Saturday, 18 June 2016

Hundreds of dollars of joy

I had a post ready to publish about how my shopping ban has inadvertently made me more miserly about spending in general, even though I'm still allowed to buy things that aren't shoes, clothes and accessories. 

But on Thursday I spent hundreds of dollars on a holiday (it was a great deal, but still) so I have no claim at all on being a freshly minted skinflint. I'm off to Brisbane for six nights in late July, while Luke is off holidaying in the UK. Yes, that's the trip I'm not going on because I'm short of funds. I did um and ahh about whether I should spend money on a holiday before I finally hit the submit button. I am trying to rehabilitate my savings after all. I won't be spending anywhere near as much as I would if I were going with Luke, but it's still a sizeable chunk of funds. 

But whatever. I want to go on adventure. Adventuring is fun. I've never visited Brisbane apart from a few hours in the bus station 20 years ago, and I love exploring new places. It will take my mind off not going to the UK and missing Luke. And on top of all of that, I am hoping to meet two of my longtime online friends while I'm there.  We've been friends on the interwebs for about 10 years, but have never met in real life. It will be awesome to finally meet them. 

I feel as if i'm trying to justify my spending, but I did say in my previous post I wasn't taking the full on fiscal austerity path because it cuts out many sources of joy and comfort. I've just bought a few hundred dollars of joy and comfort!  

Shopping my closet update

I had a four days off last weekend, the perfect opportunity to do a proper assessment and cull of my wardrobe, but I was lazy and only went through some of my clothes and put aside a small pile of things to go to the charity shop. 

I tried some things on and I still have quite a few clothes that are too small, but I'm not getting rid of them because I have actually been losing weight. Fitting into them isn't just wishful thinking! 

Maybe tomorrow I'll get my act together. Or next weekend. I'm still making an effort to wear more of my unworn or seldom worn pieces though. 

Napping update

I managed a whole weekendthe aforementioned four-day weekend, no lesswithout napping, unless you count dozing in the car on the way home from Healesville on Monday afternoon (I don't).  I had a few late nights in the lead up to that weekend, so I'm surprised I didn't feel more in need of afternoon snoozes.  

But I've blotted my copy book this weekend with a two-hour sleep on Friday afternoon. I did have a headache, but it wasn't so bad that I needed to lie down. I didn't even try to talk myself out of getting into bed for a nap when I got home and I don't feel bad about it either!    

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

My shopping ban rules

Spending bans like mine are nothing new. A Google search will bring up loads of articles and personal blogs from people (mostly women) who've done this before me, although not everybody does it exactly the same.

Some—like the woman in my previous post—give up all discretionary spending, outlaying money only on the absolute essentials such as rent, food and bills. Others—like me—just say no to buying clothes, shoes and accessories. Some rule out buying new items, but allow themselves to purchase second-hand goods.

I'm not giving up spending money altogether because my financial situation isn't so bad that I need to throw myself into full scale fiscal austerity.  I want to still enjoy the pleasures of books and music, movies, galleries, exhibitions and other outings, and dinners or drinks with friends. I certainly don't think you always need to spend money to have fun, but this strict approach cuts out many sources of great joy and comfort. I don't need more clothes and shoes, but I'll take all the joy and comfort I can get, thank you very much.

I am saying no to second-hand purchases though because it would still fuel the habit of shopping and acquiring  more. I might be able to buy stuff for next to nothing, but it goes against the practice of 'enoughness'.  

My rules:
  • No spending money at all on shoes, clothes and accessories, not even second-hand. 
  • Essential items like underwear and socks are OK to buy, but I'm quite sure I have more than enough essentials to last me for the rest of the year—and beyond. 
  • I'm also not spending money on make-up or skin care, except to replace essential products when they run out (not that I'm suggesting make-up is essential, but I'm not giving up my eyeliner, mascara or concealer). 
I haven't been tempted at all so far, but I was walking along Chapel Street (one of Melbourne's most iconic shopping strips) on Friday after an appointment on my way to buy lunch and I realised just how powerfully I'm drawn to shop. I'd see a shop I like and think,"Oh, I'll just pop in for a look," before remembering my shopping ban. Over and over. "I'll just pop in—oh, no I wont. No shopping, Jayne!"  

I did go into one department store because...yes, I felt like shopping, but instead I wandered around looking at homewares and bedding and stuff that's not shoes, clothes, accessories or make-up, but I am conscious of the need to avoid simply redirecting my spending into other avenues (including buying clothes for Luke!). But all I bought were some coathangers, which I did need. 

I should probably just stay away from the shops and only do quick in-and-out trips when I need something to break the habit of shopping as a way to spend time. 

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Am I a booger-eating, bed-wetting idiot liberal too?

The Guardian ran a story last week about a woman who has committed to spending nothing for an entire year (apart from paying for food and bills). She's even foregoing public transport and holidays, which means not being able to see her immediate family who live beyond cycling distance (a bit too drastic, if you ask me). 

Michelle McGagh's inspiration for jumping off the treadmill of constant consumption was Buy Nothing Day and the minimalism movement. She's six months in and has struggled at times, but says it has made her happier, which is a common theme running through the stories of people who have drastically reduced their spending: it not only makes them more financially secure, it also enriches their lives in other more profound ways, such as becoming more grateful for what they have.     

Not everybody is applauding Michelle (and other non-spenders) though. On The Guardian's Facebook pages, one woman commented:
Oh shut up you booger eating bed wetting idiot liberal, POOR people do this every fucking day
This comment garnered 26 'likes' and supportive replies from several others. Harsh, but true, of course. A lot of people don't have the luxury of choosing not to spend their money on non-essentials and frivolities.

As a new member of the non-spenders (or less-spenders), I cringed a little when I read the comment. If I were poor, I'd be pretty insulted too (or I should say, 'if I were still poor' - my family background is solidly working class battler).

But then I thought, I think it's just as insulting - if not more so - to splash your cash on non-essentials and frivolities you don't even use. Behold my shoe closet as big as your bedroom with its 300 pairs of shoes that cost more than you earn in a month and barely have a scuff on them. (No, I do not have 300 pairs of shoes).

If you have the money available for discretionary spending, buying stuff you use and appreciate is less like rubbing the noses of the less fortunate in it, isn't it?

Practising enough-ness

One of the gurus of minimalism, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, published a post this week about "enough-ness" inspired by the Zen saying "ware tada shiru taru", which translates as: 
All you need, you already have.
"As you sit here reading this article, pause and take an assessment of your life right now. Chances are, you have enough food, clothing, shelter, and other basic necessities in your life. You might also have loved ones, people who care about you. You are (mostly) comfortable, without any desperate needs. All you need, you already have."

He lists ideas for how to practice "enough-ness", including asking yourself before buying something whether you really need it or if you have enough. 

"Ask yourself, regularly throughout your day, whether you have all you need. I think you’ll find that you do, and by appreciating that fact more often, you can see what a profound miracle that is."

Profound miracle indeed. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Shopping my own closet

My name is Jayne and it's been more than a week since I last shopped for shoes and clothes. But I have been indulging in another sort of shopping: the kind fashion bloggers call "shopping your closet".

This means actually wearing the clothes you already own, which sounds silly until you consider that the average Australian only wears a third of the clothes they own. A third! That's a lot of unworn clothes and wasted money, especially if you have a vast wardrobe, as I do (vast by most people's standards, anyway). I'm not sure if I wear more or less than a third, and I'm not sure I really want to quantify it (or think about how much I've spent on unworn garments).

Shopping your closet involves re-examining what you own, purging the stuff you're never going to wear, and working out new ways to put the remaining pieces together so you feel as if you have been shopping. You make better use of everything you own and overcome the boredom of wearing the same outfits over and over (which can give rise to the urge to shop). 

Yes, I'm guilty of wearing the same things over and over. I have a lot of unworn or rarely worn clothing, but I also have a lot of clothes I've worn A LOTonce a week for months and months on end, years even. I've actually worn out some items of clothing, including a couple of my beloved black and white striped tops and a pair of jeans that have massive holes caused by the rubbing of my fleshy inner thighs (which I can't bring myself to get rid of. The jeans, I mean; I'm keeping the fleshy thighs).  

Stripes, stripes, glorious stripes

My tendency to re-wear the same things regularly is partly because I'm always in a rush on work days, and it's easier to reach for the old faithfuls rather than thinking about putting together a new outfit. Often before I go to sleep I will put together outfits in my head that incorporate a new or rarely worn piece, but when I'm racing the clock in the mornings (I usually have about 30 mins from my feet hitting the floor to racing out the door) that new outfit idea goes completely out the window and I opt for the old faithfuls. (Why, yes, I could just get up earlier, but let's be realistic.)

Last year (or the year before even) I bought a hanging rack with the intention of spending time on the weekends putting together a week of outfits so in the mornings I just had to grab my outfit off the rack and thrown it on. But I think I only did that once before the rack got filled with a bunch of clothes I'm going to try to sell day when I can be bothered taking photos of them. 

Another reason I tend to wear the same things often is because I know they actually fit me. Like many women, my weight has fluctuated over the years. I've been a size 10 (Australian sizing) and I've pushed the upper limits of size 14. I have everything between size small and extra extra large (although this is partly due to inconsistent sizing).  At any given time most of my clothes fit and some don't, but usually I don't have the time in the morning to work out if something fits me again if I've lost or gained a few kilos, and then work out what to wear it with.

I'm currently in a 'losing' phase and I've been able to fit into a few barely worn or unworn items, but I need to have a proper trying-on session to work out what fits me now.  

Which brings to me to how to shop your closet...

Clean out your wardrobe. I cull my clothes a few times a year and I'm probably due to do it again. There's plenty of how-tos online on how to go about this, usually suggesting you make three piles: one for clothes to keep, one for clothing to donate/discard and one for things you aren't sure about. The latter pile you can store away for six months or so and if you don't drag anything back out of it, donate/or discard that too. 

Questions to ask yourself when going through your clothes: 

Do I love it? Do I love how I look and feel in it? Marie Kondo might urge you to only keep things that spark joy, but let's be honest: not everything in your closet will bring joy; some things are just more utilitarian, like black opaque tights or basic cotton tops or active wear. If there's no spark of joy, consider: does it serve a purpose? Does it suit my lifestyle? Does it help pull together an outfit I do love?

Even if you answer these questions in the affirmative, also ask yourself: Does it fit me properly? Really fit? If not, can I have it tailored? Will I actually get it tailored?  Does it need mending? Can i be bothered getting it repaired? Is it comfortable? Do I constantly tug at it? Is the fabric scratchy or stiff?  

And further still: Does it go with other pieces in my wardrobe? If it doesn't, you probably won't wear it. Is it too high maintenance? Am I really likely to commit to handwashing/ironing/drycleaning it regularly (bearing in mind not everything that's labelled dryclean or handwash only always needs to be cleaned that way. Some things can go in a wash bag on a gentle cycle, but exercise caution)? Do I have the appropriate undergarments to wear it to best effect? (The difference that the right bra and undies makes cannot be underestimated.)

Do you really need to dry clean that? 

Am I likely to have an occasion to wear it? A whole rack of fancy dresses is nice and all, but not much use if you rarely have occasions to wear them, unless you can dress them down (with, say, a denim jacket and flats) to make them more wearable on an everyday basis, or you are bold enough to adopt the 'every day is a special occasion' approach to dressing and frock up regardless. 

Does it have sentimental meaning to me? If you really can't bear to part with the ragged jumper your late gran knitted, don't.

Keep your clothes where you can see them. Once you've downsized to the clothes you know you will wear, keeping your clothing in one place where everything is visible makes it easier to find and work with clothes you have been neglecting. Organise your clothes so you hang like with like: skirts with skirts, pants with pants etc. Dryclean, iron and mend your clothes as required so they can go straight back into wardrobe to be worn again and again. (I say this, but I'm never likely to iron more than twice a year. That's why I mostly buy wash-and-wear clothes.)

Making new outfits. This is the fun part! Some ideas: 
  • Try on all your tops with all your bottoms. Tuck your tops in or leave them untucked. 
  • Pair your shoes with  skirts or dresses you wouldn't normally put together. 
  • Play around with accessories like scarves and belts. 
  • Consider colour combinations you wouldn't have thought of before, or experiment with pattern mixing. 
  • Mix feminine pieces with edgier garments - like a flowing dress with chunky boots or a leather jacket. 
  • Look at your summer clothes and see if you can get more wear out of them by adding layers. Look into layering generally. 
  • Can you incorporate any of your more casual clothing into your work or going out attire? Can you dress down fancier gear? 
  • But most importantly: Forget the rules. There are no fashion rules, only opinions (I think Iris Apfel said this, but I can't find the quote again). If you like it, wear it. 

When you hit on an outfit you like, take a photo. Keep your photos close at hand, either online or off. Make a Pinterest board. Stick them on your wardrobe door. Refer to them often. There's also an iPhone app called Stylebook designed to help you make outfits from your own clothes, but I don't have an iPhone so can't comment on its usefulness. 

I've been making an effort to wear some of the neglected pieces in my wardrobeshoes, jewellery, a shirt, skirt and a pair of pantsbut this weekend I need to properly go through all my stuff and create new outfits.  

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Oversleeping: still doing it

I've been doing great at not shopping so far, but I'm not doing so well at breaking one of my other bad habits: sleeping too much on weekends. 

This weekend was the first test of my resolve and I've mostly failed. I crept into bed on Friday afternoon and slept for several hours, and then I spent most of the time between 4.00pm Saturday and 10.00am Sunday asleep. In my defence, I was (and still am) not feeling well, so I don't feel too cross with myself for not sticking to my guns for most of this weekend. 

But I have managed not to give in and get back into bed today. I really, really wanted toI'm very tired, my body hurts, my throat's tender and I have a niggly headachebut I forced myself to get off my backside and do stuff instead. I had quite a productive afternoon: I put on a batch of bone broth, did some meal prep for dinner tonight and the week ahead, and I even did some ironing and mending. Mending, I tell you! 

I guess I'm not as committed to breaking this habit as I am to the shopping ban. Maybe if I had to pay a fee for every hour I spend sleeping, it would be easier to stay out of my lovely, cozy, comfy bed...

Oversleeping might not put me in debt like shopping too much, but there is a physical cost: I suffer with chronic fatigue, which is what makes napping and sleeping in so hard for me to resist, but it doesn't actually help: it makes me feel more tired, not less. I would probably be less fatigued if I stuck to a regular sleeping routine like the experts advise, which is what I'm trying to do. 

What's more, sometimes I can't sleep at night if I sleep too late, or nap too much during the day, and that starts a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation and napping/oversleeping. Napping and oversleeping are also known migraine triggers and, as a chronic migraineur, I should be avoiding triggers where I can.  

Not getting enough sleep is a major health risk, but sleeping too much (that is, more than nine hours a night) might also be bad for your health, although it seems less clear cut than the science on the impact of too little sleep. 

There are studies showing sleeping more than nine hours a night is linked with increased risk of diabetes, obesity and depression, and higher "all-cause mortality", but there's also a study showing that "all-cause mortality" only increases in those who are physically inactive. I'm no gym bunny, but I get my 10,000 steps in most days. 

There is also a chicken-and-egg issuedoes sleeping too much cause poor health or does poor health lead to oversleeping? 

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research concluded after reviewing the science that regularly sleeping more than nine hours might be "appropriate" for some, including people who are ill or have a sleep debt. For others, the health risk is "uncertain". 

It might not be doing me too much harm (as long as I'm active), but it isn't doing me any good either, so I'm still going try and do better. Perhaps it's more sensible to gradually reduce my oversleeping rather than cutting it out in one go? 

Friday, 3 June 2016

I'm no oniomaniac

This appeared on my Facebook timeline on the second day of my shopping ban. Quite the coincidence, although I don't think I was—or am—an oniomaniac. I am controlling my urge to shop after all! Yes, it has only been three days, but I haven't been even remotely tempted. 

I've done a few quizzes to determine if I'm a shopaholic and they agree I'm not an addict. I do display some of the behaviours of a shopaholic—going to the shops (or looking at online shopping sites) often, buying things to make myself feel better, finding ways to justify spending money, sneaking new purchases into the wardrobe so my boyfriend doesn't see them—but others not so much. 

According to an expert in shopping addiction who was interviewed by the ABC earlier this year, the five signs you could be a shopping addict are: 

Accumulating debt. My credit card balance is higher than I am comfortable with, but it's not out of control. It's nowhere near maxed out and is well below the average Australian credit card debt of about $4,300. Although I have less money in savings than I would like (don't we all?), I have more savings than debt. I don't struggle to pay my bills. 

Hiding the problem. Yeah, I do sometimes try to hide new purchases from Luke (which is pointless because he'll always look at me and say, "Have I seen that before?" when I wear something new), but I don't try to hide my spending from anyone else. My friends all like shopping!

Relationship breakdown. Definite no on this one. Luke might occasionally mock me for my extensive shoe collection—especially for the new shoes I haven't worn—but it's not a source of tension. If I weren't paying my own way with rent and bills, he'd be entitled to take me to task, but it's my money and I can spend it how I want! 

Compensation for negative feelings. Sometimes I have bought myself something new if I've been feeling down, but mostly I buy—bought—new things just because I like them or want them. It makes me happy to get parcels in the post, to wear new things, but I know that's only a fleeting pleasure, not real happiness. I don't believe stuff can make you truly happy.

Trying to stop but you can't. This isn't my first self-imposed break from shopping. I think I managed it for a month once before. Yeah, a whole month, and then I gave in and bought shoes. But this time is different. Really! 

There are other reasons why I don't think I'm an out-of-control shopper. I have gone shopping and come away empty-handed and not bothered. I rarely pay full price for anything. I would never EVER drop a week's wages on ANYTHING (or even half a week's pay). Good shopping opportunities never factor into my choice of holiday destination (even though I will usually do a little shopping while I'm there). I do not consider shopping a hobby and even if I did, it wouldn't be my favourite one. 

I ask myself questions before I make a purchase rather than handing over money willy-nilly: Do I really love it? Is it me? Does it fit me properly? Does it go with stuff I already own? Will I actually have an occasion to wear it (goodbye, pretty dress!)? Does it need hand washing, ironing, dry cleaning? Will the fabric wash and wear well? Do I own something like it already (my wardrobe is so extensive that the answer is often 'yes')? Is it good value for money? 

Does that sound like the behaviour of an out-of-control shopper? I think not. So giving up shopping shouldn't be that hard, right?  

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Enough is enough: Day 1 of my shopping ban

STOP THE PRESSES! I'm (supposedly) going to be the first woman to say it: I have enough shoes and clothes. I don't need to go shopping. 

My wardrobes (one double, two singles) are packed tight. I have clothes and shoes I've never worn, others I've barely worn. I've donated clothing to charity shops with the tags still on. I've bought new clothes and then completely forgotten about them. I could probably wear a different skirt each day for a month and I can pack a clean pair of undies for every day of a two-week holiday without seeing the bottom of my underwear drawer. 

I'm a legal secretary so I'm not bringing in the big bucks. I also now only work four days a week so my income has decreased while my appetite for shopping has remained steady. Not surprisingly, I have less money in the bank than I would like (no two week holiday this year) and a credit card balance that's higher than I'm comfortable with, even though I know it's tiny in the grand scheme of things. I could pay it off in less than two months if I didn't have to pay rent.  But I do have to pay rent and plenty of other expenses besides. 

I have more than enough shoes and clothes, too much debt and not enough savings. The sensible solution is to stop buying shoes and clothes, so that's what I'm doing - starting today for the rest of the year. I want to break the desire to acquire. I want to see my savings grow and my debt shrink to nothing. I want to make the most of all the awesome clothes and shoes I already own and love.

To make this easier, I've unsubscribed from two dozen or so online shop emailing lists so I won't be tempted by sales. I've unfollowed them all on Instagram as well so I won't have to look at their pretty, pretty things. I've checked out a few blogs of other women who've gone on shopping bans to help motivate myself. 

I also suggested to my boyfriend that we have a wager on whether I can last seven months without shopping and he scoffed and said, "I've got that bet won already", which is motivating enough without anything at stake!

But wait! There's more!

Thinking about overcoming my shopping habit got me thinking about other bad habits I would like to break - spending too much time mindlessly scrolling online when I'm at home, looking at my phone for ages after I go to bed, and sleeping too much on weekends. 

Combined, these habits mean I waste a lot of time that could be spent doing more worthwhile, meaningful, soul-enriching things. Actually living. Being more mindful and more present. Interacting with people in real life. Reading more books. Giving my full attention to television shows that interest me, instead of watching with one eye and half my brain. Sleeping when I should be sleeping. 

I have enough, but I want to do more, live more. 

Apologies for the rudimentary blog design. I only decided Monday to take a break from shopping and I set this blog up today, but I wanted to start posting on my first  no shopping day. I'll knock it into shape in the next few days.