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Monday, December 31, 2012

Bye Buy Clothes: The Final Hours

Day 366

Less than 12 hours left to go to complete my one year challenge. 8872 hours in the books. I have been wearing the same clothes, the same shoes, the same socks, used the same purse for a whole year. 

During the year I donated about 50% of my wardrobe. I have another 25% waiting for the next donation pick up. So many pieces of clothing that were wrong for me. So many purchases made emotionally. Such a waste. If I think about it too hard, it's kind of sickening. The money wasted, the time wasted, even the hard work of some apparel maker in some far off land. Most things worn only once, maybe never.

So what will happen come midnight?  I have $30 in Kohl's cash that expires tomorrow. I have no clue what I'll buy. I may go into a frenzy. I may become paralyzed with fear and buy nothing. Hopefully I will carefully choose something that is needed to enhance the best parts of my wardrobe. I was thinking something neutral, like leopard print jeans. I'll be leaving for a very nice trip soon and will need to replace a swimsuit and sunglasses at the very least so I'll be visiting a mall soon. Good news: I found most of the missing matches to my socks eventually so I don't think I'll need any of those for a while. 

I have many more lessons to share so I hope you'll continue to follow. Beware: I am strongly suggesting that everyone take this challenge for themselves. It's not as hard as, say, childbirth, but it is not easy. Either way, there's a nice reward at the end. 

I'll be at a New's Year's Eve party tonight, but if a mall was open ... I could not be held responsible. 
Have fun tonight and be safe!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Path to Success

Day 362

The first lesson I learned during my one year challenge was that change is a choice. If you choose to make a change in your life, yay you! Next lesson, change requires a solid plan.

SMART is a well-known acronym that describes the steps in goal setting. This works perfectly for a Bye Buy Clothes challenge, the change in my behavior being my goal. Setting your goal is making your own rules. I found that there has to be a certain amount of pain to undo bad habits. My bad habits involved spending way too much time shopping and buying way, way too many clothes and shoes for myself, my family and anyone else I could think of. I had to stop.

  • Specific: This is the most important part of setting a goal. I was very specific about my plan: I could not buy clothes, shoes or accessories for myself or anyone else, and I could not wear items gifted to me. In a pinch, I could borrow. And, because I fancy myself creative, I could make something to wear. My daughter searched for loopholes. I tried to make her understand, cheating the goal is cheating myself. NO loopholes. I did give my kids money for clothes a few times but I could not be part of the shopping process. 
  • Measurable: My goal was measurable because it involved a time frame. One entire year. Each time I made it through a holiday or stressful situation, I congratulated myself. 
  • Attainable: The decision to stop buying clothes is a very attainable goal. Like most people, I had way more clothing than I actually needed. There was little risk that I would have to face the cold, gray world naked. Embarrassed? Possibly. Naked? Probably not. 
  • Relevant: My goal was relevant because, while it didn't solve the entire buying problem, the clothes portion of the buying was significant. I love clothes. I love to dress my family. Sadly, I was in such a buying cycle, I had no idea what I actually had or what I really wanted.
  • Time-bound: One year. I had to challenge myself to an entire year. It was painful, really painful at times, but I knew it would end. A year may sound extreme, but believe me--it took the entire year.
I was not aware of this SMART acronym before the challenge. I ran across the idea only a month ago. But it is entirely relevant, makes sense and is easy to follow.

If you are feeling caught in a buying cycle, if you feel like your emotions lead to over-spending, if you feel like your closet offers more stress than solutions, I highly recommend the No-Buy challenge. It's one year. You'll save a bundle. There's an excellent chance at regaining control over a big part of your life. And the positive changes will very likely spill over on to all other areas of you life. With planning, this one year investment in myself has changed my life.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Impact of a No-Buy Christmas

Day 361

I was going to focus on lessons learned this week but I have to step back and talk about Christmas. I hope that you all enjoyed family and friends over the holiday.

Before this year, a Christmas morning at our house meant abundance. An abundance of excitement, an abundance of food and mostly, an abundance of gifts. Both of my kids could count on at least 25 gifts under the tree, and often many more. This stemmed from my memories of Christmas as a child. My parents had to work hard to provide for us, yet Christmas always meant lots and lots of gifts. My mom continued the tradition when the grandchildren came along. Lots and lots and lots of gifts.Things we wanted? Sure! Things we needed? Sometimes. Things just to fill in? Too many.

My buying restrictions only applied to clothes, shoes and accessories, but I decided to make a CHOICE to really scale back on gifts this year. Easy in November. Easy in early December. Harder as the big day approached. Excruciating as I wrapped the few gifts. Devastating as I placed them under the tree. I had never before seen the tree skirt under the gifts. Ever. Each kid had 6 gifts and our grandson had 2 large toys and a few books. I almost cried looking at the paltry selection. I could not sleep imagining the disappointment my kids would try to hide as they slowly opened the few items.

Like a predictable movie, my kids were not (or did not act) disappointed. They were appreciative and happy. There were a few surprises along with the couple things requested. Better yet, my daughter is now continuing some of our traditions with her family. She bought Christmas pajamas, and even included a pair for her brother (since I couldn't buy them.) She made us some gifts. And she even spotted a bracelet I had pinned on my Pinterest wall and spent weeks tracking it down. My husband and son chipped in and bought me this:
Of course I will wait until January 1 to wear it but it was just so thoughtful.

We made less food on Christmas day, too. Some things were the same. We stayed in pajamas all day. We watched movies. We played with toys.

By the time we went to bed Christmas night, I was deliriously happy. I am so appreciative of my wonderful husband. So proud of both my kids. So in love with my grandson. 

I made it through a practically no-buy Christmas. If my kids were disappointed, I didn't feel it. I'm still sad about it but I think in a few Christmases, I'll get used to it like I have with all my new habits. I have to say, I am a lucky, lucky woman.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Change is a Choice

Day 355
10 days to go. I will dedicate the remaining posts for this challenge year to summing up what I have learned. First and foremost, I learned "change is a choice." (hence the fancy words up there)

Since I have bought no clothes, shoes or accessories for the last 355 days, I've had a little more time on my hands. Some of this time has been spent reading. Non-fiction, fiction, self-help, I just wander around the library until something catches my eye. I used to do this at the mall, walking until a particular outfit caught my eye. This new way is much cheaper. I spotted a book that I had read long ago, "7 Habits of Highly Successful People" by Stephen Covey. It's funny how you can read a book two times, 5-10 years apart, and get completely new information. Covey has many anecdotes sprinkled through the book and one hit me like a brick falling form the sky. It went something like this:
Counselor: Why are you divorcing your wife?
Husband: I don't love her anymore. 

Counselor: Why don't you love her?
Husband: I just don't. It makes me sad. Our children are sad. My wife will be devastated. What can I do? I don't love her.
Counselor: Just love her. Choose to love her.

There it was. Just choose.


I have known for many years that my buying habits were unhealthy. I had muttered to myself so, so many times, "This is it. Quit buying so much ..." Like little butterflies, the promises fluttered away at the sight of something shiny, the vibrant yellow of a clearance sign or 5 pounds gained or lost.

I finally changed my habits, and my life, when I made a serious choice. I made the choice to find a way, once and for all, to modify my buying habits. By choosing this challenge as the avenue for change, I made the conscious decision that I would give up a big part of my life in an effort to get my life back into balance. (I say "back into balance, but truthfully, I can't really remember balance.) If this change were forced upon me due to something like a financial situation, I would just be sad. But because I made a choice, I was choosing to accept the pain of it.

If there is something in your life that you truly want to change, don't wait for something to happen to you.  Make the decision. It is very powerful. Understand that you can choose to change. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Everything Else is Trivial

Day 349

I was going to write today but everything seems trivial when children are gunned down in their own school. I am beyond sad ...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Do Beauty and Taste Have an Expiration Date?

Day 347

A friend sent me a link to this story. Supposedly, some U.K. beauty company surveyed women 45 and older about the age in which women should go au natural and "stop wearing red lipstick." Survey said: Age 59. Additionally, these same women supposedly felt that women should "tone down" their appearance in their mid-forties. Maybe this is true in the U.K., but here is the good old U.S. of A., I think we beg to differ. Am I right?

It is this kind of nonsense that sends us on that vicious cycle. Turning to magazines, store windows and articles like this to determine what we should and should not wear. 

"And we've all seen the stereotype of the too-youthful older woman, in leather pants, animal prints, a mask of heavy makeup, giant jewelry and—this is the worst violation in our opinion—wrinkled cleavage. Still, we at Shine like to see appropriately dressed older women with bright lipstick, bright nails and beautiful fabrics and colors. Appropriate being the key word. "

It's true, for most of us, our bodies change as we age. But that does not mean we hide it! I am tired of wearing sleeves lest someone be offended by my less-than-toned arms. And if you don't want to see my wrinkled cleavage, look away. Furthermore, for many women, fine assets like great legs do NOT expire. 

I am not advocating that we all revert to the juniors department but we should all wear what makes us feel good and what we think is pretty. The women that I know are smart enough, much smarter than certain Shine authors, to know what they should wear. I am offended by the suggestion that our beauty and taste has an expiration date. I, for one, will be wearing red lipstick and leopard print something as long as I can dress myself and my arms can reach my face.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Habit of Patience

Day 346

A habit is "an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary." Or an outfit that nuns wear. As for habit, the former, I have both good and bad. Many of my good habits have been formed this year.

The system I use to keep my closet organized has become a good habit. Using my document filing system has become a great habit. I am even well on my way to an excellent skin care habit. All developed during this challenge year and directly attributable to it. 

Not so good: patience. Part of the reason that I had to suspend buying for an entire year is my lack of patience. It resides next to my tendency to be impulsive. Which has led to a closet filled with ridiculous clothes that neither fit, nor make sense. This year, I have been forced into patience.

Being forced into a situation is very different than choosing the same situation. Some people have been been forced into a year of not buying due to a financial problem. Instead, I chose the situation to fix a lifestyle problem. If I were forced, I would be sad, feel deprived, and wait it out. Instead, while still sad, I am seeking changes that will increase my quality of life (as well as the quality of my bank account.)

I did not chose to learn to be patient and that's probably why it has taken so long. But it is happening, only because I am living with the results. The jeans I am wearing today are horrible. Horrible for me, anyway. They squish my thighs out, have the most awkward waistband and I am constantly tugging at them. Why did I buy them? 

Like so many other items, these jeans were:

  • Close to good (sadly, not close enough)
  • On clearance
  • A cool brand
  • My size
Rather that fight my impulsiveness and have patience to find a great pair of jeans, I have these. And I look--and feel-- yucky. So, better late than never, I am choosing to be patient.
You can teach an old dog ...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday Wardrobe Solutions: It's Time to Sparkle!

Day 345

'Tis the season. Parties! Indulgence! Holiday fun! But what to wear? I want to let you in on a little known fashion fact: Between December 1 and January 1 of every year, the hard and fast rules of taste and style are suspended. For this period we have right, or even the responsibility, to sparkle! It's true.

This is easy for me. Sequins are just as neutral as any LBD in my book. And versatile. Day, evening, late night ... feel free to add some pizzazz. Here are some suggestions, starting small and going all out:

Small touches:
Headband from Kohl's
Hair or Lapel Clip from Kohl's
Clutch from Target
Scarf from Target
A little bit more of a statement:
Ballet Flats from Target
Wrap from Parisian
Sequin Accented Top from Parisian
Knit hat from Macys













And more ...
Subtle Sparkle Jacket from Macy's
Tank in a Unique Shade from Target
Tote Bag from Kohl's










Go for it!
Peep-toe Pumps from DSW
Skirt form Target
Skirt from Parisian
Top from Kohl's
Sequin Pants from Kohl's
I am not suggesting that all of these items are needed but any one (well, maybe a couple) can be added to your existing wardrobe to give you a sparkly feeling (and who couldn't use a little bit of sparkle?). The prices are low and the styles are widely available. 

I suggest trying things on first because sequins and other sparkly details can be picky on the skin.

Shine on, but remember, a little goes a long way!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Warm Cookie

Day 341

I was perusing the frozen foods department at Sam's Club when a lady with a table spread with samples offered me a freshly baked cookie. It was still warm. Of course I took it, and savored it. No matter that I am trying desperately to keep weight off. No matter that I work out as hard as I can and spend much time and energy preparing and cooking nutritious, preservative-free meals. No matter that we have a vacation coming up in which a swimsuit will be almost required. She offered me a cookie, I graciously accepted, and enjoyed every crumb of it. I am bad.

This is why I had to implement an addendum to no-buy rules. If someone gives me a gift of clothing shoes or accessories, I can not use it this year. I have a bag full of items gifted to me. In some cases, the gift-giver didn't know or remember my challenge. In some cases, they misunderstood my rules. And, I've had a few instances in which well-meaning friends or family members tried to find loopholes for me. It would have been easier to simply accept graciously, as I did the cookie. But as a cookie offered still has the same calorie count as a cookie sought out, wearing a gifted t-shirt would be the same as buying one myself. 

I have almost forgotten on several occasions. I slipped and wore a jacket given out at a golf outing. I have actually plucked a garment from a rack and headed to a cash register before coming to my senses. My son has had to remind me, I can't buy his shoes. It has taken willpower and determination. Keeping the end goal in mind, I battled through.

When offered a cookie, I don't think I forgot I was watching my weight. I just wanted the cookie. Temptation to buy unneeded clothes clothes will be there come January 1. I sincerely hope I do a better job with the clothes than I did with the cookie. Hmmm ... Bye Buy Cookie?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Maruca Video

If you get this blog via email, the video did not attach. It's worth a minute to head to the blog page and click on the video.
Thanks!

Where My Maruca Bag Originated

Day 340
A follow-up to my post about my fabulous handbag, the Maraca Design people sent this video about how and where their bags are made:
I think it's awesome to find a company that cares so much about what they do, produce right here in the U.S.A. and have a sense of humor about it.

I did not need 2-4 handbags to get through a year, just one. The big message: get something you love--just ONE of them-- and use it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Maruca Handbag: The Little Bag that Could, and Did!

Day 339

I've never been a handbag gal. I don't pine for Prada or covet Coach. Give me some great shoes any day of the week. But a handbag is necessary and my taste in them has changed over the years.

I have little recollection of my handbag habits prior to having children. I don't know if it is because handbags weren't really important to me or if having children has wiped out my memory. I tend towards the latter. I know that my baby and toddler days required a large handbag that could hold not only my essentials but bottles, snacks, diapers, toys, my husband's wallet, camera, books, wipes and anything else that could be crammed in. Just as we eat what is on our plate and spend what we earn, we generally fill any given handbag to capacity. And the mom transforms into pack horse. 

I found it stressful to be afraid to reach into the murky depths of a large handbag. It's embarrassing to empty a bag on a store counter as you seek out a receipt or credit card. I clearly recall when my daughter was two years old and we were shopping for carpet. I set her down and put my bag on the carpet display. While I was comparing colors, she dumped the contents of my handbag onto the floor and I found her climbing on the samples with mini-pads adhered to the bottoms of her feet. The salesman was speechless.

With maturity, I have grown fond of small handbags, those that can only hold what I really need. Plus, I think a giant bag can make your hips look bigger. I generally found that I would replace the bag 2-3 times per year. Never an extravagant purchase, I generally chose something in the $30-$40 range in a neutral like red, leopard or lime. A year ago last October, my husband and I were on a business trip and I spotted this bag in a boutique:
The size was perfect, the pattern and texture interesting, and it would compliment my wardrobe. At a price of $60, I was ready to pass but my husband was in a mood to buy me something.  I never want to pass on that opportunity so I graciously accepted the bag. The brand: Maruca Designs, which I had never heard of.

Little did I know that it would be the only handbag I would have in the year I took off shopping! Back in December 2011 when I was evaluating my wardrobe, I looked at the lovely little bag and thought, "You can make it through the year." And it did.

Truly, the bag is showing almost no signs of wear. The zipper is perfect, the fabric in excellent condition, the style-- timeless. Another lesson learned: when chosen carefully, a great bag can last. It's been on the floor of the car, on the beach and on vacation. It's been put through the test of 14 months real usage and passed heroically. And, I would actually save money by not replacing this bag 2 or 3 times. 

As my year comes to a close, I know I will want to replace the bag eventually. I visited the Maruca website to see what they are offering now. They stick with tried and true styles and add interesting fabrics. They are all hand-cut and hand-sewn in Boulder, CO. I'm sending them a shout-out because in a year in which I have to embrace what I had, this little bag made it really easy.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Home Stretch

Day 338

Here we are in December. For 11 months I have succeeded in NOT buying clothes, shoes or accessories. One month to go to make it a full year.

A full year to this challenge is critical. I am sure much can be gained from a month, 3 or 6. But a full year means you live through every season, every holiday, every event. There is no new swimsuit or new fall boots. There is no birthday outfit. No Easter hat and no sparkling holiday outfit. No room for weight gain and no way you can mistreat the clothes you have.

A full year also ensures that the necessary time is spent living through the stages:

  1. Woo hoo! Look at me! I am not buying anything.
  2. Holy cow--look at all the stuff I have that I don't even wear! Why did I ever buy this?
  3. Uh oh--this is all I have so I'd better take good care of it.
  4. I don't need it, I don't need it ...
  5. This is the stupidest idea I have EVER come up with. 
  6. Yes, I'm still doing it. No, I don't cheat. (grrrr ...)
  7. I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR.
  8. OK- I'm seeing a light at the end ...
  9. Wait a minute, this stuff is not as important as I thought.
  10. Yes, I made this myself, I have more time on my hands.
  11. What's going to happen when I can shop again?
  12. TBD
I could stop now but this holiday season will be the icing on the cake. The desire to buy heaps of discounted clothes is still there but my voice of reason is strong. In fact, when I see others at a store cash register loaded down with goods, I feel kind of sad for them. I've been there and all of those sweaters aren't going to make anything better. There's a good chance that the recipient won't even wear the sweater. They won't return it either, because why bother? 

On the other hand, a year is completely do-able. There is only one Christmas for which I haven't bought clothes, shoes or accessories. Only one birthday. Just one summer in which I will relied on what I already had. A year can go by in the blink of an eye.

Yes--there are a few things I will be replacing on January 1. But I will never be the same person I was 11 months ago. This has been both the longest and shortest year of my life.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Gimpy or Chubby

Day 336

Back in August I sustained a knee injury. The good news: I did it playing volleyball, not doing housework. The bad news: I delayed treatment until volleyball season was safely over. When I finally did seek treatment, I made an appointment with the best Sports Medicine doctor around, he even has Olympic ties.

At my first visit with the doctor I described the symptoms, explained how it happened and let him know that my recovery was urgent as it was cutting into my aerobic activities. An X-ray and MRI revealed an ACL injury and bone bruise. I was to rest--no high impact activities-- and commence physical therapy.

PT was super fun at first. I looked at it like having a personal trainer who massaged my knee. I grew tired of spending 2 hours a day, three times a week there. I decided I was pretty much healed, canceled future sessions and started jogging again. The darn knee pain flared up, only worse than before.

I finally resigned myself to a couple weeks of no exercise. It made me crazy that I wasn't burning calories. I missed Zumba something awful. Luckily, the longer you go with no exercise, the easier it gets. I started walking again, figuring I had finally healed when the doctors office called. They wanted to know why had I checked myself out of PT. I was busted. I explained I was fine so they insisted I come in for a final check. 

Not only was I not "better," I added a second injury thus prolonging healing. Now I am battling with myself, a version of me on each shoulder.
"Listen to the doctor and heal."
"The longer you don't exercise, the bigger your butt."
"If you don't let it heal you could suffer long term injury."
"If I go much longer my pants won't fit."
"Keep it up and you'll be limping for a long, long time."

My choice: gimpy or chubby. Perhaps a bedazzled knee brace ...