Blogger Lyz Lenz writes about not shopping, her lovely daughter, and her love of chicken nuggets over on LyzLenz.com. Her work has been published on Babble, Guideposts, The Hairpin, YourTango and more. In this guest post, she tells us about her no-shopping-for-one-year challenge, which she hopes will show her young daughter that life is more than expensive clothes.
When I was eight months postpartum, I finally lost all the baby weight. As soon as I stepped off the scale, I rushed to the attic to liberate my clothes. But, when I unpacked my 30-gallon tub, I didn’t see the colorful and carefree wardrobe that I remembered from my pre-baby days. All I saw were piles and piles of cheap crap.
Halter tops. Unlined jackets with shoulder pads. Rompers. What was I thinking?
Perhaps it was the wisdom that comes with having a child, or more likely it was the aging process sped up by the months of sleeplessness, but when I looked at the mounds of cheap sweaters and flimsy, stretched-out dresses I suddenly felt lost. For years, I’ve been overspending my clothing budget in an attempt to amass the clothes I thought I needed. But the problem was, when it came to spending, I had a feast or famine mentality. Raised as the second-oldest of eight children, I had seen my parents file for bankruptcy and lose their home. And I suffered through high school in thrift-store finds and hand-me downs, until I was old enough to get a job. Then, I spent every cent I earned at the Gap and Abercrombie, just trying to fit in. I bounced checks, and my parents lectured me my finances, but I didn’t care. I believed that if I had money, I better spend it. Tomorrow it would all be gone.
Ten years after high school, I believed I was a different person than the little girl who just wanted to fit in. I had a job. I had contact lenses. I made money. I owned my own home. I had a child. I considered myself strong, self-possessed and confident, but the evidence before me told a different story.
The clothes in the tub weren’t the clothes of a confident career woman and mother; they were the cheap clothes of an awkward girl just trying to be “cool.” And now I had a daughter, what would my example teach her about confidence and self image?
The desire to fit in and wear the right clothes starts young. When my family learned I was having a girl, they immediately began to shower her with gifts of frilly pink dresses, shoes, onesies with ridiculous sayings like “Talk to my agent”, “If you think I’m pretty, you should see my mom” and yes, even “Pretty Kitty.” It was all so tawdry and desperate. I returned the onesies and some of the more dangerously frilly things, but the clothes kept coming. Easter dresses, Christmas dresses, hairbows…she wasn’t even one and already it seemed she was smack dab in the middle of a consumerist culture that told her her worth was determined by what she wore.
But how could I teach my daughter that this was all a lie if I didn’t act like I believed it myself?
I did it because I wanted to pay off my school debt before I even thought about the as-yet-unconceived second child. I did it because I was treating my clothing budget like the national deficit. And I did it because every day I woke up to a beautiful little girl, who considered me with wide, blue eyes and had already begun to reach for my scarves and make-up brushes.
I was almost thirty and still chained to the idea that I needed clothes to define me. I wanted better for my daughter and for myself.
The first few months of the challenge, I had to give Target’s clearance racks and most department stores a wide berth and I don’t even let myself look at clothes online. But I found small ways to reward myself, books from the library or a celebratory coffee. Now, shopping feels like it’s out of my system. Five months in and I am going strong. I’ve even given away four black trash bags full of clothes and despite my limited options, I find myself dressing better and with more intention.
I can’t control who my daughter eventually becomes. That’s up to her. But I can control what type of life I model to her. And I hope that this challenge will show her that strength doesn’t come from clothes and that confidence is the only beauty that never fades.