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Silver Linings: What I learned from “Stoppen met Shoppen”

From April 1st 2012 until April 1st 2013, I joined in the “Stoppen met Shoppen” challenge. While the organization promised inspirational e-mails to keep all participants motivated, they only once send a half-baked apologetic mail to tell us that they lost their listserver database, and apparently the website of the challenge is not existing anymore either. In the face of this organizational fail, I kept my spirits high and completed the challenge.

The idea behind “Stoppen met Shoppen” was plain easy: not buying new clothes for an entire year, except for underwear and socks.

First, I need to make a few confessions:
– I bought shoes for my wedding (I think that sin can be forgiven)
– I bought some new underwear and tights (but that was OK, note that I didn’t even buy new socks)
– I bought a new bikini because my previous ones had literally come apart
– I bought a sportive swimsuit because the doctor ordered me to go swimming after the accident in which I broke my shoulder
– I bought on March 30th 2013 the clothes for my thesis defense

All in all, I think I did very well, considering that I used to spend a good amount of time hunting for treasures in thrift stores or scoring sales in the US malls when visiting my husband.

For me, this year of clothing-shopping-abstinence helped me to reframe and focus on what truly matters to me.

When visiting my parents, I still went to walk through the shopping street of my hometown, and I even walked into stores, and entertained my mom by commenting on what I was seeing. The first few times I felt the itch to go and get myself something, but later on, I just shrugged my shoulders and said: “I’m not buying clothes this year”.
The best part of such an afternoon is being out with my mom and sister, not getting things. It’s about the good laughs and catching up.

I still read my favorite fashion blogs, and get me a Vogue every now and then, but just for the sake of enjoying the pretty pictures. The need to own the same stuff is completely gone.

As I started to wear out some of my t-shirts, I developed a 3-step cascade system. T-shirts that aren’t good enough to wear on a regular basis became my gym t-shirts. Once wearing them at the gym further stretched them out or made the color too sad, they entered their final phase: sleepwear (no need to buy pajamas anymore).

Moreover, I realized how much clothes I actually own. I rediscovered clothes that I have had for more than 10 years and that I had never worn until now. I got a few more hand-me-downs from my mother and sister. Never I felt like I didn’t have the right clothes for the occasion.

The result is that I don’t feel like buying much at all anymore. Yes, as I land a job after my PhD, I probably will invest in some quality pieces that can help me grow from grad student to young professional. I will replace some of my worn out t-shirt and polo-shirts by colorful tops. But I feel no need at all to hop onto the next new trend, as I always used to do.

I’ve saved a good deal of money, and know that buying less is a friendlier way to deal with our beautiful planet’s limited resources.

Have you tried to consciously buy less consumer goods?

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