February in Review

I’m in awe of how quickly February has come and gone compared to January. We’re done 1/6 of the year, and I’ve had another successful month of not buying anything, the only things that came in new this month was groceries and a birthday gift for a friend. This month has also been quite busy, so it being over now is a relief.

Clothing:

I was able to throw together a few outfit combinations I’d never tried before, and I’m fairly pleased with the results. During the busiest points, I would make an effort to plan my clothing out the night before so I at least had an idea of what to wear the next day – though there were two outfits that I’d never worn before. For the one on the left, this can easily find its way back into the rotation, though the baby pink suit was brought out for Valentine’s Day (so I’m not sure how often I’ll have the chance to wear it).

Books:

I hit a roadblock that I didn’t know was possible: my library chose to not renew its subscription for one of the books on my list. Things also got super busy in the first half of the month, so my reading came to a halt while I was working overtime to finish a project that got delegated to me. I’ve finished both the linguistics textbook and the Monet book, and in the meantime, I’ve been listening to audiobooks through Hoopla, “I Left my Homework in the Hamptons,” by Blythe Grossberg (finished) and “The Season” by Kristen Richardson (10% done).

Using what I’ve Got:

Despite how busy I’ve been with work, I’m giving myself time to crochet to help unwind from the day – and I’m trying my hand at getting ahead in holiday gifts (I’m also the kind of person who would have started Christmas shopping for the following year on Boxing Day, so this is on brand for me). For planner stickers, I’ve been more intentional of using up ones that I would have passed over and written something out by hand instead, which has also contributed to my “make it fun” goal, as my planner is both fun to decorate and fun to look at. Regarding tea, I’ve had a solid 2-3 cups per day on average on days I do drink tea, and then 3-4 days of nothing. I wasn’t focused on drinking X amount of tea by the end of the month, which made it easier to just have some when I thought of it – rather than meeting some arbitrary quota that would stress me out if I didn’t meet it.

What didn’t work:

Expecting a goal that I set at the beginning of the month to still fit the changes I couldn’t predict is not fair to myself. I want to actively be more flexible in how I approach adjusting goals, rather than keeping myself to, say, 30 minutes of reading per day, but I’m getting to bed at 2 am – meaning I’m barely awake but forcing myself to do something for the sake of doing it rather than enjoying it when I’m rested and alert.

What I’ll keep doing:

The undercurrent of “fun” (without it being toxic positivity) made it easier for me to find ways to inject some colour into high-stress days, or step back and be intentional about finding a different – less ennui-filled – approach to some of my more mundane tasks. This could be as simple as having my upbeat music on while doing my least favourite chores, drinking my favourite tea while going through emails, or having on fuzzy socks while sitting through a(nother) virtual meeting. I like to think I usually bring an element of fun into what I’m doing, though February is usually when that takes a dip, so it was nice to have that thought-out pick-me-up in my back pocket.

Overall, I’m pleased with how things have gone this month, especially with the handful of curveballs thrown into the mix. Later this week, I’ll have my March goals laid out – and we’re going in a slightly different direction this time, so stay tuned! Thanks for reading 🙂

Soft Start

I’ve failed a lot in my personal goals throughout my life. I bite off more than I can chew, I dive in without enough planning, or I just don’t have enough information about what I’m getting myself into – all of which can lead to failure or false starts. In many cases, I’ve given up, shrugging off the sense of embarrassment by claiming that I wasn’t that “into it” whatever project or goal. Other times, I’ve left the goal aside for a length of time until I could devote more attention to it, without actually changing my approach the second time around. What usually leads to this repeated outcome is trying to make too big of a change and expecting perfection on the first go. I wasn’t reflecting (enough or period) on what wasn’t working – and would throw myself into the next thing to distract from the lack of immediate success.

I was aware of the idea of practice tests, tutorial levels in video games, and receiving training prior to beginning a new job, but my brain saw each of those as context-specific rather than something that can be applied beyond the singular situation. I also had the expectation of perfectly mastering whatever I was attempting to do in minimal time – which was partially fostered by the culture of my high-calibre schools and partially from the feedback I got from non-parent adults in my life about how brilliant I was at whatever I set out to do. I feel this is something other gifted-kid types can relate to (based on the volume of memes and tweets), and it’s an incredibly difficult mindset to break free from.

Now that we’re all sad and feeling a touch dreary, I want to point out that I’ve found something that does work (at least for me), so there’s hope. Other than planning and reflection, I’ve found that setting myself a mini-scale goal – fewer things to be changed and a shorter time scale – is not only more manageable, but it also allows me to explore different approaches if something doesn’t work before fully committing to it.

We’ll use my first attempt at doing a No Buy Year. In 2021, I was fresh off of looking at my spending from the year before, aghast that I’d been so frivolous with my money. I resolved to curb my spending and there were to be no purchases made other than food. Except, I needed a thick yoga mat for my knees, after a decade of ballet effectively turning my knees to dust. Well, and a new pair of running shoes since I’m taking my fitness more seriously. Let’s not forget the semester-long course I took, since my alma mater was offering it online. Oh, but wait – Le Chateau is having a closing sale, and I could really do with two more ball gowns, five suits, and a handful of work tops. This was all before March 2021, and after I’d gone from too restrictive to “this is justifiable, I guess,” more and more purchases were made until around July. I spent the next six months observing what triggered my spending, what I was spending the money on (… other than just the turtleneck shirts), and listening to podcasts and videos about what worked for others on their No/Low Buy. 50 hours or so later of content, I felt like I had a better idea of what could work, namely, having a set of rules (rather than full restriction), budgets for the allowed different categories, and figuring out what purpose this goal was serving.

For the latter half of October to December, I slowed my spending and shopping, left items on a wish-list for the holidays, and spent less time in stores. I had a few holiday gifts to purchase, but I wasn’t doing my usual “one for you, one for me” approach to shopping, which helped immensely. This also coincided with opening my first credit card, and the last thing I wanted to do was go all out and rack up a huge debt that I wouldn’t be able to pay off (or, as my dad put it “how many months of your entire paycheque would it take to pay off your total credit limit?”).

Trying this goal out twice in the same year – once without much structure, during a high-stress period, then later with research under my belt and a clearer idea of my “how” and “why” – highlighted the difference (for me) between a false start and a soft start. For the former, I went off the rails when the wiggle room for necessity burst open to include anything I could justify to myself, and then I quietly gave up. For the latter, I could already feel the sense of relief of not having to guess at what was left in my bank account on any given day, since I wasn’t spending money on just whatever, nor was I making unplanned purchases.

If you’re doing a Low/No Buy this year and this is your first ever go at it, I commend you. Regardless of real-life setbacks, things being over-budget from inflation, surprises/emergencies, if you’re still at it, that’s splendid. If you’ve taken a pause because now is not the right time for you, I think that’s an incredible choice for recognizing and respecting your needs over fulfilling a goal that you can return to whenever. Whether you’re on day 1, 55, or 365, your choice to try something out and stick with it (or pause) is equally valid.

Lastly, for anyone thinking of tying something new – No Buy or otherwise – I want to encourage you to start small. Even Costco lets you sample snacks before committing to a knee-high box of chicken tenders, so give it a go, one tender at a time (Editor’s note: I should have eaten before writing this).

Bye-Bye Bin & Wishlist – February

The bye-bye bin is STOCKED this month. I went through my apartment with the mindset of “do I use this anymore?” rather than “how can I still use this?” and it has resulted in a solid chunk of items on their way out.

What’s leaving? For one, I’ve gotten rid of extra pillow cases. I used to change them every other night to help with acne and frizzy hair, but since getting two silk pillow cases as gifts, I only need about 4-6 other pillow cases (I use three pillows, and I like the choice of still rotating cases out every half week or so). The clothing – llama scarf, two skirts, and a dress – are all items I’ve been on the fence about, but it’s been a year at this point, and they can go (I’ve reached for none of them). The Kirby, hexagon magnets, fun sticky notes, and posters are carry over from college days and can go onto a new dorm space. The art supplies are going to an art teacher – originally purchased as a gift for someone pre-2020, and I haven’t heard from them since, soooo in the bye-bye bin it goes. The purse poking out of the corner is going to my aunt if she wants it, and if not, I’m sure someone else in the family could make use of it. Finally, the lion was purchased for someone’s kid pre-2020, and the child has both grown out of that phase and has far too many toys (according to the mum).

What didn’t make it into the photo (aka, the stuff that I found after doing another sweep) include some tea from a gift set that I know I won’t drink, a 60%-full fabric spray bottle, and a laundry hanging rack that I don’t use at all (and haven’t for about three years).

Do I feel like my home is suddenly lighter for no longer having these items? Honestly, not really – other than the posters hanging up, most of these items were tucked away in various storage bins or drawers, so I wasn’t seeing them in the first place. Granted, the colourful cornucopia of the random stuff sticking out of the bye-bye bin is less of an eyesore now that it’s gone, so I’ll take that.


Regarding the wish-list, there’s still nothing that has met my criteria for being added. This doesn’t surprise me – I’m still not done flipping hangers, I’m spending less time on my main social media accounts (as in, my targeted ads are much more general – and sometimes wildly off-base), and I’ve been incredibly busy this month at work. I don’t want to broaden the definition of what belongs on the wish-list to be anything that catches my eye and I click on the ad, which I feel defeats the purpose since I’d be creating an emotional connection to something I wasn’t all that interested in to begin with.

I’ve also taken to thinking of rule-breaking purchases in light of how much something I want to do would cost: this $200 clothing haul would cover a flight to visit friends; this $150 craft haul is the price of a future textbook; this $50 book haul is a lunch out and a museum ticket. I’m not trying to be overly restrictive, but more so looking at long-term goals versus short-term dopamine.


Perhaps a more satisfactory way of looking at it is:
Items out: 37
Items in (not counting groceries): 0

Later this week, I’m going to chat about why I advocate a soft-start approach to personal projects – and then next Monday will be a review of February goals (already, I know!). Thanks for reading!

Fun for Free: Podcasts

Keeping it shorter today, so you can dive right in on your new podcast finds! I listen to these podcasts on spotify, though I’ve linked websites and specific episodes for the pod rather than the apps when possible. Happy listening 🙂

Ologies:

Ologies is a podcast about different fields (-ologies) of research and study, though the episodes are casual and lighthearted in tone (as in, not the stereotype of academia being dry). Alie Ward has a background in science communication (you may have seen her on TV or Netflix), and is able to weave together more formal information with fun facts about the topic, and offers the interviewees to share their story of how they got into the field. The vibe throughout is like a guided museum tour on the topic of the week, and the audience questions (asked in advance) allow for pure curiosity and some “explain it like I’m 5” type questions to come through. She has bleeped episodes on the website if you’re not one for profanity.
Episodes I’d suggest for the No Buy/Low Buy community:
1. Decluttering: if you’re trying to get rid of extra stuff, this is a good episode to have on before diving in. I found this episode around the same time as watching youtube content about decluttering, and it’s always nice to have another opinion or method to consider.
2. Procrastination: Understanding why your brain does what it does makes it a lot easier for you to work with (rather than against) how your brain is wired. I found this to be super validating to listen to, especially if you’re someone who has a mindset that procrastination is a moral failing rather than something that takes practice to manage.
3. Fear/Stress: Officially, these two episodes are about the topic of fear, but I include “stress” in the title since the topic is not about phobias, but about how fear (“stress”) can control your life. Of the three episodes, this one has had the deepest impact on how I view stress and approach difficult situations.

The Conscious Style Podcast:

The Conscious Style Podcast focuses on education and interviews with change makers in the slow fashion sphere. The first season touches on establishing definitions for slow/sustainable fashion, and then later goes into interviews with leading activists, fair wages for garment workers, and how to make fashion more sustainable in your community. The second season is focused on the circular economy for fashion, so if you’re already well-versed on the topic, feel free to dive into the second season outright.
Episodes I’d suggest for the No Buy/Low Buy community:
1. Make & Mend your own clothing: I’m someone who will demote a piece of clothing from “wear in public” to “pjs only” if there’s a tiny hole in it, so listening to this episode helped me to realise how much more I can get out of my pieces from taking care of them beyond just washing. The discussion also covers the difficulty of finding clothing for your body if you’re not straight-sized, and how empowering it can be to dress yourself in items you’ve made.
2. What is Slow Fashion: If you’re editing your closet, exploring your own style, or looking to support local garment makers, this episode can help with navigating what counts as slow fashion and the benefits of it.
3. Social Media & Fast Fashion: I’ve spoken to a handful of others in the No Buy/Low Buy community, and the topic of social media and how that influences our desire to shop fast fashion – so hearing it be broken down and examined was validating and helped me to be aware of the efforts behind online ads to push me toward consuming.

Life After MLM:

On the surface, Life After MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) might seem out of place compared to the rest of the suggestions. However, I believe that much of how MLMs stay afloat is through pushing overconsumption (regardless of my opinion of the product quality) – and that it’s also important to be aware of how MLMs can seem like a good choice to pursue when you want to make some cash on the side, especially if you’re doing a No Buy/Low Buy to reduce your spending while cutting down on debt. There’s also the point about people who are in a vulnerable position may be more likely to join something that seems like a good opportunity to help them out of their tough situation.
Episodes I’d suggestion for the No Buy/ Low Buy community:
1. Intro Episode: Getting to know Roberta Blevin’s story and why she’s so passionate about helping get people out of MLMs. You might have also seen her in the Vice documentary or in LulaRich (if you have Amazon Prime).
2. Income Disclosures: I’m sure we’ve all worked some jobs with crap hourly pay, though I’ve never only made pennies per hour. I found this episode to be eye-opening to see what information is out about how much you can expect to make (if anything).
3. The BITE Model: A two-parter, but helpful to understand how people can be controlled by others within the context of MLMs. I’m including this in the suggestions for the sake of seeing how intentional some behaviour patterns can be – and because I was shocked about how many of these I’ve seen in action at not-great work places I thought were supposed to be tolerated/normal.

Later this week, I’ll be back with some more psychology & fashion. Thanks for reading!

My Shopping Habits – Part 2

I’m back with the next instalment of my relationship to shopping, and how it developed over time (you might want to check out part 1 for this post to make sense). This is the narrative overview before we get into the “why” of the choices I’d made, which will be part 3.

For me, clothing falls somewhere along the spectrum of “utilitarian” and “literal art, but on my body,” with most of what I own falling in the middle, which we’ll call “I’m choosing to wear this.” I define “utilitarian” clothing based on the purpose that they serve in covering my body: warm clothing in the winter, lighter fabrics in sweltering heat, and rain boots for any terrain that is not completely dry. The “I’m choosing to wear this” clothing is what I reach for for everything else, whether that’s running errands, holiday/themed events, lounging about, fancy dress, or work. If the item can be cute while serving its purpose, splendid, but I’m not too worried about the panache and pizzazz of a knee-length puffer coat when the hair escaping from my hat instantly freezes from the humidity of my breath. I do, however, worry about what’s under that coat when I arrive to my destination and what I wear is a reflection of who I am.

I’ve lived most of my life in Montréal, which has its own mix of high fashion, streetwear, chic, trendy, and classic looks. Throughout high school, we had a strict uniform to follow, so the clothing I chose to wear was trendy late-aughts/early-’10s teen fashion – wordy neon graphic tees, layered tank tops with lace trim, and imitation Roots sweatpants (why buy the real thing when you can get the same from Garage and three v-necks for the same price?). My first semester of CEGEP/2-year college, I was dressed a mess while figuring out what I would wear every day, despite the purpose for being there was my academics. 17-year-old me knew that what I wore casually as a 15-year-old was not going to cut it (according to whom? I still don’t know). During the break between first and second semester, I went all out at the Boxing Day sale at Urban Planet, the spiritual older cousin of Shein. Spending not much more than $300, I came home with a haul of patterned leggings, sheer button shirts, bodycon skirts and dresses, and a slew of basics to balance out the zany monstrosities I dared to call pants. This was at the height of peplums, skater skirts, and galaxy print everything, in case you needed a refresher on why this was normal school clothing. I was known at school for being the leggings girl (someone for real asked me if I owned any “normal” pants halfway through the semester), which was fun until I had to mentally keep track of 30 pairs to avoid having repeats too soon after each other.

University was a whole other ball of wax in diving head first into a theme to latch onto and dictate what I would wear. Anything that was related to the school colours, I would wear it – not to mention the veritable windfall I was for the bookstore and student design shop after snatching up anything I could fit into my teeny, tiny budget. All in the name of school spirit, and I would wear purple like I knew of no other colour. This slowed a bit by my third and fourth years (limiting my shopping to only the cute stuff, and not one of everything), and other colours re-entered my wardrobe as I continued to shop sales at stores off campus.

Graduating and starting work at my first real job resulted in just as ferocious a shopping spree as 2013 Urban Planet, but now in the name of professionalism. Blazers, pencil skirts, flowy blouses, trousers, and some sensible shoes – not that I was starting from scratch, mind you, I just wanted to have options. Once I started making money, I turned to online shopping for clothing in my free time. Old Navy was a favourite, since they had a “tall” section available online, and I was in need of pants that didn’t look like they were borrowed from my 12-year-old cousin. Well, “in need” of more options, but I told myself it would be good to have more options for the days when I’m running behind on laundry and need something to wear (as opposed to, you know, just doing the laundry??). In between these hauls were the various warehouse and outlet sales that I’d go to, and I started to run out of space in my closets, so I bought storage bins and hoped that would do the trick. I had gotten to the point of such rapid consumption that there were items that would be squished and hidden between two other items in the closet that I would forget they were there, but still order more.

The beginning of 2020 did not see this slow down all that much, as I had orders coming in roughly every other week – some were necessary cookware now that I needed to actually feed myself without the cafeteria at work as an option, while I indeed still had the audacity to purchase more clothing like I was leaving my apartment any time soon (I did a total of zero Zoom Happy Hours, so it wasn’t even for that). Things slowed down more over the summer, and then my bank account got another workout once Le Château announced that they would be closing – which ended by summer 2021. I was still strategic (hmmm) about waiting for the right time in the sales once I figured out what the pattern was for additional percent off versus total percent off based on category – since that’s what normal people do to buy clothing, no?

Luckily, I didn’t go into debt over this spending habit. My need for bargain hunting outweighed any desire for an item that was full-priced, and I never got into designer or luxury clothing (thankfully). The potency of bargain hunting did a number on me, and I remember buying two evening gowns at a store-closing sale for under $15 apiece (91% off, for anyone interested). Luckily, I did have an annual event to wear them to, but at the same time, how many gowns does a 22-year-old need?

With this personal history on the books, I’ll leave the topic here for now. Catch you later this week with my thoughts why small changes are a more sustainable approach to me. Thanks for reading!

February Goals

February has been a slump-ish month for me in the past: the shiny wow-factor of the new year is gone, the sky and slush are the same dreary grey, and the next holiday feels as far away as the sun – and when I was still a student, it usually meant that midterms were ripe to pop up. However, I want to go into this month with the mindset that I’m going to choose to make it fun, rather than let the shortest month of the year drag on (especially after a January that felt like being trapped behind someone standing on the walking side of a long escalator). The overall vibe I’m going for will be “fun and flexible” since I can’t predict what the month ahead holds, but I can choose how I want to approach it.

Clothing:

I found that in January, I would reach for outfits that I’ve worn before – or combinations that I’ve tried in the past, but this time with a different colourway. I want to challenge myself creatively to switch it up a bit with what I’m wearing. I work in person, so I’m not going to throw together something that I’d feel uncomfortable wearing, like a tartan blazer, striped shirt, and a polka dot skirt (I don’t think even the Emily in Paris wardrobe team could make that work). More so what I want to focus on is to not just wear the same outfits on rotation each week, and try to flip more hangers throughout the month. I’m not setting a specific number of specific pieces to be worn, but I want to try to do about once a week either something that hasn’t been worn yet this year, or not yet together. We’ll see, this is for the fun of it, after all.

Books:

So life got busy and I’m still only half done the linguistics book, though I will soon need a new bedside table read. I’m taking a second go at reading the Monet book for the month, but I think I’ll keep that more for day-time reading – since part of what takes me so long is that I just run out of energy at the end of a my busiest days and fall right asleep. Also, as fascinating as any topic is, reading nonfiction before bed feels far more like cramming for a test than reading for fun, so I’m much less motivated to reach for it. If all goes well, I should be able to line up finishing reading Monet in time for my hold on “Do You Really Need It?” by Pierre-Yves McSween becomes available. I found this ebook while browsing through the personal finance section of Libby. The humorous tone and straight forward approach (from what I’ve read in the sample) will offer a look through categories I struggle with, as well as categories I may not have even considered. Which I think is important – seeing another perspective about how to approach spending/what’s worth bringing into my home will be something to reflect on as I go through it.

Using what I’ve Got:

I’m starting the month with a new tube of toothpaste and bar of soap (side note: had you told me even two years ago that I would think the previous sentence was content worthy of sharing on the internet, I would have cackled and continued scrolling through the Old Navy sale page). I will start a second lip balm before finishing the small tin, but that’s because I’ve found it incredibly annoying to fetch it from my work things each time I want to use it while I’m home, and possibly forget it for work the next day. For yarn, I’m going to be making a few things for family when I visit in March, but beyond that, nothing else is on my radar yet. Finally, for planner stickers, I’m entertaining myself so far with seeing just how many stickers I can use on a monthly spread page, and still make it look like a cohesive theme. I’m not at all taking this seriously, and it’s more of a “funny because I’m doing it ironically” thing – as opposed to last-year me painstakingly lifting stickers off the page because I set it down at an 80-degree angle instead of 90.

I’m focusing on smaller, more bite-sized goals for the month with the plan to turn that into regular habits, rather than carrying too much throughout the month – which my guilt goblin thrives on (the name I’ve given to the second loudest critical voice rattling around in my brain).

Coming Up Next Week:

Saturday will be the next set of printables, which focus on productivity; Monday will have part two of my relationship to shopping, and Thursday will go into more detail about small changes and sustainable goals. Thanks for reading!

January Review

With the first month of my No Buy year finishing up, I thought it would be good for me to have a look at how things have been going this month. One month down, 11 to go!

No Buy:

I made it! I made it through the whole month without buying anything from my no-buy categories. I had a birthday gift to send (gifts are part of my allowed categories), and I took care of booking a flight to visit family (travel is allowed, and I didn’t want to not get a discount while it was available), but other than that, there were no other purchases outside of necessities. I feel good about making it through the month without really wanting to buy anything, and part of that has to do with doing inventories for each category, as well as my tracker for clothing and accessories. I think things will keep going like this for now, as I didn’t have anything on my wish list, and there isn’t anything that I’ve felt like I might “need” otherwise. There were a few new releases that I looked at online, but I walked away from the site knowing I didn’t need it, so nothing was purchased.

Books:

I forgot that I had a library book left to finish from December. I also tutor some students and I had to (re)read some classic titles to help them with upcoming essays. You can see where this is going, in that I likely didn’t finish reading both books that I set out to read – and you’d be correct. I was able to finish jut over half of the linguistics book, but the father of impressionism will have to wait a little while longer. I think having flexibility for this sort of thing is necessary, otherwise I’ll just be reading for the sake of completing a TBR, rather than enjoying the works as they should be.

Productivity:

I know this already about myself, but I forgot just how much more productive I am when I have my “perfect” amount of a full schedule. Granted, I’m getting a chance to express myself creatively while sticking to my goals, but I haven’t been at this level of “go” in a while. Knowing what had to get done – and things that could be pushed to later – allowed me to take on smaller bits of larger tasks throughout the month, rather than what I’d usually do, of setting out to do something big but not finishing it once I get tired. The clothing tracker is not 100% done, and I’m okay with that – I wrote in the majority of the categories I usually wear, and that matters more to me than a filled notebook where I can’t find where things are because I rushed the process.

Procrastination:

This was an interesting mix – I had some tasks that I’d hesitate to get started on, but others where I limited what I expected myself to complete, which made it easier to start. I also went back to using the 5/10/15 minute start rule (scaled up according to the task), where if after 5, 10, or 15 minutes of attempting to do the task, I still am not in the right headspace to tackle it, I stop and come back to it later. I find this most helpful when it’s for chores I like the least, as I tend to have a skewed perspective of how long something will take to complete (which I’ll talk about more in a future post).

What I will keep doing/what helped:

The biggest help? All the support I’ve had this month. IRL, my parents have been keen to check in and see how I’m doing, as well as lend an ear if I need to work through things – and my friends have been so willing to offer advice and feedback as I’ve been figuring things out. Online, my little community of other no/low-buyers sharing where they’re coming from, what their “why” is, sharing vulnerable moments – and offering support or another point of view has been so powerful to be surrounded by. Community is important to me in general, and being able to find other people in similar yet unique situations has helped keep the self-critiques to a minimum – and its hard to say I’m coming from a place of no judgement toward others and but then let the meanie voice run rampant for myself. So, thank you for the comments about how much something has hit home from my writing, to the dm check-ins, and anyone who has reached out in other ways – it has made a world of difference 🙂

What I will do differently in the future:

This month felt a bit like getting into university: a commitment to a long-term goal that has a fixed but flexible path to follow, with a lot of optional stuff on the side that I don’t have to do, but I sure tried to. While there’s no “wrong” way to approach a no/low-buy challenge, I do have a tendency to try to do more than there are hours in a day or I have energy for. Part of it has to do with the skewed time perspective, another deals with how competitive I am (in the sense that if I say I’ll do 10 more entries in the clothing tracker before bed, I would push and make it to 15 just to say that I could), and another part is pure curiosity for trying out different things. I think for February, I’ll focus on my planned content, as well as leave myself wiggle room for new ideas as they come up.

Later this week, I’ll go into detail about what exactly my February focus will be – as well as dropping some new printables for you on Saturday. Thanks for reading!

My Shopping Habits

Living somewhere with four distinct seasons means you need to dress for different temperatures. Living somewhere with four distinct seasons means you have many “opportunities” to shop throughout the year to “update” your wardrobe, whether by season, sales, or more frequently through the fast-fashion trend cycle. I would only shop sales (self-proclaimed bargain-hunter here!), which would result in more items coming in – even if I’m spending the same amount of money. Shopping online, I’d comb through each page of the website looking for hidden deals, seeing if there’s anything that I could add either to reach my free-shipping minimum or to treat myself. In person, I could spend a whole day at the mall, circling the same displays, trying clothes on, and walking out with an armload of bags. This would happen once a month, on average. I wouldn’t plan what I was buying, and when I did, I would leave the store or online transaction with at least twice as much in hand. My biggest trap was getting every variation of something, so I could have a “complete” selection to take from to dress myself – whether that’s eight pairs of shorts that are the same length but different colours, or wanting to get all the prints and solids of a dress. Especially when ordering online, I wasn’t paying attention to the quality of the items I was buying – whether the stitching was in an odd place for my body, things weren’t a great fit, or the garment would hang funny on my frame. I’m not yet well-versed in spotting quality garment-making, but I know what I don’t like and what I’m unwilling to tolerate being on my body.

I wasn’t consciously focusing on avoiding repeating an outfit, though I know from experience that I could go from August to early November without the same outfit being worn twice, since 2018. The definition of “outfit” has changed since 2020, where previously it meant I had enough clothing to wear something different for 100 days or so, with only accessories and shoes being repeated. Now, however, that would be more about the combination of what I’m wearing: maybe I’ve worn this top with these shorts a few weeks ago, but now the top is paired with a skirt and a cardigan as the fall weather sets in. The volume of clothing and accessories that I have – both per season and in total – means that I can likely go a full year without wearing the exact outfit twice. I don’t need to be able to do that; I don’t have any desire to be consumed by thoughts of whether this turtleneck and skirt combo has been done with these boots and earrings.

“these were next to each other, so I got them both,”

In December’s digital declutter, I rewatched my old haul vlogs that still live on my laptop. I realised that nothing from those videos is still in my closet. Well, I do still have the same bedding and towels (mostly) that I bought to move on campus as a first year, but nothing else is in my possession. 19-year-old me and 27-year-old me don’t have the same taste (nor the same body), and much of what was purchased was in my university colours, which aren’t in my wardrobe in any significant way now. Having sat with this for a bit, and after another rewatch, what stood out to me now was the language that I was using to talk about the purchases: “these were next to each other, so I got them both,” “this matches everything else in my closet, so of course, I had to get it,” “I think this will look good in case I need a backup,” and probably most relatable, “it was cute, so I needed it.” I’ll be honest and say that some of the basics (tank tops, in this case) have been forgotten to time, though everything else that was purchased was well loved – some pieces even staying in rotation all four years of my degree and even after I’d finished university – so it wasn’t as though they were bought and then dumped a month later, at the very least.

It’s been about a year and a half since I’ve really scaled back my shopping for clothing, but there are shopping patterns that creep back in when I’m not being intentional. I still get a rush from getting a discount percent-point that would look great on a report card, and when I was looking for turtlenecks while thrifting last fall, I felt the urge to get them in every colour available. For about two weeks, thrifting caught my attention – the combination of inexpensive prices, a wide variety to browse (the men’s section had looser fits for turtlenecks), and the unpredictable nature of whether I’d find what I’m looking for. I thought this would be better for me, after all, since it’s not adding to the demand for new clothing, it’s extending the life of an existing garment, and I’m helping the local economy by shopping in-store (as opposed to going through apps). However, while walking from one thrift store chain to another – out to purchase only the specifics on my list – I caught myself thinking, “well, if I don’t find a houndstooth skirt today, I can always come back in a few weeks, and maybe see if they have a few more colours of turtlenecks as well.” At that moment, I had five turtleneck shirts that I’d thrifted across three shops, and another on the way as a birthday gift (please note, I’m using the turtleneck throughout as an example of how pervasive the desire can be for me about a specific item or style of clothing).

I took some time over the rest of the week to comb through my following list and unfollow any accounts that were more aspirational than inspirational

What was equally concerning was that I’d moved the target of my behaviour – shopping for sets or varieties of things – to a different location with lower price points, meaning that I would still be bringing in more “new” rather than making do what what I had already. Part of this came from learning about capsule wardrobe accounts on Instagram, and frequently seeing neutrals and basics all over my feed and explore page meant that I felt like I couldn’t replicate these looks and be just as fancy/classy/put together as the women – or sometimes just clothes! – in the posts. I was using them less for inspiration to use what I already had, and more saw it as a checklist for my next thrift hunt. I took some time over the rest of the week to comb through my following list and unfollow any accounts that were more aspirational than inspirational, and anything that I wanted for clothing or shoes, I left on a wishlist for my birthday. Full honesty, I forgot about what precise pair of shoes I’d added to the wishlist (but knew they’d been purchased), which was a lesson in the difference between a need and a want. If I had to go shoeless in the interim, I’d definitely have those shoes in mind – but I was fine choosing from the 10 other pairs that I could comfortably wear for work in the weeks that passed. I don’t regret now having the shoes – they add a touch of polish to my workwear without having to wear heels – but I certainly could have gone without to no consequence.

I clearly have a lot of thoughts about my relationship to shopping, so I’ll pause this here for now, but I will absolutely be coming back to this topic in the future.

Clothing Inventory Reflection

The Plan:

Over the next half-week, I want to go through all of my clothing and accessories to both: 1) tally how much I have, both by category and in total, and 2) put together a detailed inventory of what the item is, where it’s from (store/brand), new or thrifted, and what year I bought or received it. I suspect this will take longer than the 3 days I’ve given myself to get this post out (editor’s note: it’s Thursday, and I’m only half done), but I don’t want to rush myself, get frustrated, and then leave the project half done. I want to do this for the sake of diving in deep on my biggest purchase categories, and maybe also get reacquainted with pieces I forgot I loved.

Thoughts while Sorting:

Know who has 75 shirts and tops?
Me.
Know who wears 75 shirts and tops throughout the year?
Me, kind of, but also not really.
My biggest category of clothing is tops by far, and living where we have four distinct seasons means that I’m going to need a variety of sleeve lengths so I’m not uncomfortable in any weather. To be clear, the total of 75 does not include heavier sweaters, hoodies, or crewnecks, but does have most combinations of collars/neck styles and sleeve lengths you can think of. It’s taking me the better part of a day (about 5 hours) to go through everything I have hanging in my closet, and I’ve reached a point of activity-fatigue from writing out everything. There’s no external force pushing me to be this thorough with my tracking, but I do want to have an itemized inventory to be able to track each time I’ve worn something so I have more than just the hanger being flipped over after the first wear. I’m looking for data that’s more robust.

Where I’m hesitant:

I do have a lot of clothing, and it fills different purposes:
1) work clothing
2) fitness
3) casual, but still put together
4) running errands
5) wow, it sure is cold out
6) this will be covered in paint or dye, or will get dirty
7) I wear this once a year to a specific event, so I still need it for that specific event, and
8) these clothes have cycled out of every other category and are now worn to bed/lounge-wear.
I don’t think that I need to toss a bunch of stuff – which would defeat the purpose of approaching this with intent – and that if the item can continue to serve the purpose it serves, it can stay. I’m not sure what to do with sentimental shirts from events that I do still wear. I don’t have a solution for this yet – which is okay! – but I’ll be sure to mention it when I think of something.

After the fact:

My biggest takeaway from this experience, so far, is that the busiest year of my life, 2019, is the year that I have the least specific memory of when things were bought or gifted. That’s not to say that I expect myself to have an encyclopedic knowledge of every item that I own (which would be exhausting), but the number of question marks placed next to items bought that year is telling.
This was the year that I was absolutely doing too much (have you ever attended a concert in another city, then flew out to a third city the following morning to attend a wedding that afternoon? 2019-me has, and 2022-me is exhausted just typing it out), and how I was consuming was exactly what fast fashion cycles were made for – especially since a solid pile of that clothing is no longer in my possession. On a positive note, I did find that about 25 items* were from 2017 or earlier (the oldest clothing article was from 2011 or earlier, and my oldest pair of earrings is from 2005), and likely have each been worn more than 30 times. I feel that having revisited everything has given me a better understanding of what I’m working with – ya know, the difference between “this is clothing in a closet” and “this is my functional and intentional wardrobe.”

The numbers (aka, what you came here for):

Here’s how I decided to categorize all of my clothing, not counting undergarments or winter gear, presented in descending order:
– Tops: 75
– Earrings: 65
– Bottoms: 39
– Shoes: 35
– Sweaters: 22
– Scrunchies: 21
– Dresses: 20
– Athletic wear: 16
– Bags/purses: 14
– Formal wear/gowns: 11
– Skirts: 9
– Jackets/coats: 7
For a total of 334 items living in my closet and jewellery boxes.

What I’m working on next:

Next up on the blog will my first instalment of Fun for Free on Monday, and then working on my yarn stash. Oh, and finishing my written inventory of the other half of my clothing. If you’re interested in seeing what I’m up to in between blog posts, my instagram account is @ladywithless. Thanks for reading!

* individual entries are not done yet, so that number might be higher for items that I don’t wear for work

My No Buy Plan for 2022

What is a No Buy?

The purpose of a No Buy or Low Buy is to reduce how much you are purchasing new things. You set parameters for yourself of what you are limiting (whether entirely or capping), and for how long. You make the rules for yourself according to what your need are (i.e., it would be incredibly difficult to purchase nothing an entire year if you included essential categories like food and rent), as well as what exceptions you have to your rules – or what you are indeed allowed to spend money on that may not be considered to be essential by others.

My Categories

I chose my categories based on where I spend the most money: clothing, accessories, shoes, crafting supplies, tea, and body care products. Books are also on the list, but are being treated a bit differently. For clothing, I have more than enough seasonal wear, and I know what colours and styles I like to wear most – and I know that I don’t need more. Accessories – earrings, other jewellery, bags, scrunchies – are just as plentiful as clothing. Shoes are a bit different in that I have a lot, for different events/purposes, but many of those events are not currently taking place, so they are not in use. Crafting supplies is likely the broadest category with stationary, writing tools, stickers, yarn, washi tape, scrapbooking paper, and about par for clothing in sheer volume of materials. For tea, I like(d) to buy in bulk with DavidsTea having moved to being almost an entirely online store, so I have around 1.5 kilos of tea, and I certainly don’t need more. For body care products, I amassed so much of everything from shopping sales, buying in bulk, or thinking that I would need more than I reasonably use. A single person doesn’t need five tubes of toothpaste, but that’s what I got from Costco six months ago. For books, I have a healthy To Be Read stack that I want to complete without rushing myself. Books are a bit different, then, as I’ll still be going to the local library, but I won’t be buying new books.

What will be tough about the goal

Avoiding sources of temptation will likely be my biggest struggle over the course of the year. Certain stores, like Michaels, DavidsTea, and Simon’s are full of stuff that I like (and that can stay out of my shopping cart), and avoiding them as a whole is my best bet. In 2021, I went to Michael’s twice, once with spending nothing (but I’d already been shopping at thrift stores that day), and the second time with buying more than I intended once I found something that would make a cute gift. I don’t need to say much about tea (see the 1.5 kilos remark above), and Simon’s is a catch all for cute clothing and home goods, and probably my number 1 targeted ad on instagram. I find that thrifting without a physical list has also led to buying more than I intended, and the rush from shopping for new items is the same as it is for thrifted items, with the additional layer of it being an unexpected find. To help prevent these temptations, I’ve already unsubscribed from all emails from these stores (and others) and I don’t follow them on social media anymore.

My philosophy

When it comes to what I’m going to do when faced with decisions of whether or not to purchase something, I want to have a much more intentional and slowed-down approach than I used to. I want to know what I have and what I need (which likely won’t be anything, at least for a few months) and be able to consider what it is that I’m taking into my home. If I don’t want to be in a space where I’m shopping, whether online or in person, I will need to be intentional about how I’m spending my time and what I do in a day. I want the time otherwise lost from online or in-person shopping to be spent on activities that are more meaningful to me, and I want my living space to not be bursting at the seams with stuff. I will be going into this year’s challenge with the mindset that the decisions I make are my own, and that there is no luck involved in the process; if I am tempted by an item, and choose to make a purchase, that is my decision. However, I also recognize that I do make mistakes, stuff happens, and what matters more is what I learn from my decisions and what I choose to do next.

What’s coming up this week:

I’ll be doing a paper-based inventory of my clothing (so I can keep track of number of wears per item), flipping my hangers over, and picking out the two books I’m aiming to read for the month beyond the remaining library book I have on loan.