Monday, March 23, 2015

Things I Didn't Buy

In the last few weeks, I've been thinking less about shopping. It's something that some minimalist bloggers describe as a welcome and natural side effect of their approaches (The Nife en L'air alludes to it in this post and has described it in other posts), though I never imagined that anything resembling it could happen to me. Yes, I try to apply  minimalist principles, but my primary motivations are decidedly "un-minimalist": (1) managing my finances and (2) a desire to buy fewer but nicer things while still respecting my budget constraints. My motivations are, in short, still about acquiring stuff. 

Online window-shopping is one of my tried and true ways of whiling away free time or time spent in boring classes (not a good habit, I know). I like clothes and pretty things, so I derive enjoyment from browsing, even when I had no interest in buying. In the past few weeks, I've found myself window-shopping less and less. It's become a bit boring. Because I don't generally go shopping in person, despite being a New Yorker with easy public transit access to most shops, it means that I haven't been shopping much at all. 

Of course, I would be speaking too soon if I actually claimed to have fully entered a state of mind where I don't shop. So far this year, I've been less productive than I hoped with working out (I blame the harsh winter), cooking, and reading, which, when combined with my graduate student senioritis, results in a lot of underutilized time. In the past, I sometimes use dshopping (especially at Sephora online) to deal with stress or boredom. This time, after a two-week or so period of not window-shopping, I found myself getting antsy, which resulted in my filling shopping carts at both Uniqlo and Loft's online shops. 

Most of these items were things that I could enjoy and use, provided they fit well, but none of them complied with my shopping fast rules. You'll notice that I generally do some ex post facto rationalizing about my purchases, but that would have required more stretching than usual. The vast majority of the items didn't work, and the whole experience of shopping again just for the sake of browsing and buying wasn't much fun.

As to the items: I like Uniqlo's cotton-cashmere material, but the red dress was not a good choice for me because of the too-casual sweatshirt-like details. The Uniqlo eyelet dress was made of a strangely floaty cotton. While that's a possible plus for a summer dress, it didn't hold its shape well when worn, and was cut awkwardly for my top-heavy figure. With the Loft tops (both of which are lovely on Franish), I often don't like long-sleeve blouses for work even if my preference for sleeveless shells leads to more frequent dry-cleaning of my jackets. I knew all these things before I purchased, and will be sheepishly returning everything with the exception of one Loft sweater that met an identified wardrobe need (for a black cardigan) and one printed long-sleeved Loft blouse that I did enjoy.

What are my takeaways from this experience?
  • First, I need to think a bit more about what "triggers" my urge to shop, especially when I know I often use shopping to address feelings that are not at all about actual needs. 
  • Second, I should probably reexamine how I'm using my time, and whether I could do something else to deal with boredom and tension due to relative lack of structure in my schedule. I've taken the baby step of committing to a weekly Yoga to the People date with a friend, which will hopefully ease me back into working out. 
  • Third, I should revisit my approach to budgeting and set a specific number on my quarterly or seasonal shopping budgets. That could give me one concrete reason not to shop. 
  • Fourth, I might want to rethink my reliance on online shopping. It usually works out decently well for me, but as I get more selective about my wardrobe wants and needs, online shopping is possibly no longer saving me time because I end up needing to go to the store to drop off returns.
  • Fifth, while I don't truly aspire to spend significantly less of my mental energy on fashion, style, and shopping (I still enjoy these things), I could perhaps use that energy in a more efficient way, perhaps by thinking about things that would really add value to my wardrobe rather than mindlessly browsing things I don't need or even really want. 


  1. Gah! You know, I really don't mean to fangirl your every post, but you write so damn well, here I am again.

    This post articulates a lot of my conflicting feelings about shopping and minimalism. I want to shop less, and have a more streamlined closet (will never be truly minimalist) but I still enjoy shopping and clothes as a hobby. I've been asking myself why, then, I feel this need to de-clutter and simplify, and while I'm still not 100% sure, I think it's because I like the simplicity it brings to the decision-making process. So while I better understand my impulses to minimalism, I still don't know how to reconcile them with my love to acquiring new pretty things.

    Looking forward to reading more!

    1. Aww, I am so happy to hear that you enjoy reading! I mainly got back into blogging (I kept other blogs from around 2007-2011) because I wanted to spend some time writing for fun. Most of the writing I do for school and work is very technical, and in my melodramatic moments I say that it has taken the soul out of my writing. (In actuality, work and school has probably made me a better and more concise writer.)

      As for the minimalism thing, I think it is tough to find a good balance. I think I've edited down my current closet as much as I reasonably can, and there is a part of me that sometimes gets bored with what I have (even if I still have plenty of stuff). I'm definitely still figuring out what the right balance is for me.


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