Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Confessions of a Recovering Shopaholic

My name is Rachel and I am a recovering Shopaholic.

Ever heard of "Confessions of a Shopaholic" by Sophie Kinsella? A book (and now a movie) about Rebecca Bloomwood, a young career woman who gives in to purchasing anything she wants - shoes, clothes, bags, accessories....and finds herself in major debt because of it.

When I read the first book in the four book series, I laughed out loud at how funny she was with her multiple purchases in spite of the unpaid credit card bills and debt collector who was continually sending her letters, reminding her that despite her excuse of illness, family death or European trips that she STILL owed the money outstanding on her credit card. The truth is, and perhaps the reason why I stopped reading the series, although well written and hilarious, that Rebecca (Becky) Bloomwood was ME! Five years ago, four years ago, three years ago, two years ago, one year ago, four months ago, I was.....a Shopaholic.

I was the woman who gave in to the urge to buy clothes, bags, shoes, accessories, make-up, books, junk.....despite the lack of money for such purchases. Although I had a decent income for someone my age and the sky was the limit on the things I could use my money for...saving, buying a house, charity...anything else...I always gave in to the things that I liked when it came to fashion.
I wasn't one of those people who shopped to "feel better" or "get over a break-up." No, I shopped out of boredom, because I happened to be at the mall for something I actually NEEDED and saw a "Sale" sign, because I needed one thing and happened to find three others that were pretty and because I happened to like the dress, shoe, necklance, bag and belt that I may one day wear to a party, to work, on that road trip, to that football game, to the Gala or to dinner.

Like anything else, compulsive shopping can turn into an addiction...something that you just can't do without and would sacrifice anything to have. In my case, I subconsciously sacrificed my future income to buy the things I needed NOW and would pay for LATER. Well, my friend, LATER is NOW and NOW I'm realizing the sacrifices I made then. And, on January 1, 2009, I very easily gave away items which represented the sacrifice....clothes. About 50% of what was in my closet, to be exact.

One of my best friends, Jennifer, not only encouraged me but physically assisted me in carrying out my plan to clean my closet. I had intended on doing my "closet clean-up" for months, but had never gotten around to it. It wasn't because I didn't have time or was just being lazy. It was because I felt it was IMPOSSIBLE to do. How was I going to give away all those things I'd spent time and money on purchasing? Tops I'd never worn...with the tags still on...blouses I knew I'd never wear again....the collared one my mom gave me years ago....clothes with memories of old boyfriends.... and, of course, the clothes I'd outgrown. With Jennifer's help, we accomplished making four large garbage bags full of clothes to give to Goodwill. It was two days later that I took the four bags to Goodwill. I didn't go through them after Jennifer left "just to make sure there wasn't one thing I wanted to keep" and didn't cry or turn back, thinking maybe I just wasn't ready...no, with a smile on my face and a feeling of absolute confidence that I handed these bags to the Goodwill worker and went on about my day.

I still feel joy when I walk into my closet (I can now actually WALK into it without walking ON things to get to the clothes), I feel joy that I can find things, and that I'm SAVING money today.

With a strong will, a great friend and God's help in transitioning my materialism into goodwill for myself and others, I was able to make it happen. I gave away the old to make room for the new, that is, the new ME.

The new me that will SHOP in her closet before she SHOPS in the store.

The new me that will remember those less fortunate and that saving money is just as important as spending money, and spending should be reserved for the things I NEED and not the things I WANT because they're pretty and would look great on me.

As part of my recovery, I'm not going to the mall "just to look around" ALONE. I'm shopping in my closet for every occassion rather than thinking "Oh, I need to get a new dress or pants for that party." Sometimes, I do need an item to make an outfit that I don't already have. In those cases, money IS an object. I spend less than I could for that item. Because I enjoy the act of shopping...looking for that perfect item, I can do it and not make a purchase. Thus, if I have to spend eight hours looking for the perfect belt to go with the costume for the 80's party, I'll do it....and if I spend $5 instead of $15 for it, I'm still recovering and my shopping trip was a success.
I'm officially on the road of "recovery." I'm still traveling on it, and as long as I'm on this Earth I may never be off the road of "recovery," (after all...I'm a woman...I love to shop) but I know that I will never again be a "Shopaholic." As Becky learned, so have I!

*Photo by Scarlett Lillian.
*Dress by The Limited
* Shoes by Steve Madden