Yep, you read that right. I bought something this week that wasn’t on my exceptions list. I broke my shopping ban. What did I buy that was worth breaking my ban for? A dress for a fancy occasion at work. That’s it. Nothing too out of the ordinary or life-altering. On the one hand, this is obviously a failure. I set rules for myself and I broke them. But, that’s not productive, nor does it mean I’m going to stop operating as if the ban isn’t still on and go on a no-holds-barred shopping spree. The purchase I made was made mindfully after realizing that I had a hole in my wardrobe that needed to be filled. I wouldn’t normally use the word “needed” for something I purchased. But, that was the case for this purchase.
I work in a casual corporate environment. Meaning, I wear business casual Monday to Friday. While I don’t have a ton of clothes in that category (I do still call myself a minimalist), I have enough to get me by. However, my boss walked into my office last week and asked if I would be okay to attend a corporate event in two weeks, as the photographer. Totally fine. Well within my wheelhouse in terms of skills and what I normally do in my day job. The problem arose when I got home and realized I genuinely didn’t have a single item of clothing in my closet that would be appropriate to wear to this type of event. It’s one of the biggest events we hold all year, with guests paying a hefty ticket price to attend. I would classify it as gala-esque, but not yet in ball-gown territory.
You can bet your butt that this minimalist hippie didn’t own anything even remotely resembling that type of caliber of clothing. Sure, I had a couple of dresses in my closet that might have worked. But I would have felt out of place at the event like I was trying to wedge my closet into something that it really isn’t. I can’t really explain why, but for this event (and another similar scale event we have in the spring), I really want to look the part. I don’t want to look like I’m just managing to pretend to look the part. I actually want to be the part. So, off to the shops I went.
Second-Hand For The Win
Following my modus operandi when it comes to shopping (and some of the rules I did give myself for the ban), I went to my local consignment store to see what I could find. I don’t know why, but I just like second-hand clothing more than fresh off-the-rack items. There are the obvious cost savings, but I also do appreciate the environmental aspect of not buying a newly made item. Also, something about someone else having had the thought to buy an item makes it more worthy in my eyes, than just buying an item off the rack that a brand is trying to sell me (this is a topic for another blog post). So, there I was in our local consignment store. I’ve consigned some of my own clothing and accessories to this store, so I felt confident I could find something I liked. I was looking for something that would be fancy enough for the event, but not leave me feeling like I was playing dress-up, which is more of a mental mind-game than anything.
For whatever reason, the shopping gods were smiling upon me and I found a dress that will work perfectly for almost all of the corporate events I have to attend in our calendar year at work. It’s an A-line dress with cap sleeves and a boat neckline, in a lovely paisley-esque geometric type print. It’s heavier weight synthetic fabric (which I’d normally steer away from for everyday wear), that gives a very flattering silhouette and makes the dress weightier — which I think increases its fancy factor. With a belt at the waist, it will be the perfect piece for me to wear at this event to fit the tone of the evening, while still having my characteristic flair (which I’d like to think that I have).
The Ban Is Dead, Long Live the Ban
Just because I bought something that wasn’t on my exceptions list, doesn’t mean the ban is over for me. I still have over 120 days to go. I plan to continue the ban and don’t foresee anything else tripping me up. Perhaps that’s the lesson of this. Even if you set yourself hard rules for your consumption for a month, a year, or longer — you genuinely can’t predict what will come up that may make you consider breaking it. When I found out I was expected to work this event, I could have easily just made something in my closet “fit” the occasion. I know I could have. But, it wouldn’t have felt right. I wouldn’t have felt right. I would have felt like the kid playing dress up in a room full of adults who were really “supposed” to be there.
The Clothes Story We Tell Ourselves
I often tell myself this story about how clothes don’t really matter. Who cares about what you put on your body? But, in this instance, I really do. It was worth breaking my own rules to buy something that will help me fit the mold of expectation for this event. That’s not something that’s easy for me to admit. I don’t like conforming. I often go out of my way to rebel and challenge social norms. But, at work, I want to be taken seriously in what I do. And, for this event, that meant I had to go shopping and buy something (I don’t love that this is the way the corporate world works).
Mindful vs. Mindless Consumption
It might seem overkill to dedicate an entire post to one purchase. But this wasn’t a mindless purchase. I didn’t walk into the mall and just decide that I needed to buy something. It was for a specific event, and I knew exactly what I was looking for. I had given it some thought and had given myself some parameters to work within, in terms of style and price. And, I was able to find something within those guidelines. That’s why, for me, it doesn’t really feel like I broke the ban. If I was to break the ban, it would be going into my local mall and going on a shopping spree of poorly made clothes that I didn’t need and only bought because they were on sale. That was not the case for this purchase. It just feels fundamentally different to buy something intentionally versus impulsively. That difference is something that I’ve been refining over the first 239 days of my ban. It’s in a whole other world on the consumption scale.
If you’re doing some kind of anti-consumption challenge, first of all, that’s awesome. Second, I don’t want you to feel like if you break your ban that you’ve failed. It would be easy for me to fall into a shame spiral of berating myself for this purchase and bombarding myself with negative self-talk that would not only be damaging in the short term to my progress on the ban, but would also be detrimental in the long-run in terms of my consumption habits and how I view buying stuff. Breaking your ban doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. If you did it with intention and purpose then you purchased something that will genuinely add value to your life. And there’s no failure in that. If you broke your ban with an impulse purchase that you didn’t really need in your life, it’s also not a failure. It’s a learning opportunity for you to examine. Did something in your life trigger you to make that purchase? Can you keep an eye out for that trigger in the future? Every consumption experience is an opportunity for learning and growth. There is no need for shame and negative self-talk. You don’t need to do that to yourself. I don’t need to do that to myself.
Have you ever failed at a challenge you set for yourself? How did you bounce-back?
Tiny Ambitions is the online space where blogger Britt shares her tiny, but wonderful, life. Britt is a minimalist, a simple living advocate, and a tiny house enthusiast.
Image via Unsplash