Today I want to reintroduce you to Jill Chivers of My Year Without Clothes Shopping – who is a reformed shopaholic, but who I asked to write me a post after a recent experience that I think some of you may understand all too well.
I was a compulsive over shopper for years. And for much of that time, I didn’t even realise it. I thought shopping was a harmless pastime or maybe a contact sport I had become very, very good at. Shopping was my favourite hobby.
My turning point moment came when I returned home from a work trip to San Francisco in November 2009, my bags swollen from over $1000 worth of unneeded, ‘justification’ purchases of clothes and accessories. Why had I bought all this stuff, including 2 pairs of jeans to add to my existing collection of 14 pair and another pair of shoes to take my tally to over 100 pairs?
I knew something was seriously “off” about my shopping and I also knew it was time to take drastic action. It was time (drum roll please) to take a year off from clothes shopping. So on December 15, 2009, I started my year without clothes shopping challenge. No shopping for new clothes, shoes, accessories, handbags, underwear for 12 whole months. No shopping at all except for necessities.
My year without clothes shopping was a profound and life changing journey. I learned so much about myself, my shopping, my relationships, my failings and talents.
That year also changed what I do for a living. I now run the world’s first online program for women who want to develop healthier relationships to shopping, themselves, their wardrobes and their wallets. We have two main programs: our year-long premium program, My Year Without Clothes Shopping, and our shorter course, the 6 Week Conscious Clothes Shopping Mini Course.
The thing about shopping habits is they are dynamic and alive. They are never static. I learned this recently when I was in Sydney for a short work trip. I stopped into David Jones, Australia’s largest department store, as I sometimes do to have a look around. I still love clothes and style, and occasionally enjoy a spot of shopping (although I no longer feel a compulsion to shop).
To understand the full context of this shopping trip, I had been going through an emotionally stressful time, precipitated by the death of my grandmother, who I was close to. So I wasn’t feeling as calm and positive as I usually am. I was a little more suggestible, a little more fragile than usual, at least when it comes to shopping.
Being a shopaholic in ‘recovery’, I am very aware of placing myself in shopping situations – I make a conscious choice to go into a shopping district and almost always set a time limit by which I will leave. I use the “power pause” where I do not buy things I see and like without inserting a minimum of two hours in between seeing it and buying it (and often I insert a two-day gap). These measures help keep me conscious in my shopping behaviour. And that’s what it’s all about – conscious consumption.
So when I came across a turquoise jacket in David Jones that caught my eye, I tried it on. Turquoise is a signature colour for me, and this jacket, at least on the hanger out on the floor, seemed to be ticking a lot of boxes – it seemed like it might be a good buy.
Why did I send that photo to Imogen and not simply wait my two hour ‘power pause’ period and then purchase it? Because I knew something was wrong about it. It was wrong in some key ways, but I couldn’t tell what they were. I knew it was physically not quite right, but emotionally it didn’t feel right either. This has been part of my own conscious shopping journey – to tune in to what feels right, and how heavy or light (or wrong or right) a purchase feels – before I buy it.
I needed input from a ‘wise guide’ – someone who understands colour and style in general, and who understands me specifically, including my particular journey of recovering from a compulsion to shop.
Imogen phoned me when she got the photo – “Tell me about this jacket” she started with. “Well….” I said, and proceeded to go through the positives of it, whilst also being hesitant about the overall workability and suitability of it. I could hear some ‘justification’ words creeping into my description of this piece.
Imogen, being the wise guide that she is, could hear not only the words I was saying but what was in between those words. She knew I was hesitant. And she concluded that the style wasn’t quite right – the collar didn’t suit my body or defining features, and the overall style of the jacket didn’t suit ME, my personality.
It was just the input I needed to let the jacket go, mentally as well as a potential purchase. That jacket may still be hanging in David Jones. Taking that photo, talking with Imogen and walking away were just the three things I needed to do to circuit-break an unhealthy habit that I have healed, but which sometimes I am still susceptible to, especially when I’m not as emotionally buoyant as usual.
I did end up buying a turquoise jacket some weeks later, knowing it was something that would fill an identified a wardrobe gap and would be a purchase I would feel good about long after the ink had faded on the receipt.
I didn’t buy just any jacket, I bought the right one for me – an item that suits me in every way (not just my colouring and body shape, but my lifestyle and personality), and at the right price.
Conscious shopping is about feeling good about the “end to end” process of shopping – feeling good about the shopping you do before, during and after each shopping trip. This is something I learned in spades during my own shopping armistice – so much of our shopping is not conscious before we go into the stores, can be a bit frenzied or stressed during, and is sometimes regretted afterward. There is a better way.
Knowing who you are, what you need, what you’ll wear and what your style is are all critical in finding the right pieces and never bringing home an ‘orphan’ that will hang unworn and unloved in your closet, ever again. Knowing which purchases feel right for you is also a critical part of shopping consciously.
Shopping is not ‘just shopping’ for some women, me included. I understand this from first-hand (and sometimes painful) experience and that’s why I’m here to help other women who want to journey back to a more conscious relationship to clothes shopping.
About Jill Chivers: Jill Chivers understands the overshopping cycle first hand. After recovering from her compulsion to overshop, Jill is now an advocate for conscious shopping and has created the world’s first online membership site for other women who want to slay their own shopping dragon and create a healthier relationship to shopping, themselves, their wardrobes and their wallets.
Jill has appeared in many media stories, talking about compulsive overshopping, including the Today Show, Sunrise, Today Tonight, The Circle, The Morning Show, Triple J, the San Francisco Chronicle, Prevention magazine, the Sunday Herald and the Wall Street Journal.
Jill is an official spokesperson and ambassador for Buy Nothing New Month, a global initiative that inspires individuals to become more conscious in their consumption.