Changes I’ve Noticed

So there’s been positive changes that I’ve been documenting so far – haven’t bought any clothing this year! haven’t spent money without being aware of my budget! haven’t bought from any of my other no-buy categories! – but I need to be realistic about “areas of improvement” that I’m noticing as I’ve gone past the 6-month mark of not buying any clothing (if we count from the soft start in November).

For one, I’m still on my phone more than I would like to be. In 2022, that’s a bit of a nebulous statement since we use our phones for so much, but I mean it in the sense that I’m not being intentional about my phone use. Watching youtube videos to clear out my “watch later” playlist, reading an e-book, or listening to a podcast while out for a walk or doing chores don’t fit into unintentional use – I’m setting out to do something and my phone happens to be a tool to complete part of the task. Where I end up losing track of time is generally through social media, particularly Instagram’s explore page – made worse by having both my personal and my Lady with Less account to scroll through. I want to highlight that I’m not saying I feel like I’m wasting time taking in content from fellow no-buy, mending, and outfit repeat accounts – you’re actually all so inspiring, just saying – but specifically the explore page is where I can lose more than an hour of my day (minimum). I know there are ways of having your screen-time limited within the app, but if I’m already in the middle of reading or watching something, I usually just hit “ignore” and go back to whatever content was on-screen.

Which leads in nicely to my next point: getting enough/better sleep. I already have a weird sleep schedule for working second shift and being on call during the night, and I’ve strongly identified with being a night owl for most of my life (I was maybe 8 the first time I stayed up until midnight outside of New Year’s Eve to satiate my curiosity of what happens when the alarm clock goes from 11:59 pm to 12 am on a normal day). Some nights, I’m falling asleep by the time midnight rolls around, but there are others where 2 am comes and goes and then I’m fighting against the melodious squawking of the early birds greeting a new day. If I’m able to follow my routine to a T, particularly that I fit in some time to read before bed, rather than scrolling, my sleep is significantly better. Pardon the tangent, but I want to point out a win: this time last year, my endless scrolling wouldn’t have been nearly as aimless and at the whim of the algorithm, but I was instead surprised by the sudden light of the rising sun after losing 2-3 hours to going through every page of the stores I spent the most money on. So, while there’s growth in that I’m no longer midnight shopping, stores would run out of content eventually, while the explore page does not.

Finally, sugar. My skin gets worse, my body hurts more, and I don’t feel great (overall) when I backslide into snack-y comfort food for meals on end as opposed to something more balanced. I didn’t study nutrition in university, but I know my body well enough at this point to recognise what my patterns are – and what reactions correlate to my actions. I generally don’t buy anything sugary of my own (I am a Montrealer, so I will always have at least some maple syrup at home), but my workplace has a generous snack supply that we can take from as we please. If I’m not getting enough sleep over a few days and things are quiet at work, I’ll grab something to munch on, since the kitchen is right by my desk. It’s almost like no one part of my life exists in a vacuum and everything is connected (pardon the sarcasm).

For me, it’s reached a point where saying, “I need to be more intentional about XYZ” has almost lost its meaning since I’m going through things too quickly (real talk, I haven’t used my planner in three weeks and have instead relied on daily post-its around my monitor screen). I need to give myself that time and work through what’s working and what isn’t, and make small adjustments rather than sweeping statements about massive change. I also realise that the focus of this blog is about the no buy, but I feel as though the no buy touches so many areas of my life that there’s grounds to bring up other areas that I want to work on as well.

To close with another win, in all of my endless scrolling, I’ve still been seeing ads for the clothing stores I like. I don’t have them blocked for the sake of knowing I can see them without losing the plot, and the unexpected benefit has been that I’ve seen spring/summer items over the last two months, and I feel nothing. It all is just the same florals and pastels that I have something similar to in my closet, and the cuts of the sleeves and skirt lengths on the dresses are the same, too. So, if nothing else, this check in coinciding with switching in my spring/summer clothing has highlighted how little I need more clothing.

May Goals

Let’s jump right in!

Clothing:

It’s finally warm enough here to switch out my winter clothing for my spring and summer stuff. Usually, I have a habit of shoving the new seasonal items into my closet alongside the fall/winter clothing, but I want to try reducing the visual clutter of items I know I for sure won’t wear between May and September. I also have my spring/summer clothing to go through, both for the sake of decluttering, but also for adding the items to the clothing tracker (which I’ll split up bit by bit – even doing some 20 items a day is a chore). I don’t think I need to make a point of specifically aiming to wear everything throughout the month (it’s definitely not quite shorts weather yet), but I want to instead see what I’m most drawn to.

Reading:

Art history still seems to be keeping my attention well enough, so I’ll keep going for it with more Taschen books. I happened to have finished the Matisse book over the weekend, and had already pulled Georgia O’Keefe to read, so I’ll just be adding Keith Haring for now. If I happen to finish both, I’ll see what I’m feeling – mythology? ancient civilisations? fashion? fiction? – and choose from there.

Using what I’ve got:

For my financial literacy courses, I have an activity planned for them this week which is focused on price comparison in the context of different groceries charging more/less for the same items. To make it more fun, I’m including the instructions of the activity in some of the cards from my stationary box that I don’t think I’d use otherwise (it won’t be all of them, but it will be a solid dent in the pile). The intention is for the cards to feel similar to an old-school dinner party invitation, with the double purpose of the design on the front of the card being how I split up the groups (i.e., everyone with a blue card will be in the same team).

If I have the time this week, I’ll have a look at stages of change & shopping habits – and if not, that will be next week’s post!

April in Review

I feel like this month has flown right on by, but I’m also doing my review a bit earlier than usual. Anyhoo, let’s get into it:

Clothing:

I’ve managed to wear just about everything that I’ve set aside as my visual cue for not being worn yet for shirts and dresses. In keeping up with my tracking on a semi-regular basis, I’ve noticed entries for earrings and a few pairs of pants I hadn’t worn yet – which allowed me to experiment a bit more than I probably would had I only been focused on shirts and dresses. Fun bonus, two of my outfits of unworn items got compliments at work – even though both were outfits I’d been hesitant about wearing (hooray for perspectives other than my own!). The items I haven’t gotten to wear are not season appropriate – two burgundy/red dresses are much more fall/winter, and one frilly black and white dress is too late spring for the rain we’ve been having.

Books:

Finished both of them in about two weeks, and now I’m slowly getting through the Matisse book from the same series. Reading before bed has been the easier choice for now, though I suspect if I maybe put my phone down more during the day, I might be able to squeeze in some reading time, too.

For Fun Money:

Without messing up my budget, I’ve found ways to have fun – well, in the future. I booked a flight to go visit with friends from university during the summer in the US, and then take advantage of attending a Just For Laughs show while I’m in Montreal for the rest of the summer. These both factor well into my budget, and I managed to squeeze in a bit of “treat myself,” with a stop at bulk barn after going to the bank, and stocking up on some of my favourite chocolate. All in all, goal well met.

Next week, I’ll have my May goals ready for you – and depending on my workload, I just might dip my toes back into some psychology and shopping. Thanks for reading!

April Empties & Bye-Bye Bin

It’s been a bit since I last had a look at my empties and I’ve been making some progress in using up my stuff. I realise I hadn’t included an update here for March, so you get a two-fer this month:

All the empty tea pouches are from topping up the tins I have, while the empty tin is from finishing off a tea entirely (pardon the extra text on the first picture, I had to pull it from my instagram stories – this is a one-person blogging team). For the soaps, I finished the last of my bar soap that I used for travelling last month, the lip balm was finished a few days ago after fighting to get the last of it out from the bottom of the tube – and the liquid soap was emptied within around a month (which I include to answer my own question from my last post).

For the bye-bye bin, there’s not as much this month (only 3 items), though I suspect that number will be much higher as I swap in my spring/summer stuff and set aside the long-sleeved and bulkier items.

The French phrases book has been sitting on my reference shelf for about 3 years, and I’ve never once used it as a reference for students in tutoring – I’d either explain the answer to their question, or the student would look it up. The yellow tin is ready to find a new home, as I know if I have more tins, I’ll find a reason to fill it with yet another tea (also, I’m back to an even number of tins, so there’s that too). The dress acting as the background to the flat lay was an impulse purchase last year from an online thrift store that just doesn’t fit right.

While there’s still nothing on my wishlist, I do want to bring it up for the sake of sharing a change in how I’m thinking: there isn’t anything yet on the list since I genuinely don’t need anything, so I’m going to treat it more like a restock “limbo,” where I keep an eye on the stuff I’ve emptied and see whether I actually need more. There aren’t any categories that I’ve emptied out entirely yet, so it will likely be a few months before I have anything to add to the list.

Later this week, I will be looking over my April goals, though for the next few weeks (to May 19th or so), I’ll be aiming for one post a week while I’m leading a budgeting and financial literacy course with students in a local school. Thanks for reading!

April Goals

With the first quarter done and the sun’s warmth returning (kinda), I feel as though I’ve gotten a seasonal boost of motivation and I’m ready to get back into what I was working on before March’s hiatus.

Clothing:

The average temperature through to the end of the month is supposed to be around 12C, so I don’t think I’ll be pulling my sun dresses out just yet. With this being the last month before I do the seasonal swap out, I’ll mirror my February challenge of finding things I’ve not worn yet – but with a focus on unflipped hangers, rather than remixing combinations. It’s mainly tops and dresses that fall into this category, which shouldn’t be too difficult to pair with the rotation I have for trousers and skits for work. What I’ve done so far is separate the unworn from the worn items and placed them at the middle of my closet so they’re easier to see – and with the 20 or so items, I should be able to wear each one at least once by the end of the month, especially if I plan what to wear either the night before or at the beginning of the week.

Books:

I’m going back to picking my own books now that I’ve finished reading the last of my library loans (digital and physical). I’m going to read at least two art history books, one about Friday Kahlo and the other about Marc Chagall. I know a bit about both, and I’ve seen Chagall’s works in person, so I think it would be easier for me to get invested in their stories. The books are also visually pleasing and roughly 110 pages each, so it should be easy enough to get into.

Using What I’ve Got:

With the prospect of travel back on the docket, I’ll focus more finishing up my bottled body care products that wouldn’t be allowed through security – as opposed to alternating between bottle and bar soap. For planner stickers, I will finish working on doing a memory spread in my planner of my two weeks away in March, especially since I have pages of stickers dedicated to travel, dinners, and other fun plans. I haven’t got anything specific in mind for yarn, nor for writing and stationery supplies, but I’m keeping an open mind if something crosses my path.

For Fun Money:

I want to be more intentional about treating myself for my efforts or if I feel like it, especially with there being a handful of new places to eat having popped up in town in time for spring. If the weather is nice and I just so happen to walk by the mom & pop smoothie shop, then why not support the local economy? But on a more earnest note, having felt guilty and hesitant about spending the for fun money while traveling because I forgot about it isn’t a feeling I want to carry forward. I need to get in the habit of being aware that this line in my budget exists and shouldn’t only be spent at the end of the year because I held out for 11 months. I don’t so much have a negative relationship with money (I’m quite fond of spending it, actually), but I don’t want to develop any miserly habits and miss out on little blips of fun for food and experiences in between the bigger stuff.

Later this week I’m dropping a spicy opinion storage bins, and then on Monday, I’ll be back at another instalment of psychology and shopping. Thanks for reading!

Storage Bins are my Enemy

I know these are fighting words in the organization and decluttering communities, but this is strictly about my own beef with how storage bins are *too* good at their jobs.

I get clutter-blindness rather quickly, which means that it’s easy for me to forget for days on end to put away my bag of bags and wallet after going grocery shopping (or months, if we’re talking about the one paperclip that is just out of reach under my desk when I sweep the floor). I also find it hard to remember what all I have unless I can see it – which has even happened with clothing, where, once, my closet was so jam packed that I forgot entirely about 10+ items and was pleasantly surprised to refind them (and then reckoned with why I have so many navy blue tops that they all blend into each other). Which is where storage bins come in.

For my style of organizing, things that are not regularly in use will be tucked away in drawers, under my bed in zipper-top containers, or within one of many compartments in my arts supply half-wall unit. For everything else, I keep a fairly open-concept style: my closet doors are open so I can see the hanging clothing and my shoes; my earrings hang from a ribbon on the wall (barring those which came in a box, which, unsurprisingly, aren’t worn as often); my body products are on a small shelving unit in my washroom instead of under the sink; and I took off my pantry/cupboard doors so I could see everything (my kitchen is tiny and I would bonk my head a lot reaching for spices, so that’s a 50/50 on my motivation to do so). Think of the way that a bookcase is curated and organized, and that’s what I strive for throughout my apartment as a whole.

Where my cattle ranch’s worth of beef comes in is that at least a small part of my continued shopping habits from 2018-2020 were fuelled by not knowing just how much I had because it was all in storage bins. Dresses and tops that easily get shoulder dents from narrow hangers? Storage bin. Easy gift items for the holidays? Storage bin. $400 of yarn, all rolled up but not in use? Storage bin (that I could barely close). Fountain pen refills? Ziploc bag, in a pencil case, in a storage bin. I have no idea how many candles/ornaments/mugs/treat kits I have, so what would I do while I was out and about? Buy more, just in case. Nothing sounds as backwards as “Well, this bath gift kit is a backup in case there’s someone I forget, even though I’m buying it on Boxing Day for the following year,” but that was the logic I used (for the record, the kit in question is verging on claiming squatter’s rights for how long it’s been living in my closet).

Not to get off track or try to be too deep about storage, but I wonder if I would even need the bins for seasonal clothing if I had enough room in my closets and drawers for all of it? The top two shelves of my washroom shelf unit would be empty were it not for my 45 or so total backup body products, and even if I bought new when I reach the last 15% of a product, I could store them under my sink for the 4-5 remaining uses. Maybe I wouldn’t get rid of the half-wall unit that doubles as a standing desk since it houses infrequent-use stuff like tools and winter hats and scarves, but could I condense my infrequent-use items all into one place? Sounds like something to reflect on and maybe turn into a month-long project for May.

To clarify, I don’t have my heart set on a spartan, minimalist monochrome apartment with zero storage space. I just need to operate within my Goldilocks Zone of open storage for frequent-use items as opposed to using the wrong type of storage for my stuff. Or, you know, have slightly fewer total items in my dwelling to begin with.

Quarter in Review – January to March

With the first quarter of the year coming to a close, I thought it would be good to check in on my goal progress and see if there’s anything that needs to be adjusted.

Clothing:

So far, so good, I haven’t bought anything new or thrifted. There was one item that I picked up from a clothing swap – a dress for warmer weather – and two items that were in my maybe pile that got put back before I left. I’ve also decluttered some 20+ clothing items since the beginning of the year. I did have a bit of temptation when a new activewear line was released from Joe Fresh, but other than that nothing had been added to my wish-list or particularly caught my eye. I feel that the fact that I still haven’t worn everything once through is helping me to immediately reconsider making any purchases. I’ve also been lucky that nothing has needed to be replaced, so there’s been no need to browse online or in store for stuff. I haven’t brought in any new/new to me accessories either, which is great considering I still haven’t yet worn all 60+ pairs of earrings that I own (so it’s not like I’m lacking new-to-this-year things to wear). Lastly, regarding tracking my clothing, shoes, and earrings per wear, if I have the energy at the end of the day, I’ll add the tally marks right away, if not, I’ll do it every 2-3 days.

Craft Supplies:

Slowly but surely, I’m making my way through my yarn and planner stickers. Pens are harder to go through as quickly, but I haven’t bought any new writing utensils. Through travelling earlier this month, I had picked up postcards and was careful not to buy more than who all I wanted to send to – so nothing has been added to a stockpile, but I haven’t used up any of my other stationary. What’s important to highlight (hehe) is that there’s nothing new in this category either.

Tea:

I have drank so much tea since January, and yet somehow I’m still barely making a dent in the quantity I have. I make anywhere between 1 and 4 cups of tea a day (sometimes double-sized in my huge mug), so progress is there, but sometimes hard to see since I keep all the tea in tins. Same as above, nothing new has come in.

Body Products:

When I made the estimate that I wouldn’t need anything until at least the summer, I was 100% right. I’d even be willing to wager that I’m going to last a bit longer on certain items, like toothpaste and body wash (liquid and bar soap). The only “new to me” items are hotel shampoo and conditioner that my mum passed me before the second leg of my trip (she wasn’t using them and I could still get through security with them in my bag), but other than that I’ve just been chipping away at what I have.

Books:

I have a bit of a mixed review for this category: I haven’t bought anything new, but I’ve only read two of my own books this year. Making the most of my local library (physical and digital branch), I’ve read or listened to some 10 or so books since the beginning of the year. I think what’s drawn me more toward the library is the “newness” factor of content, or finding old series that I never finishes/aged out of but still wanted to know how it ends. I’m pleased that I’ve read more than double in the first quarter what I read in all of 2021, though I’m looking for ways to recapture the “wow” factor of the books still left on my shelf. I don’t know if I want to do something as extreme as flipping the books around on the shelf, or select titles through a random generator – or maybe I just need to slow down and choose what to read based on more than just the title. In fairness, packing light but wanting to read on my trip meant that I’d opt for e-books and audiobooks, and the trip wasn’t planned until later January/early February, so I couldn’t have predicted that when setting goals on January 1st.

Bye-Bye Bin/Empties/Wish-list:

I believe the bye-bye bin format will still work for me, as it’s been the same method I’ve been using for a few years now. Regarding empties, I find this to be rather helpful in seeing what I’m using, as well as how quickly (or how long) it takes for me to go through a given product. Lastly, for the wish-list, I still think the parameters I set are what’s best for me – there’s no reason to lower the bar just because nothing has met it yet.

Anything Else:

I’m pleased with how experiences-focused my plans have been thus far, as well as what I’m looking forward to for the rest of the year. I feel that being more mindful and intentional with my budget (including my “for fun” money) means that I’m not opening up my banking app at the end of the month and trying to figure out where my money went after I went off the rails with impulse purchases. Additionally, I’m more inclined to answer “yes” to looking at an experience (solo or shared) of “is this event worth 10 hours of work,” while the same question geared at clothing or other no-buy categories are a resounding “no.” Other than reading my own books, I don’t think there’s much yet that I need to change about how I’ve been approaching my no-buy year – but I’ll be sure to keep you posted if that changes 🙂

Travelling on a No Buy

This post is both to look at how I did with my March goals and to reflect on travelling within the parameters of my No Buy Year.

Goals Reflection:

Packing:

I ended up going with a backpack and a purse, which meant that I was able to fit in the estimated three days’ worth of clothing into my bag. Granted, I didn’t count the day of clothing for travel (I wore the same thing on each flight), but I needed the layers for some of my excursions anyhow. I was able to do laundry often enough that it wasn’t a problem, and it was still cool or rainy out that I would have been seen in a jacket and black leggings no matter what tops I was wearing. Getting through checking in and airport security, by the way, was an absolute breeze, so I’d be inclined to do this again for short trips.

Stuff versus Experiences:

The only “things” I bought were postcards, but I bought fewer this time around since I brought my gratitude journal with me (which I used to list my daily highlights instead of the postcards). Though I’d been in some stores throughout the trip (where else would I get classically tacky postcards?), I had very little inclination to browse for location-name shirts or books – especially when I thought about how many layers of shirt I’d have to wear on the flight home to fit it all into my backpack. I’m not entirely sure if I would have done the trip all that differently were I not on a No Buy, since much of it was spent on day trips and walkable outings, but it made it easier to not have half a day lost to the vortex of circling a store display to hunt for bargains. I also was able to pace myself a bit better throughout the trip, since I wasn’t trying to constantly do mental math to figure out how long we had left before the gift shop or other stores would close.

Staying on Budget:

I do my my monthly budget by pen and paper in my planner (which I didn’t bring with me), and I didn’t think to take a photo of it before leaving. Though that may sound like I’m gearing up for something negative, things actually turned out well. I ran through the numbers before setting out to write this, and the only section I was over budget on was for postcards, by $0.26 – everything else either fit into what I’d allotted to spend, or was added to my “for fun(d).” I did make sure that what I was setting out to do had a reasonable cost in the first place (museum entrance fee for $15CAD versus almost $70CAD for a suspension bridge crossing), and to not be swept up by promotions like, “buy 12 postcards for $5” when I only wanted 3 (which came out to around $2.50, but I’m fine without the other 9 postcards). I also was travelling during the off-season, which meant that there weren’t too many lines or a sense of urgency while going from place to place, which in turn meant that I could take my time to make more intentional decisions.

For the sake of not worrying about trying to account for preferred currencies of every reader, I figured I’d use percentages to make it easier to see how I did with my budgeting:

On maybe a less positive note, I noticed it was really easy for me to slip into the same treat-yo-self/guilt cycle for buying take-out/dine-in meals. One major factor was that I had lowkey forgotten that I had the $75 “for fun” money set aside, so each time I bought food while out on my own, I went for the cheapest options instead of what I necessarily wanted. For example, one of the slower days had about an hour of deliberation of how far to walk versus how much to spend versus should I just get delivery, which was made worse by my increasing hunger. The majority of the food for the trip was either home meals or split bills/someone covering for the group in turns, so this at least didn’t eat away (… ha ha) at too much of my time – but it’s indeed something to keep in mind for my next trip, whether that’s looking at restaurants in advance or choosing the number of meals out versus at home.

Reading:

I finished my physical book in one day, and finished three e-books during the month. The audio book didn’t pan out, but I was completely enthralled by what I loaned as e-books, so I’d say that balances out.

About the No Buy & Travel:

To begin, doing a No Buy while staying with friends and family would look different than if I were in a hotel/accommodations without a fridge and space to cook. Everyone I stayed with or spent time with had some knowledge of what I was up to, and my goals were respected, which made it easier (and was validating). There were a few small instances of needing to say no (to the general “is there anything you need while we’re out/on the way back?”), but for the most part, discussions took place in advance to figure out what I could borrow/share while I was packing and planning.

My level of flexibility for planning what to see/do was influenced more by travelling in reduced-but-not-gone pandemic measures than the No Buy Year, since experiences are a category I hadn’t limited. I did, however, spend less time combing through any souvenir shop that caught my fancy – especially once I had a postcard per person on my list – which gave me more time to see and do things (and not have my hands or bag full while doing so). In trying to be more mindful of what and how I’m consuming, I’m also more hesitant to pick up things for others – mugs, magnets, shirts, etc. – if it wasn’t something specifically requested. I’m sure my friends and family who have young kids are silently relieved there isn’t a new toy or stuffed animal entering their home.

I don’t believe that it’s fair to compare international/non-family trips to essentially going home, so I won’t look at how I did versus my last bit of travel in 2020. I can, however, think about past trips to family versus this trip, and recognise that I didn’t even go into a mall (let alone browse small shops) on this trip, at all. I didn’t have the room in my luggage for stuff (intentionally), there’s nothing on my wish-list (still/yet), and I didn’t put myself within reach of temptation through staying busy otherwise. Or, to consider things in a positive light, I got to do what I set out to do: take a proper break from work, see my family, hang out with friends, eat delicious food, lose myself in 5 different museums, and be in nature. The memories made and the photos taken will outlast my interest in a t-shirt that might get worn twice a year, even if I got it on discount.

Skewed Numbers

How many times can you brush your teeth from one tube of toothpaste? Maybe you don’t know the exact number of brushings or days, but you could probably estimate the number of weeks or months before you need a new tube.

I have minimal concept of how long it takes for me to finish just about any product. Part of this has to do with having more than one on the go at the same time (think of having a lip balm in your purse versus in your washroom, as opposed to only having the one – and how much longer that would take you to finish it), or from sharing with others (I’m sure I’m not the only one to have used the same shampoo bottle as my mum while growing up). When I went away to university, I was surprised at how quickly I went through body wash and toothpaste on my own. I still don’t know how long it takes for me to complete a lip balm.

Sure, there’s the fact that different products will be different sizes and viscosity, so how quickly you hit pan or empty something will be influenced by that, too. Though I think were I struggle – and how this has influenced my excessive shopping – has to do with having taken a scarcity mindset when purchasing stuff which will eventually run out. Take the following sticker sheet, for example:

I use one sticker per day of physical activity, to track on a year-long calendar that I’ve made some amount of movement that day. I started with these last year, using some 200 of them, and continued on for this year since I’m using the same calendar format. I took this photo back in February, already concerned that I would need to find more stickers for the rest of the year. Actually, to be more honest and accurate, I was stressed that I would need to find more stickers for the rest of the year. This was my gut reaction to seeing that I had fewer than half left, despite there still being more than enough to get me through to June. Thankfully, my first thought wasn’t to purchase more, but to go through the sticker booklets that I thought might have equivalent/similar ones that could be used. I did happen to find more than enough of roughly the same size, so the stress is no longer there – but it’s also something I don’t want to carry as stress in the future.

While it’s certainly an ongoing learning process, my skewed perception of how long something will last has definitely influenced how I’ve shopped in the past. Even in a climate that has all four seasons, the amount of clothing I have is far more than I need, as evidenced by the fact that I barely have enough space to store all of it – let alone enough days in the season to wear it all. I also have bought five of something (candles, crochet hook sets, art history books) thinking that I will need more immediately if I like something even just a little bit. Even with library books, I’ll take out the first two of the series in case I like it enough to want to continue reading immediately.

None of those items are necessities (well, clothing for the sake of being adequately dressed is), but the combination of lacking delayed gratification, bargain hunting, and being a bit of a collector, I generally end up with more than I could need within any definition of “reasonable amounts.” I’ve found that things I’ve already been doing this year – being more intentional, having an inventory of my stuff, keeping track of empties, not buying anything new until I’m all out – has helped with re-calibrating my perception of “enough,” even if the learned response is still “uh, oh, need more!” when I reach the halfway point of something.

I’d be very curious to see where my head’s at when it comes to reaching the last of a category (say, liquid body wash, though I still have 10+ bars of soap), and whether I deem an arguable “necessity” to be worth refilling. For the record, body wash absolutely is, though I’m thinking about hair masks as optional. Once I get to that point, I’ll be sure to offer an update.

Shopping Habits Part 3: Forging an Identity

Here are parts 1 and 2 if you need a refresher before jumping back in.

If you take a look at your wardrobe as is, I’m sure there are a handful of things that you could infer about yourself: the colours you prefer (or prefer to dress in), the climate you live in, maybe how tall you are, how much money you’re willing to spend on clothing (or appear to be willing), maybe your job/the field you’re in, and what aesthetics you’re drawn to. I use “infer” since it’s not likely that you have a plain t-shirt that lists everything about you in neat bullet points, but instead we can make generalizations about who else wears similar (or the same) garments and has the same style as you.

With this in mind, I’m going to talk about how much I relied and still rely on clothing for my self-expression. By around age 12, I moved from only shopping with my mum to mostly shopping with friends as a group outing. Friends who lived closer to the suburban mall a metro ride away introduced me to new boutiques that were heavily marketed and engineered to draw in young teen crowds. Too afraid to split away from friends – both for safety and social repercussions – I spent many afternoon hours circling displays of graphic tees and neon skinny jeans that I absolutely didn’t need but still purchased. We were all self-proclaimed bargain hunters, but that point was negated by how frequently we shopped. As I’ve mentioned before, I had a uniform from grade 7-11, so much of what I wore was weekend cozies or Bat Mitzvah/Sweet 16 garb, with a few select outfits that fell in between. Though I never was outright copying my friends (unless ironically for Twin Day), there was still a lot of overlap between how I dressed and what they wore.

CEGEP was a bit all over the place for specific looks – I think one week I wore a burgundy duster with a tight black v-neck and galaxy print leggings, and the next day I was in a purple and black bodycon dress with a blazer and heels (and I wasn’t even giving a presentation in class). The pieces were inexpensive and easy to swap out with a basic/neutral tone top, so I had fun with intentionally looking like Cher Horowitz’s closet directory had a mind of its own. There was definitely no one here who dressed like me (or at least to this extent of zany), and I had no problem with that – especially after 5 years of a uniform. I was my own interpretation of what was on trend, I had a body that was easy to clothe, and friends that didn’t balk at my gauzy, neon, pink button-ups.

Skip ahead to university, and everything was purple. School events (especially athletics) would follow the “head to toe purple” dress code, and the more the better. My first year was the most extra for this, with me buying official and student-designed school merch, spending more on clothing and accessories than I did on textbooks. The campus as a whole would regularly wear purple on a daily basis, which we only really noticed when we left campus or the student village and encountered locals who dressed in more than just one colour. Things mellowed out by my fourth year, but I still own some 10 or so school shirts and sweaters.

For work, I knew what a Young Professional in Montreal looked like, so I stocked up on office-friendly attire before moving out of the province for work. I felt overdressed in my setting with most of my colleagues dressing more casually than I would, so I shopped some more to fit in (rather than wearing my perfectly fine and still professional clothing!!), because I already stood out enough with being youngest on staff, being bilingual, and being an out-of-towner in a relatively small community. Even after attending a fairly small university and seeing mostly the same people every day, this was the same experience, but zoomed in, which meant that feeling like I stood out was all the more visible (according to me, in my brain – no one said as much, but that’s anxiety for ya).

Where am I now with all of this? I dress as “fancy” as I want for work, regardless of how others are dressing. I’ll show up in a suit or a monochromatic look (my go-to looks for weekday work), but I’m picking my outfits according to what I feel that day (or what I have to do) rather than doing mental gymnastics of what could be counted as overdressed for the people I work with. Did I wear turtlenecks every day last week? Yes. Did I enjoy it? Also, yes – and that’s where I’m at now, not wasting time worrying about others’ response to what I wear, but seeing if it makes me happy.

You could argue that none of this matters, I just need to be clothed and respect the rough dress code at work and in other social settings. However, a key part of how I express myself – and how I feel! – has to do with how I’m dressed. If I’m in cozier clothing (pj-adjacent, if you will), I’m 100% less likely to work on Important Stuff TM and it will take me longer to go from task to task. If I’m struggling to put together a weekly summary email for a tutee’s parents, I throw a blazer on and can get back to work. The second example probably has more to do with taking a break and getting up from my seat than actually wearing the blazer – and having a few minutes to mull things over without the cursèd blinking cursor mocking me – but it works, so I keep doing it.

Overall, clothing is a key component of how I express myself. I like getting dressed up, I love themed events, and I have fun with putting together outfits and accessories. What others see about me first is how I’m dressed, which matters to me more along the lines of “this is precisely who I am,” and not at all a “what if they don’t like the way I’m dressed?” thing. How I dress will change throughout life – I don’t know that clothing from age 27 will last to age 72 – which is fine, so long as what I’m using, how I care for it, and what I do with it when I’m seemingly “done” with a piece is handled in a thought-out manner. There’s nothing inherently wrong with associating identity with clothing – who *hasn’t* heard “oh, this is so you!” while shopping with friends – I just need to be more mindful how much I’m bringing in.