First up, Hayley’s description of her formative patterns of consumption as an adolescent could have been an almost word for word account of my own experience. My Saturdays were invariably spent in Southend wandering around Topshop, Miss Selfridges and all the rest, which sufficed until we were old enough and solvent enough to intersperse this pattern with shopping trips to London. At university, the acquisition of my student loan (I clearly didn’t get a handle on the ‘having to pay it back someday’ clause in its terms and conditions) meant that my consumption of ‘stuff’ reached new shameful heights. I think the crux of the reason why so many young people (admittedly particularly girls) buy so much stuff, is that they are struggling to find an identity and the new things, particularly clothing, shoes and makeup, become the materials through which they experiment with the ability to semiotically communicate these possible identities with the rest of society. However, I've discussed this before.
Aside from the depth of her self-knowledge on this topic, what really impressed my about her piece, was Hayley’s thoughtful approach of the changes she felt she still had to make. Her acknowledgement that we are all in transition: that our lifestyles, beliefs and practises are constantly evolving in particular interested me. I have a tendency to forget change takes time and often has a natural flow if you allow it, but in specific regards to shopping and the consumption of things, new or otherwise, I have been aware that the changes I have been putting in place for the last four years or so are part of a personal evolution, and a fascinating one at that.
'I’d like to do more when I’m ready. And I’m working on it. But it’s understandable that I won’t be able to make lasting big changes in a short amount of time. So I’m okay with where I am right now. I’m okay with being in the process of working on my stuff. That’s where I’ll always be, after all.'
She also outlines some steps that she feels are necessary for her to work through to get closer to where she feels she would like to be in regards to shopping. Reading it I realised that I have actually already come quite far myself in letting go of a lot of the emotional baggage that contributes to the desire to buy stuff, and that was very heartening.
But I, too, see improvements to be made and further steps I can take. Which is why I have made the decision to not by any new shoes for a year. Many sewers who are trying to replace their former shopping habits with home sewing compulsions have documented how easy it can be to continue the same patterns of shopping, but instead simply refocus the hording compulsion towards fabric, patterns, notions etc. I have tried to be mindful of that trap, which is one of the main impulses that let to Stash Bustin’. I also think that putting an embargo on clothing purchases can possibly lead to heightened levels of shoe and accessory purchasing, which I can help but think somewhat undermines genuine good intentions. I can’t say if I’ve become guilty of that, but I do know that my shoe collection certainly hasn’t got any smaller in recent years. Time to go cold turkey.
So, the plan is simply to not buy any new footwear until July 2011. I am permitting myself to purchase second hand shoes and boots within limitations. For example, if I need some shoes for work or to replace one of my more practical pairs, I am allowed to hunt some out on ebay. If I happen to chance upon some that fit well in a charity shop, I am allowed them even if there is not a direct ‘need’. Your thoughts and comments on these topics and your personal experience are more than gratefully received.