Tuesday, May 21, 2019

On not buying new stuff for a little bit

At the supermarket checkout just now, I saw a magazine cover headline suggesting that readers stop dieting but still lose weight. An eternal promise! And yet, and yet.

So too, I guess, with spending. Principle-of-the-thing, I don't believe in cutting fun-spending that isn't adding up to much. But, what if it is? What if you live in a really expensive and getting pricier city, with future daycare costs and eventual not-one-bedroom-home costs to think about? What if you're on maternity leave, so the find-ways-to-earn-more part of the equation isn't something you can address immediately? What then?

Coffee out is just too bleak to give up, and as Helaine Olen has well demonstrated, it doesn't add up to much. But new clothes and accessories, this seemed - seems? - doable, and worth addressing. Partly it's that I went about a year unable to wear my existing wardrobe, so there's been a certain amount of excitement at all these 'new' clothes. (Some jeans from Before will probably never fit right again, but otherwise it's back to normal wardrobe-wise.) But it's also that... I mean, when did I buy all that clothing? When did I go from being shocked that anyone owned anything from Lululemon to realizing I've got something like six pairs of their leggings (of which two were for maternity - and very wearable beyond - but still).

This reaction to clothes-type stuff is, I think, a very normal aspect of being a decade or two into adulthood, but that gets confused with having some sort of maturity-inspired epiphany about materialism. For most of your life, getting new clothes will have been obviously necessary due to growing, then to life-stage issues such as, even casual work environments demand slightly different clothes than do 12th-grade classrooms, even if some of those clothes still fit. But then you're 28, 33 and the clothing from 23 is maybe fine in all sorts of ways - size, appropriateness - but you still want new stuff, and buy it, and then it's like, did you actually need-need to do this? What if the old stuff hadn't - not all of it, at least, disintegrated? What if it hadn't even gone out of style, but you just saw these other things, these new ones, that caught your attention?

And then you find that you're 35 and own not just half of what North American Uniqlo's sold for the past decade-plus, but also a significant amount of Everlane, some purchased from Canada despite duty because you are in fact that ridiculous. It won't be that you were ever all that ridiculous. The aggregate... situation in your wardrobe isn't the result of a spending spree, but of the fact that you purchased clothes in 2009, 2010, etc., and still own and wear this stuff. As in, I did not go out and spend $500 at Lululemon in one afternoon! And yet, I look at what I own and it feels like I'm seeing the results of someone doing just that, and hitting up a bunch of less-expensive chains and thrift stores as well.

There is probably a way to do this that doesn't involve self-flagellation at having ever bought anything, ever, and good on you if you've found it! But in any case, I have very solemnly vowed No New Clothes Or Accessories For Myself Until 2020. I did so I guess a few weeks ago? Shortly after (and thank goodness, not before) replacing a crumbling pair of white Birkenstocks with new, silver, ones. The challenge was going to be Montreal - land of tempting French-ish stuff, but in CAD - but it turns out spending your days with a baby strapped to your torso kind of gets in the way of clothes-shopping, and not just because of the difficulties of physically trying anything on. Also helpful: most of the clothing I remember really liking in stores now seems too young for me, so I'm not even sure what it is I would want. Accessories, maybe? But there, too, the need to combine whatever it is with a carrier means most of the more chic possibilities are out and the LL Bean camouflage zip tote continues its unchallenged reign.

Will this last as long as planned? Who knows. The best aspect of it has been rediscovering a reflective-material jacket purchased many years ago, that I was on the cusp of donating, but am now wearing daily. The worst: the mere fact of rules of self-restraint, which I oppose, even when seeing full well where they can come in handy.


Miss Self-Important said...

Create ebay account. Sell the name brand stuff that doesn't fit anymore and the extra 5 pairs of lululemon leggings. Put earnings towards apartment down payment (or the next 40 coffees and croissants). Feel better.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

I like this idea! The drawback is that I live in Canada, and would (as I understand it) need to charge a lot for shipping.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Also - not spelled out in the post I realize but... I wear all 6 pairs of those leggings! Sometimes most within a wash cycle, depending the workout situation that week. These are not cost-per-wear mistakes, but are just the most embarrassing part of my wardrobe.

Miss Self-Important said...

Aren't there ebay buyers in Canada? Also, I've bought stuff from Canada in the past, if the sale price was low enough to balance out the shipping cost.

If you really have too much stuff, you aren't wearing it all regularly. If you do wear it all regularly, then it's probably not too much stuff. (Or you change your outfit too many times in a day.) I also had to offload a bunch of stuff after my first pregnancy that I eventually realized was probably just over, forever. (I did keep a couple things that I really loved, on the off chance that somehow enough exercise and diet and time would make them once again wearable. Hasn't happened yet...)

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

"If you really have too much stuff, you aren't wearing it all regularly."

Maybe? With the mix of work from home and not-from-home I've wound up doing, I wind up sort of having two wardrobes. I have a lot of clothes it would be foolish to get rid of, but that I don't wear on a day-to-day basis.

Also it's not exactly that I have too much stuff, so much as that I have too much to make buying anything new seem *necessary.*

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