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Shopping Your Own Closet

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Last Wednesday, I had a delightful and very informative Skype call with Jill Chivers, an Australian woman who took her compulsive buying bull by the horns. She decided that for a full year, she’d refrain from buying any new clothes and shop only in her own closet. The experiment resulted first in a blog and then an online learning program for overshoppers called My Year Without Clothes Shopping. Her program is designed to help other people make the same life-affirming changes she made.

A successful corporate facilitator for ten years, Chivers suddenly lost her job when new management did a large-scale purge. No income coming in? It never entered her mind to spend less—until she and her husband took a trip to San Francisco. Afterward, coming home with expensive new clothing she wouldn’t have had a prayer of affording if her husband hadn’t been subsidizing her, she had an aha moment.

On December 10, 2009, she created her first blog post, which chronicled her thinking about imposing a one-year clothes-shopping ban on herself. It was a brave and inventive leap that came entirely from within; Jill didn’t know then that compulsive shopping was a recognized disorder, and didn’t know about available resources. She felt quite alone with her problem. She certainly didn’t know then that three other compulsive buyers had implemented a similar strategy—and had written about it. In the Red: Diary of a Recovering Shopaholic by Alexis Hall, Judith Levine’s Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping, and Give It Up! My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less by Mary Carlomagno are all accounts of one-year shopping bans.

For Jill Chivers, declaring her goal publicly was a form of accountability—and an attempt to move beyond her isolation. Different from keeping a private journal, blogging added impetus to her commitment, as did her decision to offer herself and her story to local television stations. And, skilled in creating adult learning programs from her years as a corporate trainer, she began to see how the solutions she was crafting for herself might work for others. Five months into her shopping ban, she launched a website and began to create the year-long program she now offers, My Year Without Clothes Shopping. Each month, subscribers get a content-rich, warm, witty, and encouraging email on a specific theme related to shopping, written by Jill and a variety of guest contributors. (I’m a guest contributor for her month-six and month-twelve lessons.) And each week, there’s a downloadable lesson that relates to the monthly theme, complete with written exercises to do and strategies to try. In addition, Jill’s available to answer emailed questions on a “subscribers only” part of her website.

For more details about Jill Chivers and her program, go to Shopyourwardrobe.com.

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