Not buying clothes for a year: how to deal with shop cravings

It's been 4 months and 5 days since I decided to put a stop on shopping clothes for a year. In this blog I invite you to take a look at the emotions that lurk behind your shopping cravings, and figure out how to deal with them.

At the start of 2021 I solemnly declared I wouldn’t buy clothes for one year. However, I was allowed to make my own clothes. A little recap why I decided to do this: I noticed I bought a lot of second-hand clothes at Vinted, not because I needed them, but because I was bored. During the lockdown there were considerably less joi the vivre moments compared to my “normal” life, whatever that is. I suspect my shopping behavior started to compensate for the lack of that. I loved the rush of filling up my shopping cart with preloved items, reassessing, removing some clothes, adding a pair of shoes, then my way to the “cashier”, IDEAL, and finally, the confirmation.

So why take away this little joy as well? What’s left now? Why are you doing this to yourself?! The answer is simple. I don’t want to be dependent on material things for my happiness. The overarching purpose of this challenge is to live my life fully in the present. My shop stop is one of the steps I feel I should take on this journey. I’ve used shopping as a way to fill a void, that can not be filled with something outside myself. Through experience I’ve learned that peace of mind is already present inside myself. It cannot be achieved by something externally. But somehow, once every month, may it be by an email offer or a notification by Vinted, I got caught in the shopping virus.

Emotions take 90 seconds

Have you ever craved chocolate so badly, you’re willing to get of the couch and go to the supermarket to get it? But once you’re in the supermarket, the craving has faded and you just buy the M&M’s, because you’ve already put in the effort. It seems like a waste not to buy something.

The same mechanism applies to my buying cravings. Since my shop stop, I’ve noticed that these cravings fade, simply by being present and doing nothing.

It’s been researched that the duration of an emotion is just 90 seconds, if you’re willing to fully accept it and let it go through you. The last part is the real challenge, not the emotion itself. Let’s say I feel boredom. My first reaction is to grab my phone and start scrolling. I don’t want to feel boredom, so I flee into distractions, like shopping. I might even invent a problem around this emotion: my life isn’t exciting enough, there must be something wrong with my relationship. Before you know it, your mind is making up complicated exit strategies for something that started with a simple emotion. That’s what happens when you don’t let your emotions pass through your heart. They get stuck and your mind is trying to figure them out. But there’s nothing to figure out. They simply need to pass through you.

Hi fear, good to see you!

And that’s easier said than done. Have you ever noticed how you welcome emotions like excitement, joy, and resist others like anxiety, boredom, fear of insecurity. It seems natural to run away from pain. This is what Michael A. Singer writes about this phenomenom: “At any moment you can feel frustration, anger, fear, jealousy, insecurity or embarrassment. If you watch you will see the heart is trying to push it all away. If you want to be free you have to learn to stop fighting all these human feelings.

When you feel pain, simply view it as energy. Just start seeing these inner experiences as energy passing through your heart and before the eye of your consciousness. Then relax. Do the opposite of contracting and closing. Relax and release. Relax your heart until you are actually face-to-face with the exact place where it hurts. Stay open and receptive so you can be present right where the tension is.”

What Singer is saying is, life is about embracing the whole palet of emotions. They’re all part of the human experience! Hi sadness, welcome! Come sit with me my friend. This is pictured accurately beautiful in this scene from the movie Inside Out in which Sadness helps the main character Riley to reconnect with her parents.

Conclusion: Deciding not to buy clothes for a year, has giving me the space and time to explore feelings and patterns behind my buying habits. It made me see clearly that my shopping cravings have nothing to do with needing new clothes, and everything with resisting the present.

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