The Fashionable Miser

My closet, j/k the clothes I chose for a conference.  Super easy when everything you own, you love.

The purpose of this blog has never been to make people feel sad for current or past decisions.  The purpose is to take a step back and look at the life you’ve created for yourself.  It’s to create a pause and determine if this is what you want or if marketing has influenced your beliefs. Many women have become addicted to compulsive buying.  Specifically, clothes have been a big part of growing up into a woman.  I remember shopping at the mall with friends, trying on their clothes and always, always comparing the way I dress and looked to other girls. As an adult, I remember feeling shame standing in the dressing room staring in the mirror at my “fat body”.  I was raised to believe that beauty is only found in those that are skinny. So I would sadly put the skinny jeans back on the rack and splurge on a purse or shoes.  Those two items are a girl’s best friend, they NEVER make you look fat.

I admit it’s amazing to feel that tiny spark of dopamine when you swipe your credit card to buy something shiny and new.  Then a few days later you feel the remorse because it’s a replica of a previous purchase.  (Seriously how many black purses does a girl need?) At some point in my late twenties, I realized I didn’t want to waste my money on fashion. This is about the same time fast fashion reared its ugly head.  You could buy a garbage bag full of clothes for under $100.  So many dopamine hits and you barely spent any money. At the time it seemed like a win-win.

In 2010, I went to Bangladesh for a medical mission trip.  After clinic we were standing in the already crowded street when the whistle blew to alert workers their shift was over.  Thousands of garment factory workers poured out of the buildings.  One of the physicians I was with said, remember this moment and we will talk later.  Once back at our hotel, he described the working conditions these people were subjected to and how many people were packed side by side making clothes.  In December of 2010, there was a Bangladesh factory fire that killed 30 people.  It was devasting to hear that not only were these folks subjected to horrible working conditions, it may have also killed them. In 2015, the documentary The True Cost came out.

At this point in my life, shopping had already become incredibly unfulfilling.  If you buy cheap goods, they are ruining the lives of those that make them, they don’t last and then they are dumped in the every growing landfill.  If you buy expensive goods, they might still be ruining the lives of those that make it with all the profit going to the corporation and again it may also end up in the landfill because of poor quality.  It’s infuriating. It’s impossible to find high quality, ethically made, items with a realistic price point. I think this is why people are constantly asking The Minimalist to recommend clothing items. (They won’t by the way.)  It’s impossible to do the research to find something that will last and have an ethical mission statement.  I don’t have the exact answer, but I feel like I’ve come up with a reasonable plan that aligns my personal values with my shopping habits. Maybe you will find this helpful as well. This is assuming you are a decent person that wants everyone to receive a fair wage, no matter where they live, you want to build your savings, and look presentable.


Here is your moment to pause…

Reasons to curb your spending on fashion.

  • YOU. HAVE. ENOUGH. Unless you own less than twenty items.  Say it with me, I. HAVE. ENOUGH. This doesn’t mean you’ll never shop again but if you can wear a different outfit every day for over a month.  You’re good. Please stop shopping.
  • Buying fashion instead of paying off debt or building a retirement fund is a foolish action.  I’ve counseled many nurses over the past decade and a half and I will never forget one nurse who told me, “this is it! This is how I’m going to get ahead, I have a plan.” I week later I saw her run to her locker and shove a brand new Coach purse (with matching wallet, I later found out) into her locker. She was incredibly embarrassed about her purchase, she spent the $250 she had just put in her emergency fund to buy the new purse.  I later asked her why she deviated from the plan she was so excited to start.  She said it was because she was feeling sad and needed a boost but now she feels worse.  Remember, you always feel worse when you spend money on things you can’t afford.
  • Not to be cliche and bring up mother earth, but seriously, mother earth is drowning in t-shirts from charity walks. These charity walks are trying to save us all from cancer, global warming, bring about awareness.  I’m over it.  Stop giving me or my child a t-shirt every time we sign up for something.  It’s like making me bring crappy snacks every time my child participates in sports.  It makes no sense. Amazing video: the Story of Stuff.
  • People are suffering.  Please stop buying insanely cheap clothes for fast fashion.  Fast fashion looks like crap, the jewelry gives you rashes and the clothes can only be worn once before they disintegrate.  What’s the point?
  • I love this post on making mindful decisions by Joshua Becker.

Ways to move past consumerism

  • Say it with me, I. HAVE. ENOUGH. Open up your closet doors and start digging.  How many of us are overstress and exhausted simply by trying to find something to wear?  Marie Kondo that closet and keep only what fits, you love and is in good repair. I can’t tell you how easy packing is for me because I wear everything in my closet. 
  • Now that you’ve bagged up 80% of your clothes call your friends and ask them to have a living room sale.  Have them bring all of their unwanted clothes and a bottle of wine.  It’s like going thrift shopping without the smell.  This brings an incredible sense of community and decreases waste.
  • If swapping parties aren’t your thing, make a “clothes friend”.  I have a beautiful friend with two beautiful sisters.  They LOVE thrift shopping for clothes.  These ladies always look amazing.  They know that I struggle with dressing myself, so every season they drop off a bag of clothes.  I feel amazing in these clothes. (Not because of the way the look but because of the story behind them, frugality and friendship.)  Keep in mind, I am most likely the 4th or 5th owner of these outfits. If they have made their way to me, typically they are high quality and wear well.  I have no qualms about discarding any of these items.  (If none of my friends want the discards, I sell them at a garage sale or consignment store.  If they don’t want them, then I drop them off at a women’s shelter.)
  • Take a pause.  Why are you shopping? What do you specifically lack? If you can’t write down a specific piece of clothing you need, do NOT go to the store.  Ask yourself the question, why do I want to buy something, is it because I’m bored or sad? Who am I trying to impress?
  • If you still can’t fight the urge to shop, go to thrift stores.  Can’t handle the smell, go to consignment stores.  If you insist on shopping online, look for “like new” items on eBay.

Tip to stop the mindless purchases.

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