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Closet Saver

Lucinda Karter  |  October 27, 2018

LATE LAST YEAR, The New York Times published an article by Ann Patchett headlined “My Year of No Shopping.” In it, Patchett describes not buying clothing and electronics for one year. I was intrigued—and inspired.

Ever since I collected my first paycheck, I’ve loved to buy clothes and shoes, especially for my twice annual business trips to Europe. I always felt lacking in elegance compared to my clients there. That was how I justified finding new outfits for nearly every day of each trip. It gave me a confidence boost to walk into their offices feeling fashionable and chic.

But my weakness for new clothes was also hugely expensive. Inspired by the Patchett piece, I decided that, as of Jan. 1, 2018, I would try the same experiment and not buy any new clothes, handbags or shoes for one year. I left one loophole open: I would allow myself to buy such items when on vacation.

As Patchett had suggested, it was far easier to choose a few things to stop spending on, rather than adopt a draconian regime of no spending other than essentials. Ten months into the year, how am I doing? For the most part, I did manage to stop buying clothes, shoes and handbags. The leadup to vacations was tricky, as I sometimes needed an extra item specifically for the trip. We travelled to warmer weather in early spring and I realized I had thrown out all my ratty T-shirts the summer before, so I allowed myself to buy a few of those. Having spent to prepare for the trip, I spent almost nothing while on vacation.

Our other big trip this year was to Europe. Before leaving, I bought some shoes I would need for hiking in hot weather. I also purchased a summer raincoat for the drizzle I expected in England and France, but which never materialized.

During the trip, I purchased a few items of clothing, including a Panama hat. Everywhere we went in France, we saw snappily dressed men and women wearing fancy cloth Panama hats. One afternoon, in a store in Granville, I caved and forked over $75. Three days later, I spilt coffee on the hat. My attempt to clean it left the hat misshapen and discolored. For the rest of the trip, it was a potent reminder of my impulsiveness.

Despite the hat, it’s been a good year. I haven’t calculated how much I’ve saved so far, but it’s substantial. And with the money saved has come a greater sense of control and peace of mind.

It’s also made me thoughtful when spending on other items. A case in point: lipsticks, which can cost $20 or more each and which are another weakness of mine. I’m always hunting for that perfect shade. My latest resolution: Only replenish the one color I’ve found that works with every outfit.

What about all the clothing I’ve accumulated over the years? That’s my next project. I’m going to attack my closet, see what I actually wear and try to sell the rest on eBay. A frugal friend of mine does that. She says it’s amazing what sells.

I can’t wait to have a closet filled with only the things I wear. My hope: If I can see better the clothes that I have and like, maybe I’ll feel less deprived—and less tempted to spend.

Follow Lucinda on Twitter @LucindaKarter.

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