Tsundoku. I read the Japanese word and its definition — “the condition of acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home” — and instantly saw myself and the countless piles of books all over my apartment.
Uh-oh, I thought. I definitely have this. In my case, it also applies to my vintage dresses, heels, lipsticks, perfumes, antique paintings of cows.
I’ve been what I like to call a “collector” my whole life. My parents are hard-core antiquers. I was groomed from a young age to fill my life with lots and lots of old stuff. Basically, I’m the anti-Marie Kondo. (You know, the woman who wrote about throwing away all of your stuff?) All of my possessions spark joy in me — whether it’s the moth-eaten cashmere sweater I bought in Dinkytown in 2007 or a book from Magers & Quinn, a store I love so much I call it “my boyfriend.”
If eschewing possessions is your thing, great. It’s definitely not mine.
We live in a society that constantly tempts us, baiting us to buy more, more, more. You can’t open Instagram without seeing your favorite blogger don a new dress or gorgeous pair of shoes. Tons of modern brands even have their own apps so a shopper can make her purchases while waiting for, say, a cup of coffee. When you’re someone like me who loves pretty things, it’s hard to know when to stop.
Plus, I make my living as a style and beauty writer. It would be difficult to completely avoid my frequent shopping trips. Technically, it’s part of my job.
But then, recently, I realized I was shopping pretty much every day. And it freaked me out. While I mostly shop vintage and resale and rarely buy fast-fashion, I knew I was spending too much. So I challenged myself to curb my habits and examine the reasons for my incessant shopping. Oh, and maybe save a little money in the process.
A “No Buy” month/year/week isn’t a new concept; in fact, it’s kind of trendy right now. People have written countless online articles and books about what they “learned” while doing a challenge. One person even wrote a manual about it.
I got started by setting some basic parameters for myself. I wasn’t allowed to buy clothes, shoes, books, perfume or any beauty products. I could still go out to eat and drink as usual. (I knew if I restricted myself too harshly it would be a disaster.) I embarked upon my challenge, officially, on Feb. 26 by unfollowing certain tempting Instagram accounts and alerting my favorite store owners that I wasn’t allowed to visit them for a month.
Did it work? Was I able to curb my shopping habit? To be honest, I failed a few times. I bought a few pieces from a local woman-owned store on International Women’s Day. I panicked and grabbed a bunch of things from American Apparel so I could stock up on my favorites before they closed all their Twin Cities stores. And I couldn’t resist buying Joan Didion’s new book.
That said, I still did pretty well. I didn’t spend my weekends roving from store to store, visiting my pals at shops such as June Resale and the Golden Pearl Vintage. I didn’t drive to Hopkins to hit up their antique stores. I didn’t even buy anything from Amazon Prime or Etsy or Kylie Cosmetics. When the temptation arose to spend my Saturday shopping, I simply found something else to do.
I cleaned my apartment from top to bottom, including drawers and cabinets. I organized my closets and went crazy selling things on Poshmark, a site that peddles used clothing, shoes and accessories. Then I funneled my earnings into an IRA account rather than spending it on Manolo Blahniks.
I read. I donated tons of things to Arc’s Value Village and Goodwill. I brought freebie products from my beauty writing gigs to a local women’s shelter. I hauled shoes and sweaters for mending, tailoring and dry-cleaning. Sure, I window-shopped and added things to online shopping carts, but I didn’t pull the trigger. I walked around the Mall of America and realized that I didn’t really need to buy anything — I just liked the experience of looking.
I emerged on March 26 feeling confident I can start shopping smarter now. I can restrain myself from snapping up every 1950s wiggle dress I see. The truth is, I’m always going to be a clotheshorse. I’m always going to load my arms with books from Magers & Quinn. I’m always going to find myself strolling through stores on the weekends. However, I learned how to say no to myself. And that freed up some valuable real estate — both in my closet and my bank account.
Kara Nesvig is a Twin Cities-based style, beauty and Kardashians writer for the Star Tribune, City Pages, Allure and Teen Vogue.