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March 20, 2011 / Danielle

Week 9: A Summary

Being now in the possession of a fancy computer that requires neither propping up against one knee, nor one hand constantly pressed to the power cord to retain a charge (and what a charge – I have two hours left on the battery still, and it’s a mere sliver of full – how can this be???), I’ve had the chance to now look over my progress. Having re-read my summaries from the last eight weeks, it’s exciting to be able to see my attitudes and thought patterns changing; here’s a coalescence of where I’ve come to.

Shopping for clothes (accessories/shoes etc) was definitely a hobby and a crutch. It was a way to kill time when I was bored, it was a way to comfort myself when I was sad, and it was a way to re-invent myself when I felt trapped and restless. I could be reborn within it; I’d be shiny and new, and unencumbered with the weight of my mistakes or lack of progress. It was my post-work comfort when I needed to kill time, and it was my gleeful and possible achievement when my other dreams seemed too hard a road and out of reach. (Say what you will, but I managed to buy that dress, no matter what anyone said.)

With nine weeks of perspective, I’m starting to get a little shocked with the impunity at which I used to buy things. Not the quantity – I was already shocked at that – but the mental hoops I’d jump through to justify something’s purchase. “I look great in this dress” does me no good if the dress isn’t something I’d wear on a regular basis. End of story. “I don’t have heels this high in this color” – well, Danielle, that’s because you live in a walkable city and you never wear heels. (For the record, they’ve come out twice. In the ten months since I bought them.)

The financial aspect, too, is “well, this is so cheap” (because, for all my shopping issues, I’ve never had a full-price habit, thank goodness.)  And there have been some amazing, useful, unbelievably well-priced buys, certainly. (The $6 dress I coveted long-term at full price that appeared miraculously many months later comes to mind; though it’s absolutely a special occasion outfit (mostly for weddings), it’s comfortable, lady-like, flattering and beautiful, and is easily worth the money even if it only ever appears thrice a year at receptions.)  I spent so much of my time – and funds! – buying things that were cheap because I liked them and – they were cheap. What’s wrong with that? Well, it still clutters up the closet – and it’s still a waste of money.

If I’m not wearing it, and honestly? If I’m not wearing it often? It’s a waste of money.  End of story.

It is, in fact, as simple as that.

It doesn’t matter if I spent six bucks; if I wore it three times in quick succession, and then it sits in my closet for weeks and months and years, taking up room and making it more difficult for me to find the clothes that speak to my lifestyle and my personal sense of who I am? It was a waste of money, it is now wasting my time, and it needs to go.

This new and relatively harsh sense of my wardrobe means the other half of my brain has start to frantically try and reach out to the clothes in my closet that I haven’t worn (“Come on, guys, let’s find a way to prove your worth!”) – which is great. I imagine my big pre-San-Diego purge will actually include at least a box or two of “well maybe eehhh?” clothes that will end up making the journey with me while still on the potential go-list.  But if I want to keep that sweater dress (from Day 7) – I’d better find a way to wear it again.

Worth keeping in the land of eighty-degree winter? Only time will tell.

Mixing and remixing is getting delicious and satisfying; I do have enough here. I have more than enough here (and that’s the issue.)

Already I’ve been able to pull the trigger on several items in my to-go pile. Before this project, I would have agonized and wept over it (well, perhaps not literally. . . ) It would have been an epic struggle to decide if this dress or these jeans were worth keeping; I’d envision myself, skinnier/curvier/with the right shoes/at the right occasion – whatever it would take to think “Yeah, I totally would wear that” – and my practical sense of “I’m not crazy about this” would be overcome by my need to not get rid of anything I might ever someday love and think was the perfect item for that moment. But you know what, guys? The things I mix and match now will probably work just fine for those moments. And hey, once the challenge is over, I’ll be able to go out and find something that will already and flatter, that won’t need the stars to align and the moon in the seventh house, if I find I still need something for that mythical moment.

I don’t know how shopping’s going to be post; it really, honestly, may be too early to be thinking about that. I do know that I sat down with myself and made a list, for example, of all the jeans I need. For me, it’s a pair of skinnies, a pair of wide-legs, and my comfy, beloved, boot-cut Rockers. And then I came home and put all my other jeans in a pile, and thought “okay, convince me the rest of you need to stay.”

The capris made a good case (they’re my fat jeans) so I kept them out of the give-away bag. The Great China Wall skull-embroidered $300 Sevens that I got for free from Bloomies screamed “please, please, you used to love us (when you were 23!)” and I thought “Weeeeell, perhaps they could be cut off at the knee and I’d still wear them”. But everything else – the LOFT dark wash, the pin-striped James (that I love but I just. can’t. see myself ever putting on again) went into the pile to be adios-ed.

saved by nostalgia for my early-twenties, my belief that I can make them "make do or do without" - and my belief that I may need "cool jeans" for living in California.

On one hand – good for you, Danielle! Great progress! On the other – how many times have you seen me wear jeans here? And it took me nine weeks to get up the courage and perspective just to go through them?

(Don’t get me started on the pants. That’s a story for another day.)

In any event – the give-away/sell piles grows and grows. And yet the margin of worn-to-unworn is a very, very, slowly adjusting number. This’ll change a bit, again, once I get back my fighting shape and shake the winter pudge, as I’ve said, and also with summer; that’s a whole different wardrobe, after all.

But I’m glad to see that some of the changes I’d hoped to see in my life are already developing. My stress-relief focus is shifting. (Well, first it shifted to food. Which was delicious. But sort of equally non-long-term-sustainable. I’m looking at life-healthier options now.) My definition of what’s worth buying is absolutely changing, and that’s a great thing. If it’s not something that fits into my regular wardrobe rotation? It’s not worth it. If I already have something like it? (And digging through my closet has convinced me that 90% of the things I would have run out and purchased, skinny belts, billowing blouses and colorful earrings alike (as I mention in Day 25), I already have.) Then it’s not worth it. Doesn’t matter if it’s ten bucks or twenty or two hundred, at the end of the day, if it’s not new, or redefining, or making it easier to get dressed in the morning, it’s not worth the getting. (And it better fit and flatter exactly right.)

So that’s me, nine weeks in. There’s still 43 to go – and guys? I’m kind of excited to see what happens next.

A Note:

I worry (and have worried) that the fashion-blog community, which I love, is going to take this the wrong way. Please let me be clear; I am so not condemning everyone for their shopping; but I am condemning myself. My favorite part of other people’s blogs is seeing their creativity with what they have; how they mix and match pieces I never would have thought of together, and how they often create this complete picture of their personality through the weeks and months of seeing their style. We all need new clothes from time to time, and I am absolutely not saying that shopping and getting them (and enjoying that process) is a bad thing, or terrible for you, or makes you exclusively a vain and shallow person. I love my closet and I used to love shopping; but I’m realizing that I just can’t be trusted with it. I have an addictive personality, and I got addicted – heavily – to the high of new things. Now that I have some perspective, I’m enjoying my closet exactly the way it is – and guys? It feels great.

I think it’s important that we all examine our weaknesses, from time to time. And most of you, I’m aware, don’t have the same lack of control in this area – the same impulsivity that I suffered from. I’m excited that the energy I used to put into acquisition is now going towards creation; to remixing, to being creative, to digging through my clothes and thinking “How could I make this work?”

It’s best for me, it’s best for my finances, and it’s turning my terribly destructive habit into a source of joy and fun and expression again. And that’s a good, good thing.

Not shopping for this year is the best thing for me. It’s re-teaching me how to love and cherish, and, mostly importantly, use everything I own. But I’m not here to judge you, or tell you how to get the most out of your wardrobe; and if you can shop responsibly? More. power. to. you. (And more lovely, useful, wearable pretty things.)

And I’d love to see what you do with them, so we can all keep taking inspiration from eachother. Send me a link!

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