Monday, 14 November 2016

And now for a book ban (sort of)

Since I started my shopping ban on 1 June, the pile of unread books on my bedside table has grown. It wasn't huge to begin with and it's not massive now - less than 15 books - but it concerns me still. 

No doubt diehard bibliophiles wouldn't be bothered by mountains of unread books, much less a molehill such as mine. It's just the way life is when you love reading, right?

It's certainly far easier to justify spending money on books than shoes - books are experiences, not things. They can be life-changing. They educate and entertain. They enrich the mind and soul.  Yes, but only if you read them! 

Famous book collector A Edward Norton, who wrote the book on book collecting (literally), would vehemently disagree. He once said: 
"Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity ... we cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes comfort, their ready access reassurance."
This is all nice and romantic, but a pile of unread booked doesn't produce ecstasy for me; rather, it produces a mild sense of disquiet, in the same way unworn clothes hanging in my wardrobe makes me uneasy. Despite any pleasure the purchase brings me, they are both a waste of money and useless occupiers of space. It feels wrong writing that, but it's true. An unread book is just a thing, not an experience, no different to a pair of unworn shoes or any other thing you have in your house that takes up room but is never used. I concede a room with walls lined with a vast collection of books - a personal library - is very inviting and visually pleasing (see home library porn here), but I don't want to amass a huge collection of books just because they are nice to look at. I'm not opposed to collecting things just because they are aesthetically pleasing, but that's not what books are made for.

I've never been a big hoarder of books. I've always gone through my shelves and culled them every now and then, getting rid of books that didn't thrill me the first time I read them and books I enjoyed, but know I will never read again. It will probably take me my whole life to amass enough books to line the walls of a personal library, but at least I'd be able to say I've read nearly all of them. 

The other reason my growing collection of unread books bothers me is the likelihood that I've transferred my desire to acquire from clothes and shoes to books. I've certainly wanted all the books I've bought recently. I most definitely plan to read them (I finished one on the weekend and I've started on my next one)...just the same as I wanted and planned to wear all those dresses and pairs of heels! If I keep buying more books  - justifying it to myself because books are experiences - I won't be able to read them all. They will end up as just things.

So, I'm not going to buy any more books until I've at least made a very big dent in the pile of books on my bedside table and then I will finish one before I buy another. 

Friday, 4 November 2016

Ethical shopping: why, how, where

Since my previous post about wanting to become a more conscious clothing consumer, I've been swinging about the interwebs like a monkey, gathering advice and resources on how to make more ethical choices.

I found loads of blogs and sites with a wealth of information so, rather than re-invent the wheel, I'm going to point you in the direction of the good stuff. It's gonna be super link-heavy. 

Still not convinced fast fashion sucks? Read here:

Fast fashion is drowning the world 

8 reasons to rethink fast fashion 
Why the fashion industry is out of control 
5 truths the fast fashion industry doesn't want you to know
Fast fashion is creating an environmental crisis
Fast fashion facts

For more in depth reading, try these books: 

To Die For: Is fast fashion wearing out the world? by Lucy Siegle 

Overdressed: The shockingly high cost of cheap fashion by Elizabeth L Cline 

And then there's The True Cost, a 2015 documentary on the dark side of fast fashion. I haven't watched it yet, not that I need more convincing to ditch fast fashion.

If, like me, you've already decided to break up with fast fashion, here's some great resources to get started: 

This infographic, by Elizabeth Stilwell aka The Note Passer, sums up perfectly how to be a more ethical consumer (of anything, not just fashion).  She expands on it in her post here.

Anuschka Rees of Into Mind and the author of The Curated Closet: A Simple System for Discovering Your Personal Style and Building Your Dream Wardrobe includes a similarly useful infographic and advice in her post Five ways to build a more ethical closet (no matter your budget).

Both women - and pretty much everyone else interested in sustainable fashion - emphasise that an ethical wardrobe is about more than simply shifting your purchases from fast fashion to sustainable clothing brands. It's about buying less, 
looking after what you already own, making more mindful choices, purchasing second-hand, and, when you do buy new, spending your money on the best quality you can afford, with a focus on your personal style, not on trends.

(Related: I haven't read Anuschka's book, but I've had a pretty good look around her blog and it's a great resource for defining your style and putting an end to bad shopping decisions). 

See A guide to curating a conscious closet and The guide to becoming a more ethical/socially conscious clothing consumer for more advice.

So that's the 'what' of ethical fashion covered...what about the 'how exactly'? 

Learning to make do

Making do isn't a hardship if you're already starting with a gigantic stash of clothes and shoes, as I am (provided your gigantic stash of shoes and clothes works as a cohesive, functional wardrobe). 

But what if you're starting with less? A minimalist or capsule wardrobe could be the answer (not that having a lot of stuff already stops you from exploring this approach). 

The Tartan Brunette has some great advice on capsule wardrobes. 
Capsule Wardrobes: the ultimate shopaholic detox
10 reasons why you should start a capsule wardrob
How to create a capsule wardrobe 

You could have a go at Project 333, a challenge created by Courtney Carver of Do More with Lesswhich involves wearing a wardrobe of only 33 items for three months (and yes, that 33 items includes shoes and accessories, but you could modify it a little to suit your lifestyle and needs, like Jennifer of Simply + Fiercely). 

See also How to buy less and stop overspending and Why shopping is a bad hobby (and what to do instead) at Into Mind (seriously, that blog is a gold mine of practical advice).

When you do need to buy something 

Finding ethical clothing is obviously far trickier than shopping for fast fashion; you can't just breeze into your local shopping centre and browse through rack after rack of stuff. Here's some places to look (Melbourne/Australia-focused, I'm afraid because I reckon if you care about the environmental impact of your clothing, buying local or Australian-made should be a priority):

Shedd is a phone app for buying and selling second-hand clothes which allows you to browse stuff being sold in your local area or further afield (also available on Android). This article has a list of other apps for buying and selling pre-loved clothing. 

Click herehere and here for lists of Melbourne's best op shops. 

If you're looking to buy new, check out 12 Australian fashion brands you can shop for online by the Eco Warrior Princess (an Australian site well worth a visit).

Check out the Ethical Consumer Organisation's website which summarises issues surrounding ethical clothing and rates company performance to help you work out where to spend (and not to spend) your money.

Similarly, the Good on You phone app by Ethical Consumers Australia allows you to search for a particular company or browse by category to see how brands rate on labour rights, environmental performance and animal welfare. It's also available for iPhone and Android. 

How to recognise quality when you see it 

Buying less means buying clothing that's built to last. But if you've spent most of your shopping life consuming fast fashion, it can be hard to recognise good quality when you see it. Into Mind has an excellent series of posts on how to assess the quality of garments and even a handy printable cheat sheet.

How to take good care of what you have

This site has lots of tips on how to properly clean, maintain and store clothing to make it last longer. 

I've linked to this list of tips on how to care for everything in you wardrobe before, but it's worth mentioning again here. 

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

I'm debt-free!

It's now five months since I started my shopping ban and today I paid off my credit card in full. *happy dance*

Giving up shopping for shoes and clothes hasn't played a major part in clearing the debt, although it stopped the balance from continuing to creep up. As mentioned previously, I paid off a large chunk of the debt last month with my tax return and I chipped away at the last few hundred dollars of it with extra money I had in my pocket as a result of being too sick and exhausted to go to pilates and yoga for the past three months. 

Now that I am debt-free, I can focus on boosting my savings to pay for an overseas holiday next year. Yay! Paying off debt feels great, but not as wonderful as watching your savings grow. 

I'm toying with the idea of cancelling my credit card - that's the best way to avoid accruing further debt, after all - but I'm not sure I can let go of having it as a safety net just in caseeven though I have enough money saved to act as an emergency fund. But...but I want to use that for a holiday! For fun stuff! Important soul-enriching experiences! Not boring, no-fun emergency stuff like buying a new fridge or paying for an operation or something. 

Clearly I need to save enough for a holiday on top of an amount to keep aside as an emergency fund. Perhaps once I've done that I'll feel more secure about cancelling my credit card. 

What now?

I have two months left of my shopping ban, but I think I'm going to continue beyond the end of the year, maybe stretch it out to a year of no shopping (which would be until 31 May 2017). 

As I wrote recently, my shopping ban has instilled a desire to be more ethical about my clothing purchases in future, but the true foundation of an ethical wardrobe isn't to simply re-direct your spending to sustainable brands: it's about learning to live with less and making do with what you have; it's about buying what you need (secondhand or from ethical brands) with a focus on quality and durability. 

So, extending my ban - continuing to make do with what I have already - is the best way to put that into practice. The most ethical consumption is no consumption!  (Of course it's a lot easier to do that when you already have a massive wardrobe and many, many pairs of shoes...)

I'm still working on my post with practical advice and resources for ethical clothes shopping. It's coming soon. 

Monday, 17 October 2016

My shopping ban: the beginning of a permanent change?

When I first started my shopping ban on 1 June (four and a half months ago!) I suspected I would stop buying stuff until the end of the year and then go back to my usual spendy ways in the new year. I can shop again! Yay! I will buy all the shoes! 

But fairly early on I realised I did not want to go back to the way things were. My intention now is for this challenge to be the beginning of a permanent change in how I spend my money.

It's possible I will extend the ban - wouldn't it be great to say I went for a whole year without buying shoes and clothes? - but if not, this is how I plan to continue beyond 31 December 2016.

I want to mostly only buy clothes and shoes that I actually need. I won't promise to never again buy the occasional thing just because I love it, but I don't want to go back to the compulsive acquisition of stuff I don't need, while letting most of the clothes and shoes I already own sit unworn in my bulging wardrobe. I do not want to get sucked back into a constant state of yearning for stuff. I don't want to waste hours a week scrolling online fashion websites for things I don't need, when I could be doing something more worthwhile with my time. I don't want to see my credit card balance inching up and up while my savings stagnate - or go backwards. I don't want to miss out on a holiday overseas because I bought too many pairs of shoes, some of which I DON'T EVEN WEAR! (When I think about that, it really sheets home just how idiotic my behaviour was.)

When I do buy something, I want to focus on buying second hand, or purchasing from small businesses, especially local makers (the latter of which is more expensive, so I'll be forced to buy much less). I want to opt out of fast fashion because, although it seems awesome to be able to buy so much for so little, it's actually NOT awesome for many reasons

The quality is often poor, so it doesn't last long and then if you replace it with something of similarly poor quality...well, that's false economy in any language. 

Giving the really crappy stuff to charity shops seems like the responsible way to get rid of it, but in reality it just becomes someone else's problem.  Almost a quarter of all donations (i.e. not just clothing) to charities in Australia end up in landfill (going on 2014 figures) because they are not fit to be resold, recycled or exported. Dumping rubbish at landfill isn't free, so rather than helping the less fortunate, donations of very poor quality clothing actually cost the charity money! (Dumping waste outside a charity store to avoid paying landfill costs yourself  - a major problem for charities these days - also forces charities to pay for disposal. Don't do it!)

According to ABS statistics, Australians buy an average of 27 kilograms of new textiles/leather each year (second only to the US) and - gobsmackingly - we discard an average of 23 kilograms textile/leather waste each year. That's a total of 500,000 tonnes of leather and textile waste every year. I was astounded when I read this.  

A lot of what we wear these days is made from synthetic fibres - wearable plastic basically - and, just like plastic, synthetic fabric takes decades - probably many, many decades - to degrade in landfill. Even natural fibres like cotton and linen don't degrade readily because processes like bleaching, dying and printing, mean they don't stay natural for long. 

Of course, the ecological impact of clothing starts long before it hits the shops/website. Clothing manufacturing consumes a lot of resources - water, electricity, chemicals, petrol - and it's a dirty business. According to one American fashion insider, clothing manufacturing is the world's biggest source of pollution after oil (or the third largest polluter according to another source. Whichever, it's bad). All this, just to make poor quality goods that end up in landfill!

Because I care about the environment, it's hard impossible for me to justify spending money on fast fashion.

All this is reason enough for me to farewell fast fashion, and I haven't even mentioned the direct human impact: most fast fashion is made by factory workers in developing countries toiling away for a fraction of the retail price of the garments they make, in poor, frequently unsafe, conditions. Remember the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 (not the only accident in the industry, just the most high profile)? There have been some improvements since then, but we'd be delusional to think everything's hunky-dory there and in other garment factories around the world.

With all this in mind, I want to stay off the fast fashion treadmill. I plan to reduce (buy less), re-use (buy secondhand) and only recycle (sell or give to charity) as a last resort, which is the way the 'recycle' part is meant to work. I want my purchasing decisions to be more sustainable, more ethical and more mindful. I want to be an even more conscious consumer. 

The reduce, re-use, recycle ethos is a great place to start, but wait! There's more! This Greenpeace article sets out another nine Rs for a more conscious consumption. It also contains this excellent graphic created by Sarah Lazarovic, which is a good guide for shopping and spending less. 
In my next post I plan to gather together a bunch of practical advice on how to shop more sustainably. 

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Small ways to save money when you're already pretty frugal

As well as banning myself from buying shoes and clothes, plus reconsidering my health expenses, I've been trying to save money in other ways to make my four-day-a-week pay packet go further and to boost my savings. But it's not easy because, in the grand scheme of things, my boyfriend and I are relatively frugal already.  

Most of our meals are home cooked and nothing fancy. We don't shop at gourmet stores and we try to buy what's best value for money at the supermarket. We rarely go to bars (I hardly drink at all). He rides his bike to work and I take public transport. He owns a small, fuel efficient car and I don't have one at all (I never have). We have the smallest internet/home phone bundle we could get. We got rid of Foxtel (cable TV). A lot of the things we like do in our spare time are free or cheap. We don't need to have the best of everything when it comes to furniture, appliances and electrical equipment - a lot of what we have is old, but serviceable, and we don't upgrade for the sake of it. We don't care about labels or brand names. 

We do spend a lot on rent because we live in an affluent area that we love in a flat that we love (even though it's old and bit shabby), but we do get free heating (wooh!) and we don't pay for water consumption. We expect to have to move out in the next year or two, so we'll look for somewhere cheaper then.   

Because we are already relatively frugal, making our money go further requires a bit more thought. I can't think of any 'big ticket' ways to cut back that I haven't already done, so I've been trying to come up with a lot of little ways to spend less in the hope that, combined, they will make add up to noticeable savings. For example, I've always been a bit obsessive about turning off lights when I leave a room (it was ingrained in me during my working class upbringing), but now I'm being totally obsessive about it. If I can do what I need to do without turning on the lights, then I don't flick the switch. I'm even peeing in the dark! (Although when you live in a city, it's never truly, totally dark.) 

Turn it off

So here's my brainstorm on small ways to save. I already do some of these, but I'm listing them anyway.

Make stuff go further by using Every. Last. Ounce. Use those last sheets of toilet paper; apply that last little nub of lipstick; store near-empty shampoo bottles upside down to get the last bit out; squeeze that toothpaste tube until it can't give any more. There's some useful advice here on how to make stuff go further/last longer.

Only buy what you need. I'm thinking here about food/perishables that will spoil if you don't use them in time. Plan your meals and buy what you need to make them.

Do your grocery shop in one go - you usually end up spending more if you make separate trips to get what you need (especially if you're hungry!). 

Make fresh food last longer.  There's some good tips here  and here on ways to make fruit and veg last longer. I started using Keep Fresh Bags a couple of years ago and they really do keep things fresher for much longer.

Grow your own herbs. We buy a lot of herbs, but our attempts at growing them at home in pots (we don't have a garden) have so far been unsuccessful. But we will persist! (I think the key is to grow them all inside as our balcony doesn't get enough sunlight).

There are loads of fruit and vegetables that can be grown in pots if you don't have a garden. Here's a list of things you can regrow from fruit and vegetable scraps. 

Cook meals from scratch - packaged and pre-prepared food is expensive. 

Buy bulk spices at Asian supermarkets for very little (if you use a lot of spices, anyway). 

Only use your dishwasher when you have a full load. Dishwashing tablets are ridiculously expensive and, according to the guy who installed my dishwasher, they aren't as effective as powder anyway. You don't need to fill the little drawer up with powder either - dishwasher guy said a tablespoon is enough. We use a cheap, generic brand dishwashing powder and it works fine (even without pre-rinsing,which is mostly a waste of water, if you ask me).   

Wash your clothes only when they are dirty or stinky - some things just don't need to be washed after every single wear.  This not only saves energy and water, it makes your clothes last longer.  

Yeah, this is my back yard

Minimise use of your tumble dryer. Sunshine and wind are free (when available!). Be wary of hanging dark coloured clothing in the sun though, because they fade and look shabby so quickly. We dry everything inside because we don't have access to a clothesline, but we do have a drying rack in the cupboard where our gas hot water service is and it's the bomb (and my black clothes barely fade at all). 

Look after your clothes well to make them last longer.  This is a great list of clothing care tips. or google 'laundry hacks'. 

Look after everything you have to make it last longer. Get things serviced on schedule, clean and store them properly. Protect them from the elements.  

Avoid single-use, disposable products, such as antibacterial wipes for cleaning kitchen benches and floors, facial cleansing wipes and make-up removal pads. We use machine washable dishcloths to clean everything, but I need to find alternatives for some other stuff, like make-up wipes. I just found this DIY and this one for reuseable make-up wipes. 


Make your own green cleaners. Store-bought cleaners are expensive and full of nasty stuff. Vinegar and bicarb soda are cheap as chips and they smell like chips too!

Use your own bank's ATMs to avoid paying fees. I reckon this would save me about $20 a month. Note to self: walking a bit further won't kill you. I can't wait until the Bank of Melbourne opens its new HQ in my office. 

Look around for a better deal on health and other insurance. I only have extras health cover and I get value for my money, but I'm interested to see if I can get the same for less.   

Buy generic brand pharmaceuticals (prescription and OTC) where possible. 

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Health isn't free, you idiots

The best things in life are, in fact, free. Love. Relationships. Health. Personal growth. Contribution. Six-pack abs.

I read this status update on The Minimalists' Facebook page last week and it made me a little cross.  

I agree with most of it, but health? Health is free? What the hell!? Health is only free if you have the good fortune to be born healthy and able-bodied, and to remain so throughout your life. I wanted to reply "PLEASE CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE!", but I refrained. 

What's particularly astounding about this assertion is that these guys live in America, where even a relatively short stint in hospital can (or could, pre-Obamacare) cause extreme financial stress or even bankrupt someone. In Australia, even with Medicare, health is most definitely NOT FREE. I went to see my GP last week and while I was waiting, I noticed a sign tacked to the reception desk advising of increased fees:

  • A standard consultation of 15 minutes is now about $90, with a Medicare rebate of around $38 (I can't remember what it was before).
  • A long consultation - which I'm assuming is 30 minutes long - is around $160, but I don't know if you get a larger rebate for it.
  • A "prolonged consultation" - anything beyond 30 minutes, I suppose - is a whopping $215!! Again, I don't know if the Medicare rebate increases commensurately. 
These are weekday fees too - they charge even more when you go on Saturdays, which is what I usually do because my GP doesn't work on my days off, dammit. I was flabbergasted. More than $200 to see a GP! That's more than I pay for a standard consultation with my neurologist!  

To be fair, it seems the clinic my GP consults at charges well above average. It's on St Kilda Road, in an affluent area, so I guess they figure they can charge more. According to research from 2014 by the Australian Medical Association, the average cost of a GP visit was only $51, with $47 paid for by Medicare, and $5 by the patient. I can't recall the last time I paid such a small amount to visit a GP. Maybe bulk billing (where the patient has no out of pocket costs) skews the patient contribution figure? 

I have thought about changing doctors - I went to a different clinic nearby recently with bronchitis when I couldn't get in to see my regular doctor and it was quite a bit cheaper - but I've been seeing my GP for years now and continuity of care is important to me (as it is for anyone with ongoing health issues). Although she's a little eccentric, she is a good, caring doctor.   

Without spending money on shoes and clothes and not including rent and food, health costs (including pilates/yoga class fees, osteopath charges, consultation fees for my GP and specialists, and medication/supplements) are my largest expense. They might have been before my ban started too, but I never kept track of my outlay on clothes etc.  

And it's not like I'm seeing my doctors weekly (or even monthly), or taking a dozen different expensive medications daily like many other people with ongoing health conditions (some cancer treatments cost THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS), so my health costs might be high as a proportion of my spending, but I'm sure they are quite low compared to what many others spend. I can imagine how these people would react if some privileged American idiot suggested to them health is free. 

Monday, 10 October 2016

When being sick pays off

When you give up shopping, you'd expect your bank balance to show the results of your restraint, wouldn't you? Until recently though, my balance didn't seem any healthier than before my shopping ban started on 1 June. I was puzzled and disappointed.

The obvious reason would be that I've diverted funds I would normally have spent on shoes, clothes and accessories into "permitted" areas of spending. I was worried I might be tempted to do this, but I haven't. My shopping ban has actually made me a little tight-fisted generally.

But this month my bank balance is finally looking a little healthier, which I think is only because I've been sick for more than a month and not following my usual routines. I haven't been going to pilates or yoga, and I postponed my last osteopath appointment. Pilates was costing me $54 a week; yes, it's expensive, but that's because it's clinical pilates where the classes are small (up to three people, but often only me), the instructor is an osteopath, and I have a program tailored to my needs. I was spending about $20 a class for yoga, although I've only being doing yoga for a month or two.

I usually visit the osteopath once a month, which costs about $60 after I claim it on my health insurance. Combined, that's $90 a week - $360 a month!  While I wholeheartedly believe in spending money to improve health and wellbeing, whether it's discretionary or necessary (and I fall mostly in the latter camp because of a couple of chronic health conditions), I have to consider if this outlay is sustainable, particularly if it impacts significantly on my ability to save money. 

This isn't actually me

Before I cut back to four days a week I had a gym membership for $120 a month (unlimited visits/classes) and I was going to pilates once a week ($216 a month for four classes) but I couldn't afford to keep doing both on four days' pay. I opted to drop my gym membership which seems stupid, but because I wasn't actually going to the gym much it was mostly a waste of money. Pilates is much more expensive, but I went nearly every week and I was seeing and loving the results, which made the cost easier to justify.

But now I'm thinking I need to go back to the gym and drop pilates. I can do pilates (and yoga and many other) classes at the gym and even if I only went to one class a week, it would still be cheaper than going to pilates. Pilates at the gym isn't specifically tailored to my needs, but it would still be beneficial. 

The other option is to buy a DVDs or find some online classes that I can do at home in my own time for free or close enough to it. I've been going to pilates long enough that I think I'd be fine without face-to-face instruction, plus I'm much better at motivating myself to exercise at home than I used to be. I think I will give this a go (once I'm feeling better) so I can work on my health and wellbeing and afford a nice holiday. 

In other news...

Although my bank balance hasn't grown as much as I'd hoped, I have nearly paid off my credit card. There's only a couple of hundred dollars on it now. Hooray! It's not really due to my own financial management though - I put almost my entire tax refund towards reducing the balance, but I did pay some extra off it with the money I've saved while being sick. 

Needless to say, I don't recommend illness as a way of saving money!

Thursday, 29 September 2016

How to wear more of the clothes you already own

I banned myself from shopping four months ago, in part because of the vast number of clothes in my overstuffed wardrobe that had barelyor neverseen the light of day. Having all those clothes I loved but didn't wear was making me anxious (in the same way having too many unread books on my bedside table does). 

I'm not alone in having a lot of unworn clothesvarious studies suggest this is common behaviour: one found women have an average of 22 items in their closet they never wear; another concludes people wear only about 20 per cent of the clothes they own

But just because it's common doesn't mean it isn't ridiculous. It is totally ridiculous! It's a waste of time and money, a waste of space and a waste of the planet's resources. So why do we do it?  I read this article yesterday by a consumer psychologist on the science of why we buy clothes we never wear. It sets out a few reasons for the behaviour, but I don't think you need to have a psychology degree to work out it's mostly due to poor decision making.

For  example:

  • You fall in love with a garment and simply must  have it even though you know it isn't quite right—maybe it sits a bit funny or it's half a size too small or you love the style but not so much the fabric.
  • You want to buy something—anything!—new because you're bored or sad or shopping online while tipsy (or all of the above).
  • You shop for the life you want, not the life you have—for example, you buy 'occasion' dresses for occasions that rarely present themselves; you buy a pair of gorgeous sky-high stilettos even though you know they'll be chambers of foot torture; you buy jeans that are too small because you plan to shed a few kilos; you buy something outrageous because you wish you were braver, quirkier, edgier.
  • You buy something you weren't sure about because the shop assistant/your friends/your partner said it looked great on you.
  • You buy a piece just because it's the latest fashion 'must have' or it's ridiculously discounted.
  • You buy things without considering whether they go with anything else you already own.
Don't lose your mind during the sales

But I don't think poor decision making accounts for my bulging wardrobe of rarely or never worn stuff. I feel quite confident in saying that at the age of 44 with 20+ years of shopping under my belt I have moved beyond this kind of poor decision making. I've been much more discerning about what I buy for years now. I'm essentially immune to the dictates of fashion (must-have schmust-have), I ask myself a lot of questions before deciding to shell out for something (even when it's on sale) and I have to LOVE it. If I don't love it, I leave it

So why do I have so many un(der)worn clothes? My problem isn't so much that I buy the wrong stuff; my problem is that I'm lazy and lack time and energy. Because Every Single Day is a struggle for me to leave my beloved bed, I don't give myself time to open my wardrobe doors, stand back and wait for ensemble inspiration to hit me, or to play around with an outfit if it turns out it doesn't look as good on my body as it did in my mind's eye. This means I often rotate through the same eight or ten outfits.  I have one particular outfit I wear on days when I have no or time or energy and don't want to put any thought at all into what I'm wearing, which happens most weeks. (It's a comfy green shift dress worn over a black top with black tights).

I usually have more time to get dressed on the three days I don't work, but still I often find myself wearing old favourites that are comfortable and that I already know will go with everything (or reaching for gym tights and a hoodie even when I'm not planning to do any exercise). I don't know why I do this when I love clothes and I enjoy the creative process of putting together an outfit! The laziness is strong in this one... (Has anyone written a Lazy Girl's Guide to Being Less Lazy?)

Because I'm lazy and/or chronically tired, I still haven't got around to properly 'shopping my closet' to come up with a bunch of ensembles I can throw on without much thought. I have been making an effort to wear more of my neglected clothing every daythat pair of faux leather leggings I forgot I owned; the ace black and blue men's tie I bought at an op shop more than five years ago because I loved the colour and pattern; those biker boots that sat neglected because I wanted to wear my new(ish) red boots all the time. I've even dragged out a few of my button up shirts for work even though they need to be washed and ironed (ugh) after one wear. Yesterday I wore a newish pair of boots that have been sitting under a chair in my bedroom long enough to collect a light coat of dust.

Rarely worn boots

I probably have no place giving advice on how to avoid only wearing 20 per cent of your wardrobe, but I'm doing it anyway. 

Before you shop: 

  • Work out what looks good on you, according to your own standards, not society's silly rules (remember: there are no fashion rules; only fashion opinions). If you think you and your voluptuous self are rocking those horizontal stripes, go for it.  Look at your favourite outfits—what exactly is it about them that you love? What do they have in common stylistically? Find the answers and use them to guide you on what to buy and what not to buy.
  • In a similar vein to the above, put some time and thought into defining your style. This blog has some good advice on how to pin down your style.
  • Once you have defined your style, think about whether a capsule wardobe is for you (great advice on this and many other fashion/style things here). Capsule wardrobes mean fewer clothes, but maximum wearability.  It's a highly curated (*cringe* I hate that word) wardrobe. 
  • Pay little heed to what's in fashion and focus instead on your own style (fashion is fleeting, style is forever, as they say). You do not have to have what the fashion media calls 'must haves'. They care more about advertising dollars than whether you look good or have a functional, value-for-money wardrobe.
  • Work out what you actually need to fill 'gaps' in your wardrobe. Is there an item you don't have that would pull together other pieces in your wardrobe you rarely wear into outfits you would actually wear? Do you have the basics covered? There are a billion lists of wardrobe essentials every woman must own floating around online, but use these only as a guide because we're all special snowflakes with different tastes and styles. (Nude pumps appear on heaps of these lists, but I hate nude shoes and will never, EVER consider them essential!) If you're like me, you probably don't have any gaps to fill (literally and figuratively). Once my shopping ban is over, I plan to only buy what I need, if I ever happen to need anything ever again! Realistically though, I know most people are still going to buy stuff just because they like it and want it. In which case...
Know your measurements for online shopping

When you're shopping: 
  • Take your time, pay more attention to what your gut and eyes are telling you, rather than the opinions of others (especially those who have a vested interest in you parting with your hard earned). 
  • When shopping online, know your measurements and pay careful attention to size guides (even though they can be hit and miss). Read customer reviews about fit and quality and look for reviews written by people with similar measurements (if provided). This has made me think twice about buying plenty of clothes, especially on sites with overpriced delivery and returns. Look at the description for information on what a garment is made from and avoid cheap, shitty materials. Always factor in the cost of shipping and returns when you are about to be seduced by what appears to be an absolute bargain. Those $40 shoes that turned out to be too big? Not as much of a bargain when you have to pay $40 to send them back. (Related: I have a pair of size 10 shoes to sell/swap/give away...)
  • In bricks-and-mortar shops, home in on the stuff that fits your defined style and filter out the rest. Me in the shops: heads straight for the racks of black and anything with black and white stripes (often only to be bitterly let down when the stripes turn out to be navy blue. Harrumph). 
  • Try it on! Pay close attention to fit. It doesn't matter how beautiful or expensive a garment is, if it doesn't fit properly, it won't look great and you won't feel great wearing it. Some fit issues can be easily fixed (too long, too baggy), but others take more work and are expensive. Leave it on the rack if you don't think you're really likely to bother having it altered to fit properly. This blog has some good pointers on how clothes should fit and also on the basics of tailoring clothes that don't fit right. There's also great advice on proper fit here and here.
  • Even if something is really cheap so you think it doesn't matter if you get home and it doesn't fit or flatter, still try it on. If you keep doing this, you will end up wasting a lot of money on a lot clothes you never wear.
  • Consider how a garment fits not only while you are standing still, but also during and after movement. Move your arms back and forth, do a few knee bends, sit down if there's a bench. Does it fall down, gape, ride up or pinch? Having to constantly adjust your clothing is a pain and not conducive to Rocking It. 
  • Look at the tag to see what a garment is made of—a high price does not always mean quality fabric. I avoid nearly everything made with rayon or viscose (which you can still find on the racks in pricier shops), because I don't like the feel and they generally don't wash and wear well. They end up looking crappy very quickly, which means you are less likely to wear them—and more likely to get rid of them after a few wears, which seems like a simple solution for you, but it really just moves the problem down the line, often all the way to landfill, where it will take decades to break down.
  • Look at the care instructions to see if a garment is machine washable. If you're like me, you hate ironing and prefer not to spend much money on drycleaning (although there are ways around those things. See here for tips on cleaning your supposedly dryclean-only clothes and here for ways to minimise or avoid ironing). Your knee bends and sit down should tell you how easily and how much a fabric will crease. Be realistic about whether you will care for it properly or whether it will spend most of its time waiting to be ironed or drycleaned and thus unworn. 
  • Remember that even a massively discounted item is not a bargain if you never wear it. 
  • Consider whether you really, really, REALLY love a garment and are likely to forge a long and happy relationship with it, or whether it's just a fleeting crush, even if it's not costing you half a week's pay. A good (albeit sometimes impractical) test is to hold off on buying something and wait a few days or a week. If it was just a crush, you'll get over it, but if you still think it has the makings of a grand love affair, go back for it. If your size is sold out, it's not the end of the world. Save your feelings of regret for things that really matter in life (like when you get to the patisserie and all the chocolate croissants are gone).
Do you really want to use this thing? 

After shopping (aka 'stern note to self'):
  • Sometimes you can't really tell until you take something home and wear in the real world whether it works or not. Maybe that top doesn't look as good with that skirt as you thought it would or the shoes you planned to wear with it are not quite the right colour. Make sure you return it straight away and don't just leave it hanging in your wardrobe. Maybe it shrank in the wash or stretched a bit too much with wear and it's no longer flattering or has to be constantly hoiked up, but it's too late to return it. If you can't (or don't want to) have it altered, get rid of it—swap, sell or donate. 
  • Keep everything where you can see it. Out of sight = out of mind = never worn. The last two dresses I bought before my shopping ban started were hanging in my spare room because I didn't want the pleats/gathers to get crushed in my packed wardrobe, and I then promptly forgot I ever bought them. (But despite moving them into my main wardrobe, I still keep forgetting they're there! Next week!) 
  • Shop/remix your closet. Cull the crap, make the most of what you keep. (Find more useful advice here.)
  • Plan ahead for what you will wear the next day.  
  • Set little challenges for yourself, like wearing something 'new' every day or wearing a different pair of shoes at work each day so the neglected stuff gets its moment in the spotlight. Today I'm wearing a pair of boots I haven't worn since last year. Maybe not since 2014, but I love them too much to ditch them.
Finally and not surprisingly, I recommend just not shopping! You could try it just for a few months to see how you go. You might be surprised. I've certainly been surprised by how little I miss it, how much I enjoy re-discovering the clothes I love, and how great it is not to have the constant craving to buy more. I'm also amazed at how much my attitude to shopping and spending has changed in a mere four months of not shopping. Of course I might be speaking too soon, but rather than simply giving up shopping for a few months, this challenge looks set to actually change my life (but more on that in another post). 

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Back away from the athleisure wear, Jayne

I've been doing quite a good job of wearing more of the neglected and never-worn clothes in my wardrobe on the four days a week that I work, but I'm struggling on the three other days. 

Unless it's one of those infrequent occasions that requires dressing up a bit, all I want to do is wear exercise gearlycra leggings, sneakers and a hoodie. Wearing sneakers a lot (albeit casual sneakers, not trainers) is nothing new for me because I don't own a car, which means I walk a lot and need to be comfortablebut I've rarely worn them in public with exercise gear, unless there is (or will be) actual exercise is involved.

But that changed when I bought lycra tights for the gym last year and everyone else was wearing their gym gear as casual attire (thus the term 'athleisure wear' was coined), so it was fashionablenot like wearing your saggy baggy trackies in public, which I will NEVER do.

Not that I really care about what's in fashion, but they're just so comfy, and the (Target cheapie) compression ones make me feel sleek, even though I think the flesh mostly gets pushed up into a muffin top.

Every Friday and Saturday when its comes time to get dressed I have a debate with myself about whether I'll just pull on my tights or wear proper clothes. I have so many proper casual clothes that I could beshould bewearing, it feels wrong to neglect them, but the lycra wins the debate about half the time.

Last Saturday I was pleased with myself for wearing a denim dress I haven't worn in months and a pair of boots I haven't worn in so long that I checked whether any spiders had taken up residence before putting them on. 

On Sundays I usually just go to the supermarket so I go straight for the lycra without any internal debate. I think I'll make it a rule that I can only kit up in athleisure wear on Sundays, if I'm going to yoga or on days where I'm not leaving the house.