Moving Up is a Step Down.

I received some disturbing mail at the end of December. It was something that I receive yearly and had previously always enjoyed.

It was my yearly Nordstrom wrap-up, letting me know what reward level I’d achieved for 2015. I remember my excitement the year before, when I’d moved up to the second tier for the first time. I planned to take advantage of every reward in 2014. It turns out I did, and then some. For 2015, I was being bumped up to the third tier.

Level THREE. I had spent between $5,000 and $9,999 at one store in one year, solely on clothing, shoes, and accessories for myself.

I felt sick, ashamed, and embarrassed. I didn’t even want to think about what I’d spent at all the other stores.

My attitude change about shopping has been profound. I don’t struggle to avoid shopping; I don’t even feel like shopping. I realize this might change once the weather gets warm and sunny. I’ve had cycles before where I was less enthused about material possessions, but the drive to shop always came back. I’ve been coasting with this new view for around seven months now, so there’s a chance it will stick. It’s nice to not feel suffocated because I need to shop but can’t, or want to shop but have to hide it. There is no suffocation, no secret, no shopping agenda.

Oh, that term. Shopping agenda. A wardrobe plan. Ideas for tackling a wardrobe update.

Those phrases seem so odd to me now. Do I need an outline of steps for this “agenda”? Does clothing my body really need a “plan”? Do I need to make a PowerPoint presentation for how I’m going to “tackle” wardrobe updates?

Other shopping terms have started to give me visceral reaction. Haul. Must-haves. Spring essentials.

Haul: to pull or drag, move or carry something with effort; a usually large amount of something that has been collected. If I’m buying so much that I can aptly use the word “haul” to describe my purchase, there’s a problem.

Must-have: something that is necessary to have or get. Retail stores and shopping sites are quite keen on telling me what I Must Have. I must? According to whom? What happens if I don’t buy that item? What happens if I do? Will I look just like everyone else who was told they must buy it? This phrase taps into my seventh-grade self, when I was desperate to make myself popular by trying to look the part; that is, trying to look exactly like the popular girls. (I failed, by the way.)

Essentials: of the utmost importance. The stores have been announcing spring essentials for a while now. It snowed this morning, so spring is yet to arrive here in New England. Still, I’d better be prepared and pick up the necessary and very important clothing items so I can look like I stepped out of a catalog! The same catalog that is telling everyone what to look like!

I far prefer the terms wardrobe basics, trends, and other words that aren’t loaded with a sense of commanding and dictatorship. But those terms don’t garner enough attention and credit card activity.

I’m sure I’ll be back to level one next year at Nordstrom. I haven’t spent much there (or anywhere else) so far this year. And most of my Nordstrom tab is from their excellent cafe, which is one of my favorite lunch spots. You’ll find me there in my very ordinary outfit, which is only essential in that if I removed it, I’d be arrested.

Back to Basics.

I’ve been quiet because I’m not shopping much anymore. I’ve ditched 99% of the fashion and beauty blogs that I used to read. I’m no longer “lusting after” a piece of clothing or handbag, “cultivating a capsule,” or researching the latest “must-have” boots. I don’t know if I have all my wardrobe staples and I don’t have a plan of attack for spring shopping.

I’ve shed that skin.

I’m back to tees and cardigans. I shop when I need something. I haven’t shopped just for fun in months. Last week, I decided I wanted another pair of leggings, so I shopped for leggings. Last month, I was fed up with my ridiculous stash of trendy 3/4-lengh sleeved tops, so I shopped for proper winter attire. As I tried things on, I wasn’t wondering how I can jazz them up to look more put-together. I wasn’t thinking of blazers, jackets, and scarves. I just wanted comfort and a flattering fit, and I found it. Getting dressed is so much less complicated now. I’m no longer trying to style myself based on an impossible, photoshopped ideal.

Though I do still have fun when I shop! I really enjoy it, and easily spend a few hours without noticing the time pass (many apologies to my husband!). I’m just glad that it’s no longer my favorite pastime. Though I haven’t figured out how to use all my newfound time well.

Oh, and did I mention I adopted a cat?? She’s the best cat I can possibly imagine ever knowing. My boys adore her. We’re all doing very well.