Shoe Addiction

For me, there’s always a reason to buy a pair of shoes. Whether it’s an upcoming special event or the outfit that makes my legs look great, it seems that I aways need a pair of shoes. Or so I tell myself.

I was doing some online shoe shopping earlier today. Why was I doing this? Yes, part of the reason is that I was helping my aunt (who has a legitimate need for shoes) find a new pair. The main reason, though, is the fact that I always believe that I need another pair of shoes.

Until I made a commitment to simple living, I never questioned this “need.” I believed that I needed shoes, so I bought. And bought. And bought.  Fast forward a few years and I have a HUGE plastic tote full of shoes.  But did that stop me from shoe shopping today? Of course not!

I am pleased to report that I purchased no shoes. Why? Because minimalism has destroyed my love for shoes? Not at all. It has made me stop and think, though. While salivating over my computer, I was able to stop and ask myself “Do I really need this?”

Today I was forced to reexamine my constant “need” for shoes. Why do I need more shoes? I only have two feet! I have enough shoes to last me a long time. I don’t have a genuine need for shoes. What I have is a desire for more shoes. And that is another matter entirely.

For me, this is what minimalism is about. It’s not about denying my needs. It’s about determining my needs, and focusing on those needs. It’s about asking myself “Do I truly need this? Can I do without?” It’s about focusing on what I need rather than collecting every single thing that I want. It’s not about asceticism or self punishment. It’s about freedom from excess.

Minimalism has caused me to question my “needs”. Even my need for more shoes. It has caused me to focus on my real needs, and to stay away from excess. For me, that’s what simplicity is about: choosing needs over wants.

Setbacks on the Path to Minimalism

Recently I had a setback on my journey to minimalism. I had an upcoming interview, and I purchased three interview suits. I only need two. So why did I purchase three? I purchased three with the intention to return one. I don’t know which one. But my consumerist family  urges me to keep all three. They don’t know about my decision to pursue minimalism just yet. That is a discussion I am not ready to have. Anyway, I failed as a minimalist that day.

Part of me felt like I had no options. I had to have two looks for my two day interview. While this is true, I did have some options:

  • Get only one suit and change the shirt. In theory, I could have worn the same suit on both days and used a different shirt to make it look like two suits. God forbid that anything should happen to that one suit (like a ketchup stain, or whatever).
  • Make a decision. I could determine which suits I would actually need for the interview and return the other.
  • Check alternate sources.I could have checked the thrift stores, or consignment boutiques for a suit to wear.

In my defense, I had NO suits that I could wear to the interview. I need at least one suit. But do I need three? Probably not. Not now, at least.

What to do when you genuinely need something?

  • Focus. What is it that you really need? Don’t get caught up in indecision. Think carefully about what you need and how much. Make purchasing decisions based on this.
  • Don’t get caught up in cute. Part of the reason that I got three suits is that I got all caught in how cute I looked in all of them. I need to remember that I will look cute in lots of things. Cute is not need. Not all cute items should be purchased.
  • Ignore the sales associates. Of course they will encourage you to buy more, more, more. That’s their job. We must ignore their messages, and stick to what we really need.

Hopefully we will all learn from this failure today.

*I did have a small victory today, though. I returned one suit. I also did not make any purchases from the Lancome counter, even though they have a gift with purchase. I was temped, but I kept on going. I guess today wasn’t a total failure…

The Secret to Contentment from Willow Creek

Lately, I seem to be reflecting more. Right now, I am reflecting on contentment (among other things). Wouldn’t you know it, I got an email from Willow Creek with a link to the most recent message. The subject? Contentment.

The text was Philippians 4:11-13.  I gleaned some great points, and I’d like to share them with you:

Contentment Is Learned

  • Note that our culture thrives on making us discontent
  • Discontentment is the default setting for our culture, even though we are the wealthiest generation in history
  • Too often, we defer happiness. We’d be happy “if only…”

Contentment is independent of circumstance

  • Paul gives examples in verse 12

God doesn’t want us to be unhappy until (we obtain/achieve/become whatever). He wants us to be content now. Christ will give us the strength to do so (Phil 4:13).

The secret to contentment is choosing to depend on Christ. Depending on Christ means finding a way to rejoice. It is a choice we make.

Contentment is not a passive acceptance of the way things are. It is an active pursuit of the goal to know Christ and make him known.

I think that last point is so profound. Contentment is not about passive acceptance, it’s about knowing Christ. When I am so caught up in discontentment, I am not thinking about the goal of knowing Christ, let alone making him known. Contentment is bigger that simply not wanting a boat. It is about knowing Christ, and making him known.

That needs to become my mantra and my life’s goal: to know Christ and to make him known. In a nutshell, this is why I pursue minimalism: to know Christ more than I know the products at the Body Shop. And Macy’s. And even Sephora. Because when I’m stalking beauty products at Sephora, I am not concerned about knowing Christ. And that needs to be the goal.

So I will reflect on these points, and how I can know Christ and make him known. I hope these points are helpful for you, too. If you’d like to view the message, click here

The Return of the Shoes

About a month ago, I bought a lovely pair of black wedges. A few days later, I found a beautiful pair of gold wedges, so I bought those, too. Neither pair was over $60. I had even gotten the gold pair on sale.

The rush of finding a bargain, and having a sexy new pair of shoes, soon deteriorated into self-loathing because I had fallen off the minimalist wagon once again. I hated the fact that I had succumbed to consumerism so easily. But I loved the shoes.

For weeks, a battle raged within. I had committed to minimalism. That meant that I was supposed to be getting rid of things, not taking on more. But the shoes were just so cute! They looked so good on, and they were so sexy (just in time for vacation, too!). The conflict was such that I kept the shoes in their boxes, unworn, with their receipts for more than two weeks.

Last week, I returned both pairs of shoes. I took them back for a number of reasons. I have no place to store them. The heels were high, so they had limited practicality. But what bothered me was the fact that I was failing as a minimalist.

Having returned them, I do not miss them. I don’t feel that their absence leaves a gaping hole in my wardrobe. Life is going on as usual — even without the shoes. So why did I feel that I needed those shoes in the first place? It makes me wonder about the rest of the crap that I own.

Fashion

I fell off the minimalist wagon recently, and bought summer clothes. I stuck to the basics, but I was very tempted by the latest fashion trends.

Fashion is the enemy of minimalism. Ok, it’s not the only enemy, but it is definitely one of the many. Fashion is constantly changing. Trends change with every season. What’s in this summer will be out by next summer.

Fashion and consumerism go hand in hand. Following fashion trends demands that you spend money to purchase the season’s “must haves”. You have to buy the right dress, and wear it with the right shoes, and carry the right purse. One purchase leads to many more, all in an attempt to be fashionable.

Fashion causes discontent. It keeps us from being content with what we have. Instead of appreciating the clothes, shoes, and handbags we already have, we focus on what we don’t have. For example, this year’s ads for smocked tops and dresses have now made me want a smocked top. I don’t need a smocked top. I just got four tank tops. But seeing the ads makes me want one, though I have plenty of shirts. Another top is not what I need. What I need, I already have.

Fashion is everywhere. It’s on every TV show, it’s on the commercials, it’s on the mannequins in stores. It is always exerting its influence, always trying to enslave you. A good way to break free from fashion is to minimize your exposure to advertising. Read fewer magazines, toss the sales papers, and spend less time in front of the TV. Magazines, sales papers, and TV are usually where the rules of fashion are propagated. They make you feel that what you currently have is inadequate, and create the false need for more.

Just because we decide not to be slaves to fashion does not mean that we have to live a lifestyle of austerity. We can dress nicely. We can look marvelous, dahling. But we don’t have to bow to the rules of fashion to do it.

  • Decide to break free from the bondage of fashion trends. Make up your mind that you will not be caught up in fashion and its demands.
  • Choose timeless, classic pieces. Steer clear of trends.
  • Appreciate what you already have. Take good care of the things you already own. Hand wash, dry clean, and hang to dry as appropriate. Keep your wardrobe looking good for as long as possible.
  • Maximize the use of the accessories you already own. Do you have jewelry or scarves? Use them to add interest to your existing outfits.
  • Develop your own style, and stick with that. Is your usual outfit a pair of khakis and a white shirt? If so, then be true to that. What items of your wardrobe do you naturally gravitate toward? Take note, and remind yourself of this when that blue dress is calling your name.

My goal is to be an appropriately dressed minimalist. I want to have the clothes and  shoes that I need. I do not want to be a fashionista. I just want to be happy with what I have.

Re-Evaluation

In light of last week’s relapse into consumerism, I’ve decided to re-evaluate my reasons for adopting minimalist lifestyle, and I am re-evaluating my commitment. Do I really want to embrace minimalism? Am I really clear on why I should live simply? How can I prevent future relapses?

I did some reading (which I will discuss an upcoming post) about faith and simplicity. Some of the readings argue that simplicity starts within. Rather than focusing on things, our focus should be on God. Clearly, my focus has been on fashion and not on God. This is the first thing that needs to change.

The second thing that needs to change is this self-centeredness that drives me to want more and more and more. My focus is on me, and what I want. In the heat of the moment (while I’m in the stores), I’m not thinking about anything but me. I’m not even thinking about my future! I’m thinking about what will make me happy right now.

Action: Shift the focus to God, and stop thinking about myself so much.

 

My readings also argue that values play a big role in the minimalist lifestyle. The values that we hold drive our decisions. At this point, I’m not even sure what my values are.

Action: Take an honest inventory of my values. What do I believe about the world, our society, my life? Write it out in black and white.

 

Part of the reason the second action scares me so is that when I come face to face with my values, I know that some things will have to change. As long as I don’t have my values defined, I can remain in denial. Once I have my values in front of me, I have to commit to them, and to the lifestyle changes that are required in order to live by my values.

Maybe that’s what it all boils down to: the fact that I do not want to change. I’ve given mental assent to minimalism, but on the inside, nothing has changed. That’s why I keep relapsing.

Action: Ask God for help to make the changes that I need to.

 

These are the things I’ll be working on over the next several days. Where is your focus? Are you clear on your values? Are there things that need to change? I invite you to join me in this time of reflection. Hopefully, we will all be better for it.

The Urge To Splurge

You have to understand: if shopping were an Olympic sport, I would definitely be a gold medalist. Shopping is in my genes! I was brought up shopping, learning the finer techniques from my mother and my grandmother. I was born to shop.

Or so I thought. I was shocked out of this mindset by two things. First, I had to move. When I had all my stuff out of the hiding places, and had to find ways to pack it, then I realized just how much I had accumulated. It was scary.

Then I came across a blog called The Simpler Life. I was intrigued, and so I started looking at other blogs. My thinking was radically changed. I made a commitment to change my lifestyle.

My first decision was to use up everything that I have. It makes no sense to keep buying deep cleansing face masks when I already have three at home. Have I done this? Yes! Why? Because I find the latest and greatest skin mask and I have to have it. But I now see the result of all these purchases: I am bogged down with way too much crap.

For years, I didn’t see a problem with this. That’s how I was raised. It never mattered how much I had at home. The only thing that mattered was the urge to purchase that new item. And since we used shopping as a recreational activity, there were lots of splurges.

Looking back, I regret that we spent so much time in the malls. We could have saved money. We could have spent time volunteering. These are the things that the consumerist lifestyle steals from you.

Since I am so new to simple living and minimalism, I am still feeling the shock of not shopping for leisure. Before, I knew what I was doing every Saturday. Now I have to sit and figure out how to spend my day. It’s great because I have more time to cook, write, read, exercise… But it’s also a challenge. Old habits die hard. Just because I discovered simple living doesn’t mean that I no longer feel the urge to splurge. There’s this constant struggle between simplicity and splurging. I have to confront it several times a week.

And it really is a struggle. I still want to shop to relieve stress. I still want to buy makeup and perfume to lift my mood. The shopping habit has not died yet. But when the urge comes on, I fight it. And sometimes, I win.