How I went from being a shopping addict to a minimalist
It’s 2008, and I remember thinking it was really “no big deal” that I just activated yet another credit card. I now own five credit cards in two different countries (during 2006-2009 I lived in both The Netherlands and The US), I have student loans and whenever I can, I shop on credit at stores as well. Most people around me seem to be doing the same thing. Some to “boost” their credit scores, others out of necessity. I had no idea at the time, but I was not in a good place – I was developing a serious shopping addiction.
How bad could a shopping addiction be?
A shopping addiction always sounded kind of silly to me. It’s not like I was addicted to alcohol or did drugs. I was nice to people, had a job and paid my taxes. I made sure to always pay my bills, even if this meant I had to transfer money from one credit card to another or eating cereal for both breakfast and dinner. I just loved shopping. How bad could that be?
I loved the feeling of buying new things. Especially clothes, makeup and skincare. I loved getting a good bargain at fancy stores if this meant I could get high end makeup for less. I would be first in line to get limited edition items, such as MAC collaborations which would set me back $200 – $300 for a bunch of makeup. One time I went to Milan in Italy with friends (the flight and hotel were of course paid with a credit card) and the thought of not shopping and getting at least one designer item stressed me out. I thought that if I left the country without something “special”, I would really regret it. I ended up buying a $500 Marc Jacobs bag that I maybe wore five times in total. Along with some fancy, high end makeup that I probably didn’t even touch because “it’s just too pretty”.
Who was I trying to impress?
My closet was filled with clothes, shoes, bags and accessories that I barely wore. I loved buying high heels, yet I rarely wore high heels. I had about twenty dresses, yet I felt uncomfortable wearing them as I didn’t like my legs. And I kept buying more. In my head, there would be a time and place for me to wear all these items. In reality, I probably wore the same twenty to thirty pieces over and over again. I had drawers full of makeup, yet on most days I just put on some mascara and filled in my eyebrows. Why did I need over 200 makeup items? Who was I trying to impress?
Now that I look back on that time, I see that my shopping addiction was a cover for many issues that I had that I did not want to deal with. Issues with my family. Feelings of being hurt and neglect. Feeling like I didn’t belong. My shopping addiction was a way out, for in that moment I didn’t have to deal with my feelings. I could just focus on acquiring something pretty and feeling good about that.
Let the downsizing begin
Around 2013 I decided that I didn’t want to be in debt for the rest of my life. I knew that it was going to be hard, but that I could do it. I noticed that the feeling of getting rid of things was just as satisfying to me, if not more, than acquiring things. So I started purging. I sold pretty much all my designer items. I found out that those limited edition makeup items were actually worth some money, especially since I hadn’t used most of them. The money that I made went straight to my credit cards. Paying off my first credit card felt so empowering and gave me the motivation to continue.
I started looking into the world of minimalism, which was slowly gaining some traction at that time. I liked the idea of owning less, which many minimalists described as “having less stress”. Less items meant less worrying, less cleaning and less stuff to look after. So I continued downsizing. And as I was getting rid of more stuff, the idea of buying new stuff became less and less appealing to me. I had my moments where I fell back into old patterns, had some ups and downs for sure, but overall I bought less and less stuff. In 2014 another credit card was paid off. I had a little wiggle room regarding to money and no longer had to apply for additional credit. This felt very freeing.
As I had less stuff and my debt was getting paid off, I started looking inward. What issues did I have that needed attention? How could I move on from betrayal and hurt? I started reading books on self development, spirituality and about getting your life in order. Many of the messages in these books resonated with me. Because I had more free time (no more weekly shopping sprees!) I was slowly changing – for the better. I started figuring out who I was and where I wanted to go. I started liking myself again.
How my life has changed
Today, I would say I’m pretty much a minimalist. In my own way of course – I don’t follow any “rules” or “guidelines” as to what a minimalist should be. But I haven’t owned more than 50 clothing items in over four years now, with the average being around 40 items (I’ll start sharing my capsule wardrobe on Rise with Kindness soon). My drawers full of makeup are now downsized to about 20 items that I actually use now and then. I used to dream about living in a big house, but currently me and my boyfriend are perfectly happy in our 60 square meter (about 640 square feet) apartment that we have been living in for 8 years now. Pretty much all our friends and family members are living in way bigger places than us, but we don’t need more space right now as we simply don’t have a lot of stuff anymore.
Have I been able to pay off all my debt by now? Unfortunately no, not yet. I did however pay off all my credit cards, closed four out of the five accounts and stopped buying on credit at stores and online shops. With my new habits and love for a more minimalistic way of living, I don’t foresee any problems regarding to paying it all off. I can’t imagine going back to the way I was before – broke, addicted to shopping and hurt. I have dealt with all of that now, so I can be happy and free.
I hope this was helpful to someone – there is no need for feelings of shame or guilt around your situation if it’s not that great either, as long as you’re willing to deal with it. And I know that if I can, you can too!