A Year of No Shopping

Posted on January 31, 2016


I grew up wearing wearing hand-me-downs from my sister or mom’s friends’ children. I remember always being excited when we got huge bags of previously worn clothing and mixing and matching whatever caught my fancy. Shopping for new clothes was limited to occasions – close family weddings (for other weddings, we borrowed or repeated our outfits), birthdays and Diwali.


A “few” of the shoes in my closet currently – there’s more in the storage in a huge box.

The clothes were taken care of, but the shoes were always an issue. I had, rather have, small feet. So I remember wearing my black ballerina school shoes to birthday parties. I remember buying a two-tone copper/silver pair of sandals with a slight heel when I was in grade 7. I loved that pair! And in grade 8, I bought my first pair of high heels after making some money by participating in a school fair. But I never had more than one pair of sandals at a time for the longest time. I didn’t care if my shoes didn’t match. I had to wear them and I did without giving it much thought. It was only in college, when I had one black, one white and one brown/red pair and I rotated them with my outfits. Lucikly, this was India, and one didn’t need different types of shoes for extreme weather.


This is one part of my closet – I have more in the wash, in suitcases, etc.

I remember the time when I used to, even till 2010, buy raw material and get all my clothes stitched by local tailors. Our tailor, Mr. Pritam (Darling) Rathod, and Jaimini Ben, who worked out of her basement and my friend Jasmine, who brought modernity to my outfits. I was still not splurging on clothes, but I was definitely getting more and more made so that I could mix and match. I remember when I moved to the States, I discovered the word, “SALE” and “End-of-season SALE” which meant clothes would cost less than a Starbucks coffee sometimes! I never gave it a second thought. Thus began my obsession of ready-to-wear and great deals (read cheap clothes) and never repeating my outfits.

This has sadly become a trend even in India. What I now realize is, cobblers (you know, people who mend shoes) and tailors (not your stylists and designers, but middle class tailoring stores run from home/basements) are now out of business. They are like telephone booths – nowhere to be found. So not only have I probably contributed to polluting the planet, I have also taken away from people who had no other means of survival! In the last few years, I have been working on my social consciousness related to my personal  carbon foot


“Some” of the accessories I own – earrings, rings and bracelets not included

In 2014, I became a vegetarian (I started in 2013 and relapsed before getting back on track). In 2015, I gave up alcohol and in 2016, I have decided to not shop for clothes, shoes and accessories for the whole year. It has been one month and I can tell you that it wasn’t as easy. I kept feeling, “But my boots don’t have tread. I NEED a better pair of winter boots.” I know this is bogus because this has been the mildest winter I have experienced, as have people who have lived in Toronto forever. Sometimes, I wear my Lands End coat and feel it makes me look fat. I had to tell myself, “So what,” and make peace with looking fat.

It’s going to be hard, because it is going to include NOT buying socks, especially since I threw out all the socks I bought six years ago and had lost their elastic. I will have to make do with the 20-30 pairs I have currently.

I know this is far from being poor. I know I sound like a spoilt brat. I know I am flaunting my first-worldness. But this is something I need to do.

Here’s my survival mantra for the year:

  1. Swap clothes and accessories – may be hard as I don’t have many friends who are my size.
  2. Go thrifting – Salvation Army, here I come! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – that’s the mantra.
  3. Wear every article I own in the next one year. Find an actual person to take everything I don’t need, so I know it’s not ending up in landfills.
  4. Do my laundry regularly so that I don’t feel like I have nothing to wear.

The first month went by half easy and half not-so-easy. I hope I will have more success stories as time goes by.

Suggested sources: