Lighter or Heavier?

I recently came across a very intricate method of figuring out whether you should buy something that catches your eye. There’s a formula and some calculations, and…oh wait, no, not intricate. It’s not difficult or time-consuming and takes only seconds. It’s something I’ve always been aware of, but never acted on. No, not intricate.

Intrinsic.

It’s a feeling, or rather, the answer to a feeling. When you are thinking about a purchase, ask yourself: does this make me feel lighter, or heavier?

Such a simple question. The answer for me has almost always been heavier. Heavy with guilt. With remorse. With omitted truth (OK, lies). I remember one instance in particular that made me feel very, very heavy. I’d been searching for over a year for the “perfect” mother’s ring with the birthstones of my children. I found out that my older son’s birthstone is so rare and expensive that I’d only be able to get a synthetic version. A nearby jeweler stocks the synthetic version, so I went to check it out… and found the ring I’d been searching for. It was white gold, had two stones, and was my size. Most magically of all, it looked great stacked with my wedding rings! It really seemed meant to be. Except that it was a few hundred more than I’d planned to spend.

I bought it anyway.

And I felt sick. Heavy. Guilty. Yucky. I forget why, but I ended up talking to my husband just after I paid for it. He was aghast at what I had done. I was spending the remaining of my personal savings on this ring, so we weren’t going into debt or anything like that. It was exactly what I wanted and the search was over. It was perfect. But I felt terrible. I realized that the problem was that I hadn’t talked to my husband before making such a large purchase. It was deceit. I didn’t want to be told “no” and I was ashamed. Some good came of it: I knew I could never do that again. I would never.

It’s been a year, and I love the ring and it really is perfect. But I still remember that heavy feeling whenever I look at it. And I remember that it was a critical turning point.

When I came across the “lighter or heavier” method a couple of weeks ago, I thought about my ring. I thought about several of my shopping trips. I was instantly aware that I’ve felt heavier or lighter with most of my purchases. I decided to consciously adopt this method, because I know it will make me leave things on the rack, on the shelf, or untouched in the display case.

Tuesday Update: Wishlist Shopping.

One of my goals is to work on a wishlist, and stick to it when shopping.

I’ve discovered that one of the best parts of this non-impulse shopping is that I’m taking the time to choose the right pieces to add to my wardrobe. I’m keeping track of styles and trends, and making a mental note of things I might want to try. I’m narrowing it down to just a few key pieces, which allows me to focus more on quality. I’m a bit tired of wearing shirts that feel like they’ve been sewn together with fishing wire. (Seriously, what is that clear, plastic, stretchy thread? It’s so itchy and poke-y that I scratch myself raw.)

I recently came across the concept of The 5-Piece French Wardrobe. The idea is that you have a constant wardrobe of basics, and only add 5 new on-trend pieces twice a year, in the Spring and Fall. It doesn’t “count” if you need to replace the basics, which are things like black pants, dark denim jeans, and undergarments. (Yes, I say undergarments!) I don’t have all the basics, so I’m starting my list with those.

Black pants.

I went to a few stores last week to figure out if any black pants could look remotely flattering on me. I’m plus-sized, and between sizes at that. Double whammy! The store I had the highest hopes for was a total disaster. While the waist fit perfectly, I could’ve stuffed my children into the extra fabric on each thigh. Basically, it looked like the most unflattering pair of jodhpurs in existence.

I almost threw in the towel, but tried one more store with a different sizing scheme. Ahhh, the pants fit like a glove! Several pairs fit perfectly, but I knew I had to stick to my list: black pants. I made a mental note about the other pairs, in case I want them to be one of my 5 pieces later on when my husband and I decide on a budget for me.

The perfect black denim pants came home with me. Denim was not really on my list, but I don’t need to dress up for anything. Denim will work!

Another basic that I need: a long, black cardigan. This one will be tough, because I’m picky about fabrics. No wool, no exceptions. I avoid acrylic, but cotton blends are OK. I haven’t seen the one in-store or online yet, but it’s still summer. I have time.

After that, I get to spice things up with color, prints, and flowy fabrics. I really like not being restrained by the price. Granted, I won’t spend a ridiculous amount on a blouse, but I won’t cap it at my usual $30. I’ll look at and try on everything. It’s quality over quantity for my clothing; I’ve been doing that for years for my kids but never for me. It’s actually refreshing to wait and not buy whatever I think I want at the moment. I’m putting more thought into my closet, which will end up in a much smaller closet of things I will wear a lot.

Now, the struggle. It’s been very hard to not grab all the clearance items that look pretty. In one instance, I did give in, but ended up returning the rule-breakers the next day. Also, now that I know I can go shopping, it’s really hard to not go every day, particularly to my old haunts (TJ Maxx, in particular). I might visit the discount stores after I’ve tried full-retail stores, but for now I still need to stay away. Far, far away!