THE SECRET DIARY OF A RECOVERING SHOPAHOLIC-HOARDER
My name is Fin and I was a shopaholic. It’s the double-whammy – being a ‘frequent shopper’ and someone who can’t throw anything out.
It all started a very long time ago - it’s not called ‘retail therapy’ for nothing. Buying stuff was sort of a way of coping with PTSD after a very traumatic event when I was living in France aged 21. I maxed out the ‘emergency credit card’ my parents had given me on my semester at a French University. That was 30 years ago.
They say that change only comes about when the pain is too much to bear – that there’ll be a moment in time when you hit an all-time low and go – ‘that’s it, enough is enough, I am going to fix this.’
Did I have such a moment? To be honest, not really. I’d had lots of moments whilst almost suffocating - head buried between ill-hung clothes in my over-stuffed wardrobe where I’d vowed NEVER to buy anything again… But I think it was that very first lockdown that gave me an opportunity to see what life would be like without shopping...
I owned an Occasion wear business which I started in 2016 as a ‘side hustle’. It was growing steadily with a store in Essex and had become my full-time job in 2019. Then COVID hit, shutters went down and events were cancelled. Neither the industry nor the business ever recovered from the financial shock. However, that’s not really what led me to my moment of truth exactly.
Twenty or so years of a well-paid career in marketing had rewarded me with a good disposable income. The frequent shopping trips (lunchtime in London, daily commutes, watching TV, - it was easy to shop) meant I spent every spare penny I had accumulating things. I’d get that initial dopamine hit followed by a sinking feeling of guilt and shame. And just like an alcoholic – the cycle continued. (Shame and guilt are great drivers of craving… ask anyone with an addition of any kind…)
SO – THE TURNING POINT…
I’m one of those people who ‘changed’ during lockdown. I welcomed those first few months -the brief respite from the obligation to go out, dress up, look good…. However, the flipside was that my income disappeared. I was earning nothing. Shops were closed and even I couldn’t justify buying something new with no outing to wear them in site…Like a lot of people, loose clothing and lycra became my best friends.
I dug deep to try to make sense of why I had SO MUCH STUFF – now perfectly redundant, my cluttered closets mocking me from every corner of the house. I spent a lot of time listening to podcasts of mental health luminaries. I scrolled and tapped my way through every orifice of social media and empathised with into those who felt and were embracing the desire to turn an otherwise challenging time into a positive.
I consumed a lot of content on the impact of fast fashion on the planet – something that had been niggling me for a long time but which I deliberately avoided (I mean, if I can’t buy 6 tops in Zara every month – is it even worth living?). I explored sustainable clothing brands. I’d wake bursting with ideas as to how I could bring my passion for style and new-found positivity to the weary work-from-homers. And I did what any frustrated shopper would do – I launched my own sustainable clothing brand… but that’s not the point of this post.
HERE'S WHY I AM SHARING ALL THIS.
As luck would have it – I ‘virtually’ met a fabulous stylist during lockdown called Lisa Gilbe. We chatted about lots of stuff, my cluttered wardrobe / WARDROBES being one. Lisa was inspirational – she wasn’t one of those stylists who promoted buying something new every five minutes. Refreshingly she pairs old stalwarts with new finds, mostly from small independents. She assuaged my fear that, a life of reduced shopping meant looking shit for the rest of my days. But just like a chocoholic – you’ve got to empty the cupboards of the offending triggers, and identify coping mechanisms for the ‘cravings’…
And so the ‘Wardrobe Declutter’ diaries began – with me as Lisa’s willing subject.
This is an uncut / unedited series of videos which we do live over Instagram. There’s no posturing, no filters (neither visual nor verbal), no film crew (can you imagine…!! Have you seen my wardrobes..?). Just Lisa & me discussing the emotional drivers for clutter and practical tips to help us all move toward a simpler life.
We filmed the first one last Friday. It was surprisingly challenging for me – tears were shed, not for the likelihood that I was going to have to part with my precious dresses but because finally I know I’ve embarked on a journey to a better life. At the very least a life where I don’t spend 30 minutes looking for ‘the other shoe’ or a pair of jeans (out of the 30 I have) that actually fit me.