I have so many nerdy little things about me. Like, I love to collect highlighters and post-it notes. My book collection is organized by color first and then by size. The only friends lists I have on Facebook are separated by academic and non-academic friends. ‘Cause, you know, the academics are the only ones who get my grad school jokes.
I have no problem telling people about these funny, little quirks. These nerdy little things go with the nerdy little persona I’ve created about myself for this blog. So I kinda keep the other stuff about me to myself that doesn’t seem to fit into what most people think of as a nerdy, bookish former English teacher.
Until today, when I plan to tell you all about my 30-Day no shopping challenge. Because I love shopping.
Oh man, do I love shopping.
I didn’t grow up a girly girl. I hated the color pink, didn’t do my hair ever, and made my mom cry when I refused to wear the frou-frou pastel Easter dress she bought me one year (true story). But now? I regularly indulge in all the feminine frills. If it’s shiny, I want it. I can’t get enough tulle, and my favorite color is glitter.
I make no qualms about it. I’m glad I finally was able to shrug off all the cultural messages and unflattering stereotypes of femininity and just embrace it. It’s been fun, but the problem is my paycheck has taken most of the brunt. Shine, tulle, and glitter don’t come cheap, and I’ve been on a steady diet of all things pink and girly for a couple years now.
Ater rushing out to buy a pair of long-coveted pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses with part of my tax refund, I knew I needed a change. I didn’t need the sunglasses and besides, the last time I bought expensive sunglasses I lost them in eight days (RIP metallic, studded, on-sale Diors. Sigh).
So April became my no shopping month. No new clothes. No new shoes. No new jewelry. No new handbags. No new frivolous material possessions period. So what happened on my 30-day quest of not buying anything? Some wistful thinking, a little bit of whining, and a whole lot of thinking. Here’s what I learned.
Owning stuff is hard work, ya’ll.
I just finished reading The Joy of Less, which partly prompted this whole shopping rehab in the first place. Author Francine Jay schooled me on all things minimalism. One of my favorite “oh shit, she’s right” moments came when she explained what a burden owning stuff is. While it’s fun to pick out all those bright shiny things, getting them home and taking care of them is real work.
You know, finding the space for yet another cute top, spending more money on another shoe rack to hold yet another pair of shoes, and taking things to the repair shop or the dry cleaner. Really, shopping adds up on more places than just my credit card bill. It takes its toll just about everywhere else. Even physically, as I’ve had an entire shelf of shoeboxes fall on my head while I was cleaning out my closet once. It was nice to get a break from the work that comes from owning new things.
Even when I’m not shopping, I’m really still shopping.
You see, cutting out shopping was only the first part of the challenge. Sure, I could avoid the mall pretty easily by just not driving there, but I soon realized that most of my non-shopping hobbies actually revolve around shopping. When I’m surfing on Pinterest or reading some of my favorite fashion blogs, my eyeballs immediately land on the new, pretty stuff I could buy or the lifestyle I could have.
It became frustrating when everything I usually do seemed to subconsciously feed into my consumption habit. Reading magazines with plethora of advertisements. Watching my favorite TV shows featuring beautiful people wearing the most adorable outfit ever (like Rachel freakin’ Bilson on Hart of Dixie). I couldn’t even check my mail without being bombarded by coupons and catalogs! Turned out, this challenge wasn’t just about not buying stuff, but changing my lifestyle too.
Can you be feminine without buying stuff?
Femininity, in part, has been defined by buying and having things. It’s defined by owning stuff like clothes, jewelry, and shoes. How we show the world that we’re feminine is through things like lacquered lips and swishy skirts. Is there another way? Can you still be a girly girl without having to buy stuff?
Culture has always linked traditional femininity with consumption, but I want to believe we can still be feminine without the frills, the ruffles and the (expensive) lingerie. I’ll admit I’ve bought into this material construct of femininity wholeheartedly the last few years. I find it fun, a creative outlet, but maybe femininity isn’t something you can buy and put in a shopping bag after all?