Twice a year I am forced to confront a terrible truth. The catalyst for the reckoning happens to be bi-latitudinal (if there is such a word!) living. I migrate, like the birds, south in the winter and north in the summer. Unlike the birds, who seem to have mastered the art of traveling light, I transport boxes and suitcases full of spring-and-summer weight clothing from one location to the other. The foreplay to the actual packing involves opening the door to the closet, staring at the contents in horror, and saying to myself, “how did I get so much stuff?”
It is at that instant when I must face up to the fact that I am a recreational shopper! (What woman does not have her own moment of reckoning?) Not quite as bad as being a shopaholic, but almost. And…it’s a slippery slope.
After all, how many adorable tops or pairs of pants or smart shoes does one person actually need? Did I say “need?” To a recreational shopper, “need” is a four-letter word. As those of us who fall into this category readily recognize, “need” has absolutely nothing to do with it.
There was a time when I was concerned that my enjoyment of shopping was some kind of neurotic pleasure-seeking; compensation for low self-esteem or a substitute for never having been breast-fed. So I discussed the matter with my therapist. She listened raptly, sitting forward in her chair, as therapists do, staring directly into my eyes, while I was staring at her gorgeous Armani suit. Thankfully, her response to my dilemma was very reassuring. “For you,” she said, “shopping is not a neurosis, but a creative outlet.” A creative outlet – wow! How could I possibly consider stifling this instinct! As much as I was overwhelmed with gratitude, I couldn’t help but reflect that in all the months I had been seeing her, she had never worn the same outfit twice. I wondered if she, too, was “one of us.”
Creative outlet or not, there is only so much room in one’s closet and one day it was clear that I had reached the tipping point. I must issue a restraining order on further purchases and undertake a closet purge. A friend of mine, who was also shares my artistic burden, suggested that I use her wardrobe consultant who would come to my house and help me rid myself of the excess. How appropriate, I thought. Since I frequently felt that I was possessed by some kind of fashion devil, what better than a closet exorcist!
So she came and performed her priestly magic. Eight large black shopping bags (destined for Good Will) later, my closet was cleansed. I felt cleansed, like I could now exist among the righteous. I stared at empty hangers and a blouse that I hadn’t seen in two years. This was how I would live from now on. This was the new minimalist me!
My resolution lasted about three months. Not bad. This was two months, three weeks, and four days longer than any New Year’s resolution I had ever made. Then the creative impulse began seeping back in. Slowly at first, but soon regaining its old intensity. But I was on guard.
I began inventing a set of rules. Buy something new; get rid of something old. Maintain the balance and the empty hangers. This worked for a while, at least until the major sale at Bloomingdales.
I wonder, am I fighting nature? Is the shopping gene part of female DNA? I don’t think that most men feel the same kind of rush as women do when entering the parking lot of an outlet mall. But then, again, I’m not inclined to let out blood-curdling shouts of excitement watching twenty-two men in helmets and shoulder pads come rushing at each other, squabbling over an elliptically shaped leather ball on a cold winter’s day.
So the war of the overstuffed closet continues to wage, though periodically I do win a battle. I am still overwhelmed by the quantity of stuff that gets packed and shipped to and fro. But I am reaching a new level of acceptance of my tendency towards recreational shopping. Hey, my bills get paid at the end of the month and I never buy what I can’t afford. And I can always purchase an extra box for packing. Also, I think I have found a solution to the tenement-like conditions in which my garments sometimes reside. My husband doesn’t really need all those suits and jackets, does he?