I Gave Up Shopping For a Year — and It Changed Everything

POPSUGAR Photography | Emily Faulstitch
POPSUGAR Photography | Emily Faulstitch

We've all been there before. Somehow, after a not-so-great day at work, we mysteriously find ourselves at our favorite store, waiting patiently in line and hugging a pile of brand-new clothes with both arms. All that is keeping these new goodies from meeting their new home — our closets — is a swipe of a card. And just like that, we're warmed by the comfort blanket of retail therapy.

I don't know about you, but for me, that coziness wears off as soon as I step into my apartment and remember I live in 381 square feet and my closet is the size of one you'd find in a dollhouse. Then, as soon as the credit card bill arrives and those tags are still hanging on those clothes I just had to have, I am once again reminded that retail therapy is not the proper solution.

At the end of last year, I did something extreme. I decided to count how much money I spent shopping throughout 2016. While I am by no means a shopaholic, I wanted to see with my own eyes how much this so-called therapy had cost me. Because let's face it — numbers don't lie.

So, what did I do? I decided to do something even more extreme. With 2017 on the horizon, I decided to take on the challenge of not shopping at all for an entire year. Yes, you read that right: 365 days of no new purchases. No new clothes. No new accessories. No more must haves. This new year would be about focusing on what I currently own and not bringing home any new finds.

Fast-forward, and here I am, five months into this year-long challenge, and I am still going strong. With the half-way mark only one month away, I am starting to see flickers of light at the end of this spending-freeze tunnel.

"How does it feel?" you might be wondering. You guys, it feels liberating! So much so that I felt the need to let you in on what all I've gained by having less.

1. I've uncovered hidden treasures.

Since I haven't been able to bring anything new into my closet, my creativity has soared, as well as my resourcefulness. I've mixed and matched in ways I probably would have never even tried had it not been for this challenge.

By forcing myself to take a hard look at what I already own, I've rekindled old flames and rediscovered some of my greatest loves that kept getting shoved deeper into the dark hole of the back of my closet.

2. I've decluttered my closet, apartment, and mind.

No matter how jam-packed my closet would become, I still would wear the same handful of items. So, at the beginning of the year when I started this challenge, I trimmed the fat in my closet by removing the pieces I never wore.

After reducing the weight of my wardrobe, I looked around at my apartment and suddenly realized how much clutter I was living with. From books and trinkets to several kitchen gadgets I still didn't know how to use, there was so much stuff, yet hardly any of it had significant meaning. So, the decluttering continued.

I became inspired by simplicity. The less I became bogged down by stuff, the lighter my mind began to feel, and the more my soul could breathe.

3. I've saved time, energy, and money.

I cannot remember the last time I stood in front of my closet whining about how I have nothing to wear. My wardrobe is by no means the greatest, but through these five months I have learned to make do with what I have.

Having fewer options to choose from has saved me from so much frustration when picking out outfits, especially when I'm in a time crunch. I walk out of my apartment with a positive mindset rather than curling up into a big ball of unnecessary stress.

And, of course, the saving money part is extremely nice, too.

4. I've become more inspired.

Because I have stopped spending money on material items, I have had a greater budget to spend on experiences, which has allowed me to meet more people. Having the opportunity to create new relationships, as well as new memories, has left me with more inspiration than any piece of clothing ever could.

5. I've realized I don't need anything.

Once I cleaned out my closet and set eyes on the gigantic pile I would be donating, I realized how much stuff I had slowly accumulated over the years, and how little of it that I actually needed. Does anyone really need 10 pairs of jeans? What I owned was enough — more than enough — and a wave of gratitude suddenly washed over me.

Throughout these last five months, I have learned to separate my "wants" from "needs." I have realized in this present moment, I have what I need, and that makes me extremely thankful.

6. Less really is more.

While I still have seven months left to go in this challenge, the biggest lesson I have learned is that less really is more.

By consuming less, I accumulate less. I have less distractions around me. Ironically, by having less, I have so much more. More gratitude towards everything I already possess. More space for my mind to breathe. More time and money to focus on one of my biggest priorities: traveling. More energy to accomplish my goal of seeing the world. And, most importantly, more appreciation for living simply, not simply living.

So, are you ready to start simplifying?