On January 15, 2015, I began my “Need Less Challenge” (#NeedLessChallenge on Instagram), which meant: no shopping for clothes, shoes or accessories for one year. The exceptions were: 1) I was able to accept gifts from others, and 2) I was able to buy gifts for others.
What led me to begin this challenge was pretty simple: I wanted to challenge myself in an area of my life that I really enjoyed, yet was unnecessary. There was not a deeper, existential meaning behind the challenge, nor was I attempting to kick some kind of intense shopping addiction. I simply wanted to see if I had the self-control needed to succeed…Turns out I did! My Need Less Challenge was successfully completed on January 15, 2016!!! Go me!
It was no surprise that this experiment of self-control allowed me to understand myself more deeply. As a psychotherapist, I often discuss the benefits of breaking away from familiar habits and routines in order to allow oneself to grow emotionally, physically, intellectually or spiritually. I was pleased to find that I had learned a few new things about my relationship with shopping…
Things I learned during the #NeedLessChallenge:
1) Shopping impulses are hormonal. Three months into the challenge, I was able to recognize that my desire to shop intensified around the time I menstruated. My increased desire to shop was directly correlated with my feelings of irritability and emotional sensitivity that accompanied my monthly flow. Interesting! It became clear to me that in the past I would have headed to the mall to emotionally “feel better” by shopping. Since I did not have that option, I had to curb that impulse in other ways, such as: cooking a healthy meal, watching interesting documentaries online or clean my house as a way to emotionally comfort myself and keep those impulses at bay.
2) Classic pieces to the rescue! I’ve realized that a great pair of skinny jeans, wide leg slacks, nude heels, a few solid colored blouses and a great fitting blazer makes the world go round. Skip the trendy pieces and invest in timeless and high-quality staples that you can mix and match. You can always jazz up a basic outfit with some statement jewelry and bold lipstick, then voila, you’ve just gone from “professional” to “happy hour chic”!
3) Events don’t require new clothes. Before the challenge, if there were a special event coming up such as a wedding or holiday party, I would immediately plan a trip to the mall and set aside cash to purchase a new outfit. Since that was no longer an option, I actually found it liberating to just head to my closet and tell myself, “Something in here will have to work!” And sure enough, I would successfully make use of some neglected dress and feel really good about not spending the extra money during a time-consuming journey at the mall. Tip: Attend a clothes swap party or simply borrow clothes from friends when you are in a rut. My friends totally helped me out and supported me every step of the way!
4) I began cutting back in other areas. When you take on a minimalist mindset it kind of permeates into all areas of you life. I quickly found myself purging my makeup collection, old files, kitchen appliances, and toiletries. I donated things that I hadn’t touched in over a year, and trust me there were bags and bags of things I parted with.
5) I took more fashion risks. Because I couldn’t shop, I needed to make do with what I had. For the sake of not wearing the exact same thing each week I became more creative in my wardrobe pairings. Occasionally, I would find inspiration from my Pinterest Style Board and attempt to recreate outfits. It became a fun little task and I really looked forward to setting out my clothes the evening before work.
6) I found other hobbies. I had no option but to spend my down time doing things other than shop. This past year I have spent more time in the gym (on my own and with friends) than ever before. Additionally, I have been spending more time in the kitchen whipping up healthy meals. Also, I’ve rediscovered my love of reading for leisure. I’ve found that a new book paired with a cute neighborhood coffee shop is the perfect way to enjoy a few hours between sessions or on the weekends.
Overall, I am glad I completed this year-long challenge. In the beginning it wasn’t easy, but gradually I was able to reset the habit of mindless consumerism and become more aware of my shopping triggers. I am happy to report that I was able to allocate the money I would have spent on clothes to pay off my student loan! Thanks to the #NeedLessChallenge I am more mindful about how I decide to spend my time and money.
If we are not intentional the world will dictate our actions and beliefs. If we live with intention we can change the world! Xo, Sheilah
I am looking for a new challenge this year. I welcome your suggestions :)