Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Plan: Closing off the Closet

I will be the first to admit: this is a first-world problem. I have a lot of stuff. To be more specific, I have a lot of clothes. While I don't think of myself as particularly over-the-top in this regard (like the colleague I once had who bragged that she never wore the same outfit twice in an academic year, and had the stuffed closets throughout her townhouse to prove it), I do find it a little disconcerting to have more than a couple of closets...and dressers...full of clothing, and then, to buy something new just because I feel like it. I'm not a couture shopper--never spend a ridiculous amount on an item like the ones sold in the boutique section of Nordstrom. I appreciate the beauty and quality of that $600 twinset, but harbor no desire for it. And I'm not really a bargain shopper. I've been in one TJ Maxx in my whole life and didn't much like it (it was disorganized. I like being able to find things in a store). I don't like outlet shopping and believe outlet malls are the retail equivalent of Keystone Beer, the cheap stuff my students drink because they don't care about quality when they're 19. I'm a middle-of-the-road kind of girl who likes interesting, good quality clothing that fits well.

But lately, I've grown uncomfortable with the volume of things in my closet(s). I shop as a social experience (hmm; that does make the online thing hard to explain) and as a distraction. The result is that I end up with way more than I need, and now, at this point in my life, way more than I want. I suspect I am not alone in this. I buy something new, feel a little remorse, and try and alleviate both the remorse and the closet pressure by putting something in "the bag." "The bag" is the always-present shopping bag into which my ill-fitting, boring, or recently-replaced items go, which then goes to the the Goodwill box down the street. Some of those items performed well for me, but others? I never should have bought them in the first place. In fact, I would venture to guess that I could say that about almost everything I've bought in the last six months: I never should have bought it in the first place. Not to say I haven't really liked, and worn, some things, but really? Did I need another pair of black pants? Another dressy top for work? Another pair of boots (my boot collection is, I will admit, a bit out of control)?

So I decided I needed an intervention, and that I could provide it myself in the form of a commitment made public. That's what I'm doing here on this blog. I am committing to six months of purchasing nothing in the clothing/shoe category. Between August 1, 2013 and February 1, 2014, I pledge to not buy a single item of clothing, a single shoe, a single piece of outerwear. I am not doing this out of any desire to save the world or chasten anyone other than myself. I just want to know if I have the wherewithal to not purchase things just because I like them. The timing is intentional: we are, all of us, conditioned at the cellular level to buy back-to-school clothes when the first cool nights of autumn approach. And when you work on a campus, as I do, that conditioning is reinforced by one's immediate surroundings in a serious way. And by going through January, I will also have to pass up the great post-Christmas sales that are often all the justification I need to get a new sweater, or new coat. So August to February should provide a fair window of testing my willpower.

What's in it for me? Less stuff, obviously. More money in my savings account. And hopefully a greater awareness of how ridiculously lucky I am to do this as an exercise in self-restraint and not as a survival strategy: how fortunate I am to not have to make a choice between clothes and food, or shoes and rent. To seal the deal I'm making with myself, I will give some of that savings to Goodwill in the form of cash ($100 per month of clothes-shopping celibacy).

All you have to do is help hold me accountable by reading my occasional posts as I muse on the acquisitive, materialistic culture we live in, and just how steeped in it I am. Knowing you're reading, and that I have to 'fess up should I backslide, will help me say no to the new boots that will start showing up in shoe stores in a couple of months. Boots. mmmm. I love boots. But I don't need them! So off I go. Stay tuned.