The Clothing Experiment

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This June I started a personal shopping ban. The challenge was to buy no clothes or accessories for myself for a year. The reason was trifold.

I wanted to save the money I would spend on clothes.
I wanted to save the time I would waste clothes shopping and looking for bargains.
I wanted to minimize my wardrobe.

I never spent a ton on fashion before, but I was addicted to thrift stores. I loved the thrill of the hunt and feeling like I got a bargain every time I checked out. I always found things at Goodwill, whether I needed them or not. It wasn’t until Josh and I got married and started budgeting that I saw how much those innocent thrifting sprees added up. (And every now and then I would go a little crazy and purchase something new at the mall or off the internet!)
I felt like I deserved it.
I felt like I needed it.
Everyone else bought these kinds of things. I never even questioned it.

Not only did they add a significant amount to my annual expenses, all this clothing also cost a lot in time. Time spent shopping, time spent organizing, putting together outfits, doing laundry, and rotating seasons (because, not-surprisingly, my clothes didn’t all fit in my closet!)

Then I started getting into some frugal and minimalist blogs. (My favorites are Frugalwoods and Zero Waste Home.) It’s normal among these folks to participate in self-imposed shopping bans. And they made it look easy too! The money I saved could be funneled into more important things, like paying off debt and saving for our kids’ future.
I also read The Life-Changing Magic of Tiding Up, and realized that I had waaay too many clothes already. For one, they should all fit in my closet. Secondly, they should all bring me joy when I see them and make me feel good when I wear them. The 80/20 rule applied here. I already wore my favorite 20% of items 80% of the time. What if the whole closet was just my favorites?

So I overhauled my closet for fall and came out with two giant trash bags filled with cast-offs.
Things I didn’t love.
Things I only wore out of guilt.
Things that were no longer my style.
Things that were too scratchy or felt awkward on me.
Things that were difficult to match so they got pushed to the back where they never saw the light of day.

Then I invited some friends to do the same and we had a party where we all brought our garbage bags over to rummage through.
Everyone, myself included, came with cast-offs they didn’t enjoy and left with a couple items they really liked.
There was coffee stout and ice cream. It was a good night.

IMG_5737 The next day my family and I donated all the unclaimed clothing to Oasis International. They have a free store in the basement where refugees from all over the world can come and pick out clothing.
So not only was my closet leaner and filled with only things I loved, Oasis would be able to use this overabundance to bless others who needed it.
I left with an even greater fervor to de-clutter in order to help others. (Oasis also accepts kitchen wares, household items, and furniture.)

It is now late October and I have purchased 0 clothing items since June.
No socks, shoes, purses, jewelry, hats, scarves, or underwear.
I honestly needed nothing when I started, in spite of the fact that I was 8 months pregnant. I already had plenty of pre-pregnancy and transitional items in my wardrobe.

It hasn’t been difficult but I’ve had to be intentional about it.
I had to remind myself a couple times that browsing the clothes rack at the store was pointless because I wasn’t allowed to buy anything.
The best and simplest defense is to avoid temptation entirely. I don’t go to the store just to kill time anymore. In fact, my whole attitude toward shopping has changed.
I now wait until I absolutely need something, and even then I try to put it off as long as possible. Once I can no longer put it off, I buy what I need on Amazon or send Josh to bike to the store for it. That way nothing else jumps into my cart…a fringe benefit is that it saves gas money. (We only place our Amazon orders once they qualify for free shipping.)

Thanks to the generosity of others, I also haven’t had to purchase any clothing for either of my boys this year either! (I take it back – we did buy Malachi a pack of boxers, but for good reason! He’s newly potty trained!) I’m going to try to ride this wave out for the rest of the year also. Shiloh has all Malachi’s outgrown clothes and then some. Malachi has all the way up to 4T in his closet thanks to other mommy friends! And it’s all really cute stuff too!

If anyone is feeling inspired and wants to join me, there’s never a bad time to start your own shopping ban.
We all had so much fun at my first clothing swap, I think I’m going to make it a semi-regular thing and do it again in the spring. So let’s do some spring cleaning together in a few months!

Just for kicks I looked up how much I spent on clothing in previous years so I’d have an idea of the savings. And let me point out – none of this was even work-related! My company provides employees with uniforms.

  • In 2012 I spent $555.67 (And what’s awful is I have absolutely no idea what I bought! Running shoes were in there but still…the rest may have just disappeared.)
  • In 2013 I spent $256.27
  • In 2014 I spent $101.53
  • In 2015 I spent $27.00 before I started the shopping ban.

I’m honestly surprised to see how my frugality has emerged slowly over time. Maybe I finally realized that I didn’t need all that stuff. Maybe having my first child in that time ate up all my free time.

Whatever it was, right now I’m enjoying spending $0 for as long as I possibly can. I haven’t felt the least bit deprived…at least not yet! The ability to take control of my own spending isn’t limiting as much as it is an empowering. The ability to step back and be okay with what I already have breeds joy and contentment.

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Update: The shopping ban is now over! Here’s how it went

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