What A Year Without Clothes Did For Me
2014 was a clothes-less year for me. Never fear, I wore clothing, I just didn’t purchase any. Quite simply, I wore what I had. This wasn’t one of those “I won’t buy clothes this year except for these 5 categories of things” or “well, I’ll just buy clothes I really need” or “underwear doesn’t count, right?” Nope, my 2014 clothes ban was a no holds barred, full court press, 100% no clothes buying year.
My inaugural post on this topic, with the rather obvious title of Why I’m Not Buying Any Clothes in 2014, delves into the rationale behind my decision. I now want to share what this ban did for me as a clothes-wearing human. Plus, this gave me an excuse to take a bunch of photos of my outfits on the floor again (and you wonder how we get away with a $0 entertainment budget 😉 ).
My One Failure
I’ll be totally honest with you, I did acquire one hot pink belt from a garage sale for $0.50; but other than that, not a scrap. I didn’t buy underwear, socks, yoga clothes, work clothes, hiking clothes, play clothes, pajamas clothes, jewelry, coats, party clothes… you get the picture (and I can’t think of any other types of clothes). As regular readers are already aware, Mr. Frugalwoods and I have expensive, high quality undies (men’s, ladies) currently in their 6th year of life. Can’t beat our undies.
So Much More Than Money Saved
While this self-imposed ban enabled me to save money, I wouldn’t necessarily say this was the primary motivator–especially since most of my clothes were purchased from thrift stores. More importantly, it was an opportunity for me to explore contented living: being satisfied, complete, and fine with what I already own.
By not buying any clothes, I had to examine why it is that new clothes have made me so happy–and dare I say, fulfilled–in the past. Thanks to this ban, my self-worth has become increasingly divorced from my physical appearance, which is an interesting departure for me. In the past, I was quite expressly concerned with what I looked like on a daily basis and somehow, the year of no clothes has caused those sentiments to wane. I’ve re-prioritized what matters. As with most of arenas of life, I find that living frugally, minimally, and consciously has ripple benefits that far exceed the monetary rewards.
Buying clothes doesn’t define you, isn’t a requirement, and shouldn’t be seen as a hobby.
Without the option of running out to the thrift store, I had to sift through my closet and get creative. I mended clothes, I found some free clothes by the side of the road, and I just plain wore old clothes. I couldn’t gain weight. Not that I physically couldn’t (although that would be a sweet attribute to have…), rather I couldn’t let myself gain weight if I still wanted to fit into my clothes.
I do fully recognize that I already own a bunch of fabulous outfits and so this ban isn’t as much of a hardship on me as it would be on someone without a large wardrobe. I’ve carefully purchased sale and second-hand clothes for years to build up my stash, so I’m definitely in coasting mode now, enjoying the fruits of my past expense and labor. I take comfort in the fact that few items in my closet cost more than $50 (with exceptions for coats, boots, my wedding dress, and a nice black suit).
I get dressed and ready more quickly now. My morning routine is whittled down to about 25 minutes, which I’m pretty pleased with. I’ve realized that I’d rather spend my time on activities that yield measurable results, not wasting my time getting dressed and fixing my hair.
While I still make an effort to look presentable at work and I actually do enjoy getting dressed up, it’s no longer a preoccupation. I wear the clothes that I have with the mostly make-up free face that I have and the dye & product-free hair that I don’t bother to blow dry anymore. It’s quite liberating.
I’d long envied Mr. FW’s rapid morning routine and it was something of a wake-up call for me that I could get ready almost that quickly too. No one is standing in my house saying that I, as a woman, must spend hours primping. This revelation strikes very close to the core of what I believe as a feminist–that as a woman, I shouldn’t be expected to wear heels (I don’t) and lipstick (I don’t) and put myself through torture just to conform to an ideal.
I increasingly gravitate to clothes that are comfortable and fun for ME to wear. Anything that’s tight or itchy (itchiness is the bane of my existence) is in the Goodwill pile (which, full disclosure, is sitting in our basement in a box because I keep forgetting to drop it off…. blerg). Through this process, I’m rebelling against not only the endless probes by our culture to consume, but the prompts from society for women to look, dress, act, and even think a certain way. No thank you, I’ll stick with my confident, frugal weirdo-embracing, brazen outlook any day.
I find this transformation in how I feel about myself and my appearance especially interesting since all I did was delete an activity. I didn’t go out and procure a whole new wardrobe or get a makeover or go on a pilgrimage–I just stopped buying clothes.
This was a wonderful lesson for me that sometimes, the most rudimentary changes can bring about the most profound shifts in our thinking. Removing the burden and expectation of purchasing was absolutely liberating for me. Stepping off the consumer carousel enabled me to take stock of where I place value in my life.
I’ve never felt more confident in who I am, which I attribute at least in part to not buying new attire. I’m not so naive to assume this is an isolated variable–far from it–2014 also brought about a cosmic alteration in how Mr. Frugalwoods and I envision the rest of our lives. Since formalizing our plan to move to a homestead in the woods once we reach our version of financial independence in 2.5 years, I’ve felt vastly less pressure to adhere to prescribed modes of conduct. I’ve never felt more free (and we’ve never saved so much money in a single year!).
How I Did It
It sounds rather elementary, but, once I made the decision, I just stopped going shopping. I didn’t get into protracted debates over whether I would or would not buy anything because it wasn’t even an option. I set a concrete and attainable goal and all I did was stick with it.
I wish I had some great secret to divulge here, but I seriously just haven’t looked at, or tried on, any clothes. I’m a rather competitive person by nature and I love giving myself things to “win” at, so this was a perfect challenge. Incidentally, this is also why Mr. Frugalwoods and I remain so steadfastly focused on saving 65%+ of our income. We’d be losing at our own game if we didn’t.
Clothes, I Still Enjoy Them
It’s not that I’ve sworn off all thoughts of how I dress, it’s just that I don’t obsess over it from a consumption-oriented viewpoint. I’m not giving away all of my clothing and wearing burlap sacks (though watch, that’ll be what’s in next year…). Rather, I’m learning to appreciate what I already have. I actually delight in my outfits more now, knowing that they’re all I have for the year.
To be honest, I’m still more vain than I’d like to be. My focus is on what makes my body healthy and less on what I look like, but I know I’m still too caught up in my appearance. Decreasing my vanity is a work in progress.
Where Are Mr. Frugalwoods & Frugal Hound In All This?
Mr. Frugalwoods isn’t much of a clothes horse and isn’t motivated to buy clothing for any reason other than pure necessity (as in, “these pants have so many holes that I can’t bike commute in them without being arrested for indecent exposure so I guess I have to get another pair”). We’ve had many a conversation whereby we assess whether or not he can continue wearing a certain article of clothing or if it’ll constitute partial nudity.
He didn’t buy much clothing in 2014, just a few shirts from garage sales. I doubt he’ll buy much of anything in 2015 either, just because that’s his minimalist proclivity. Truth be told, it was always me grabbing duds for him at the thrift store anyway. Interesting how one person’s habits spill over and impact the other person’s behavior…
Frugal Hound would prefer that hounds never wear clothes and so she’s pleased with any and all bans on clothing. She actually doesn’t own any “dog” outfits, other than her excellent collection of hats, which are mostly gifts from her grandparents. Frugal Hound and I are basically the same size (in some areas) and so she just wears my clothes for her photo shoots. She perceives this as terrible. I perceive it as terribly cute.
I shocked myself by how much I actually enjoyed this ban. I thought I might find it restrictive or even frustrating, but it’s been exactly the opposite. I don’t worry about my clothes anymore. I know that there are plenty of outfits in my closet and that I have regalia appropriate for any occasion (such as perhaps FinCon 2015… ).
The freedom I’ve gained through this experience reinforced that I hate the idea of being ruled by stuff. I don’t want my things to define me, control me, or own me. I like the power over my own life that comes with not buying. Plus, as I shared in my original explanation of this ban, every frugal tip in the world isn’t going to save as much money as simply not buying anything. That’s a solid fact.
As my friend Shannon of Financially Blonde pointed out when she interviewed Mr. Frugalwoods and me on her superb podcast, I’m not going to need cute clothes out on the homestead. Touché. And so very true.
One aspect of planning for our future homestead is acknowledging that our lives will be radically different and that our priorities will shift. We’ve given ourselves several years to prepare for homesteading and these gradual evolutions in our lifestyle, and how we think about material goods, are certainly part of the process.
Update: check out the next installment in this series: Pregnancy Hasn’t Foiled My Clothes-Buying Ban: Here’s How.