Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Minimalist: How to Shop Smart

Why do we as woman find it so incredibly hard not to buy new clothes? Why have we accepted the idea that we need to buy something new every time we have a special event or when we're just plain bored? Why do we think people care so much about what we wear or how we look? These are the questions that a few brave bloggers asked themselves when they created the website, Six Items or Less. The Six Items or Less experiment is based on a seemingly simple concept, choose six items of clothing from your closet and wear only those six items for 90 days. Sounds simple enough right?

For the bloggers who are participating in the experiment, the project is anything but simple. One participant writes about her struggles to not spend any money on new clothes and is confronted with a self-diagnosed "shopping addiction". Another blogger says that she is convinced the project is causing her to gain weight because she feels she is too"bored" with her wardrobe to workout. And still another complains that he can't clean his "six" fast enough and has been forced to wash them in a hotel sink just so he doesn't have to go naked. Who knew clothes could cause such mental and social grief?

Each person participating in the experiment is doing so for different reasons. Some to save money, some to save the environment, some to become more conscious of how much time and energy they spend on shopping on clothes and some because they are sick and tired of having to figure out what they are going to wear each morning. I find all these reasons commendable and relevant.

As for myself, I can honestly say that there was a time when I would buy what I wanted, when I wanted, why I wanted. I filled my closet weekly with new items, never pausing to ask myself, if I had anything like it in my wardrobe already? What would I wear with it? Or do I really need it? Of course I didn't need it, but I wanted it. Wasn't that enough?

After the economy crashed in early 2008, so did my shopping habits. I would never say I was an impulsive shopper and I would certainly never identify myself as a "shopaholic", but I did have a closet full of clothing I had forgotten I even bought and pieces that I may have worn once, if at all. I look back on that time in my life now and shake my head. However, there are still those key investment pieces that I still wear and appreciate today. These are the pieces that have become my fabulous fashion friends. They are there for me whenever I need them. They instantly make me look chic and put together.

You may find these shopping "confessions" odd coming from a Personal Shopper who spends other people's money for a living. However, I have always advised my clients to only purchase pieces that they know they will wear and love for years to come. It's easy to find a cute top or a cheapy costume bracelet, but it's a rare and special occasion when you find that perfect handbag or fitted blazer.

The Six Items or Less experiment proves that wearing the same six pieces for 90 days can be extremely challenging for some, but extremely liberating for others. When you're banned from mindless spending, you are forced to be creative with what you've got. You also learn that people don't care as much about what you wear as you may think they do. To help you cut down on shopping binges and impulse buys, I find it helpful to ask these five questions when making a clothing/accessory purchase:

1. Do I already own something similar to this?
2. What other items would I wear with this piece?
3. Is this in my budget?
4. Will this piece transition from season to season? Or from day to night?
5. Will I be able to wear this piece five, ten or even twenty years from now?


When you stop to ask yourself these five important questions, you will begin to build a wardrobe full of pieces that you really love and not just pieces you kind of like.

Photo Credits: Numéro Tokyo


  1. 90 days? That sounds so difficult. I don't shop much, and when I do it is nearly all second hand....but still. 90 days? Oh my. There is some great advice here, and I am impressed that these ladies are pulling it off. My friend Alyson (Blog: Alyson is Neat) is not shopping for an entire year. She started in November, and her blog chronicles her journey. I suggest checking it out.

  2. Wow! I can see 90 days, but a year?! Now that's impressive! I will defiantly be checking out her blog.

    <3 Miss Mae

  3. I have the shopping bug, but only with David's stuff. There is just so much cute baby stuff. I have the opposite problem with myself. I have a hard time justifying buying clothes for myself - and I look it. I need to build up a wardrobe that does not consist of t-shirts from high school and college and a pair of shorts or pants picked up here and there. It is hard to do, especially considering my child is constantly pulling my shirts all out of wack...

  4. Hello My Love!
    Well, then we might just have to go shopping! : ) I would imagine it's difficult to think about your needs when you have your little guy to think of first. I think it's really important for mom's (or any woman for that matter) to take time for themselves once in a while because not only do you deserve it, but you want to set a good example for your child as well.

    <3 Miss Mae

  5. Interesting idea. I have friends who shop at secondhand stores and fill their closets and rooms and rest of their homes with lots of stuff because it's all really cheap. It's easy to get carried away.

    I really enjoy your writing style too.

  6. Wow I love this post!!! I wouldn't be able to do the whole 90 days thing but I can definitely ask myself these questions, and I usually do too :D
    But right now I can't buy any clothes because I'm broke so I just have to work with the stuff that's already in my closet :)

  7. weclapourhands: That is crazy! I mean, don't get me wrong, I love a good thrift shop find, but to have closets full?? I think it's much smarter to invest in pieces that you will wear for a long time and will really love. To each fashionista her own, I suppose! : ) And thank you for your sweet compliment.

    Closet Fashionista: I love your blog and thank you for stopping by again! It's easy not to buy much of anything when one is "broke". As I mentioned above, it's not always a bad thing. Having no money to spend on clothes causes us to become our own fashion stylists and to shop our own closets for a change!

    <3 Miss Mae

  8. It's the "What other items would I wear with this" rule that always catches me. I love statement pieces in fun colors that go with nothing else I own.

  9. Great tip Robyn, so true! I think it's funny when I buy an amazing investment bag in a neon color and people ask why I didn't get it in black. I mean, really, neon pink works with anything. : )

    <3 Miss Mae

  10. After reading about this idea, I challenged the girls at work to give it a go. 11 have signed up (one of the girls is even pregnant!), we paid a $10 entry fee and if you cheat or quit you have to pay a $5 exit fee. We have made it a bit easier by doing it for four weeks and during work hours only, accesories are ok. Take a look at our week one video. I will be posting a new video every Monday until the challenge is done.

    We have such a good laugh at our photoshoots!


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