Capsule Groceries

I shop for groceries once ever 6-8 weeks. I only have to plan food for myself, so I’m willing to have repeats within the meal cycle, which is how I make this work for so long. For the record, I learned how to cook through a meal kit in 2020 (we had a meal plan with work before), so this is based on what I know how to do/make so far. Also, with learning from a meal kit, everything I’ve made has been in bulk (I had a 4-meal, 4-portion plan) and covered lunches and dinners for 2 days at a time. I’m also willing to have the exact same breakfast every day – plain oatmeal and frozen blueberries – since I can mix it up with the different flavours of tea that I drink.

Planning:

Flyers, pen & paper list, and scouring the website for specific prices is how I plan what I’m going to make over the next two months. I don’t have brand loyalty, and I general go with whatever is cheapest – especially if there’s a 30% off sticker for produce or meat that’s going off today and it was already on my list. What matters more to me is the budget than the brand. I approach this in a “capsule” way, in that what I’m eating will be on rotation, and will shift a bit from season to season. The biggest thing that makes this doable – especially in light of the recent inflation hike – is being flexible about what I’m going to use or pick up this time around. For example, today, I got a different brand of tortellini with different filling than usual, and if it doesn’t work this go around, then I’ll go back to what I usually get (and is usually cheaper, but the sale was in the other brand’s favour).

I also consider what I have coming up in the next two months and plan around that. I know that I’ll be taking an overnight flight in late March after visiting family, and it will take about 9 hours, door to door, so I’m going to be tired and hungry by the time I get home, so I’ve planned ahead and picked up some easy meals that can live in the deep freezer until I need them. I could have made something in bulk and stored half of it, but I know myself well enough that I’m going to have just enough energy to shove a spanakopita spiral in the oven and it’ll be ready by the time I’ve finished unpacking, and then I don’t need to cook twice that day (it’s a kilo of spanny (my affectionate term for it), so I know I’ll be super full).

Recipes:

What I use to plan these meals is a mix of what I liked from the meal kits, what I can do from family recipes, and stuff I’ve found on Budget Bytes. Each shopping trip, I’ll throw in a tester meal, and see if it works for what I want to make – especially if the ingredients can be co-opted into a different meal, or added to something else on the rotation. This trip I didn’t, but that’s because I know there’d be a fair bit of variation since my tortellini are going to be different – and God forbid I go too far out of my comfort zone.

Why I do it this Way:

I don’t have a car, and I have a weird work schedule (evenings and every other weekend). Cooking in batches on rotation is easiest for me, and the variation in food is enough that I’m not actually eating the same thing over and over. I can also plan for the easiest recipes on weeks that I work that weekend, or if I need to, I can rely on the freezer foods every so often. I also know that I’m not going to pay around $30CAD for pizza delivery when that’s roughly how much it costs to feed myself for a week.

Things to keep in Mind:

  1. There’s only me that I’m planning for. There are fewer variables to manage when you’re planning for one. The few months last year that my friend was rooming with me, we’d follow a similar planning scheme, but on a much smaller scale since he needed lunches to bring to practicum, and our schedules were flipped of each other – so we’d go every other week, but still plan as intentionally and intensively. Thankfully, we had a very similar palate, so I was lucky that I only had a few recipes to pull from rotation – and that we were open with communicating about food needs and wanting to try new recipes.
  2. I do one Costco run per year to stock up on specifics stuff like dried cranberries, oatmeal, and spices. Shout out to my parents for letting their adult child leech off of their membership (luv u)
  3. I cook within my comfort zone. I’m not hosting or entertaining anyone, so I’m not challenging myself to do more “out there” things like meals with more than 3 steps, especially if it involves meat. I’m a bit fussy about what I’ll physically handle for meat, and I don’t care much for beef or pork (minus bacon). Lastly, I’m lucky that I don’t have any intolerances or allergies, so I’m not paying extra for lactose-free cheese or gluten-free pasta.

For the more visual types, I made a mock schedule of the rotation, so you have an idea of how I keep myself fed on the same set of meals on a bi-monthly basis.

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 đŸ™‚

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 MontrĂ©al, 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 ChĂ¢teau 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 đŸ™‚

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!

Psychology & Shopping: Locus of Control & Attribution Theory

A few disclaimers before we begin:

1) These are theories that were first published in the 50s & 60s in the USA. They have been retested with different variables and have had similar outcomes – which is the standard for a theory to still be seen as, uh, legit.
2) With any theory in the social sciences, there are limits to how many experiences will align entirely with the theory. Your experiences, beliefs, perspectives, culture, mood, and more can impact how you will respond to a given situation.
3) How you feel the theory applies to you may change over time, and may change from one context to the next. I’m going to be applying the theory strictly in the context of shopping, though I encourage you to think about it in other areas of your life as well.

So, What is Locus of Control?

There are two ends to a spectrum that are labeled “internal” and “external,” and in general, a person’s perspective will fall somewhere within the line – or at an extreme – of what they believe controls their outcomes. Someone who is more toward “external” sees outcomes and consequences as being left to fate or luck, and may be less inclined to try to take control of a situation if they feel that there’s nothing to do about it. For someone who is more toward “internal,” they see outcomes and consequences as mostly in their power, and will see the results as a direct consequence of the choice they made.

And Attribution Theory?

Frequently in psychology, behaviours are placed along two spectra, which offers a lot of variety for where someone can land. Later theorists have looked at what influences someone’s response to a situation: the result is based on something internal/personality and would likely be the same across multiple situations (“dispositional”) or it differs depending on the context (“situational”).

How this Applies to Shopping

How this may apply to shopping depends on how someone can choose to react to sales, bargain finds, and more. For the sake of not complicating this, we’ll use the same situation for four different people (I’m going with 4/5 sisters from Pride and Prejudice for names – but not specific to the actual characters), and here’s the scenario: there’s a seasonal sale at the local mall, which includes stores that our four examples would regularly shop at, as well as stores they usually don’t care about. Our first person, Jane, is drawn in to the stores where she usually shops, makes purchases for items that she would usually buy, and because it’s sale season, has a look at other stores just in case there’s anything else on her list that she can take care of (internal, situational). Jane may stay on budget, but this will depend on what else she finds for her list. Lizzy, on the other hand, goes into the mall with her wish list items that she planned for, and doesn’t bother checking other stores since she knows she doesn’t need anything they sell (internal, dispositional). Lizzy will come in on budget or below, depending on if anything from her wish list is no longer available. Next, we have Mary, who happened to be at the mall the weekend of the sale – as luck would have it – and will spend the day going from store to store (in order of preference) just to see what she can find (external, dispositional). Mary’s budget may have been forgotten in taking advantage of scooping up great finds. Finally, Kitty’s rainboots have splashed their last puddle, and it just so happens that the shoe store has rainboots on clearance as winter is on its way. Kitty will take advantage of the sale since the stars aligned, but isn’t too worried about the rest of the sales going on – she’s got only her rainboots on her mind (external, situational). Kitty’s budget is rainboots, and rainboots alone.

How this Applies to Me

How this may apply to you will depend on which person you identify with most. If you feel like you might be more of a Jane or Mary, you may find yourself spending time and money that you might not have intended to, especially if your goal (like mine has been in the past) is to find the best possible bargains – regardless of your needing them. I think that reflecting on how you react to information related to shopping – new collection drop, limited run, flash sale, clearance, store closure – would be the best place to start. You can’t move towards making a change if you don’t know where your behaviours are coming from, you know? For myself, I feel that I’ve been in the mindset of each example person at least once – though, historically, I would have been in the middle between a Jane and Mary, and now I’m closer to a Lizzy since leading up to my No Buy year. I feel like I’m more in control to say “no,” to the things I don’t need so I can say “yes,” to the experiences I want. A $200 clothing haul every other month feels great in the moment, but I’m now more hyped about turning that money into seeing more of the world with clothes I already love. I’d be curious to know how others who are also doing a No Buy feel their alignment has been or currently is.

Further Reading/Reference List:

In case you’d like to dive in on the original theory, here are the two major sources I’ve scouted from:
1. Locus of control: Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological monographs: General and applied, 80(1), 1.
2. Attribution theory: Heider, F. (1958). The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations. New York: Wiley.

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