The ups and downs of attempting to go a whole year without buying any new clothes...

...without becoming a naturist, as the title suggests

Sunday, 19 December 2010

September - is it Wrong to Ask for a Refund from Charity?

My first month of actively trying to find clothes. 

After a very successful rummage through boxes on a stall at Sunrise Off-Grid at the end of August, producing a skirt for £3, I took myself on a 'back to school' shopping trip to Cotham (Bristol's version of a 'charity mall' with five excellent charity shops on one street). I held out little hope of finding the illustrious black high heels, resigning myself to another few weeks of wearing boots to work. Great on the days when it rains and I feel smug, observing the number of drenched sandal-clad feet; not so great on the days when it reaches 18 degrees and I feel like my feet are on fire, whilst everyone else's sandals, now recovered, are breezily airing their toes.

And I was right. No shoes whatsoever. However, I did feel quite successful initially, as I paraded my (reusable cloth) bags home, with two work skirts (£5 each), a top for work (£4), a fun t-shirt (£3) and some harem pants (free from the 'buy two items get one from this rail free' section!). Though I had realised that Cotham is not the cheapest place for charity shopping. With the benefit of hindsight, £3 seems like quite a lot to pay for a t-shirt. Perhaps I was overcome by the thrill of legitimate shopping!

By the time I got home I had considered most of the contents of my wardrobe and convinced myself that it was time for another clear-out. 

Surely most, normal, people do not do this on a monthly basis? 

I got rid of a huge pile of things, splitting them, as always into charity and clothes bank, depending on how worn out they were. I'm not entirely sure whether I have a system for getting rid of things - some make me feel frumpy/boring/ugly but survive several purges through 'comfort' or 'warmth', but finally succumb to the second factor - the amount of time they've hung in the wardrobe, unworn until they are disconsolate and need re-homing.

Looking through my newly streamlined collection of clothes, I tried on my purchases with the benefit of a full length mirror, light and more than 3 foot square to stand in. I will not bore you with the details, but provide you with the image that, when worn with my work boots, one made me look more like I was going to tell someone's fortune than teach a class and the other will be excellent when I am forty, have resorted to prostitution and want to look eighteen.

This month's lesson, then? Well there are two. 

For me: don't be hasty; just because it is from a charity shop, doesn't mean you can't spend time deciding on it. 

For charity shop managers: some of us treat our charity purchases with as much respect as any other (if not more); please can we have slightly better changing rooms, or at least ones with mirrors?

The skirts will have to be re-charitied, so technically this month I made a £10 donation to St  Peter's Hospice. Now, don't I feel good about myself.

August - Getting into the Mindset

I could dramatically announce that I 'survived the month'. But that would imply that there had been some kind of hardship involved. That would be a lie.

The most striking thing I realised this month was actually nothing to do with my own feelings; but that some people would be suffering by now. Some people would have a page-long list of things that they had discovered that they 'couldn't live without', would have walked past the same shop repeatedly just to look at 'the handbag from heaven'.

I wonder whether I'm not the right person to write this blog. Are there going to be twelve entries attempting to embellish the fact that four weeks have gone by, I've thrown away a few more unworn items, realised they didn't need replacing and got on with my life? This is going to make for even worse reading than I first thought. By the end of the year I may well have two outfits left in the wardrobe and be a naturist at weekends, while they are in the wash. 

Genuinely, the hardest thing about the first month was remembering that I'm not allowed - and even that was only an issue once or twice.

We were on holiday in St Davids, wandering around the shops. I saw a pair of Oxgen shoes,
 Without thinking, I looked at the price (£34.95) and picked a few different colours up to see whether any of the display ones were my size. None of them were and so I was faced with the decision of leaving, or asking to 'properly' try a pair on. It was only then that I realised that was pointless, because I couldn't buy them anyway.

Thinking about it later, I could do with a new pair of shoes... but a pair of black high heels for work, and these definitely didn't fit that bill! I really don't need more than my two pairs of summer shoes.

So my first proper saving; £35. I also saved a bit of space (an increasing concern if/when considering moving into a 20 foot bus permanently - but that is for another blog!) and - maybe - I have lessened the need for another pair of shoes to be produced.

Though I may still look out for them on ebay, in case someone bought the wrong size... They were lovely!

For my birthday I was given two tops, one didn't fit so I exchanged it for a gift-card. I am now carefully guarding £27 worth of Fat-Face specific money in my wallet, waiting until I see something I truly cannot live without or realise that I am in urgent and desperate need of something which can't be found in a charity shop.

Two questions have arisen regarding rules 1. Shoes and 2. Jewellery. Should they be included? I would count a scarf or pair of gloves as clothing, so they wouldn't be allowed, so presumably jewellery should be included too. That shouldn't be too hard except for nose studs, which have a habit of falling out in the night, never to be seen again and I will NOT wear a second hand nose stud.

I had assumed that shoes were also included, until my mum looked horrified and said that she would have to have included shoes with underwear if it were her. I think I will include them for as long as I can. Last year I found an almost new pair of Dr Marten boots for £30 in a designer second hand shop. They can only have been worn once or twice and are still selling for £90 in most shops. 

Without wanting to turn this into a totally shoe-based post (have I found my weakness?), here are the beauties:

Maybe this month's lesson is that second hand/designer places are a better place for shoes than charity shops? I suppose if people have new/good quality things to get rid of then they are more likely to want a bit of money for them, so you end up with a better choice; rather than some smelly old sandals which someone has got bored of and donated to charity. 

The only other things to note this month are that I had another wardrobe clear-out (much to R's amusement, as he says I will actually run out of clothes) and I acquired a pair of mittens and a woolly hat of his mum's.

July - The Rules

I'm well aware that the idea of trying to go a year without buying anything isn't remotely original. I remember reading a guardian article years ago (which still exists: and thinking that it would be amazing to have gone through an entire year without buying anything at all. But it just wasn't feasible with having to set up a home after leaving uni. Looking back, it would have been a lot easier than I thought at the time, and I now regret a lot of the money that we spent furnishing our first flat with characterless bits and pieces.

But I've always been a bit of an 'all or nothing' girl, and the idea of not being able to do the year 'properly' meant that it never happened.

At some point last year, I was talking to a friend who had a lot of time on her hands, not much money and a baby who liked being on the move. She spent most of her time wandering the charity shops of various towns and had decided that you could easily get everything you needed from second hand shops, charity shops and jumble sales. So she tried a year... and three years later she is still buying as little as she can new.

So there was my motivation. I realised that I didn't have to TOTALLY stop buying everything. I could just cut out new clothes for a year. That would be easy, I've never been someone who shops as a hobby and I'm not bothered about wearing the same thing twice. If I could achieve it then there would be so many gains - financially I didn't think I would notice as much difference as some people might, as I hardly had a monthly figure that went on clothes; but there must be a saving in there somewhere. I also wanted to prove (to who?) that I could still look like a professional without shopping... no one is doubting that if you live in jeans and a hoody you can get by without shopping, but to go to work every day, for a year, with only a handful of clothes... that's more of a challenge.

So that there could be no 'cheating', to be justified later, I had to make some rules:
1. Underwear is exempt (for obvious reasons) and includes bras, pants, socks, tights and leggings. However, new underwear should only be bought to replace old, and not to add to the collection!
2. Just because it is from ebay does not mean that it is second hand! Clothes from 'shops' on ebay, or people obviously buying to sell on are not allowed.
3. If I come over all creative (or desperate) and decide to make my own clothes, the fabric must be second hand.
4. Presents are allowed, though asking for specific things, or vouchers is not!

Everything else goes... charity shops, car boot sales, jumble sales, genuine ebay sales, vintage shops, 'designer' second hand shops and, most importantly, friends' hand-me-downs.

I have to admit a slight temptation to rush out and buy a whole new wardrobe full of clothes on the last weekend of 'the year before', but I resisted and satisfied the urge by spending a £10 voucher I'd been given on a pair of leggings (allowed anyway) and two vest tops to replace some which must have been considered vintage by now.

And so the year began.


Saturday, 18 December 2010

To blog or not to blog...

This blog (assuming I have actually managed to set it up and you can read it!) needs back-dating slightly. In June this year I decided to go a year without buying any new clothes; I decided that I would write a blog as I did it – updating it whenever I saw something I desperately wanted and couldn’t buy, or whenever I found a bargain in a second hand shop. I truly had no idea whether it was going to be an easy and boring year, or a horrendous realisation that I did like shopping after all.

So far, six months on, I have been mainly successful in my first (and main) aim: not to spend any money on new clothes. I wrote my first ‘blog’ entry in July, but it was on paper as we were on holiday, with no electricity, let alone a laptop. My intention was to upload it when I got home, but once I’d written it, and reread it, I faltered. Why would anyone else want to read about what I have and haven’t bought? Who cares about my reasons for doing it?

But that wasn’t the main reason for putting off the blogging side of the plan. I panicked. What I had written felt like a diary, and I wasn’t so sure that I wanted everyone to read my diary. Maybe they would laugh at me. Think I was ridiculous. Think that I was self-absorbed to think that anyone else cared.

And maybe I am ridiculous, maybe no one does care. But that’s fine.  It may have taken me six months (and rudely asking someone that I’d only just met “why do you think anyone cares about what you write in your blog?”) to realise that actually, I want to write this blog for me. I want to document my year (and I have been doing just that, only so far it’s been in a dusty book), but I also want to know what other people think. Even if I only find one other person with an opinion on this – whatever their opinion may be – then I will have learnt something. And that, to me, is the biggest draw to sharing this.

So, major amount of waffling over (for now) I will try to post what I have been writing over the last six months.