Confession #9: I am obsessed with clothes. As a byproduct of attending Catholic school from Kindergarten to the 12th grade, I know uniforms all too well. My mother worked hard to get my 3 sisters and I through school as a single mom. Tuition was very expensive so I understand why she only focused on providing me with the essentials (expensive uniforms and school shoes) and omitted the cool optionals. This meant I either wore my school uniform or my sisters’ hand-me-downs. As a kid, I always felt that my clothes didn’t fit well (obviously because they weren’t mine to begin with), or I just hated what I was given to wear. And so I spent a considerable amount of my childhood being self-conscious about my appearance and fantasizing about what I could look like if I had my own money for clothes. I even learned how to sew at a very young age so that I could make my own clothing. One of my first jobs in high school was as a sales associate for The Gap. Employee discount what?! I thought I had hit the jackpot. I began spending all my money on clothes. I could afford to shop at other cool shops and learned the art of vintage clothing. Just making up for all the years without a wardrobe. I bought tons of clothes, shoes, bags, jewelry. Mostly sparkly, sequined, bright, vanguard-esque accoutrements that just excited me to see hanging in my closet. But I was too timid to actually wear my show-stopping stuff outside. I had great taste and an amazing eye for style. But during those years, I didn’t know how to execute. I wanted to wear everything all at one time. And then my gift for finding great deals made me justify one purchase after the next. My closets (plural!) were always bursting at the seams yet I never had anything to wear. I’d spend all my free time shopping only to later regret my purchase. It was a terrible cycle that I created for myself. Thankfully, looming amongst the many gifts God bestowed upon me was the gift of introspection.
Around my medical residency years, I began feeling weighed down by all my stuff. Residency definitely doesn’t afford one with extra mental space, time or money. Something had to give in order to maintain my sanity and finish medical training. Maybe I should interject here that I’m your classic type-A-organization-freak- 2 steps away from OCD. I started to resent the excess and I began to pray for the strength to start letting go. Maybe it was a therapeutic catharsis my brain needed to make room for some medically related information. Who knows. All I know is that I was going through some thangs. I remember taking everything out of my closets and dresser drawers, laying allover my apartment floor and filling 2 rooms with my stuff. I sorted everything I owned into large transparent bins. After that, I became a regular seller at consignment shops like Buffalo Exchange and Tokyo Joe. I had accounts on eBay and Tradesy. I even sold stuff on Craigslist. (I’m an amazing saleswoman now, by the way.) Still, I seemed to re-purchase clothes and shoes all along the way. Re-accumulating as I purged.
Maybe you are asking “what’s the big deal if I have a lot of stuff if I have the money and the space?” Well, nothing is wrong if it doesn’t bother you. But as I found myself maturing and making big life decision in residency, like moving across the country for my first attending job, my mindset started to change as well. I developed a personal conviction to lighten my load. It was more than just clothing and shoes. It was addressing a problem from childhood. Self-reflection uncovered my need to fill voids, repair fragile egos and create false gods. I was obsessed! I believe that growing stronger in my faith journey gave me the strength to flip the switch. I no longer wanted to see a full closet. I no longer desired to own every style of shoe. The sight of too many purses and accessories made me disgusted. I started to purge slowly. Over years. Donating and Selling. I admit that I could not throw anything away. And the feelings were mixed at first. Relief and then remorse. But after every 6 months or so, I challenged myself to remember the pieces I got rid of, and I almost always had no recollection of specific items. That gave me more strength to keep going, keep getting rid of. I even decided to apply this concept to my apartment. Essentials only. I tossed out extra journals and freebies collected from conferences. I donated extra sheet sets and duplicates of household items. I felt so mentally freed and so much more organized and put together, that I decided this was the way I should keep my life.
I read some books along the way to keep me steadfast on this new lifestyle journey, and I learned that there was a whole science to this concept called “minimalism”. I’ve now tried several of the models – Kon Mari method, Ten by Ten method, Capsule Wardrobes, Seasonal Styling and on and on. I took some pearls from each program I studies and allowed a few ideas to optimize my style rather than limit me. The ultimate test, however, was marriage. My husband and I moved into a one bedroom apartment with one closet. The moving truck could not deliver my belonging to me during Hurrican Harvey so nothing made it to our new place. I challenged myself to put everything that was in the moving truck into a storage unit and take only what I needed in a suitcase to our new home. Realistically, all we had room for was what could fit in a suitcase, but the old me would have found a way to pack that closet! So my suitcase and I filled my side of the closet and left hubby with his own half of the closet.
I have never been happier with what I own than I am now. It is amazing to me because I have less than a quarter of what I’ve ever had at any given time. I understand my style better, I know what I can’t live without, and what looks great on me. I learned to wear my best at all times and stop saving pieces for special occasions. This concept helped with my self-esteem as well. I still love clothing and shopping. But I don’t have to buy an item every time I see something that speaks to me. Traveling is easier. Moving is easier. And I am saving more money. I’ve dusted off my sewing machine and challenged myself to make an article of clothing before I decide I need to purchase it. I’ll let you all know how that goes.
I have lots of friends who love shopping like I used to, but for other less emotional reasons. And they have no interest in changing habits. And that is totally fine. Sometimes I still fantasize about the 2 story closet. But I’ve found what works for me. I’m curious, have you ever felt like you’d be better off if you cut back on your shopping? Or are you a proud shopaholic?