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The Year I Didn’t Shop

My shopping ban was simple. Starting January 1, 2018, I wouldn’t shop for a year.

You’ve probably heard some variation on 21, 30, or 40 days to break or create a habit.

I had a full year.

I was inspired by Ann Patchett’s shopping ban essay in the New York Times. I wanted to reduce my impact on the planet. I was tired of Marie Kondo’ing all my stuff every few months. I felt like I could use that energy to focus on something more productive.

I laid out the ground rules for myself. No yoga clothes; no new clothes in general; no new shoes; no new books. I would shop my own closet, I would borrow books from the library, and I would only buy beauty products when I ran out.

My end of year tally — two pairs of pants, one dress, one sweater, two pairs of shoes.

My biggest success: I didn’t buy any yoga clothes, though I did take a set gifted to me by my studio.

I started 2018 off strong. For five or six months, I didn’t buy anything. I stopped making impulse purchases, even books. I stopped reading fashion blogs that prompted me to rush out and pick something up on sale or that was selling out. When a pair of shoes ripped, I decided to hold off and fix them rather than get a new pair. I deleted sales emails; the one time I caved to buy a dress, I didn’t end up wearing much.

The rush of buying the dress wasn’t worth breaking my ban and only reinforced my decision to not shop.

Most of the clothes I bought came at the end of the year around the holidays, when I was swept up in the sales and going to stores to buy gifts for others.

Overall, I was proud of how I did. I grew up in the suburbs, and idled away many weekends at the mall. I enjoy new clothes and cute shoes. I love to buy a dress for a special event. And, that year, I found if I was tired of my yoga clothes, I could dig into my drawer and come up with a new outfit. Whenever I had a special event to attend, I could always find a dress in my closet that worked. Even without shopping, I had far too many clothes; at the end of the year, I did a closet purge.

Then, 2019 rolled in.

My 2019 tally so far: Sports bra, yoga pants, sweatpants, one pair of shorts, one pair of shoes.

The number of things I’ve bought in the last two months is nearly as much as I bought in all of 2018. I’ve been examining my renewed interest in shopping. Wasn’t a full year of not shopping practically a guarantee I would break the habit of shopping? But I was already back in the habit. When I felt a little off or empty, it was easy to click again on the sales emails, or head to the mall when I had a spare 30 minutes to see what’s new or what was on sale.

What I realized is to truly break a habit and stay with a new one, it needs to be shored up with commitment. I meditate every day because it is backed up by a commitment to start my day with clarity and vision. I move my body every day, be it yoga or the gym or walking, because I am committed to having energy and feeling strong.

To stay with the habit of not shopping, I needed to have a deeper commitment.

Once I looked, it was easy enough to see — I am committed to reduce my impact on the planet by not buying stuff I don’t need.

So, I am back on a shopping ban again for 2019.

What new habits have you tried to create in 2019? Have you already backed away from them? What if you took a look at your deeper commitment, and committed again to creating a new habit?

My ban was simple. For all of 2018, I would stop shopping. My new commitment: for all of 2019, I will stick with my shopping ban.

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