Do You Need A Shopping Detox?
Because going on one just might change the way you look at shopping and your closet. Your entire life, basically.
Let’s just put it out there: we haven’t shopped or added to our closets in over a year. Wait, before you feel sad for us, it was a semi-conscious decision. No, we didn’t exactly set out to go on a shopping detox. It was more because we were focused on investing our disposable income in other #girlboss type projects (GOCO, hello?) and also because last year we made the commitment to only purchase cruelty-free clothes and accessories. Okay, fancy way of saying we were broke and then after we finally got money, we gave up leather, wool, silk, fur, etc. — but you get the point, right?
So even though we didn’t intentionally plan on not shopping for twelve-plus months, we’ve successfully (read: didn’t lose our sanity or run out of outfits to wear) done just this. The result? We think this fast of consumerism has done plenty of good. Most important, it’s given us a great blueprint for building our entire new versatile, functional wardrobes.
What exactly is a shopping detox?
These days, there’s a detox for everything – detox diets, detox teas, detox waters, detoxifying yoga poses, skin detoxes…you can even detox your third eye (like WTF?). It’s become a overused buzzword not just in the health and fitness industry, but now the fashion industry is on board with closet/wardrobe detoxes. The constant barrage to rapidly cleanse our bodies and lives has made the word lose a lot of its potency, but we promise you, a shopping detox is a good idea.
A shopping detox is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a specific time-frame where you don’t buy anything fashion related, including accessories and jewelry. Technically, you can still browse shopping sites and add pieces to your cart, but you can’t process the payment. Objectives can certainly vary, but generally speaking, the goal of a shopping detox is for you to assess what you buy and why you buy it. A shopping detox isn’t just about the outcome. At the risk of sounding excruciatingly cliché, it’s the journey that counts. It’s a challenge to hopefully make you realize that you don’t need to shop incessantly to have a covetable wardrobe and killer style, but not a gimmicky, quick fix kind of thing.
While the goal of a closet clean-out is mainly to streamline your closet so it’s easier to manage, a shopping detox is more geared towards potentially making smarter purchasing decisions in the future. It’s also one of the best strategies to jump-start the shift from mindlessly stuffing your closet with impulse buys and cheap trendy pieces, to thoughtfully curating a wardrobe that is specifically tailored to your personal style. You will also be limited to only using the items currently in your closet for your daily outfits, so the process can potentially give your styling skills a creative boost.
Here’s a crazy fact: you don’t actually have to have a shopping problem for a shopping detox to beneficial to you. Let’s say you’re incredibly disciplined and more of a few-times-a-year shopper. One of your objectives could be to stop buying poor-quality, trend-based pieces and focus on selecting higher quality, versatile items that will be cohesive in your wardrobe. Or you might just be over shopping and want to take a breather so you can analyze your closet and determine if the contents of your wardrobe truly fit your personal style concept. Or maybe you want to stop buying lots of little things and save up for something big, like a luxe designer piece. Either way, you’ll have the time to take a step back and give your current closet situation a thorough dissection.
How long does the fast last? Well, that’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself, keeping in mind that the length of the detox depends on how out of control your shopping obsession is. A good starting point is a 30-day challenge (start here). But if you’re the over-ambitious type, try the length of a season, or 90 days. We wouldn’t recommend anything over the six-month mark because even the most well-curated wardrobes need slight updates at least twice a year.
Okay, now that we know what a shopping detox is and the goal of embarking on one, let’s see if it’s right for you. Below you’ll find many reasons a shopping fast would be good for you. If you identify with one or more, then it’s definitely something you should seriously consider.
If none of your latest purchases make sense
Analyze the pieces you’ve most recently added to your wardrobe. Are they pieces that improve the overall utility/usefulness of your wardrobe? Would your friends see these pieces in a store and be like, “Omg, that’s so (insert your name)!” Are these pieces cohesive with the rest of your closet?
When you add to your wardrobe, you should be adding strategically, or in other words, filling a gap. These are holes in the structure of your wardrobe that prevent it from functioning properly for your personal style and lifestyle. This can be an item category like a long-sleeve t-shirt, or more specific like a loose-fit nude layering top with thin straps. Holes commonly result from items that have been worn to death, damaged or misplaced. The higher quality the pieces you choose, the less chances of creating these kinds of gaps. Holes can also come from choosing the wrong kinds of pieces when shopping — pieces that aren’t your style, pieces that don’t go with anything existing in your closet, or pieces that are strictly seasonal trends.
So if many of your latest purchases don’t serve a specific purpose in your closet, don’t contribute the overall function of your wardrobe, or aren’t appropriate for the activities that make up your daily lifestyle, then it’s likely they don’t make sense and therefore are bad purchases. A shopping detox will help you realize any gaps, and when you resume shopping again you will have a better understanding of what to buy as well as what you can get rid of.
If you’ve done a closet detox and it’s still bulging
A detox can be fun and make you feel like you’re minimizing your closet, getting rid of junk, getting more organized, you know, getting your shit together. It’s a liberating and inspiring process. But what if you go through the entire process step-by-step, and a month later you still don’t have a firm grasp of everything you own? It could be because of your constant shopping habit. Just like with a diet detox, a closet detox is a quick fix. If you don’t keep minimalist principles in mind when adding to your wardrobe — the idea of only having pieces in your closet that fit in line with your aesthetic preferences and are appropriate for the daily activities of your lifestyle — then you’re just going to end up with a bloated closet.
A good rule of thumb for maintaining your wardrobe post cleanse is one piece in, one piece out. But if you can’t even see to the end of your closet, then a shopping fast is a great way to jumpstart the minimizing process. More on why the minimalist wardrobe is the best wardrobe here.
If lots of stuff in your closet still has tags
It’s simple – clothes and accessories you don’t wear are a waste of money. There are a few reasons why you could have a collection of purchases in your closet that have never been worn:
It was discounted so you had to have it.
This is a common issue chronic bargain hunters share. While shopping sales and refusing to pay full price for fashion is great in terms of frugality, a lot of times it can convolute the wardrobe-curating process. Because the prices are slashed, you’re more likely to justify every conceivable purchase when, in reality, you have no need for them. You are also more likely to buy something that you’re not sure is your style, that you don’t have anything at home to pair with, that doesn’t fit all that right, or that may even be damaged a bit because it’s a “steal.”
You’re saving it for somewhere special to wear.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying special pieces that won’t be on constant rotation and will make seldom, but impactful cameos. But if it’s been over a year and you haven’t found someplace to rock it, then you probably won’t.
It’s not your style.
Actually, you don’t even like it, but everyone on Instagram is rocking it so you just had to have it. If something is not in line with your aesthetic preferences then you’re just not going to wear it because you’re not going to feel comfortable in it. This is why your wardrobe should be 80% classic and 20% influenced by trends. This way, despite what the fashion girls in your feed are wearing and what editors tell you in the monthly magazines, you can get use out of the majority of your wardrobe.
It doesn’t fit properly.
Fit is paramount. It is the one thing you should never sacrifice when making a purchase. Whether it’s an awkward crotch situation, straps that are too long or a bodice you can’t breathe in, if you’re not going to be willing to get it altered by a professional tailor (or do the job yourself if you’re savvy that way), then don’t buy it and definitely don’t keep these kinds of purchases in your closet to sit and collect dust.
It doesn’t fit your lifestyle.
We’ve all been there — we get sucked in and fall for a sky-high pair of dainty strappy sandals because they’re just so beautiful. But you’re a grad student whose either commuting to classes or running errands around the city. Those kinds of heels aren’t even appropriate for Friday nights because you either hit up a local bar or binge watch a hyped-up series on Netflix. Even though buying the shoes made you feel like you’re fancy, you’re just not. When contemplating a purchase, think about the activities that make up your typical days. What attire is appropriate? What are the main pieces that you need to create outfits you’ll feel confident in? Make sure everything you add to your closet match that criteria.
So if you have tons of pieces that have never been worn even though when you bought them you swore they would change your life, going on a 30-day shopping cleanse can not only give you time to sell or donate those useless pieces, but you can also prove to yourself that adding in pieces without purpose is something you never want to do again. You’ll even realize how much money you’re straight up wasting.
If your savings account could use some TLC
If you’re deep in the shopping-all-the-time game, then you probably don’t even realize not only how much you’re actually spending on fashion, but how much you could be saving for a luxe getaway or that design handbag you’ve been lusting after for seasons. Because of how popular fast fashion is — it’s practically everyone’s go-to these days because it’s accessible and right on trend — we’ve become accustomed to buying $5 tees, $15 denim, $20 jackets. These kinds of purchases don’t do much damage in the moment; you can swipe without much thought because it’s basically the same cost of your everyday lunch. But boy do these add up.
Ideally, you should only be allocating 5% of your monthly income to fashion. That might seem like a pretty tight budget, but if you work to curate a versatile wardrobe filled with a base of high-quality pieces, you’ll quickly find that you don’t need to shop every month, and if you do just for the fun of it, you won’t need to spend more than that amount. The only exception is if your career is in the fashion/celebrity industry.
If you have stuff you’re never going to wear again
Do you have a habit of buying occasion-specific pieces or even outfits? Like something for a special date night, a trip to Vegas, a concert you’ve been dying to go to, your sister’s wedding? Maybe the purchases in this section were actually well-thought out decisions and good purchases in the sense that they fit your personal style, flattered your figure, and were perfect for the event/occasion you were buying it for. But how good is a purchase if you only wear it once?
A lot of the times when we buy special occasion wear, we go into it accepting that there’s a 99.9% chance that we’re never going to wear it again. With the exception of bridesmaids/maid of honor/black tie attire, everything you add to your wardrobe should be interchangeable with at least a handful of other pieces. If it happens to be a one-piece like a dress or jumpsuit, it should be something that with the right styling and accessorizing it can be transitioned into your daily life. Don’t buy a cocktail dress that you’re never going to wear again. Instead, opt for separates, like a crop-top co-ordinate set that you can mix and match into your wardrobe. The key is versatility.
If you’re lacking in this department, taking this shopping detox will help you become aware of the pieces in your closet that are just taking up valuable space and collecting dust. Since they’re lightly worn, you can definitely sell them on sites like Depop and use the money towards investing in key special occasion wear hat you can also use in your daily wardrobe.
If you often experience buyers’ remorse
If you’re constantly feeling regretful after shopping trips it’s likely because you don’t shop with a clear purpose. This means having a clear agenda before you even walk into a store. Impulse buying is cute when you’re miles away from reality on holiday or treating yourself after achieving one of your goals. But if it’s something you do on the regular, not so much. Sure, in most cases you can return the things you instantly realize were a mistake. But what about the pieces you stowed in the back of your overstuffed closet and forgot was even hanging in there six months down the line? Those can’t be returned and you’ll have to try your luck selling it or donate it.
Although it’s not as fun, the best purchases are premeditated. They’re well-thought out for weeks, maybe even months if it’s an expensive or luxury purchase. Taking a fast from shopping will give you time to create a personalized purchase checklist so your future purchases are smarter.
If you consider shopping a habit or leisure activity
This is likely something you’re not going to realize you do (if you do) until the post-detox phase. Shopping habitually is expensive and a quick way to ruin the structure and function of your wardrobe. If you use shopping as something to fill your spare time or if it’s your go-to activity to do when you don’t have plans on the weekend, you’re more likely to impulse-buy pieces that do not contribute to the utility of your wardrobe. You’ll be shopping with your eyes and not adequately weighing the piece against the ones currently in your closet. You’re more after the instant gratification factor you get once you buy a few things. There’s nothing wrong with this every once in a while. But if this is your norm when adding to your wardrobe, it’s probably a dysfunctional mess.
By quitting shopping for a blocked time period, you’ll be forced to find other ways to fill your free time. This could mean dedicating time to an old hobby or spending your money on more valuable things, like great experiences instead of materials possessions. It could be a truly rewarding and eye-opening experience for you.
If you only wear new items
Think about this one like this: if you were to empty your closet — completely gut it and pull out any storage bins, etc. where you also keep clothes — would there be a ton of things that you haven’t worn in months (years, if you live in a multi-seasonal climate like the northeast) because you shop so much that you basically exclusively wear new items? Well, that means everything you’re not keeping on constant rotation is just collecting dust and truly only serving as useless clutter.
Here’s the thing: you want a wardrobe where you wear 80% of it 80% of the time versus wearing 20% of it 80% of the time like the average woman. A shopping detox will force you to get creative mixing and matching just the pieces you have already. You can refine your styling skills and save money. Double score.
If you want to develop and refine your personal style
Unless you work in the fashion industry, there is no reason to feel like you have to constantly wear something that would be featured in the current Vogue or is all over Instagram right now. To get really real, the people who wear nothing but trendy pieces are the people who have the least amount of style. Don’t get us wrong, taking advantage of a style that coincidentally is trending because it’s actually your personal style is amazing. But being a slave to keeping up with what’s current because without magazine editors and fashion IT girls dictating what is cool for right now is not having style. It’s falling straight into the trap of capitalism and relying on someone else’s rules instead of setting your own.
Style is all about knowing who you are and what you want. Again, unless it’s pivotal for the success of your career to be on-trend at all times, you need to have your own personal set of rules and a wardrobe to boot. Embarking on a shopping cleanse will give you time to redefine or refine your personal style and when you do begin shopping again, you will stay more true to your style than just following along with what other people say. It’s actually pretty powerful.
If you spend way more on shopping than you should
Okay, you’re not in debt. You’re not even broke. But are you spending way more money on clothes, shoes, bags, and other accessories than you’d like to admit? A lot of the times we buy stuff we don’t need to fill emotional voids and to feel more successful or valuable. But the thing about material possessions is that the feeling only lasts for a quick second. Pretty soon you’ll be back in your feelings and will be ducking in and out of shops on your lunch break or after work.
Whether it be a month, three months, or even a year, not shopping for a block of time will help you realize what you really want. If you’re constantly spending too much of your budget on fashion, you’re most likely buying things you don’t really want or need and we’ll bet you have a must-have list. After the shopping break, your head will be clear and you’ll realize what thinsg you really have to have.
If your wardrobe has no coherent concept
Fundamentally, no fully functional wardrobe is curated without a solid style concept running through the entire system. Think of it as the common thread that pulls everything together seamlessly. In order for all the pieces to work together effortlessly, they’ll need to have the same idea behind them. This isn’t to say every piece needs to be of the same style. But you don’t want to be all over the place in terms of the story behind every piece in your closet.
If this all sounds foreign to you, then a shopping detox will give you time to hone in on what exactly you’d like to say without saying a word. You also won’t be adding any more random pieces to your wardrobe that will only convolute it.
BTW, if you would like a more in-depth look at creating a concept for your wardrobe, including a complete step-by-step process, sign up for our signature masterclass, “Your Ideal Wardrobe.”
If you go on shopping binges every season
Confession: this used to be us back when we were exclusively shopping at big box stores and filled our closets with disposable trend-driven fast fashion. Every three months or so we’d find ourselves complaining to our friends how we had no clothes. They’d think we were grossly exaggerating, but then when we would send them a snapshot of what was hanging inside our closet they’d realize we were dead serious. We legit had nothing to wear because everything had prematurely ripped, torn, or fell apart. We’ve since set out on a mission to quit fast fashion. You can read more about why it’s a good idea here.
If you routinely have nothing to wear but do a fair amount of shopping, you need to not only start shopping with the intention to build a wardrobe that you won’t have to replace 2-4 times a year. But you’ll also have to start valuing quality over quantity and
What’s the point of constantly buying new stuff if you never have anything to wear? (Answer: none, unless you enjoy wasting money.) Going on a shopping detox for just a month will definitely help you take a step back and reconfigure your future shopping goals. You can assess the function and utility of your wardrobe and when it’s time to resume shopping, you’ll know exactly what its weak links are and can bridge those gaps.
If your purchases are majority trend-driven
If you’ve been prioritizing how trendy a piece is versus how much it fits your personal style concept of how useful it will be to your everyday lifestyle, then no doubt you’ve got a section of your closet filled with pieces that haven’t been touched in a season or two, or maybe even a few since trends are fleeting, generally only staying relevant a season or two.
A shopping detox will give you time to reassess the concept of your wardrobe and refine your true personal style down from a hodgepodge of random ideas.
If your closet is filled with impulse buys
Consider the past 90 days. Were the purchases you made well thought out? We’re they purposeful? Did you buy them with the intention that they would elevate your wardrobe or improve the utility of your closet in any way? Are these pieces that were carefully considered? Did they fill wardrobe gaps or just take up valuable space in your closet?
It’s not that you can never give in to an impulse buy. The problem is when the majority of your wardrobe is a result of spur-of-the-moment choices that you regret later because they don’t truly work with your wardrobe or personal style or because you don’t know how to style them it have anything inside your closet to pair with them.
As mentioned, depending on how much of a break you think from shopping will benefit your wardrobe and sanity, you can choose a 30-day, 60-day, 90-day or even six-month detox period for your shopping detox. But surely we all can attack 30 days of no new clothes, new shoes, new accessories, or new jewelry…right? Well, we’ve made it super easy for you so you basically have no excuse no to at east attempt the detox. In the guide below, we’ve created goals for every stage of the detox. Do 3 challenges a day and be sure to share your progress with us by sending a quick note to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also get in touch with us throughout the challenge using the hashtag #30DayNoShoppingChallenge. TAKE THE CHALLENGE
P.S. During this shopping detox challenge, you might need something to occupy your free time and keep your mind off of not shopping. Below, we’ve curated some of our favorite stylish reads. You also might want to take advantage of your fast by focus on building your best wardrobe ever. You can do that in 2.5 seconds by signing up for of free (!) 10-day email series, “Your Ideal Wardrobe: The Masterclass.” Trust us, everything you need to know about curating a versatile, dependable wardrobe is broken down in this series. Sign up here.
Okay, the suspense is killing us. Leave a note in the “THOUGHTS” section below letting us know if you’re up for the shopping detox challenge, and if you are, how long you think you’re going to go on your shopping detox. If you’re hesitant or still not completely convinced this is something you should do, let us know too.
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