When I was younger, my family and I would take road trips to outlet malls around Ontario or across the border in the United States. For a weekend, we’d explore new towns, peek in to tourist traps, drop in on a museum and try some local family restaurants. The one destination that we were never allowed to take off the itinerary was the outlet mall.
For years, I didn’t realize how much this was a firm part of my family culture. There was great satisfaction in having found a great deal or picked out a new outfit. We didn’t buy a lot and we tried to aim for items that we needed as a family. At the end of the weekend, we proudly shared and told relatives and friends about our newfound purchases. This was and likely is a pretty exciting and normal for Canadian immigrant families, many who may have struggled financially when initially moving to Canada. Overcoming a plethora of barriers and experiencing both financial stability and disposable income gave us a feeling of pride and peace.
But it’s 2018.
More and more are we aware that consumer culture has had a large hand in climate change. As we’ve grown and matured, my family and I have started to explore ideas of minimalism, kicked started by shows like Hoarders and Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up. In 2017, I started bartering on Bunz.com and in the fall, my family and I have spent a great deal of time clearing out the basement. On top of that, the biggest challenge has been the clothing shopping ban that I started in January 2018.*
It would be laughable if anyone ever said it was easy. It has been tough for me mentally and emotionally. I’ve considered quitting many times and have had dreams of sneaking purchases without telling anyone. I haven’t yet. What’s prevented me from going berzerk is being able to acquire new pieces off of Bunz.com.
What this ban has done is forced me to acknowledge patterns of behaviour which I wasn’t cognizant of. Yesterday on Saturday, I went to a local craft show, Stitch ‘n’ Kitch, in Waterloo and I nearly bought myself a simple black t-shirt with the print “Kitchener-Waterloo”. I completely forgot – as shocking as it sounds – that I was even on a shopping ban until I began to reach for my wallet! I’ve done this many times before: trying to acquire a thing that I don’t need.** The high you experience from the thought of owning something novel, while you perform a wondrous set of mental gymnastics to convince yourself, of COURSE I need this new hipster sweater, I don’t have anything in this colour yet.
Since the shopping ban, I’ve begun to shift my time and energy in new ways. On the rare occasion, I crave a mindless walk around the mall but don’t succumb to it anymore. And while I used to label myself as someone who didn’t go shopping frequently, I’ve since acknowledge that that’s just a boldfaced lie that I hung onto; for the better part of my life, my suburban family and I went out just to crawl the mall on the weekends.
Living in the remote north for the past 5 years also helped me acknowledge these patterns of behaviour, because I had no where to go***. However, I ended up shifting my energy towards online shopping, which wasn’t unusual, consider I had to do it out of necessity. I never really made purchases on a whim and could spend months pondering a purchase before even pulling out my credit card***.
And now I’m back in the city and on a clothing shopping ban.
I’ve spent my money this year on better things; things that I wanted to but wasn’t able to because the services weren’t available for me. I have no health benefits or an active health plan, but I’ve paid for a counsellor ($60/hour), masseuse ($80/hour), physiotherapist ($75/session) and a personal trainer ($485/month). What I’ve learned is that no one questions how you’re using your money until you tell them you’re not on a health plan.
What?! You’ve got a personal trainer? Isn’t that expensive? I only have $500 worth of benefits so I can only have two massages a year. I can’t believe you’re paying out of pocket!
Yet people won’t question you purchasing some shitty ass clothing that’s probably produced by horrible companies such as H&M, which cuts up clothes they can’t sell, and Zara, which steals designs from independent artists.
In a single year, you’d likely absentmindedly spend the same amount on stupid shit that won’t change your life and no one will say anything. Yet trying to invest in my health and wellbeing – taking preventative measures that will ensure a higher quality of life in the future – is something the other people will scrutinize you for.
What does that say about our society?
I can only conclude that we have our values fucking backwards.
I’m continuing to search for better conversations on how we spend our money. While I have found myself going to Amazon, which treats its staff members like crap and encourages its employees to spy on and backstab each other, I decided recently that I
am looking for alternatives.***** While I’ve been itching for a new bullet journal, I decided I’ll go back to a A5-sized Peter Pauper Press grid-lined notebook. I researched the dimensions, called the local bookstore in Waterloo, Wordsworth Book, and made an order. Since they order directly from Peter Pauper Press, it will take a couple of weeks but the price is the same as what’s listed on Amazon and I won’t be making Jeff Bezos a richer asshole.
Will I slip and buy from Amazon in the future?
Will I enjoy the indulgence of buying new clothes once I end my ban?
Duh, of course. I love clothes!!!
When I decided to get a new bullet journal, it took about 2 weeks of me mulling before I acted on it. Of course, it would have been easier for me to make a purchase online, but I know I can do better. We are all human, but part of it is just trying to be a better human.
And that’s what makes all this worth it.
*I have had self-imposed shopping bans for 3 or 4 months in the past.
**There really is no reason why I would need a new black t-shirt to tell me where I currently live.
***Unless my ex-boyfriend, J. and I would drive 7 hours down to Rouyn or Val D’Or, Quebec, just to go to the mall.
****I held off of buying Vibram Five Fingers for nearly a year. I currently own two pairs – one for hiking outdoors and one for the gym.
*****I still make purchases on Audible as I haven’t figured out an alternative yet.