Why My Year-Long “Clothing Diet” Helped My Writing and My Reading

October 6, 2018 4 By jaywhistler

On October 1, 2017, I decided to go on a clothing diet. For one year, I would not buy any new clothes. The only exceptions were necessities, and I don’t mean as in needing a dress for a friend’s wedding. Nope. Socks and underwear only. I included accessories in my diet. No belts, shoes, jewelry, scarves, winter coats, swim suits, cover ups, you name it. Socks and underwear, baby.

I love clothes. I love shoes. I have over fifty pairs of earrings, twenty-five rings, about twenty bracelets, and probably a hundred necklaces. Scarves? Thirty-two. And while I was on my “diet,” I actually decided to purge and deliberately shrank my collection. Ask my friend Angéle. She got probably a dozen pieces of jewelry from me.

Why did I do this, you’re probably wondering. What would possess someone? Or was I possessed? In a way, yes. I was possessed by the knowledge that I had become a consumer of things I did not need. But I admit, I’d known this for a long time. If we’re honest with ourselves, this is not new information. We all know that we are consumers and that we have more than we need.

As I thought about my consumerism, I also thought about what it was that I truly needed to be happy, and as a writer, I knew the answer was fairly simple. I need time to write and time to read. Ideally, I would like that time to include being with other writers, whether on a retreat or at a conference. And if that is what is truly important, then I need to make that my priority. How, then, can I fit that into my budget? Sure, I can skip my daily latte. Oh, wait…I don’t hit Starbucks on the regular. Ah, but I am addicted to fizzy water. No more San Pellegrino and La Croix filling up my fridge, and hello, Sodastream! Big deal, so I save a buck a day. That won’t even buy me a weekend at a hotel.

But giving up clothes? Now there’s a chunk of budget I can get behind. At first, I’ll admit that I wanted to shop. I’d never been an everyday shopper, but I would go about once a month. I got that itch and felt as if I were missing something. But every time I got the urge, I forced myself to sit and write or read instead. After a few months, I no longer had the urge, and I had more time, not just more money, to invest in what really mattered.

As the year progressed, I shopped in my own closet. What hadn’t I worn for a long time? How could I wear it differently? What new outfit could I create? I had a gorgeous batik dress my husband had gotten me in Spain in the ’90s that I couldn’t bear to part with, but hadn’t worn for at least fifteen years because it was so out of date. I took it to the tailor and had Kay completely reconfigure it for me. I have a brand new dress now, without having to shop for one. And I’ve gotten a ton of compliments on it. I did the same with a dress that my mother bought in Greece before I was born. A nip here, a tuck there, and I have clothes that are new to me, scratching the itch to shop, but still saving money.

I now have enough cash saved to do one conference and one retreat, I’ve read over 160 books so far in 2018, and I have no idea how many I’ve read since I began last October. (I also went on a book diet, which was not so successful. That will be another post.) It was all completely worth it. A friend recently asked me if I went crazy and shopped my heart out on October 1, 2018. Nope. Honestly, I’m not even tempted to go shopping yet. There’s nothing I need. Except more time to write and read. And maybe new underwear.