Well-Being//

Here’s What Happened When I Stopped Buying New Clothes for Two Years

When I started decluttering my physical space, I gave myself the space to grow in other areas of my life.

Africa Studio/ Shutterstock
Africa Studio/ Shutterstock

The career that had burned so brightly for me was now at risk of burning me out. I knew I needed to make a change. I was completely certain. But the shifts in mindset I’d need to make to allow that change to occur didn’t come easily. Not at first. There were habits I didn’t realize were creating a barrier between the life I wanted and the life I was leading. It was a challenge for me to shift my mindset, but it was also an incredible opportunity to grow. When I shifted my mindset, I could then change my habits sustainability.

The habit I started with? I stopped buying new clothes.

A change of course

I needed to change my career to one that better supported my lifestyle and my mental health. To do so, some big changes were required. As a family, we went from two incomes to one. This happened at this same time we had children, so we went from being a family of two to a family of four. I loved my job working in community development and mental health, but it was no longer what I could see myself doing in the future.

This in itself was a major mindset shift. Deciding to leave a role that had filled me with passion. Not because it isn’t aligned with my belief or sense of purpose. Because it was. Yet, I had reached a point in life where career satisfaction in itself was not enough. I needed something at could work with and around my family.

It was then I decided to take the plunge and enrol to become an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I went in 100% and embarked on full time study while also being at home with my young children. The decision to change the direction of my career and start my own business was one I didn’t come to easily. While I knew it felt right, I had to shift my mindset before I could commit to the change.

The mindset that was holding me back

There was a limiting mindset that was holding me back. I didn’t believe I had what it would take to start my own business. At the end of my study, I was going to be an entrepreneur: A designation I was not at all comfortable with. I questioned my abilities, as well as the time and finances it would take. Could I do it? How would I find the time? And the budget?

To get there, I needed to make some significant changes to how I spent my time and money. I was going to have to completely shift my mindset to do so.

The mindset of time and money

We all have the same amount of time in a day. In a week. In a year. To take on a new career and the time and cost involved, I was going to have to simplify our lives: reduce our expenses, but also lessen the demands on my time. I had to become much more intentional about how I spent my time and money. This required a huge mindset shift for me. I had always been a ‘yes’ person. If something was asked of me, chances are I would do it. If a committee needed a volunteer, I would be the first one with my hand up. I was a fixer, and didn’t like to leave situations unresolved.

What was holding me back

I’ve never been a particularly materialistic person, but I soon discovered that to make the space in my life to do something new, I had change the flow of items coming into our home. I was shocked when I realized how much money I spent on clothes alone. In truth, I had no idea how frequently I was buying new clothes. To make sure I looked the part of a professional, mother, and wife. To make sure I looked on the outside what I wanted to feel on the inside. I felt I needed these clothes, to be successful. And to be happy.

Aside from the money I was spending on clothes, I then had to maintain them once they were mine. I had to clean, organize, put away, decide what to wear, what to pack, and more.

And that was just the clothes, and the things. When I started looking deeper, I realized there was more. The clutter went beyond physical. There was digital cutter as well: Notifications, social media, email, and all the other reasons my smartphone made noise.

Plus, there was the emotional clutter: People, commitments, other things I was always saying yes to. Drains on my time that were not moving me closer to the life I wanted to lead.

The mindset shift that changed everything for me was this —  I needed to simplify my life to take on the challenges that would move my life forward —  and to do so I had to remove the excess —  to stop putting time, energy, and finances into that which didn’t support the life I was trying to build. This is where I would find the time and resources I needed. By simplifying. Removing the excess.

The first habit of my simplification

I needed somewhere to start. Something specific that I could focus on as a microstep. The first thing I did was I stopped buying new clothes. If I needed something specific I would get it. But ‘going shopping’, online or in person, was off the table.

At first it was a struggle. I worried I wouldn’t have the right clothes, or that I ‘needed’ something. But by deciding that I would not buy new clothing, I was removing a habit that was holding me back. By shifting my mindset away from the fear of scarcity, I was able to get creative and find alternatives.

Making that shift, I have now gone over two years without buying any new clothing.

Here are some of the mindset shifts I had to make to start the journey of simplification:

  • What other people think of me is out of my control. But if they judge me for clothes I’m wearing, they are not adding value to my life. The are contributing clutter.
  • The best ‘deal’ is free – when you don’t buy it.
  • I had the same amount of time as everyone else. But I’d been choosing to fill it with activities and tasks that were not serving me. Like organizing my stuff. Simplifying what I owned and what I committed to gave me more time for what really mattered.
  • There is no shame in not being able to afford something.
  • Finding a way to pay for something is not the same as being able to afford it.
  • Needing an item or piece of clothing for a specific purpose does not mean I need to own it.
  • Buying things made me happy. Getting rid of those things made me happier. It was time to cut out the middle step and create a better habit around ‘things’.

Once I made these mindset shifts, I was ready to create a habit — one small change to get me started. While my goal was to simplify my entire life, I needed something specific to start with. So I started with my clothes. And while I thought it was going to be one small change, it ended up being a big one. It was the keystone habit that allowed my future changes to simplify to occur.

Here’s how I went two years without buying new clothes:

  • I found a second hand clothing stores that stocked professional women’s clothing.
  • I shopped only when I needed something specifically. Not for a social activity or entertainment.
  • Borrow clothing. If I need something, clothing or otherwise, it didn’t mean I need to own it. I just need it’s function, and frequently I could borrow it.
  • Plan in advance. Leaving things to the last minute is the recipe for last minute panic purchases. If I could not find the time to prioritize what I needed, it must not be that important.
  • Use my networks and online platforms. Like Buy Nothing, community groups and notice boards, buy and sell or barter pages. They’re convenient, accessible, and inexpensive or free. To engage in them as a process they requite intention. In doing so they limit the ability for spontaneous or excessive purchases. They’re also excellent community building tools. These networks take online connections and bring them to in-person.

For me, creating a mindset where I needed less was a journey. It didn’t happen overnight, and I still have a long way to go. Restricting the purchase of new clothing gave me a specific habit to focus on. The first step was to remove my habit of shopping. The second was to replace it with the habit of not shopping for clothes. The habit of only making intentional purchases has saved me time and money. In retrospect, the change has given me the space to reach my goals, and focus on what matters.

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