She’s not dead, she’s just resting.

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I know. You’ve probably forgotten me and who can blame you, what with all those distractions out there. I’m still here though, buggering on with my high-fat low-carb thing and my declutter thing and my trying to find some balance thing.

I thought I’d check in and tell you what has happened in the last ten months, since I did this radical tilt away from all my pacifiers, as The Minimalists like to call them, all the things with which I used to fill my time quite happily. Spoiler: I am still the same person, with a lot less stuff.

I cracked properly with the clothes thing at the end of August. I looked in my wardrobe and I had very little for the season ahead and it was September, new term and all that, new season, new start, new me. You know the drill. Advertising works.  I had, until then, managed to keep a firm lid on it, at least in my own mind.

The Confessional: you can skip this bit but I like to be transparent in all things. Feel free to judge. It’s a masterclass in justifying.

Since November 2017  I have bought these clothing items:

  • July: A pair of shorts for a fiver in Cancer Research, when it was ridiculously hot, because I didn’t have a pair and I have now got rid of them because there was a reason for that, but it was desperate, wouldn’t you agree? I also got  a pair of white linen trousers for £6.50 from the same shop because they fitted perfectly and I was weak in the face of a bargain. Thinking  of how much they have had from me, it’s almost like they wanted to give something back. And I could justify it. But I always can.
  • July: A pair of shoes from Clarks, when I under-packed for a few days away. The choice was to walk around in riding boots in the summer heatwave (not a great look) or shoes that I couldn’t walk any distance in. Justification: I wore them to death the rest of summer.
  • July: After an emotional  crisis over something really bad someone dumped on me: 4 T-shirts in the Margaret Howell sale and two tops from COS. Justification? I was down to 2 T-shirts and I was massively overwrought. Two of those tops were escapist purchases. Everyone understood when I told them about THE THING
  • August: A raincoat, because mine was dead and wasn’t fit for purpose  and I threw the old one away immediately.
  • August: Two pairs of trousers in Cos.  I threw out two pairs from last winter which didn’t fit anymore so technically a replacement. I managed to give  away a Margaret Howell pair by accident, over which I am still in mourning.
  • August: A pair of trousers, a pair of jeans and two sweaters  in Margaret Howell.
  • August:A pair of kick-ass boots in Robert Clergerie, for winter.
  • August: two pairs of trousers from Zara which I returned, having decided I didn’t need them.

That’s me not shopping. You can only imagine, therefore what I was like in my pomp. Actually, you probably can’t. Only stepping away from it do I realise how much I used the buying of things to give me a buzz, an escape, a distraction, a pick me up, a treat, a  reward and a boost. Non- shoppers, you will never understand this. Shopping was my dopamine-producing drug of choice.

Years ago, I used to work most weekends. I was quite happy doing it, as it filled a bigger need than having a balanced life would have done at that time. Not glamorous, but the truth. Work gave me a purpose, even though it trashed my personal life for years.

I used to reward myself with a shopping trip, once I’d reached a particular self-imposed milestone. Yes, I did work hard, too hard and my reward of choice was a shopping trip, looking for things to buy; things I didn’t actually need.

Childhood patterns explain a little.  Boring and tense school holidays were enlivened by a trip on my own into “town”. A surreptitious fiver from my father went a long way (we’re talking mid 1970s). I might be able to go to Farmhouse Kitchen for cottage cheese, a large wholemeal bap and beetroot salad and still get a record or cassette from that place in The Arndale. The rest of the day would be in the library, losing myself in a book.

I used to have to hide whatever I’d bought around my person, because I wasn’t meant to have any money. So shopping was illicit love, reward and escape. Buying was simultaneously transgressive and anaesthetising. It’s an association which has deep roots. They may never entirely disappear.

I’ve really missed shopping. The hit hasn’t been replaced. Take me to Selfridges and it’s like taking an alcoholic to a brewery. I would love to tell you that I have found something to replace the thrill of the new top, or that fabulous pair of shoes, but I haven’t. Yes, I’ve gone to the theatre a bit more. I’ve stayed in a whole lot.  I’ve made a real effort to get at least 8 hours of sleep for the first time in my life. I’ve rarely gone out to eat. I’ve drunk less. I have hardly shopped, other than for food, of which I have still bought too much. I’ve not done as much gardening as I thought I would,  because when it came to it, I found that I didn’t really want to and that work had been an excuse. I’ve seen fewer people.

I’ve worked in a more concentrated and focused way and enjoyed it because I have had time to organise myself properly, rather than just fitting it in between all my other commitments. I’ve rediscovered the pleasure in working hard and a job well done.  Good God,  it sounds smug and dull doesn’t it?

But the boredom is good. Getting off (and staying off) social media  has forced me to take stock. Even though I now look at the newspapers online far often than is strictly necessary and have podcasts going on all the time, it’s not the same as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. It’s one-way.

I am (apologies in advance ) mindful about my buying habits. I say no to everything I don’t really want to go to, straight away. I am trying (failing mostly) to be less people-pleasy.  I  like having fewer clothes and less stuff generally. Giving away expensive and superfluous things was sufficiently painful to put me off buying more. But don’t ask me to tell you that it’s easy.

For me, the  previous method of getting though things, the all in or let’s not bother approach isn’t sustainable. I do like the devil may care. I can be drawn to extremes.  I like a bit of too much.  I will work like a Trojan when required. I will overfeed you. I like people who live life to the full. I used to think of myself as one of those, even though I’m often more your cautious old spinster aunt. If I like a thing I can do it do death.

But I have to stop myself, because I get burned out. I keep trying and it keeps happening and I have to accept that I have to think about what and who I take on, because, astonishingly,  as I now have some time to look at myself, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t do everything. Who knew? And I’m not there yet, but at least I am starting to understand where there is.  Moderation, moderation, moderation. It’s what we need.