UPDATE: I’m still on the wagon. Delivered from the need for excess.
Well, 2015 is over and so is my writing sabbatical. Last year my focus was on building ZOI Wholeness, a not-for-profit personal development firm, and to discipline myself to focus more on the needs of others. My goal for last year was simple: NO NEW THINGS! I was not going to shop for the entire year. I was buying nothing new in 2015. It was time to get rid of my shopping addiction.
So here it is in a nutshell. If you just want the quick and dirty…
#1 Stop all shopping for a significant period of time (key words STOP and SIGNIFICANT!)
#2 Do something else with your money (Giving is good!)
#3 Do something else with your time (Make it productive!)
#4 Don’t Quit!!!
The moment I hit rock bottom was not very dramatic. It was merely the moment I “came to myself” like a prodigal daughter from Luke 15. I was switching out my closet from fall/winter to spring/summer back in 2014. I started hanging up my sundresses. You know, those maxi and mini dresses that you kick around in with flat sandals or flip flops. You cannot wear them to church and they are not to wear for a night out. Sundresses are simply my version of jeans and sneakers. I grabbed an armful and hung them on the rack. I went back and grabbed another armful…and other…and another. Finally, I decided to count them because it seemed like I had a lot. I did not have a lot of sundresses. I had a ridiculously disgusting, shamefully excessive eighty-eight sundresses. 88! It was a stat that made me physically ill.
The shame haunted me for months and I started the “think before you buy” strategy of shopping. However, the rush I received from the word “SALE” remained. 40% off! 50% Off! UP TO 70% OFF! Each triggered endorphins in my brain like a glass of Opus One and Belgian Chocolate. In addition to the sales high, the arrogance that engulfed me as I marched to the counter with my “Insider” “VIP” “Triple Platinum” “Couture Customer” status was thrilling. This was a physical addiction.
The problem for me was that no matter what I bought: a new lipstick, a new television, or a new scent from glade plug ins, I was physically stimulated with a sense of pleasure. So I decided to take control. You cannot ease your way out of addiction. An alcoholic cannot decide to drink only a few drinks a week. A hoarder cannot decide to clean out only a few things. No! This had to be an all out war on my shopping habit. So I put a plan together.
The “small steps” approach was not going to do it. I used to the same approach I took when I switched to a low-carb/sugar free lifestyle. Before you can indulge even a little you have to completely rid your body of the experience memory. It is the opposite of building muscle memory. I decided I would buy nothing for myself for the entire year. No matter how many times Victoria Secret had 5/$25 I would not be buying anything. I would shop my closet and wear something more than once, twice…gasp three times. I would attack the lust – the requirement to have something new for every occasion and the arrogance – the notion that people actually noticed or cared what I wore.
Next, I was going to have to figure out what to do with my shopping money. Sure, I could have just put it away in a savings or investment account but that was still a “me” issue and I really wanted to deny myself. So I decided that I would give it away. The money I normally spend on an annual shopping budget would be given to various charities in various different ways. I would increase my giving to those in need.
Then, I had to figure out what to do with my time. I spent an unthinkable amount of hours each week shopping online. I needed to fill this time. So I began to increase my study of apologetics and read my Bible/pray multiple times a day. I signed up for a number of Christian email ministries and online magazines like Today’s Christian Woman and PrimeTime with God. This gave me easy access to content on my computer, opposing the need to browse shopping sites. Oh! and I unsubscribed from all promotional emails from my favorite stores.
Lastly, I needed to go tell it on the mountain. I needed everyone to know what I was doing so that I could be accountable. I wrote the blog to announce it and then talked my way through it all year long. The more I told people, the more ferocious I was about succeeding.
It went like this…
January was excruciating and my focus was on not shopping. February was rough and after 6 weeks into the year I was in the process of rationalizing that I had done enough. March was the breaking point. The lose-lose. It was at that point where if you give up you know you’ll hate yourself because you’ve made it this far but to continue is so much agony that you hate yourself for even doing this. By the grace of God and the help of the village, I made it through the winter. April brought the first significant personal paradox – my birthday. My mind started to believe that getting one outfit for the year would be okay. I had to wear something new for my birthday, right? I persevered through the moment and began to shop my closet. God had a ram in bush because my niece left the most adorable black jumper at my house. She’s a size zero. I’m a size four. The jumper was a size two so I managed to wear something new to my birthday celebration. Won’t he do it???!!!!
Spring/Summer catalogs arrived and I flipped through the pages with great sorrow before I realized that I was torturing myself. So I started to use the garage entrance to collect the mail. This allowed me to toss all catalogs and promotional mailers into the recycle bin before they even made it into the house. Obviously, since I was on a shopping fast, all my retail credit cards had zero balances. The coupons and deals were overwhelming. The 2nd trimester had a little discomfort but for the most part was the easiest.
You are impatient, uncomfortable and ready for this thing to end. You start to dream of your baby. Well, I started to dream of shopping. I dreamed that I was shopping at some of my favorite places: Caesar’s Palace Shops in Las Vegas, West Nanjing Road in Shanghai, The Champs Elysees in Paris, El Jardin deSerrano in Madrid . Yes, I was a worldwide shopper. Don’t judge me. At least four nights a week during this time I dreamed of being back in my favorite places again. As the calendar days passed I got more and more antsy. But my strength was rock solid. By the middle of October there was no turning back. I was actually going to do this thing. I had made it through summer vacation season with no new things. After all, I had 88 sundresses, 14 bathing suits and 12 pairs of flip flops. On Black Friday I did not even blink. On Cyber Monday I worked. I already knew what I was getting my family for Christmas. They were prompt with their lists. I went on Amazon and got everything in one shot. No browsing. Point and click. At this point the countdown had begun.
I made it!!!
We are now three days into the new year and I have yet to purchase a single thing. The truth is…I have no desire to shop. Several months ago I was sure that on January 2, 2016 I would drop $7000 at Short Hills mall since seven is the number of completion and all. But I actually surprised myself. You’ll be surprised at what you can do when you set a plan and set your mind to it. Whatever you want to achieve in 2016, have a plan and plan to be successful. Be intentional about what you want to do and who you want to be.
So…I bet you are wondering what I have planned for 2016. Oh just you wait and see!!!!!