How contentment crept up and caught me by surprise

By Ruth Limkin

This is a story about shopping, but it’s mostly about hindsight, and how it illuminates the decisions that shape us.

I have always loved buying clothes and shoes, although I’ve rarely been extravagant. I’d never pay full price and I always loved the thrill of the chase which came with finding a great sale.

About three years ago, I felt a nudge to change my perspective on ‘stuff’ and buy fewer clothes, but of better quality. I hoped it would help shift my mindset to a more disciplined approach to shopping, as I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the almost cancerous social effect of rampant consumerism. Consumption makes a wonderful servant, but a terrible master, and I was a little unsure where it sat with me. So I shopped with more discernment and added restraint.

Then, one year ago, I got braces. Jaw alignment issues meant they were more a necessity than a choice, so I submitted somewhat grudgingly to the procedure.  My bank account submitted even less grudgingly,and it would be fair to say I had to beat my budget into submission.

Doing so required that I face up to the cold hard facts that my love of shopping could no longer be indulged, and I effectively lived under a self-imposed shopping embargo. One pair of regularly worn jeans were replaced when they developed a rather awkward hole, and I used a few gift vouchers to buy some additional staple items.

(I’ll also confess that I ‘fell off the wagon’ one afternoon and was lured in by a 75% off shoe sale. I blame a particularly stressful time at work with looming deadlines and large odds, and, more importantly, when a shoe is reduced from $150 to $27, it seems a crime not to give it a good home. But I digress.)

With circumstances conspired against me, I rarely considered doing any recreational shopping for a year. This was to protect my savings account, yet it had an unintended effect. With a change of habit happening, my heart was being repositioned in unrealised ways.

Over the last few weeks I’ve had time to wander around shops, and it’s dawned on me.

The same impulse to acquire isn’t there. I admire some lovely pieces of course, and if I spent time imagining the items and outfits I could put together, I may end up reaching for my purse.

I even have deliberate plans to do some shopping on an upcoming holiday.

Yet thoroughly unexpectedly, I’ve become a lot more content. Saying no seems a lot easier now, and it turns out, it’s a really nice feeling.


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