practicing self-discipline {my mini clothing ban}

Monday, October 9, 2017
Stuff. Stuff.

It wasn’t until two years ago, when I was packing up my two-bedroom, one-person condo to move into a one-bedroom, two-person home that I realized just how many “things” I had accumulated over the course of three years in my solo home. Between piles of unworn clothes, stacks of books, and miscellaneous small appliances, it became glaringly obvious that all of my perceived self-control was maybe, er, nonexistent.

The excessiveness was shocking at first, and then disappointing, and then just kind of disgusting.

What I hadn’t realized during my slow and steady compilation of of consumerism was that all of these “things” that I dreamt would make my life easier (i.e. that “perfect” dress for the party; that “necessary” cupcake holder for the birthday girl’s treats – seriously) were actually becoming the bane of my existence. A new piece of clothing here and there meant that I was spending my Saturday organizing my closet. The odds and ends that didn’t have a proper place to be stored were lugged into the garage to move elsewhere … eventually. And slowly, all of it – all of the crap – was mounting bit by bit on top of my shoulders, creating this weighty feeling that nagged at me constantly.

A clean house was never really a clean house when there were bags of donations waiting, books needing sorting and shelving and shelves of décor needing dusting.

And now, two years after having moved into our one-bedroom condo, I find myself again feeling the pull of all of the things have crept into our closets and cabinets. Worse yet, in an effort to pare down and store seasonal clothes out of reach, I've actually - slowly - repurchased seasonal wardrobes without ever pulling out the clothes I'd originally packed away temporarily.

A few weeks back, I'd found myself feeling exactly as I did when I was clearing out my condo two years ago: generally disappointed with myself.

My splurge of choice had become sale-priced clothing. Not clothing I needed. Not even clothing that I actually loved, I'm ashamed to say. Just clothing that I thought was a really good deal. Dresses and tops that I don't need, that aren't really much different than what I already have, and that at the end of the day, I don't even have room for.

I didn't know how to take myself to task for this sort of spendy behavior other than to grab a sheet of paper and underneath the word "Goal," write "Do not purchase any more new clothing in the year 2017."

For those strong-willed people who laugh at such a feeble challenge, let me tell you, it's a first step. For all my budget mindedness, retail therapy is my personal slippery slope.

It took all of about 20 minutes before the first promotional email caught my eye. And since then, even I have been shocked by how quickly a good deal can usher me into a rabbit hole of online browsing that has ended with multiple items in my virtual cart (alas, I haven't actually purchased anything yet).

The lure of consumerism is hard to kick. Economist Richard Thaler, who just won the Nobel prize for his research on human psychology as it relates to money, has proven it. We're fickle creatures and we like to be happy and generally comfortable, and as such, treat ourselves accordingly.

However, while abstaining from widening my wardrobe, I've found the tiniest bit of pleasure in holding myself accountable. This shouldn't be surprising, since self-disciplined people have been found to be happier than their counterparts. The key - I believe - is in viewing and appreciating our goals as a healthy dose of self-discipline rather than deprivation. 

Note: I should point out that while I've never considered a clothing ban before now, I have been inspired by the stories of both Cait Flanders and Liz of Frugalwoods.com, who have taken on and completed much more lofty goals. I don't anticipate that I'll live up to their level of commitment, but I will let you all know for long I'm willing to hold out.

Have you attempted similar challenges to get back on track or meet a goal?

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