Confessions of a Shopaholic: Life After Decluttering

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It has taken a full year of decluttering for me to finally and confidently admit that I am on my way to being a minimalist. I have now let go of 70% of my wardrobe, and many other unnecessary clutter in our 400-square-feet studio apartment. Our home feels lighter and brighter with its newly-gained negative spaces on our shelves and in our drawers. We even feel lighter and brighter in a less cluttered home. After decluttering our kitchen and shedding excess mugs that we’ve accumulated, we now have a dedicated space for our reusables that was more accessible, visible, and convenient…I was feeling pretty darn good about myself: I was reducing my single-use plastic. I was making coffee at home so that we could save money. We were cooking more, and eating out a lot less. I have reduced my shopping a lot over the past year. With the extra time that I would’ve spent browsing for clothes I didn’t need, I had time to go to the gym, to read, and to blog. I clearly felt confident enough to take on a seasonal shopping ban. But every up has its down, every rose has its thorn, and every shopaholic has a relapse (or in my case, three).

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It started with a sweltering week where temperatures were around 110-degrees each day. Our apartment, built in the 1920s, has amazing built in storage, but doesn’t have central air; and our single window units just weren’t powerful enough. We did a lot to escape the heat that week: we went to coffee and tea shops; we made a date night out of one night and went to the movies; and we went to the gym. During those days, one place I knew I wanted to avoid was going to the mall because I just didn’t want to tempt myself. But on the hottest day (122-degrees), I somehow found myself at Nordstrom Rack. I had spent the day at a coffee shop. I had already worked out at the gym. Our apartment was at least 90-degrees inside. I couldn’t go home. Brandon (aka my accountability) was at class. I was alone. I figured I’d go to the Nordstrom Rack next to the gym–just to look but not buy anything.

And for a while, I did just that. I browsed, and as I filtered through things on racks, I didn’t feel the need to try anything on, let alone buy anything…That is, until I found the Free People rack. Free People has made a lot of money from me, and had me once wanting to be a sun-kissed bohemian (A part of me still dreams of that life and that look). I stumbled upon a soft and flowy black-tee (a weakness of mine). That black tee was soon joined by a dress, a pair of jeans, and another tee. Altogether, we went to the dressing room. I quickly said no to the dress and the other tee, but that soft black flowy tee and the perfect-shade-of-blue Kut from the Kloth jeans came out of the dressing with me. And I held onto them while I went upstairs to look at the shoes. I said no to many, many pairs of shoes, but I just couldn’t let go of the tee and the jeans. I could easily justify the jeans. I had been looking for this shade of blue for a long while. A pair like this had been on my wish list for the past year. These fit really well and will get a lot of use during the school year. And they’re only $35. I even looked up whether Kut from the Kloth was ethical, and to my surprise, they are (which only added more fuel to my justification). The black tee was a lot harder to justify. I didn’t need it. It wasn’t ethically made. I had plenty of black tees: a cotton crew neck one that was perfect for layering under dresses; an oversized one that was perfect with jeans; a linen one for when I needed to be a bit more fancy; and a few more in between. But this one was just so soft and comfortable, and would also get a lot of use at work. I wanted it. And it was only $20. I bought both. “I could always return them,” I told myself.

After checking out, it was still too hot to go home, so I found myself in the sunglasses section. I had heard from other bloggers that you can score some Celine sunglasses at Nordstrom Rack if you take the time to look. I wanted to see for myself. After some digging, I found three pair of Celines–two I didn’t care for, but the rounded cat eye sunglasses in tortoise shell had always held a place on my wish list. I had been lusting after it for years and here it was for more than half-off. I snapped a selfie and texted Brandon to see what he thought. Typically he’s one to always tell me, “No, you don’t need that,” or “That doesn’t look good. Don’t get it.” But this time, he said that I should get them(probably because he was sick of hearing me ooh and ahh over them), and that they looked good on me. And so I went to the check out once more with my new treasure. “I could always return them,” I heard me tell myself again as I swiped my credit card one more time that evening.

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After that quick relapse, I told myself that those three items were going to be it for the rest of the Summer. Weeks later, none of the items were returned. The Celine sunglasses haven’t left my face (as shown here and here), and I’ve worn the black tee a few times. It’s been too hot for the jeans, but I know that they will be in heavy rotation once school resumes. I felt a little guilty, but not too bad since I loved all the items I bought. I was back to enjoying my closet and being with content with what I owned until…Sotela announced that they had a new collection. I have always admired their mission to design clothes for women that fluctuates with our body as it naturally does, and to do it with pieces that were ethically made. There hadn’t been a piece from them that I was dying to have until I saw their Lyla Crop 2.0. Not wanting to relapse again, I convinced myself that I didn’t need it: That it wasn’t black anyway so I shouldn’t get it. That I don’t normally gravitate towards crop tops because of my jiggly belly. That I couldn’t pull off that look no matter how badly I wanted to. But I found myself visiting their site a few times a day. I would add it to my cart, and then I would close the tab. Days went by, and my resolve to x-out of the tabs grew weaker with each passing day. They would look great with these shorts and those high-waisted pants. I found myself dreaming of how it would fit in with the rest of my clothes. I even found myself on Pinterest searching for linen tank outfits. I looked at other bloggers who had the original Lyla Crop and how they styled it. I could look like that too. Then one day, in the lobby of Pep Boys while I was waiting to get my car battery changed, I added it to my cart, I pulled out my credit card, and minutes later, I got a confirmation email of my order. “If I don’t like it, I can always return it.” I told myself again.

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A few weeks later, I received an email from Madewell (for some reason, this brand still has me on its list despite me unsubscribing to so many other lists) letting me know about a 30% additional off sale items promotion. At first, I deleted it as I have been for the last few months, but curiosity got the best of me. I wonder if they have a pair of Veja sneakers on sale. I went to go look and sure enough they had a pair, and not just any pair, a pair with fruit embroidered on itThat checks off TWO things from your wishlist: a pair of Veja sneakers and something fruit-printed. And they’re ethically made. I found myself in the Sotela situation again: adding it to my cart and then closing the tab. Then I panicked, knowing how Madewell sales typically go, and before I knew it, seconds went by (this was faster because Madewell has all my information saved), and I received yet another confirmation email for my order of the Veja sneakers (and a grey embroidered t-shirt if I’m being honest). “If I don’t like them, I can always return them.” I told myself again.

Guilt and shame suddenly filled me. What did I just do?! I wasn’t supposed to be buying anything. And now I’ve bought not just one, but FIVE things since starting my shopping ban. What is wrong with me?!! What kind of minimalist, slow-fashion blogger am I? A horrible one! And not even everything was made ethically! Did I not learning anything from watching The True Cost? I haven’t changed. I’m still buying fast fashion. I suck. I’m reducing my plastic waste…I can buy some clothes and it won’t hurt anyone. But it does hurt people. I should just quit while I’m ahead. Cait Flanders refrained from shopping for 2 years and you can’t do it for one season? You’re pathetic. 

And it wasn’t just clothes…I soon realized that this Summer, I had also purchased stainless steel reusable straws, two KeepCups for Brandon and I, reusable produce bags, mini-reusable Baggu bags that could be our lunch boxes for the upcoming school year, indoor plants, and a book. All of which I needed and have used. All of which were in the name of being plastic-free. But it wasn’t until I started reading said book, The Year of Less by Cait Flanders, that I really became aware of my inner voice.

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My inner voice is the first to congratulate me when I’ve done something well. It is also the first thing to tear me apart when I’ve made a mistake or have failed. It is the one telling me that I deserve to treat myself, but it is also the one telling me that I don’t deserve anything good in this world. It is the one that tells me to buy things because they’re on sale. It justifies my purchases with logic and feeds on my past of not fitting in. It reminds me that I can always return things, but also is the one that lets unwanted things sit in a corner of our apartment until I can’t return them anymore. I’m constantly fighting with my inner voice, while also trying to be its best friend.

Blacking out from drinking too much was something I never really could empathize with when friends recounted their stories from college. I have always been good at drinking and can handle my alcohol, but I’m also a huge introvert who really dislikes attending parties. It wasn’t until Cait likened binge eating and impulse shopping to blacking out that I finally started to understand. Clicking “place order” was too easy, especially when it came to Amazon or Madewell. Checking out at Target (especially now that they have Self-Checkout where no one can judge your purchases) has almost become mindless. It always happens too quickly and I can’t ever really recall clicking “place order” or swiping my credit card. By throwing away the receipts or quickly throwing out the packaging, and then putting it where in the right spot in our apartment, I’ve also thrown away any hard evidence of what I bought, and live like those things had been there all along. It’s not until I’m in another round of decluttering that I’m really ever forced to face these decisions. Similarly to how people who drank too much the night before try to retrace their steps to remember events by texting friends or looking at photos, my clutter becomes the pieces to my puzzle. The puzzle for where all my money went in the last few months; for why I’m still having to declutter my home even after a year later; for why we don’t have money to travel.

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But there’s another inner voice growing stronger each day. The one that tells me that I’m only human. That I can make mistakes if I learn from them. That this journey of minimalism and slow living is a process, and a slow one at that. That I’m trying to undo 28 years of bad habits and that it’s not going to just happen in one year. That it’s all going to be okay. That I’m trying my best. That I’m worthy of love and some coconut milk ice cream once in a while.

So what have I learned a month into my Summer of Enough? I’ve learned that there are some deep-rooted triggers when it comes to shopping that I need to sort out, specifically when it comes to things being on sale. I’ve become aware that I “black out” sometimes when it comes to shopping, and not just with clothes. I’ve learned that just like with my students, I need guidelines (I hate the word rules) to live by until they become habits of mind. I’ve learned that I can no longer use the condition that something is ethical as justification to buy something. I also have to realize that I have come a long way–that buying only 5 items of clothing this Summer is progress; that this time last year, I was shopping to fill my time rather than reading or listening to podcasts or watching documentaries. I’ve learned that this idea of having enough is something I’m still defining for myself with each passing day, and maybe, just maybe, that will be enough for this Summer.

| note: thank you for supporting pleb life with the affiliate links below |

everlane square shirt dress (sold out, but similar), veja x madewell fruit embroidered espar low sneakersceline rounded cat eye sunglasses, mansur gavriel mini bucket bag 

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