I have never really felt compelled to come up with a good reason to shop. In the past, I have shopped because I just like doing it. Or because I had free time to kill. Or because I like pretty things. Or because I was feeling sad and I knew it would cheer me up. Sometimes I actually did need stuff, but not needing things was never a deterrent either.
If anything, especially over the last year, I have had to remind myself of all the reasons why I should NOT be shopping. And because those reasons are all boring, depressing, nose-to-the-grindstone types of reasons like debt and not enough space and the admittance that I don’t use some of the stuff I already have, it always feels like a really dreary argument. And because I’m a shopaholic, my crafty, addicted brain is excellent at coming up with really, really good counter arguments to combat what common sense is telling me. It becomes all I can do to stay on the No Shopping Wagon.
Recently, I have been performing on a live radio show called Live Wire – if you aren’t familiar with it, you can listen to the podcasts at livewireradio.org. We record the show in front of a live audience in Portland, and then the show is broadcast in various cities all over the United States. For the live performances, I usually get dressed up – I don’t need a costume per se, but I usually wear something a little fancy, like a nice dress and high heels and some sparkly jewlery. With the amount of shows I’ve done at this point, coupled with all the clothes I’ve gotten rid of, I’ve worn all my nice dresses at least 2-3 times each. So I’ve been feeling some outfit boredom. Add that to my ongoing shopping hunger, and you have the perfect recipe for a bullshit rationalized shopping binge.
I have found myself “window shopping” for some new evening wear items–both in person and online–a lot lately. And as the shopping guilt creeps in, I hear a little voice in my head arguing, “But you NEED it for work!”, so I push the guilt aside and follow the enabling little voice and continue to scan the racks for something to buy. It’s a really scary how easy it is to sway me–because lets’ face it, I DON’T need new clothes for work, I just WANT them. I could probably rotate through the same 5-6 dresses over and over again and the audience would never care, or maybe even notice. The people who listen to the show on the radio can’t even see me, so they definitely don’t notice or care. The truth is I am still not past the point where buying new things makes me feel better, and as I’m continuing to trudge through the debt pay down process, I’m consciously and subconsciously always trying to find ways to make myself feel better.
So though I’ve managed to resist making any actual purchases (I even found myself standing in the queue at H&M at one point, one person away from the cashier, before I finally stepped out of line, hung the dress on the nearest rack and slunk out of the store with a pounding heart), I still have not figured out what to do with the feelings that remain, or the leftover shreds of the argument that feel so credible that I DO need something new.
And then last week it occurred to me, why didn’t I just ask a friend who wore my size if I could borrow a dress? It would keep me from buying something that I didn’t really need, spending money I didn’t have, but still provide a solution to my craving. I know in my heart that even if I did buy a new dress, after I’d worn it a couple times I would just want something new again, and then I’d end up having to figure out how to store the stupid thing before ultimately selling it. This pattern is largely how I ended up with so many clothes and so much debt in the first place.
My dear friend Nikki is the same size as me, and we’ve traded clothes before – often when I clean out my closet, I give her first dibs on anything she might like before I resell or donate the rest, and she does the same for me. Nikki is one of those people that I’m just in awe of – she is so driven and badass yet super zen and calm at the same time. This is a woman who, while pregnant with her first child, ran a marathon and was doing yoga handstands well into her last trimester. She’s a wonderful actress and runs a theatre company with her husband, travels, teaches yoga and runs yoga retreats, and manages to somehow be an attentive friend, mother, wife, and colleague and never look stressed out or yell at people like I know I would if I were trying to do all that. If you just saw these facts about her written on paper, you might either think she was too good to be true, or be green with envy at all she manages to do and be while making it look so easy. But then you meet her and can’t help but fall in love with her open heart, genuine friendship, generosity, and honesty. In fact, the first time I met Nikki we were at an audition where we were up for the same part, and she ended up getting it. You’d think maybe that would have inspired at least some feelings of professional competition, but I had liked her so much and so immediately, and thought she was so talented, that I found myself unable to feel anything but happy for her. We ultimately ended up being cast in a show together and became friends, and I can’t help but feel like I’ve known her for much longer than I have.
When I asked Nikki if I might be able to borrow some dresses, she immediately said yes, and we realized that the timing was actually kind of perfect since she is currently pregnant with her second baby, so she won’t be wearing most of her dresses right now anyway. I went over to her house this week and looked through her stash and it was so much fun–I got some pretty things to wear for the show, didn’t spend any money, and managed to sneak in a nice long visit with my friend as well. Win-win-win-win-win.
And though I teetered very close to the edge, thanks to Nikki’s generosity, I have managed to stay on the No Shopping Wagon for yet another day.