like to do the 12 month challenge along with me. Great! A fellow traveller, someone to share the experience with: the laughter, the tears, the missed shoe sales! The emotional/psychological aspects of the challenge is something we're both fascinated to explore more. Perhaps we could develop a psychosis around this together??

Feeling the fear... I mentioned to Jude that one of the things I am feeling, on the eve of embarking on this challenge is fear. I feel a touch ridiculous for feeling a twinge of fear (helpful, huh?), but I want to be honest as I write these entries about what the experience is like for me (otherwise, why bother?). I don't fully understand why I'm feeling some fear, but it's there. On the surface, I have an image of me standing in a store, looking longingly at some fabulous item of clothing (animal print no doubt, or possibly turquoise, maybe orange), and it's my size and it's on sale - and I can't buy it because I'm doing this dumb challenge! Beneath the surface, maybe it has to do with feeling like I might miss out on something? Of experiencing a feeling of *want*, which has to do with feeling emptiness, feeling incomplete somehow. I don't know, maybe the fear is about that. (I might as well say this, as I'm sure someone reading this will be thinking it: If a pair of animal print capri pants can create a feeling of completeness, of fullness, even if it is only for a short while, does that mean I'm a great contender for Saddest Person on the Planet (a reality show I'm sure will be coming to our screens soon)???). Whatever it's about, in an attempt to "name and claim" it, I'm owning up to feeling some fear.

Appreciating... Judy talked about how the challenge of focusing her attention on appreciating the clothing she already has will hopefully spill over into other areas, like her house. Rather than thinking up yet another home improvement project (challenging in Judy and Terry's case, as their home is so beautiful already), enjoy it for what it is without the need to improve it. Nice.

Contentment, you say? Jude and I talked a bit about contentment, and how we'd like to feel more of it, more regularly. But it seems to allude us - we feel a stirring of what we can only call restlessness that seems to wash away any feelings of contentment. We wondered if the problem lay in how we thought about and defined contentment... contentment stirs up an image of someone sitting very quietly, in great stillness, in a semi-darkened room, meditating (not that we're stereotyping or anything). Being extraverted as we are, neither Judy nor I find ourselves in such a state as that very often. Sure, we need quiet time for balance and we seek that out. But more often than not, what gets us going are people and activities that get us "out there", things that have us in a state of motion and activity, things that enthuse us into action. So, maybe we need to redefine contentment?

The Challenge.... is the challenge to simply stay away from temptation? To stay out of the shops, away from the markets, off the internet? For me, if I never see an item in a store, I can't wish it was mine. If I hadn't seen those fabulous leopard-print Converse shoes in Tootsies in College St, Oakland, would I have wanted them so badly? Of course not - I wouldn't have known they existed! Simply staying away from temptation may be the best way to start, but we may not learn much about what this challenge is really about if that's all we do. Is the challenge to stop wanting?

The Carrie-Dian continuum. I've always been more Carrie Bradshaw (Sex and the City, she of the shoe fetish, who oohed over Berkin bags on Fifth Avenue and who longed for a walk-in closet of room-proportions) than Dian Fossey (Gorillas in the Mist, as portrayed by Sigourney Weaver in the movie, where the wardrobe mistress had barely enough to keep her occupied as only one outfit was worn by Ms Weaver the entire film, was it not? Surely I don't exagerate....). This year-long challenge is not an exercise in becoming "less Carrie" and "more Dian" - why fight nature?

What the challenge is about is not all that clear yet, at least the stuff that lies beneath the surface. We all know what the surface challenge is about (no clothes shopping for a year), so it'll be easy to see if we meet that challenge, or if we fall off the wagon. The less tangible parts of the challenge -- the emotional and psychological stuff -- is what strikes me as being the really fascinating part of the journey. Right?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Do I really want to do this?

Shopping My Closet: A Year With No Clothes Shopping. YIKES???? Really?

I'm considering -- I'm not yet committed -- to starting a one year challenge. A challenge to not do any clothes shopping for one year. Starting December 15, 2009. Why??
Well, where do I start? Reason # 1 is I have a sh*tload of clothes - friends who have seen it can testify to this. When we renovated our 4-bedroom house in 2007, we turned it into a 3-bedroom house and converted the small bedroom next to our bathroom into a walk-in closet. So, it's room sized. To the left is a photograph of my shoe shelves. There's over 70 pair, maybe more (if I do this experiment, I'll count them up). So, that's reason #1 - I have so many clothes, I could create a different outfit every day and I'd probably run out of days before I ran out of clothes.
Reason #2 is financial. We're starting a new business which is an exercise in cash going in one direction (out) and not a lot coming in the other way, at least for now. So, it would be excellent to curb unnecessary spending.

Reason #3 is a little harder to pin down. It has to do with appreciating what I have, with using what I have rather than craving always for *more*. It has to do with not stuffing my closet full of more stuff; I have so many jackets now (not really a necessity in our tropical climate!) that if I buy another one, I have to get rid of one - that's how jammed my closet already is. And that's just the jackets - the same applies to everything else: shoes, shirts, pants (of all descriptions - hanging, jeans, capri, long, printed, plain), tops (of all descriptions), handbags.... I wont go on about it, but you get the idea. I can't fit anymore in. But that's reason #1, and this is reason #3 which is more emotional or psychological - it has to do with how I feel about what I have and appreciating it, using it, and not using shopping as a hobby. Reason #3 goes deeper than just that - it has to do with not using shopping as a way of ..... filling some dark void? Someone dial 1800-PsychiatricHelp. Ok, so there's some "deep dark" stuff included in reason #3, which throughout the year -- IF I DO THIS -- I may discover more about.

So, a couple more thoughts before I leave this first post. Which, depending on a few factors, may be my last.

Why just clothing? Well, I've done a bit of research (read: 15 mins on Google typing in words like "my year without shopping") and there are a few people who have already mined this particular well. One is Judith Levine who wrote a book Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping. Ms Levine attempted to not shop everything - from cafe lattes to theatre tickets to trips to the hairdresser to flights to... you name it. You can read more about her book on Amazon - the comments piece is particularly interesting and to say the book got "mixed reviews" would be being kind. Another is an English woman, Samantha Weinberg, who also gave up shopping everything - she doesn't appear to have written a book but I read an online article by The Guardian about her.
But it's not just because others have attempted (successfully, in the above cases, at least in the main) to not shop for everything that I want to focus purely on clothes. It's because clothes are such a temptation for me. I look at a pair of shoes (particularly if they are animal print, my love, my fullblown fetish!) and say to myself "Aw, they're only $49 [or $149 or $249] - that's not much!" or I'll look at a belt (particularly if it's animal print!) and say "Hey, it's only $39 [or $139] - and I'll wear it HEAPS, it's actually good cost-per-wear value!!". I justify clothing purchases like a crazy person, like it's Monopoly money I am using, instead of a real live plastic card earning 18% interest on those purchases. So, clothing is my downfall, my big temptation. It would be a challenge for me to not go clothing shopping for a year.
And by "clothing" I mean anything that adorns the body, including accessories (earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings, belts, scarves, gloves, hats, beads (yes, beads!), handbags) and stuff for my feet (shoes (duh), socks, sockettes, slippers). EVERYTHING.
Will I really be doing without? The answer to that has to be a resounding NO. It would be materialist, shallow and offensive beyond words to say that for me to not shop for clothing for a year would be "doing without". That's why this blog title is Shopping My Closet - instead of putting the entire focus on what I'm not doing (shopping for clothes), I wanted to put at least some emphasis (which hopefully will shift more and more in this direction as the year progresses) on what I am doing -- shopping my closet. It's a neat concept I learned when I was studying image management. Setting up your wardrobe so that it contains everything you need to feel like you are going "shopping" everytime you dip into it. When i consider how much I have it's probably embarrassing, if not reprehensible on some level, for me NOT to take this challenge. When I imagine how many people are living with a fraction of what I have, and not just in the third world but people in my own neighbourhood, then it makes me even more convinced that this experiment is necessary. On a practical, financial and soul level. Now everyone - kum-baya.....
So why blog about it? The reason I want to do a blog, rather than just the experiment, is because I'd like to be kept honest. I'd like to really do this, and by writing about it, well, that might help me to stick to it. It might also provide some inspiration if others comment. It might start a bit of a conversation about it from others who, like me, find shopping a temptation. It might provide a bit of a kick in the pants (hopefully necessary ones only) where differing points of view come into the discussion and I need to look at the situation differently. It might help someone else. If you don't find shopping for clothes either fun or tempting, you may not know what I'm banging on about. But consider something that you DO love to spend money on, and imagine you have more than enough of it right now, then imagine going for a year without buying it. Maybe that'll help you to kind of maybe in a sort of way get what a challenge this might be for me.
Should I do it? Answer's gotta be YES. Right?