How a Year of No Clothes Shopping Can Change Your Life

I set myself the unthinkable goal as my New Year’s resolution this year. Most women I talk to have a jaw-drop reaction followed with „ I could never do that!” when I tell them I decided to take on a one-year no clothes shopping challenge.

And I get it. There’s a certain feel-good factor to shopping that many of us simply can’t ignore. Shopping is our entertainment cure-all for everything: from boredom to sadness to happiness to celebration. We call upon shopping to be our go-to activity when life is happening to us.

So why on earth would I decide to NOT partake in this dopamine inducing activity…for an entire year?

The Reasons Why No Clothes Shopping Is Impactful

If there‘s one thing most western hemisphere residing humans do on some level- be it food, electronics, energy, etc.- is overconsume. And for women this happens mostly with clothing, which is why most women have closets full of clothes they don‘t really wear.

This leads to the bi-annual closet clean-out, where we toss out the clothes we decide we don‘t like anymore, unknowingly creating mass amounts of clothing garbage that end up in developing countries of the southern hemisphere.

And because we‘re still not satisfied with what we have, we buy things again. Then we refill the closet, don‘t wear them, and weed them out the following season.

The way we overconsume clothing has an enormous negative impact both before and after we buy things. You can check out my Must Watch List for the documentaries on this topic here.

But it also directly impacts our own personal lives: our style, confidence, finances, physical space and even our mental health.

Who doesn’t feel guilty about buying things they know they shouldn’t or getting rid of clothing they didn’t wear? I can’t think of anyone, can you?

By going through a no clothes shopping challenge, you stop the endless cycle of overconsumption & pollution. You give yourself a chance to recalibrate your life by taking a closer look at yourself and your shopping habits.

Making the Commitment To No Clothes Shopping

Now, if you know about my infamous ‘Wardrobe Meltdown’ back in 2018, then you know that I‘m a self-proclaimed (recovering) shopaholic. My frequent shopping purchases led to a closet of over 1000 items of clothing that weren’t getting worn. I knew back then that my shopping habits were killing my finances, my confidence, and the environment. And I took it upon myself to make a massive change, which I did. (Read about that life-changing journey in my free guide The Sparkling Green Closet )

Fast forward to 2023. I’m a sustainable stylist, wardrobe coach & online course creator. And now I‘m wanting to do something I’ve never done before: something challenging…that creates an inner struggle…and has a BIG impact if I succeed.

I want it to be life-altering.

It’s the ultimate challenge for a former fashionista turned sustainable style advocate.  In fact, it’s the ultimate challenge for anyone who wants to change their relationship to their clothing, style, finances and life.

The idea of a one-year no clothes shopping challenge appealed to me because it seemed like a manageable and measurable way to break the last remaining threads of my shopping addiction. I had been thinking about doing it for quite awhile, but wasn’t sure if I had the ‚guts’ to follow through with it.

But on January 1, 2023, I announced it to my husband and bam! There I was, for the first time in my entire clothes-buying life, committed to not buying any at all.

The Rules of a No Clothes Shopping Challenge

So how does it work? Well, you’ll need to set yourself some guidelines. Otherwise, it’s like driving blind. The rules for a challenge are very fluid- since not every set of rules helps everyone. If you’re thinking you might want to try one, then you should set the rules for yourself for where you’re at in your style development journey.

It should be challenging, but not impossible and for some an entire year is too much to ask. You could try a month or a three to six month variation. Some choose to not buy new clothes, but take a second-hand only route. Plan your challenge the way you feel it helps you the most.

That said, I, of course, took the hardcore route. The rules I set for myself are simple but very clear: I will not buy any new clothes for a year and I will use what I already have in my closet to create new outfits and styles.

No new clothes. No second hand. No clothing gifts. No buying something now and saving it to use when the challenge is over. (I say that because I actually thought about it…)

I made new purchasing exceptions only for: new running shoes- because messed up knees would not be a productive result of the challenge. Ahem…and undergarments/swimwear…in case vacation‘s food program added to my figure- which I‘m hoping the running shoes will counteract.

I’m allowing myself to swap clothes (one for one…and not swap one and get three). I may also sew things myself only as long as I have a definitive plan and pattern made (no buying fabric ahead of time, which could lead to transference- which is transferring my habit of shopping for clothes over onto something else)

Challenges of the Challenge

So how has this played out 5 months into it?

Of course the first month of the challenge was the toughest. I found myself constantly thinking about the fact that I couldn‘t buy clothes. For someone who spent a lot of their free time thinking about the next Thing she wanted to get, this wasn’t an easy feat.

I felt a support group was in order, so I formed the No Clothes Shopping Challenge on Facebook. To my surprise over 70 people joined and we share our tactics and advice with each other. This has helped tremendously in building the mindset to not shop.

The most challenging times for me so far have been during vacation when I‘m confronted with all of the beautiful, interesting stores of beautiful, interesting things. Thanks to the group, I’ve learned to create some tactics for myself that help me through it.

My clients and others in the group report feeling surges of shopping urges with evenings and online shopping. Some are experiencing difficulty saying ‘No’ to gifts of clothing. One thing is for sure: the ugly ‘Shopping Monster’ will be coming to visit and you will have to find a way to send it back home. That’s why it’s a challenge. 😉

The Positive Changes of Not Shopping After 5 Months

The most noticeable changes for me so far are the increase in self-awareness. There’s freedom and creativity that have come with spending time in my own wardrobe with my own things. I‘m redefining my style and discovering what I truly need to make it more cohesive.

I‘ve been able to liberate myself from the energy-sucking downward spiral of buying. Now I actually feel like I don‘t want to buy anything- which is something I never thought was even possible considering my habits of the past.

The overall relief of not having to feel guilty for spending too much money or buying useless things has been transformational. I feel empowered to carry this over into other aspects of my life and find myself analyzing my food consumption habits and the cost vs. value of everything I consider spending money on. This gives me optimism that what I’m doing is something that goes beyond just myself.

The feeling of freedom that I have because I no longer feel like I’m being tricked by my ‚Shopping Monster‘ into making bad purchases is something so amazing. It‘s a feeling of liberation that is hard to describe.

And the financial benefit has been very obvious: I’ve been able to save 3000$ so far from simply not buying any clothes. Instead, I’m investing in memorable experiences with my family. I also can finally work on one of my many art projects. (as in, I can afford the supplies now…).

All in all I can say that the first five months of a one-year no clothes shopping challenge has been a transformative experience. It has changed my perspective on my habits and how they affect me and the world around me. I still have a way to go, but I‘m feeling very optimistic about this.

When Should You Start Your No Clothes Shopping Challenge?

There’s no better time than Now. A No Clothes Shopping Challenge can be started at any time. If you’re considering taking it on, I encourage you to give it a try, even if it seems daunting or impossible at first. Like I said, I created a free challenge group on Facebook called The No Clothes Shopping Challenge. Come on over and try it out. 

Remember that every step you take towards a more intentional and mindful lifestyle counts. You have the power to create a positive impact on yourself and the planet.

Yours truly, Lisa-Marie