person holding credit card, trying to buy clothes on a laptop

Inside: Thinking about doing a “No New Clothes” challenge? Get the final push you need to make it official by reading these five compelling reasons to not buy any new clothes for a year, and the best ways to set yourself up for success.

For two months now, I’ve been thinking about giving up buying new clothes for a year. Every time I get *this* close to pulling the trigger and writing this post, something holds me back.

Having given up various things over the years for short periods of time – food, coffee (shudder), TV – I know that when:

  • the idea of giving something up won’t leave me alone, AND
  • I have serious objections and resistance to that idea,

I need to stop fighting it and just GIVE UP buying clothes already.

So that’s how I ended up deciding to give up buying new clothes (even used “new to me” clothes) – for a whole YEAR.

Want to join me? Get some inspiration and how-to’s OR let me convince you with five pretty compelling reasons to commit.

Capsule Wardrobes Are Great…But They Can Still Feed Consumerism

Many of the things I wrote HERE are still true. Living a minimalist lifestyle doesn’t always kill consumerist tendencies the way you think it will.

Sometimes minimalism can have the opposite effect.

For instance, I was watching this video by Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist the other day. Seeing him wear his same simple, v-neck tee and jeans (that he wears every day) reminded me about his daily uniform approach to capsule wardrobes.

I’ve gravitated toward a sort of daily uniform myself lately, and I’ve been considering taking that even further. This would of course mean replacing perfectly good and functional items in my wardrobe with new ones…

I tried to justify it by resolving to buy new clothes exclusively from small business owners (a cause near and dear to my heart). It will support the faltering economy, I reasoned.

It will make getting dressed every day even easier, I thought – eliminate even more decision-making from my decision-overloaded life.

But in this case, simplifying would look like buying MORE stuff.

And that’s the problem, isn’t it?

Even in the minimalist niche, we can read posts about capsule wardrobes and daily uniforms and walk away with the thought, “I NEED that simplicity in my life…and to do it, I need to buy this, this and this.”

To achieve our perfect minimalist wardrobe. Oh, the irony.

Related: 10 Unique Minimalist Living Tips from a 5-Year Minimalist

Will Buying No New Clothes for One Year Really Change Anything?

I’ve lived a minimalist lifestyle long enough to know that simplifying your life can definitely be helpful. I’m all about simplifying.

And I very well may go full on daily uniform once this no new clothes challenge is over…maybe with thrifted clothes, instead of new.

But I want to tackle my disturbingly frequent impulses to buy new clothes FIRST.

Now is a good time to mention that buying new things isn’t evil: in fact, we’re about to buy a house and inevitably a few items we genuinely need – a dining room table and new mattresses, for instance.

We will also never be completely free of the consumer mindset, and to think otherwise is foolish and naïve.

Even if you go live in the back of beyond (which, funnily enough, we are about to do), you’d have to stop using the internet, give up social media and stop reading to escape the pull of our consumer culture.

But you CAN keep consumerism at bay.

You can draw a line in the sand and institute regular shopping bans that remind you to take care of, and be grateful for, the things you DO have and to dampen the urge to buy new stuff.

And that’s the point of a no new clothes challenge.

5 Compelling Reasons to Participate in a No New Clothes Challenge 

1. Detox from that new purchase dopamine rush.

There’s no denying the rush you get when you buy something new. Buying something new online and anticipating its arrival can quite possibly give you an even greater “high”.

That very real chemical brain rush combined with consumerism makes it pretty difficult to stop buying new stuff.

Knowing the science behind it, I would say most of us probably have some degree of shopping addiction.

Taking a dedicated break from buying new stuff is a great way to become aware of the buying/dopamine rush cycle so you can guard against it in the future.

2. Shore up your finances.

I can think of no better time to do a “no new clothes challenge” than on the brink of a worldwide recession.

No matter where you are at financially, even those of us who still have steady employment have no idea what the coming months will hold. After all, who could have predicted any of this?

We can’t know for sure who will have jobs and who won’t a year from now.

If you are currently unemployed right now, my heart hurts for you. If you do have steady employment, practice gratitude, but don’t let your current state lull you into a false sense of security.

The world – and therefore, the economy – is bound to change in ways no one can possibly predict.

Even if you have a job right now, a new normal is coming, and now is the time to return to frugal principles by choice, instead of necessity. If you’re doing it by necessity right now, I’ve been there, too!

3. Honor the environment and humanity.

I’m not a crazy environmentalist by any means, but over the past five years, I do think more and more about what the earth will be like in thirty years for my kids.

I think about Walle with almost every bag of trash we throw out…where does it all go? And where will it go thirty years from now?

I wasn’t surprised to read that most Americans throw out 81 pounds of clothes A YEAR.

Our throw-away culture is so difficult to escape. In fact, we’ve built a “booming economy” around it. Is that really what we want our economy to be built on?

I’ve also started to question more and more how our world operates, how countries of wealth operate.

How we outsource things Americans aren’t willing to do to other countries where more people are willing to work monotonous jobs in poor working conditions for far less than a living wage.

The fast fashion industry is one of the worst culprits for both the environment AND humanity.

  • Are we o.k. with this?
  • Can we continue to turn a blind eye to poor working conditions and low wages?
  • And can one person’s choices really make a difference?

My son’s current favorite book is the Lorax, and the end gets me every single time.

But now, now that you’re here, the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear. UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. -Dr. Seuss

Change starts with just one person, one person caring about a problem and doing one small thing to solve it.

Even then, my choice to not buy clothes for a year is a drop in a bucket.

But if you decide to join me? All those drops together could make a bigger difference.

4. Save time and decision-making energy.

I’m still going to have to buy clothes for my kids, and let me tell you: it takes TIME.

Time to research which clothes are going to last as hand-me-downs.

Time to return clothes that we aren’t going to keep.

Time to do that all over again.

I cut down on it a bit by sticking with brands I know work for my kids and brands that make clothes that will last handed down three times. But even still, it’s exhausting.

Eliminating my own clothes shopping for a year will at least cut down on the decision-making.

5. Become more aware of how consumer culture affects you.

Resolving NOT to buy new clothes for a year can give you the space to analyze your triggers.

Which social media accounts prompt you to want to buy things? Unfollow those (you can always visit specifically when you need to know something, or refollow down the road).

Do ads actually work on you? Which ones? Why do you think that is?

I’m not anti-ad, per se. I make a living from them actually.

I believe that half the time ads do something good – let us know about new products or services that might solve a valid problem (instead of create one we didn’t have before). It led us to an eczema cream that worked for my daughter for a long time, when I desperately needed something that worked.

But when you commit to a no-spend period and analyze ads instead of just consume them and allow them to affect your actions, you can learn a lot about yourself.

Then you can use that information to help establish healthier buying habits moving forward.

How to Do a No New Clothes Challenge

This doesn’t need to be complicated, but there are a few steps you can take to make it go a little more smoothly.

1. Declutter your closet…to a point.

Normally, I wholeheartedly recommend decluttering your clothes. But I’m not sure if right before you give up buying clothes for a year is a great time to take bags and bags of perfectly good clothes to the donation center.

When I started decluttering, I got rid of all my ratty pseudo-pajamas (old t-shirts and sweatpants with holes) for no better reason than because Marie Kondo said everyone should have “proper pajamas”.

And then I didn’t have new pajamas.

If you decide to go on full on decluttering your wardrobe, just make sure you have clothes left to wear at the end of the process before giving up buying clothes for a year. K?

2. Choose your dates.

Personally, I’m going with June 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021. You are welcome to join me!

If you are reading this in the future, choose your own dates, and start your own “No New Clothes for a Year” challenge.

You can search the hashtag #nonewclothesfortwelvemonths to join in mid-challenge or get inspired if you’re doing a challenge years from now.

3. Decide on exceptions in advance.

In two weeks, we are moving to a colder climate – snow again, lots of snow.

At this point, I’m not sure whether or not I will need winter boots and a winter coat, but I’m claiming this as an exception should the need arise.

I also have a wedding to attend in August (if weddings are actually happening then). But I do end up attending, I plan on borrowing or renting a dress as I so rarely need dressy clothes.

Figure out what your exceptions might be based on legitimate needs – weather-based clothing, maternity clothing, event-based clothing.

Obviously, if your sneakers wear out and you go running every day, you will probably need a new pair. Things like that.

And if you will need something new, could you buy used on eBay or at a thrift store instead?

Rent the Runway is another great place to rent clothing for formal events, instead of buying new.

4. Learn how to take good care of the clothes you do have.

Can you use a drying rack and skip the dryer? Wash on cold water? Treat stains right away?

Taking care of the clothes you do have will be pretty crucial if you’re not buying clothes for a year.

Related: 5 Not-So-Obvious Steps to Keep on Top of the Laundry 

5. Eliminate temptations.

Unsubscribe from clothing store e-mails. Cancel any automatic deliveries like Stitch Fix boxes. 

Not that it’s even an option right now, but don’t go to the mall to walk around just for fun. Delete apps off your phone. 

Invite a friend to do it with you, so you can avoid temptation together! 

Do whatever you have to do to make this as easy for yourself as possible.

Is Now the Right Time for You to Do a No New Clothes Challenge? 

I can think of very few groups of people who wouldn’t benefit from doing a no new clothes challenge, but here are the three that maybe should hold off:

1. If You’re Pregnant, Postpartum or Nursing

I’ve been pregnant and nursing off and on, over and over again for eleven years now. The growing and the shrinking definitely causes clothing problems.

You don’t just need maternity clothes, but you need a post-postpartum wardrobe, and a back to “normal” wardrobe.

You may also never get back to your “normal”. And that’s o.k., too, but it may mean you need to buy at least a few pieces of clothing that fit and make you feel confident in your postpartum body.

2. If You’re Actively Working on Losing Weight

For similar reasons mentioned above, you may not have anything to wear as you lose weight, at least not that makes you feel good about yourself.

You may genuinely need to buy a significant amount of new clothes somewhere along the way.

While there is definitely room for 1-2 exceptions in this challenge, if you anticipate buying more than four new pieces of clothing, you might want to wait.

3. If You Anticipate Starting a New Job

New jobs almost always mean new wardrobes, although I suppose as the world shifts to working from home more, this might not be as common.

I remember when I started my first job out of college, I definitely needed to beef up the business casual side of my wardrobe.

But this could still be a good time to do a no new clothes challenge. After all, this teacher wore the same dress to work every day for 100 days.

If she can do it, you can do it.

A Brief Word About Privilege

I realize that the very fact that I could keep buying clothes if I really wanted to is a clear sign of privilege in my life.

The fact that I could get several credit cards and rack up debt buying new clothes? Also, ironically, a sign of privilege.

Having quality clothing that will most likely hold up just fine through a one year no shopping challenge? Yep, privilege again.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m issuing this challenge to those of us who could use that privilege in better ways.

Who could use that extra money we would have spent on buying clothes we most likely don’t need to do a little bit more good in the world, instead.

So, I’m Giving Up Buying Clothes This Year. What About You?

It’s a lot easier to do this with people than by yourself. While I’m not super active on Instagram, I will be doing my best to post regularly on this topic. Maybe this will be the push I need to be more active over there….maybe. 😉

Follow along using the hashtag #nonewclothesfortwelvemonths

Related: How to Stop Shopping – 10 Tips to Break the Habit

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1 Comment

  1. I can give up buying clothes for a year, but for a slightly different reason. I want to SEW my wardrobe. I have literally tons of gorgeous fabric and lovely patterns that I’ve been wanting to use and had already decided that this is the year. So yes, I’ll join you! Thanks for all the other good reasons too.

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