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?