Lately I’ve been paring down my shopping and loving it

I think it started in the Fall with the onset of the Recession. I suddenly felt a need to save more and to be more careful with my spending.

Thankfully this wasn’t in reaction to a significant change in my own financial situation.

It was more an underlying sense of unease about the economy, and possibly I also got caught up in the national wave of belt-tightening.

But what started as an act of deprivation has turned in to a source of joy.

Instead of shopping for clothes this summer. I’ve been shopping my own closet.

And as part of this, I’ve done a serious purge of all the frivolous “well, it’s only $20 dollars, how can I resist?” items that crammed the shelfs and racks.

These superfluous little splurges weren’t adding up to too much monetarily. But they were choking my closet and keeping me from seeing the clothes I have and want to wear.

It’s like I had so much stuff… that in the morning when I went to get dressed for work… I felt I had nothing.

Which would prompt a need to go shopping again, and the vicious cycle continued.

The joy of passing these clothes on to friends of mine and to charity made this purge even more satisfying.

As part of my new pared down approach, I’ve also decided I am going to adopt a sort of uniform in the Fall. Black, white (and occasional grey) separates and only accents in color (e.g. belts,scarfs, jewelery).

I only made this decision a few weeks ago, but already it’s proved to be very liberating. I can walk right past the stores in Soho crying to me with their many colored dresses, tunics, shoes etc.

Since these items don’t fit my simple dress plan I keep on walking.

I have a few friends that have also taken this approach in terms of their homes.

Because of job transfers, break-ups etc. they are renting furnished apartments. The majority of their stuff has been disposed of or put in storage. They took with them only what would fit in one or two suitcases.

To a person, they have told me that being unburdened from all their stuff is an incredibly positive and freeing experience.

Now as a brand person, I feel a bit guilty about this new philosophy.

Isn’t conspicuous consumption, the oil that greases the wheels of the economy?

I don’t claim that my actions alone are bringing the economy to a grinding halt.

(Although I do bet the DSW Shoe warehouse in Westchester is feeling the pinch of my abstinence).

But as a human being I feel lighter, healthier almost. And when I do occasionally buy something now, I cherish it’s significance more. I value it more.

I wonder what will happen when the money and optimism starts flowing again. Will consumer go back to their free-spending ways?

There are different points of view on this. But I have a hunch that the “joy of less” will remain with some of us even when the world goes back to “more”.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?
Have you experienced the joy of less?

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Julie is the Founder and CEO of BrandTwist, a brand consultancy that helps entrepreneurs and corporations build stronger, more profitable brands.


  1. I've discovered that there is a huge market for brand-name clothes, shoes, etc. on eBay, particularly with the weak economy. I've been purging my apartment for several weeks and putting items up for sale, using the money towards bills and other essentials.

  2. This post has generated lots of discussion in our office today! We all agree that confessing that our new bag, belt, dress is not the result of a weekend splurge but in fact the result of a deep dive in the closet is altogether a greater thrill….and without the guilt!

    But the fact remains that we do still want to update our look and enjoy something new. It seems that the stores we're walking past are indeed the 'impulse' purchases we're most likely to regret and instead we're spending more quality time with our favorite (not necessarily the cheapest) stores….browsing at lunchtime…walking away….justifying how it does fit with our new recessionista style and only then returning to make the splurge!

    It seems that brands that offer us more long term value from our purchase rather than an inital hit are going to get greater share of the (smaller) budget we're letting ourselves spend and stand to get more loyalty from us when (or if) we begin spending a little more freely!

  3. I was browsing the archives of Penelope Trunk recently and she had a post that addressed this issue, although on a more extreme scale. Here post, 5 steps to taming materialism, was super inspiring.

    As someone who was one of thousands of New Yorkers laid off during this recession, I found the experience really edifying. Obviously I would not want to live like that forever (not going out, not shopping, only buying small quantities of food as needed, allowing bills to pile up) but in a way it was great to see how getting rid of all that stuff did not have nearly as much of a negative impact on my life as I might have expected.

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