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Not so long ago, I was the girl with over 170 pairs of shoes.

Yes, you read that right. Over 170 pairs of shoes.

What was I thinking?

Instead of being a source of shame, this in-your-face conspicuous consumption was my trademark, even something to be proud of.

Coworkers challenged me to wear a different pair of shoes every day. I took pictures of my latest acquisitions and posted them online, to a flood of positive comments. Having the right accessory for every occasion became part of my identity.

To say this wasn’t healthy is an understatement.

My giant shoe collection, as beautiful as it was, was also a symptom. A symptom of a much bigger problem. My long-term relationship–a relationship I was sure was going to end in marriage–was on the verge of collapse, and I felt very alone a lot of the time. For an extrovert, that has to be one of the worst feelings in the world–the feeling that no one else really gets you, not even your partner.

My shame of being unable to make yet another relationship work was so great that I couldn’t even turn to my friends. In fact, my best friend had no idea things were as bad as they were until I asked her to go apartment-hunting.

Rather than deal with all these painful feelings and the fact that I was probably going to lose one of the most important people in my life, I turned to a welcome distraction–online shopping.

It started innocently enough, searching for just a simple pair of white sandals, and built from there. It quickly became an obsession, and soon living in my house was like celebrating Christmas every day, with new packages arriving all the time. Sometimes I didn’t even bother to open them for weeks. It wasn’t the shoes themselves, but the thrill of acquiring them that interested me. Somehow, having a lot of possessions made me feel safe.

But of course I wasn’t safe. The inevitable happened. The relationship ended, and the little line of credit I’d been meaning to pay off just as soon as I got around to it exploded into an unmanageable mess as I struggled with being solely responsible for all of the household bills. I was in over my head.

Getting out of debt was one of the happiest moments of my life, but it required a lot of sacrifice, and online shopping was the first thing that had to go.

When I realized it was time to make my dream of moving to an island a reality, I knew I was in for some serious downsizing. Yes, you can take it all with you, but why would you want to? Why would anyone want to start a new life bogged down by so many possessions that they can barely move or breathe?

As I looked around my home, I realized I owned many things that I didn’t really need or even like that much. Well meant but unneeded gifts from family and friends, letters and cards from people I hadn’t spoken to in years, instruments I no longer played, and too much of pretty much everything.

A shopping addiction is hard to break, but I think I’ve come a long way. When I fill my virtual shopping cart with things I don’t need these days, I’m a lot better at shutting down my computer and stepping away.

I’ve spent the money I’ve saved on something I’ve always wanted to do more of–travel. Thanks to my shoes, I’ve seen Curacao, Bali, Lombok, China, and Maui. And those experiences are worth more to me than any pair of heels.

Have you ever downsized? What was the item you had the most difficulty parting with? Have you ever used shopping as a way to avoid dealing with an issue or problem?

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23 Comments

  1. Avatar

    So sorry about your relationship not working out and what you had to go through. That’s tough. 🙁 As far as decluttering goes, I try to go through and get rid of stuff I don’t need on a regular basis. Hubby is actually the shopper in the family…lol. I also love the boost I get when things go out the door. I feel so much lighter. It’s so freeing. We’re also planning on a getting a smaller house in a few more years, once our son is out on his own. I am looking forward to having less stuff, and also having a smaller house to clean! lol ~ Gisele

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Thanks so much, Gisele, and thanks for following my blog–that means a lot to me. I appreciate the kind words.

      It does feel incredible when you get rid of stuff. Selling my belongings has been more exhilarating than buying them in the first place!

      Good luck with your own move and your downsizing. I hope it goes well. You may be surprised how much money you can make off the stuff you no longer need.

      Reply
    • Avatar

      My pleasure, Holli! And I know on that exhilarating feeling–it’s even more so when I give stuff away. Every so often I put stuff at the end of the driveway with a FREE sign on it. Most times, people will come to the door and say “Are you really giving this away?” A couple of times I’ve had people offer to pay something and when I say it’s not necessary the look of pure joy on their face is payment enough. 😉

      Reply
    • Avatar

      Oh for sure! We sell a lot of stuff, too–and you are so right, the extra money always comes in handy. With me it all depends on what the item is, and what kind of mood I’m in at the time…lol. A few years back, we had a garage sale and I put some old pink champagne glasses out (it was an odd-numbered set) and I never thought anyone would buy them. Anyhow, an older lady got so excited when she saw them. She had the same set and had broken several over the years. She was absolutely delighted that she’d be able to complete her set again! 🙂

      Reply
    • J.H. Moncrieff

      That’s awesome! I used to donate everything before someone suggested trying to sell it, and the extra cash has certainly come in handy.

      But even with selling, there’s been some touching moments–the little girl who was thrilled to have a new toy, the woman in the nursing home who believes my stuffed cat is the cherished pet she lost several years ago. (She doesn’t realize the stuffed animal isn’t alive, and it gives her comfort.) It’s always interesting to see how people put your old stuff to new use.

      Reply
    • J.H. Moncrieff

      It’s that kind of thing that feels absolutely amazing when it happens. In a strange way, selling your belongings connects you to others. Incredible things can happen.

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    Oddly enough, I’m in the process of downsizing, too. I find myself reluctant sometimes to sell things that were given to me as gifts, even if I don’t see myself moving with them.

    As for my shopping addiction, it was mostly food. It vanished quicker than your shoes, but lasts longer, and definitely doesn’t have as much resale value after a while. 🙂

    Chris

    Reply
    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Yes, gifts are tough to get rid of. Especially when the person who gave them to you is no longer here. I have a 12-setting Royal Albert china set that was willed to me by my grandmother. I never use it, but selling it will not be easy. I guess we just have to remember that the love we share with the people in our lives does not have to represented by stuff.

      Food as a shopping addiction–I’ve never heard that one before. If it’s an addiction, it sounds like it could be something like emotional eating. People use food to distract themselves from negative feelings all the time, just like they use shopping. I wish you all the luck and support you need to combat this addiction and get the better of it.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  3. Avatar

    Great blog!! If that is a picture of your shoes though…you have been hiding some from me lol!!! Loved getting to know you better!
    M

    Reply
    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Hi Marnie! Guess you figured out you were the new friend I was referring to. 🙂 And no, thankfully that’s NOT my closet, but I do have plenty more pairs for sale. Come over any time!

      Reply
  4. Avatar

    That’s awesome! Sounds like you worked through your issues and came out stronger for it. Someone I worked with argued that wasting money on vacations is silly, when you could spend that money on something you could enjoy year-round, like a new TV. I pointed out that life is about more than things and leaving your house and actually experiencing the world is good for the soul!

    Reply
    • Avatar

      I so agree, Stephanie and Holli! Traveling lends to experiences with loved ones and memories you treasure forever! 🙂

      Reply
    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Thanks for commenting, Stephanie. I’m all about working through issues. 🙂 Your former coworker has obviously not traveled enough. I’ve never heard anyone regret spending money on travel or experiences, but I’ve seen plenty of buyer’s remorse from people who spent their cash on things. Me included.

      How much stuff do we really need to be happy?

      Reply
  5. Avatar

    Great post. I never have the money to shop like that but I think if I did it would be all books.
    Heather

    Reply
    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Oh, I’ve got tons of those too, Heather. TONS. And I used to have the money, but when I started working for others and making less, it’s not like I curbed my spending accordingly. There are lots of posts on this blog about how I paid off a staggering amount of debt. Well, staggering for me, anyway.

      Reply
  6. Avatar

    I have lived in old, small homes for quite some time, which is great since it keeps me from acquiring too many things. I have plenty of old friends who have moved far into the ‘burbs so they have room for all of the things they have to have. Where I live I can walk to all kinds of restaurants, shops, parks, and other venues, which I wouldn’t trade for all of the shiny toys my heart could desire. I heard a long time ago from someone very wise that you should focus on acquiring experiences and not possessions, which it sounds like you are doing. The one exception I make is that I will always buy too many books, and I would like a hobby car, but I make a living off of automotive writing. Oh, and I own four pairs of shoes!

    Reply
    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Thanks for commenting, Steven. I always have too many books as well, which is an issue when you’re planning to move to an island. And it’s harder to resell them than shoes (unless you’re selling true crime and Stephen King).

      I totally agree with you that experiences are worth a million things. And in a way, reading a book is also an experience, and one I will never give up. I may just switch to e-books when I move.

      Reply
  7. Avatar

    My obsession is books. But I also have STUFF. Things that might come in handy for something someday. I have pared down quite a bit, moving from a 4bdr home with a storage loft and oversized mud room to a 3 bdr with a garage I actually park in! But I still have more to go, seeing as how one bdr is just storage. Thanks for posting this; more people need to see the success of purging!

    Reply
    • J.H. Moncrieff

      I can relate to your struggles, Phyl. I have a ton of books too…probably more than I’ll be able to read before I move. Congrats on your downsizing-you will get there! And thanks for the kind words.

      Reply
  8. Avatar

    Thank you for this great post Holli, beautifully written. When we downsized last year from large home to townhouse there was so much that had to go. It was freeing, realising how much clutter there was and getting rid of it.
    It is so true that maxing the credit card can be a way of acquisition or compensation for something fundamental that is missing. Or a way of stuffing down (as in food) unpleasant uncomfortable issues.
    May lesser shoes give you lighter feet to continue your journeys – in the outer as well as in the inner.
    Garden of Eden Blog

    Reply
  9. J.H. Moncrieff

    Thanks so much, Susan. You always have such beautiful things to say.

    It really is freeing to relinquish our ties to stuff. And the less stuff we have, the less we really need. Isn’t it funny how that works?

    Reply
  10. Avatar

    You’ve inspired me to check out more stuff in my wardrobe, thank you. There’s always someone else who can use it. And you’re spot on in that the less we have, we ‘begin’ to realise how little we actually need. Thank you!

    Reply
    • J.H. Moncrieff

      You’re very welcome. Thank you for writing a post about this! I think so many of us get caught up in collecting stuff when there’s a bigger issue that needs to be dealt with.

      Reply

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