Natalie's New Closet

A year without buying new clothes (and my thoughts about this journey)

Back In The Game

responsibility101Back to the mall I go!

I wanted to give myself some time to get back into the shopping world to see what it would be like. To see if all that I waxed philosophical about stayed true when I actually allowed myself to shop.

January was an interesting month for shopping. It can be hard to stick to your “consumerism is evil” guns when everything is on sale. I have picked up a handful of things since my no shopping year has ended, but apart from a tunic-that-I-will-be-returning-because-on-second-thought-I-don’t-like-it, I haven’t paid full price for anything. My return to shopping started off with being disappointed that a purse I admired months ago was still marked at full price, only to turn around and find a purse I liked even better at half off (which ended up being way cheaper than the original purse). I found a pair of shoes that I adore and wear all the time now (even though I will soon wipe out as the soles have less than no grip) for $10. Original price? $90! Urban Planet has had an “everything in store is only $10 sale” and I got a couple things there. I regretted not getting a dress, so I went back to try it on. I hate trying things on, especially during a Canadian winter when you have to wear about fourteen layers just to stay warm, but I did it anyway. 2013 Natalie would have just bought the dress and later learned that the store didn’t offer refunds. 2015 Natalie tried the dress on at the store. Thank goodness I did, because it made me look like a skanky Morticia Addams, and that’s not the look I was going for.

I’m really happy with the purchases I have made because they are all items that I have worn multiple times since getting them. That hasn’t always been the case, which is why my give away clothes pile has been so big for the last few years.

However, while I am pleased with the bargains I have been snagging, I know that the amount of shopping I did in January cannot and will not continue for the rest of the year. I had a feeling I would probably buy a bit more than I should since I had gone so long without buying anything. And, I will admit it, that is what happened. But I also know that this will not continue. I have some great new pieces, and instead of replacing them with even newer things, I am going to enjoy what I have.

What I have to keep reminding myself is that the primary motivator of my “no new clothes for 2014” resolution was money. My work situation has not improved over the past year. If anything, I am worse off now than I was when I made that decision. I can’t think that now that my year is over, everything can go back to the way it was because I’ve saved up so much money. I’ve said it before; this is simply not the case. But trust me when I say that Stu and I are working our butts off to someday make it to the point when we can spend frivolously. Not that we will. I hope.

So for now, the shopping will slow down. I have to be responsible and unselfish. I can’t be “that girl” when it comes to shoes:

horsemanfinalThere is some sort of symbolism here about shopping and
death and killing and shoes, but I’m too lazy to figure it out.


Metamorphosis III

metamorphosis 3Metamorphosis III, M.C. Escher, 1967-68

And here we are. The last day of my no shopping year. In an odd bit of symmetry with December 31/13, I have a pair of TOMS that my darling husband bought for me for Christmas that I have to exchange for a larger size. However, I will not be marking my first day of shopping with a big purchase like I did my last day of shopping. Because (and wait for me to get really corny) Metamorphosis III is…me! (Gag)

I don’t think I need to restate all my changed opinions, as I have been stating them quite clearly in the last month. Instead, I have been looking at pictures of 2013’s Khristmas gathering and comparing them to 2014’s.

1526884_725324644152775_987437887_n2013 vs…

Some things haven’t changed. I still love wearing black. I still think curling my hair and doing nothing else to it equals a fancy hair do. I am still pounding down Caesars. I still have my cell phone out to live-tweet the event. But some things have changed.
Everything I was wearing for 2013’s Khristmas was purchased in 2013. Interestingly, the article of clothing from that outfit that I wear the least–the cardigan of all things–was the only item I bought for that specific event (further proof). For 2014’s Khristmas I’m actually wearing two new things: my tights (which I established waaay back in my rules wouldn’t count as a purchase as long as they were needed, and trust me they were needed), and my dress, which I got at the swap meet I went to. Well, I guess you could count my wedding ring as a new item too, but I did grant myself a wedding exception (and if you read the comments, it’s technically not jewellery anymore).
My hair has changed too. Yes, my naturally straight hair is curly in both pictures (both times using my hair sucky thing), but gone is the crazy long blonde and the bangs that needed constant upkeep. My hair, which I used to be able to tuck into my bra from the bottom (not that I ever did…..) is now a little past my shoulders. I used to make sure to dye my hair before Christmas (and Easter, and the summer, and any other important time in the year) to get rid of any roots for pictures. Now, I haven’t had it dyed since Easter, and that was only in an attempt to transition back to my natural colour. My bangs have grown out and even though I know how to cut them myself, I enjoy not having to fuss with them in the morning. Besides, it’s nice to have a different hair cut from when I was 2…and 3…and 4…and basically every year of my public schooling life.

1987 and 1994. At least Lauren changed her hair.

I know myself. I know my haircut is just going to grow out until it’s really long again, and I’m sure I will get bangs again. For now, though, I really like not having to fuss beyond brushing my hair. I don’t have to worry about roots or split ends or pinning bangs out of my eyes.
It’s also really nice to not have a hurting scalp at the end of the day…

At the end of 2013, I was expecting this year to be like a detox. Get all those bad shopping impulses out of my system and come back with a topped up bank account and probably buy less things. Instead, this year has been really life changing (sorry for getting corny again). My outlook on shopping and money and consumerism has been completely altered. What used to be:


is now:



Most exciting purchase recently? Sandwich meat that earned me 8000 PC Plus points.


And now, just for a moment, let us pretend this is a fashion blog and gush about the shoes I wore for Khristmas.

shoesWuv! Twu wuv!




2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,800 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 47 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

More Bang for Your Buck

Subtitled: Lessons, Part Two

I learned lots this year! Here’s more:

  1. Don’t underestimate the value of a point:
    Rewards programs are great, when they’re worth the time you have to put into them. If you don’t shop at a store, don’t waste your wallet space with their rewards card. This is especially important if you have to buy the rewards card. If you have a rewards card for a store you don’t frequent, you’re going to end up going in a lot more often, even though you wouldn’t without the card, in hopes of using the card (especially if you’ve paid for it). If you don’t shop somewhere, don’t get their card.
    If you do shop somewhere, get their card and then try to frequent the places enjoy shopping with the rewards cards you have for them. If you’re going to be spending money regardless, you might as well get something else out of it. And if you make a habit of going only to places where you can get points or member rewards, it will quickly become second nature to frequent those stores.
    I recently threw out my Maurice’s rewards card. I rarely ever find anything there that I like and would actually spend that much money (does anyone else find Maurice’s unnecessarily expensive for the quality you’re getting?) When I was clothes shopping, I found myself going in there because I knew I would earn credit on my rewards card. I would justify a purchase by the rewards I would eventually get (after spending a lot more money). I am dumb. I threw out the card. I really don’t think I’ll be going back.
  2. Remove your credit card information:
                                                   Don’t be bae.

    My credit card recently expired, and I never bothered to update Amazon, eBay, iTunes or PayPal. Because none of these retailers have my credit card number anymore, not only have I stopped purchasing things from them, I don’t even “window shop” from them anymore.
    iTunes was my shopping Achilles Heel, because a $0.99 purchase feels like a $0 purchase. But those small purchases of apps and songs quickly add up. I haven’t purchased anything from iTunes in about 3 months, and I haven’t really noticed. I Shazam songs so I remember I like them, and I’m sure I will eventually download a couple songs here and there, but for now…meh. I’m just too lazy to type that 16 digit number in over and over (+ the expiry date, + the security code.) Point is, it’s annoying to have to type in your credit card info, and if you’re lazy like me, you just won’t set yourself up to need to do so.
  3. Bundle/Bulk up your purchases to get free stuff:
    When I bought my shoes for my sister’s wedding, I bought a quilt for my new bed at the same time. I was waiting on the quilt because I was just shy of getting free shipping. It made no sense that I had to pay for shipping to qualify for free shipping. So when I did finally place the order, I spent enough to get free shipping, and as an added bonus, I got a bag of free goodies. By simply waiting to place an order, I got free shipping, a free necklace, 2 free bracelets, a free tote bag, free hair elastics and a free sunglasses case. Score!
    This idea works well for points programs too (ie, #7). The Shoppers Optimum program is notoriously one of the worst points programs out there…if you don’t know how to use it right. But if you wait for their 20x the points days or ‘spend $75, get 18000 points’, then it quickly becomes one of the best. My sister-in-law has mastered the Optimum points by buying in bulk and waiting for bonus points days (and redeeming on bonus redemption days). If you get more points for the more you spend, then do that.
    science                                            Figure 2: Science
  4. Use gift cards to buy gift cards:
    Sometimes you have gift cards to places that sell gift cards (like Shoppers or Walmart for example) and you don’t have anything to buy from those locations. Instead of spending them on things you don’t actually want or need, put the money towards a store you would actually shop in. Don’t try to sell your gift cards, because that’s super scammy, and you lose the value of what you already have.

I think the point I’m trying to make with these lists is that our consumerist society is set up to take as much money from people as possible. It is easy and convenient to just spend whatever amount we are being asked to spend on an item. If you want to get as much bang for your buck and keep your money in your pockets and out of cash registers, then you need to put in the effort, but it’s so worth it!

Two Weeks’ Notice

Untitled6(Notice the appropriate usage of an apostrophe. Take that, Warner Brothers!)

 Two weeks until I can start buying clothing again. I don’t know what I was expecting to be feeling, but I don’t think it was what I am currently feeling. Pay no attention to the “movie” “poster”; Natalie is not nearly as excited as she looks about the end of 2014.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really happy about what I have done and learned this year. But, at the end of the day (or year), all I did was not shop. That shouldn’t be a huge accomplishment. What I’m more proud of is all that I learned this year. I don’t think it’s any secret that I’ve changed my opinion on shopping and clothing and the like (heck, it’s all I’ve been talking about all year!)

So yes, come two weeks and one day from now, I could go on-line and do a bunch of shopping. I probably won’t, though. Here are some end of the year reflections on how my approach to shopping for clothing has changed:

  1. Buying something at full price is for chumps:
    Companies are still making money off a heavily discounted purchase, so why not give them the least amount of money as possible? Unless a company is doing something noble with their profits, like TOMS or Bombas Socks, then the corporate big wigs don’t need more money. If you wait to buy something when it is discounted, often times you can find a really good discount because they just want to get the merchandise out of the store.
    The chance you’re going to take though is limited selection. But if something sells out that means everyone else is wearing it, and why would you want to be like everyone else?
  2. Overstock retailers are worth your time to hunt and dig:
    Places like Winners, Marshalls, The Shoe Company all get stock that is 2 to 3 seasons old, and the savings are worth digging through the inevitable mess of those stores. Just don’t go in with something specific in mind. I was looking for a long black winter coat and it took me 3 winters to find one.
    A lot of people say that prices/comparisons at overstock retailers are fabricated, but that’s not true! I have a Billabong purse that I bought (on sale) from Urban Trade. It was originally $60 (I paid $15. I win.) Two years later, I saw it at Winners. It was priced at $20, compared to $50. I have a pair of shoes from The Shoe Company. When I saw them online 3 years before I bought them, they were priced at $150. When I picked them up, I paid $60, compared to $150.
    If you know a little about brand names (or have a data plan on your smart phone and can do some quick research), you will know if you are getting a good deal on an item. You just have to be ready to hunt and dig.
  3. Buy second-hand:
    If there is a stigma against second-hand, I don’t care. Big corporations have too much money, and I don’t need my hard-earned cash going to line the pockets of a CEO making a jillion dollars a year. If you’re buying at a consignment shop, your money is going to the person who brought in the clothes, and the person who owns/runs the shop (which 9 times out of 10 are independently owned). If you’re shopping at a thrift store–and I’ve said this before–try to favour the ones with their roots in the community.
  4. Before you buy, try to find a $0 option:
    1968bc3063845d8a61af5e1d125daf4bIf you’re not familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, then you’re probably not a teacher. Don’t worry about it. All you need to know is, working from the bottom up, this is the order you should function in. Heck, the bottom 5 could all be one tier, and “buy” can be by itself.
    Point being, shop your closet! Shop the closet of someone who is the same size as you and has good taste (and, ideally, you know this person). Take things from your moms and your sisters and your fashionable brothers.
  5. Go to/organise swap meets:
    I’ve spoken at length about my incredible luck at the only swap meet I’ve ever been to (so far) so I won’t repeat myself. The point I want to make is swap meets are fun and you should try to find one in your area or organise one. I know people who have swap meets at work. And if you have leftover items, donate them. There. I’ve done 90% of the planning for you.
  6. (Everyone once in a while) Treat yo self!:
    treat yo self
    Notice they say “once a year”? Not once a month or once a week or every dang day. Once a year. For something to be truly special–dare I say, a ‘treat’–it has to be rare.
    I think this was the root of my shopping problems. Nothing was a treat. Shopping for myself and buying something new was something I was doing one or two times a week. It became part of the routine of starting my shift at the store: arrive at mall, drop off bag, take out wallet, shop, start shift. That is an awful way to approach shopping. I really hope that with this year and with not being at the mall all the time any more that I have left this mentality behind me.

So there you have it. The lessons I have learned summarised neatly for others to learn from. Enjoy the fruits of my labour! :o)

Another Confession

One of the many things I learned this year is that there are some things that come up that you weren’t expecting to happen. Things that throw even the best laid plans out the window. Things like your sister getting engaged and asking you to be in her wedding party. Aka, asking you to buy a dress for her fancy party.

Don’t get me wrong; I was very excited for my sister. But I wasn’t sure how I was going to navigate buying a new dress and shoes. My sister ended up picking the same colour for the bridesmaid dresses as a dress I already had. And not just any dress. A bridesmaid dress. I decided that if the other bridesmaids wanted short dresses, I would rewear the dress I already had. It would be the third opportunity to wear an expensive dress I had had for four years (a sad reality for bridesmaid dresses).

One, two. That’s how many times this pretty dress has made it outside.

But of course, we decided on long dresses. Not too bad, since the wedding was in November and the extra fabric was very appreciated. I was very blessed, though, and my mom paid the deposit for the dress. So I suppose that I only half broke the rules.


That I also had to get a new pair of shoes. I found a pair in the right colour pretty easily, but I didn’t order them right away. I wanted to make sure I was really happy with my decision. And I’m glad I did, because Modcloth offered a whole bag full of free goodies for orders over $150. (Now don’t worry, the shoes were not that expensive; I also ordered a new quilt to put myself over the $150 mark.)

And then, in my new-found spirit of being a conscious shopper, I wore the shoes again the next week to my nephew’s baptism and the dress a week later to a Relay for Life fundraising event.

DSC04147Baptismal shoes, original look, fundraising dress.
I’m really trying to recycle clothes, guys!

And in the spirit of rewearing stuff, I wore the dress I wore for Easter to the baptism, and a blazer that I spent waaay too much money on (don’t judge; I used to have a good job. If only I could have seen the future. Sigh) to the fundraiser.

So, sometimes life throws you some unexpected plans. Some are exciting–like a wedding–and some, to be frank, totally suck–like my decrease in work. But both happen, and both tend to screw up plans, and both need to be dealt with. I’d like to think that I’m learning how to deal with things better and more thoughtfully this year.

My Own Worst Enemy

This has happened a lot. I will be looking back at pictures that were taken in the last couple years, see an article of clothing on myself that I quite like, and then remember that I have since given it away. Grr.

Now, I’m not saying that giving clothing away is a bad thing. Absolutely not. It’s a great thing. What’s bad was my attitude towards donating clothing. I would find something I hadn’t worn in a while, put it in the give-away bag, pat myself on the back for doing such a noble thing, and then buy something new as a reward. How entitled am I?

What’s most frustrating is that I’m looking at these pictures and I really like the articles that are now gone. On the other hand, my closet still has things in it that I haven’t worn in a really long time. Why can’t I figure it out? Where is the balance of keeping the things I like but haven’t worn in a while, but I might later, and donating the things that I just won’t wear anymore? Or is it that the heart wants what it can’t have?