I had five things on my list:
To get copies of my New Birth Certificate certified by a JP.
To buy something to wear to a fancy dress party (the theme is ‘hair’).
To buy a black skirt for work.
To buy cards for my Letterbox Joy needs (okay, so they may have stretched into the wants category given the rather large collection of unused cards I already have).
To buy avocados.
My first stop was an Op Shop called ‘Beautiful You’ in Maroochydore. It’s a gorgeous store so I pottered around looking for a dress or top I could wear with boots and leggings (and a slightly ridiculous wig a friend has given me) but I didn’t find anything suitable.
So then I ventured to Sunshine Plaza, my local shopping centre. The volunteer JP hadn’t turned up. Bummer. There is a ridiculous amount of paperwork required after you change your name legally and many of the forms you have to complete are to be accompanied by a certified copy of your change of name document. Yes, this is perhaps the most boring paragraph ever written (even by my nerdy standards) so let’s get back to the shopping-related part of my story.
I’ve been to Sunshine Plaza many times since I started The Year of More on 18 March, but this was the first time I Felt Really Tempted To Buy Clothes. The centre was still decorated with ‘Sale’ signs, which I thought was strange seeing as the end of financial year has been and gone. Remember a time when there were two sales a year? At Christmas and EOFY. How times have changed! One of my favourite shops at Mooloolaba regularly has a ’50% off everything’ sale.
But mostly I just felt overwhelmed by all the blatant consumerism on show.
It wasn’t as much fun as shopping has been in the past.
I am looking at it all through a different lens now. A more critical lens. A much-needed lens, I can hear my bank manager muttering.
So what were my temptations?
My biggest decision-dilemma was when I saw this in Kmart.
And it was ‘only’ $10.
But do I need another black top? No, I don’t. Not even one adorned with cute elephants.
So no, this isn’t one of The Two Items of Clothing now residing in my wardrobe.
This also tempted me.
But do I need one? Not so much. I have four pairs of reading glasses. I know, that’s a bit embarrassing isn’t it? Two are proper prescription ones from an optometrist and the other two are cheapies I bought at the onset of my long-sightedness because I didn’t want to admit I actually needed The Real Deal. And it’s just easier to keep one pair in my bag, one next to the bed, one in the kitchen and well, the other pair just kind of floats around the house and magically seems to appear whenever I need them.
For many years I wore glasses and contact lenses for short-sightedness until I paid $4,000 about eight years ago to have Lasik Eye Surgery and it has been worth every single cent. I still remember sitting in the taxi on the way home from my post-surgery appointment the following day and being in awe of the trees outside as I wound the window down. It was as though I’d never seen them before. It was so lovely to enjoy their beauty without them being dulled by the glass I was accustomed to peering out from behind.
The glasses case was pretty. And cheap. But I didn’t need it so I pushed the Hand of Temptation aside and put it back on the shelf.
I needed - and yes, I may be stretching this slightly as I could easily survive life without it - a new black skirt for work as my skirt from last winter has apparently lost a centimetre or two of material since I last wore it. It’s so annoying when material just disappears like that. I can’t imagine any other reason (chocolate, ice cream, delightfully fresh white rolls smothered in butter…) why it no longer fits me.
I have a t-shirt with ‘Chocolate makes your clothes shrink’ printed on it and clearly we don’t need anyone to do a PhD to prove the accuracy of that particular statement.
Anyway, so I tried on a few black skirts in Esprit and after much Year of More-inspired pondering and inner debate, I decided to buy one that fitted well (whilst allowing at least a centimetre for wardrobe-related shrinkage between now and next winter), which was also on sale. To my delight it was reduced from $79.95 to $39.95. But it was still a financial conundrum because I had stipulated I wouldn’t buy any clothing during The Year of More.
The Hand of Temptation gently nudged me to the counter and you can imagine my further delight when the sales assistant told me it was reduced by a further $10.
Isn’t it funny that I then felt completely justified in buying the skirt, despite the fact that I really could have gotten through winter – and quite possibly my whole life - without it?
I could feel some very familiar old shopping behaviours sneakily revealing themselves - my pre-The Year of More Inner Voice of Shopping Logic was now gleefully screaming – You’ve Saved Ten Dollars!!
I now recognise - and my apologies ladies, as I realise I’m betraying the Shopping Sisterhood by admitting this - that this is a warped device we use to justify our spending.
There I’ve said it.
I am truly sorry.
But um guys, you do it too.
Just crack open the door to any garage, man cave or games room and the evidence will be awaiting within.
Where was I? Ah, yes, shopping. I'd like you to accompany me on a trip to New York...
When I was in The Big Apple a few years ago, I completely fell under the spell of The Beautiful Items of Clothing and Shoes that reside there. It was like the mecca of gorgeous fabrics, colours, textures and designs. I quickly acquired a particular adoration (okay, maybe obsession is a better word) for all the spectacular coats and boots on offer. I’d never seen so many of them cohabitating in one place before. And I'd spent thirty winters living in Melbourne - a not-too-shabby Home of Coats - so I was not going to be easily impressed.
But impressed I was.
The colours were rich.
The styles diverse.
The prices affordable… err, mostly affordable.
I knew my desire for them was heightened by the thought of going home and referring to ‘One of My New York Coats’ whenever I wore one of them.
Yes, I must confess, there was more than one that would eventually make their way back to Australia.
Green Coat, The First Chosen One, stepped out of Century 21 (A Large Department Store Housing Designer Wares at Ridiculous Prices - that's not quite their slogan but it should be) and went straight to the theatre to see 'Mary Poppins'. I quite literally bought him on our way to the theatre. As you do. He reveled in swapping his cold metal coat hanger for the warm comfort of a seat on Broadway. What New York coat wouldn’t be happy with that arrangement?
I bought four gorgeous coats during that trip. And rest assured, the fact I live in what can only be described as ‘A Rather Warm Climate 95% of the Year’, did not deter me in the slightest. I held fast to my dedication to rid New York of the burden of unnecessary coat storage - it’s a very small city you know, I was doing them the hugest favour. And even the cries of ‘Where are you going to wear that in Queensland??!!’ from my delightful travel companions (and fellow seasoned shoppers) didn’t dent my enthusiasm one iota.
In hindsight, perhaps their Voices of Logic weren’t suffering from jet lag like mine was. Although, I imagine I would have actually brought home more coats if I had lived in a colder climate. It was love. Pure and simple.
Four years later, I can honestly say that my love for them hasn’t faded and although I may not wear them as often as I would if I lived in New York (sigh, daydream, sigh), each time I slip my arms into their gorgeously sewn sleeves, I smile as I remember the joyful experience of buying Each One. I know I will adore them forever and there’s no chance of them ever being squished into a garbage bag to be taken to a Lifeline store. (I can hear the four of them nervously rustling away in the wardrobe as I type this, they're quite disturbed at the mere notion of me discussing this with you!). It would be utterly wrong to cast them aside now and I'm sure it would actually be against some unwritten Ethical New York Coat Buying Code of Conduct.
To continue the tradition started in New York, Green Coat gets to travel to Melbourne with me each year to go to the theatre and he (yes, Green Coat is most definitely a ‘he’) has even inspired me with my writing. I have a very small collection of stories written from the perspective of inanimate objects (my goal is to write enough to turn them into a book someday) and my Very First Story was about Green Coat’s adventures when he came to Australia.
Yes, I am fully aware how quirky and eccentric I am.
And Brooklyn Coat, purchased in a souvenir shop of all places, after a long delectable lunch at The River Café in Brooklyn, has the most beautiful satin lining with a precious quote embroidered into it...
So that trip to New York is what initially inspired me – more through necessity than anything else, or I would have bought Absolutely Everything! – to only buy Items I Love. When I tried something on, I stood there and quite seriously asked - out loud of course - ‘Do I love you’ and that’s how I decided whether I’d buy it or not. And when you do that, it’s quite amazing what you end up putting back, regardless of how cheap or how much of a bargain it might be.
Go out and try it on your next shopping adventure and report back.
I continue to do this now and I have an additional way of reminding myself. Last year I had the word ‘Love’ tattooed on my left foot. It’s in my Mum’s handwriting, taken off the last Letterbox Joy she sent me before she died. So I now have a permanent reminder to ask this question; a reminder a bit hard to avoid unless socks are involved.
And I absolutely adore that Mum is here supporting me during The Year of More in her own unique way.
Did I love the skirt enough to buy it without feeling as though I'd failed The Year of More?
Yes. It fit me nicely - my waist is much smaller than my hips, and skirts and I often aren’t compatible so it’s always a pleasant surprise when I find one that fits me.
Could I afford it?
Did I save $10?
No. I spent $29.95.
And that’s the big difference since starting The Year of More. I am now willing to own my behaviour and decisions and I'm not trying to convince myself or anyone else that I’m actually saving money by spending it. Sorry girls, I once would have stood steadfastly by you as you argued this point with your significant others (in fact, I do believe I have done exactly that on more than one occasion) but the jig is up as they say (I don’t actually know who says that by the way… just the general ‘they’ that seem to say and do an awful lot).
The other item of clothing I purchased - well done to those of you who are paying enough attention to remember I had bought Two Items of Clothing that particular day - is a dress which I bought for $9.95 and yes, the dress will be worn with the Crazy Wig at The Party.
But the best part?
It’s a dress I love and will wear again, and not just because of its price tag, but because it’s made out of gorgeously textured material which, apart from just looking and feeling lovely, hides all manner of bumps and bulges. They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend but I believe it’s material that hides all manner of bumps and bulges which is our bestest friend of all.
But yes, for $9.95, it’s either a really boring dress for a fancy dress party or I have particularly bad dress sense if I would choose to wear it on a Non-Fancy Dress Day!
I also bought three large avocados for $4. Deadset bargain.
More about my Letterbox Joy purchases next time Lovely Ones.
‘The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.’ Henry David Thoreau