5 Things :: Operation Intervention

Today’s post is gonna be a long one.

You have been warned.

If you wish, just scroll past all the scary words to the picture of my Week in Review. If you’re willing to brave the depths, however, I suggest you grab yourself a cuppa and find a comfy spot. This’ll take a while.

It all began innocently enough with Selah introducing me to Caitlin @ Greater Than Rubies. I needed more linkup buddies and any friend of Selah’s is a friend of mine. Not wanting to be rude by just linking for shameless self-promotion, I perused a few of Caitlin’s posts and became engrossed in her style journey. Then I read some more and my interest morphed into shame.

Oh, I’m not blaming Caitlin. Not at all. In fact, I thank her for my awakening. Because reading her blog made me realize that this crass commercialism and consumption that I’d reveled in – nay, even proudly advocated! – was ultimately destructive and just plain wrong. Wrong for my pocketbook. Wrong for my mental and emotional health. Wrong for the environment. Wrong for society.

I started this blog thinking I’d shop my closet. I even named it deliberately to promote this mindset. But along the way, I became seduced by the notion of being different and ground-breaking and visually editorial and on trend. And in my mind, this translated to mean shopping. A lot of shopping. I shopped to take advantage of sales promoted in other blogs. To mimic a look I saw in another blog. To trump the themes set by another blog.

Seeing a pattern here? The very community that I found common ground and sisterhood with ultimately proved to be the vehicle of my downfall. Two sides to every coin. Sadly.

I needed to turn over a new leaf. I needed a new mindset. I needed a game changer. What I got was an intervention. Several of them, in fact. After I’d belly-ached about my dilemma to anyone who’d listen, I was able to suss out and articulate several plans of attack and I share them with you now, my friends, in the hopes that I’ll adopt one and then stick to it and be a better person for it.

For your consideration, then, my 5 Things list – Operation Intervention:

1.  Carpool suggestion: Print out a number for every day that I go without shopping. Take a picture of this number and display it prominently on my blog. (Printing out a number is in lieu of coding a widget that displays a digital tally because I’m just not that skilled in coding). If I break down and purchase something, I have to start from “1” and I can’t shop for anything until I print out the next number from when I broke down, i.e. if I spent on Day 4, I can’t buy anything for 5 days from that Day 4 purchase.
PROS: makes it a competition to see how long I can go and how many numbers I can print out
CONS: no actual, painful consequence for “failing” or falling off the wagon

2.  FIG (Fabulous Intervention Guru aka Selah) suggestion: Take my current budget of $250. Cut it in half. Use one half to pay off current credit card debt and the other for purchasing whatever I want.
PROS: get out of debt faster, feel morally superior, flexibility in buying what I want
CONS: essentially a budget with a conscience; budgets don’t work for me since I’m constantly buying and returning and suck at tracking expenditures; allows me to justify dipping into next month’s budget

3.  Aly’s suggestion: the Trifecta Plan – only buy 2 items of clothing and 1 accessory per month. Cost is no object.
PROS: flexibility in buying what I want within reason; makes me really look at current items and think twice about impulse buys; comes with secret hand signal
CONS: my propensity for returns would muddle up this process; does not allow for multiple purchases of different variations of same item; I lack the hand/eye coordination to actually reproduce the secret hand signal

4.  Intrepid TA suggestion: Create 3 receptacles for money: “bank”, “clothes”, and “credit card debt.” Find items that I wish to buy.  Award myself a certain amount of money per day I consecutively don’t shop, say $6 (the average price of a lunch and since I bring lunch, this makes sense).  Once I’ve reached the amount of money I need to pay off my first wish list, buy it.  If I screw up and buy something before I reached that amount, the money I saved goes into paying the credit card debt.  If I change my mind to something worth more money, continue my savings plan.  If I change my mind to purchase something worth less, buy it then start over and the money I already saved goes back into the bank.
PROS: prevents me from buying something I really didn’t want need
CONS: doesn’t allow consideration for continually changing wish list

5.  Combo package – Take elements of #1-4 and synthesize them into a cohesive plan.
PROS: I can pick and choose the best of all worlds
CONS: I can pick and choose the best of all worlds to my advantage, making all this moot

So you made it to the end, eh? You’re an intrepid one, aren’t you? For your well-deserved reward, you get to freely castigate me in public for all my excesses, wag your finger judgmentally without repercussion, feel holier-than-thou and pat yourself on the back for not being as hedonistic as I. Then you get to chime in and tell me how to fix me. Please.

Week in review – Cheers, salud, kanpai, bottom’s up!


Tagged ,

27 thoughts on “5 Things :: Operation Intervention

  1. […] if I did it with smoking, I can do it with spending. All that big talk about budgeting was just my paying lip service to the concept but not really committing. This time, in the face of […]

  2. jangrahammcmillen says:

    Darling Maricel! I hate it that you’re feeling bad about anything connected to your blogging. Your blog is one of the best things I’ve done for myself in the last year. For me, the best style blogs are not about the clothes, really, but what we’re thinking about when we dress and acquire. And that’s what I love about yours. I’m so glad that you’re going to let it evolve rather than pitch your blog-baby out with the bathwater of behavior modification!

    I sure do understand the self-imposed press to shop for the sake of what’s next on the blog, and I wish I had some smart advice for you. I don’t, but I send my hopes that you find a way to continue in ways that are good for your pocketbook, closet space and social conscience all at once. Most of my limits are logistical, and I should be more grateful for that than I am.

    We’re so consistently pressed for time and money that I have strategies for my wardrobe building, of course. We paid off all our credit cards a long time ago, and quit using them at all. (We didn’t realize at the time that behavior makes your credit rating suck. There’s no winning.) So I shop only with cash. Really, if I can come up with the coin from my personal project coffers, it’s guilt free shopping on that level.

    And I only have an hour or so, a couple of times a week to get to any shops.
    That is a huge factor … no “just going shopping”. I don’t really like to window-shop if I’m not looking for something specific. I just feel bad that I can’t buy what I’d like, so I don’t do it. (My coping mechanism here is that I tell myself I’m “pre-shopping” … checking out all my options before I buy. Great rationalization! No real purchases involved, and I feel like I accomplished something. It’s pitiful how I can fool myself.)

    Do you make a seasonal list or something like it? When I start thinking about changes in temperature outside, I start making my Seasonal Obsession list, where I write down what I’m particularly taken with and how I want to wear it. Since it’s a True Love list only, I have fun writing it and it functions to keep me focused on stuff I really-really-REALLY want or need. I recently spent two whole weeks on finding a perfect pair of sunglasses with very specific qualities … didn’t really save a lot of bucks, ’cause I bought good ones, but I didn’t want anything else during the quest.

    So it’s cash only, very limited shopping hours and an obsessive focus. Don’t know if any of this is helpful, but it’s my way of expressing solidarity. And so you know, your post about your own efforts made me re-examine my own blog-related shopping neuroses. As usual, you rock on several levels!

    • mtsedwards says:

      Oh, wonderful, beautiful Jan! That was like getting a bear hug and eating warm muffins and opening up the best presents all at the same time. (Imagery overload much?) 🙂

      Although I loved getting the amount of traffic this post generated – the most, I think, since the blog’s inception – it did bring out some pretty serious controversy regarding values, way of life, ethics, etc. I didn’t intend for it to happen, but Bob’s your uncle.

      Now, I’m not complaining in the least since I welcome and did solicit all advice/opinions, but it did get pretty intense there for a bit. As I mentioned in another comment, who knew shopping habits could be so provocative?

      That said, thanks so much for your wonderfully supportive and lengthy comment. I love comments like these because I feel like I’m talking to a true friend and not just some random blog jumper. I appreciate your kind and encouraging words and I shall definitely consider your suggestions and try to implement what works for me in the final plan.

      Loads of hugs and kisses, Jan! You are my hero! xxoo

  3. Marsha Banks says:

    I recently discovered your blog. At first, I thought you were just this real cool hipster woman. Then, to my delight, I discover you’re not only a really cool hipster, you’re a teacher! Yay on both counts! I consider myself semi-hipster, but way cool! I’m also a retired teacher (early retirement…tired of the politics and teaching for test scores)…so your bold really speaks to me! And this post REALLY speaks to me! I’m a shopping addict…not joking here! I truly get a rush shopping, and not just for myself. I am trying to curb this, but along comes a sale and I bite! I do purge my closet and give to organizations helping women regain their dignity and worth by assisting them in getting jobs. But, my consumerism has to stop! I will continue to follow your journey as I fight my own battle. In the meantime, thanks for wonderfully edgy, quirky, and personal OOTDs!

    • mtsedwards says:

      So according to my in-the-know juniors, to be a hipster anymore is not necessarily cool. Or hip. But then again, saying “cool” or “hip” is probably not the thing either and I refuse to surrender saying them. So I shall take your comment as the compliment I’m certain it was meant to be. (Yeah, I’m being cheeky. My apologies. It’s my knee-jerk reaction to really flattering compliments).

      I think I envy you your early retirement but then again, going to work every day provides me with the excuse to go shopping for new outfits. I maintain – and I’m sure you’ll corroborate – that teaching is like being on stage. And my clothes are my costumes. So I take them very seriously. I hear you on the sales and stuff. I’ve begun unsubscribing to my regular online haunts to curb the onslaught, but there’s always eBay, isn’t there?

      We shall persevere together. Please stop by form time to time. I do so enjoy chatting with people of like minds. 😀

  4. Val S says:

    I just got to this (at work, killing time until I go home), and read it all. I started getting confused on #4, though. Maybe because I was laughing about the secret hand signals!

    I took the Shop Secondhand First pledge last year (on The Citizen Rosebud’s blog – you can click on the widget on my blog and I think it’ll work). But I’m not very good, really. I still buy new for tees and tights and some shoes. But I’ve found some really good pieces for a very low price at thrift stores, and if I don’t like them they just go back to Goodwill or wherever.

    You could also force yourself to only shop ethical – made in USA, or made by cooperatives in India, or made by an ethical company like TOMS.

    Good luck! It’s easy to get distracted by looking at everybody else’s cool things on blogs, but you just need to look at yours with fresh eyes!

    • mtsedwards says:

      Yeah, my TAs go overboard with critical thinking but I think that means I’m doing my job well. And yes, I’ve been tasked to make a short video of that hand signal and my woeful inability to complete it. ;p

      Can buying secondhand mean eBay? Because I think that’s the “closest” and most convenient option for me.

  5. Anne the SpyGirl says:

    I read it all too! I just love how your mind works!
    I know the seductive cycle of shopping for the blog — I did it too. Exciting style rushes, new stuff, etc etc.
    I might try some of your techniques — they gamify the situation rather than induce punishment. Problem is, I hit the road in 16 days (no income again) for my Art Project. Art. It’s all Art’s fault.
    You don’t even want to know how far into a hole I’ve tumbled, debt-wise.
    $3000 for the Palm Springs Art Fair, no sales. Gulp. And I’m doing it again next year! Line me up with the worst business people (yeah, it’s Art and it’s also a business). You know what? I don’t care. You see, I had The Cancer in 2010. Cancer changes everything. If I don’t do this project that I’ve actively been thinking about for at least ten years, I will have big regrets. So, I’ll pack up my car, use the card with a $20K credit limit (been keeping that one paid off just for this sort of thing) and go ahead and do it.
    I’m not worried (I know, I should be). I’m lucky, I’ve got some untapped cushions in case I get into a big jam. I’ve also got my crowdfunding campaign (and big “Thanks” for contributing!!!) which is already 10% funded in the first week. And I’ve done this before. At 38, I quit my good-paying job at Mattel and hit the road. I racked up $40K of debt in two years (yes, that was a lot of post-divorce fun). I got it all paid off, eventually.

    My, you got me going, didn’t you!

    • mtsedwards says:

      Yes, I love revving people up! This has by far been my most controversial post to date and it’s awesome! Who knew shopping would elicit so many opinions? And I thought self-love and body image were the hot topics in the style blogoverse!

      The Cancer is a terrifying proposition but you have dominated it with verve and fortitude. And with a zany appreciation for style nonconformity, if I may be so bold to say. And although debt is a soul sucker, I think you wouldn’t have had it any other way, am I right?

      I’ll learn from my lessons and from others’ as well. Hell, if I can quite smoking cold turkey after twenty years, I think I can kick this shopping habit in the nethers no problem! I just have to want to. ;p

  6. I’m with acolourfulcanvas – she said it better than I ever could. And her idea of exploring consignment and thrift could be a good idea – can only buy things if they are already “pre-loved?” And typically those places have either a no return or difficult return policy, so that would make a person have to think heavily about a purchase. Good luck, girl!

    • mtsedwards says:

      Oooh, I hadn’t thought about the no-return factor. That would certainly be a great deterrent! Thanks for the luck; I’m gonna need it.

  7. I hope you know that my suggestion above, and my frequent encouragements to “shop your closet”, don’t come from a place of judgement. Rather, they come from the experience of having massive consumer debt just a few years ago. My husband and I had to make significant changes in our spending in order to get out of debt. We’ve been debt free (except the mortgage) for 2 years now, and that makes me happier than any amount of clothing could. I WANT you to be happy, but I know from experience that debt isn’t conducive to happiness.

    • mtsedwards says:

      Oh, of course not, m’dear. That last paragraph seems to have hit a nerve. My apologies. That was my being cheeky again. Curse you, interweb, for being so dismally unable to convey proper tone. I guess that’s why we are reduced to emoticons? ;p

      Anyhow, my husband and I want to be debt free ourselves, thus this post. I do think what Sue said really resonates: I don’t think I’m addicted to shopping, just the novelty and choice afforded by shopping. If I can just find a group of women who’d be willing to clothes swap with me, I’d be in heaven.


    • mtsedwards says:

      P.S. When I said “feel morally superior” as one of the pros to your plan, I wasn’t suggesting you were feeling morally superior. Bad choice of words. Connotation and whatnot, eh? I meant I’d feel morally superior to myself, not in comparison to others. Mercy!

  8. dapperdolly says:

    Nice that you’ve got a plan of action, shame that all the factors – though I doubt sisterhood is really the right term for social peer pressure and the hypnotism of shopping/advertising – have led to this point. It’s nice the nihilism has waned leaving space to attack the hedonism.

    Your post has made a pre-emptive move in that any interesting commentary could easily be branded as holier than though, morally superior, judgemental etc etc good self defense finished off with the ‘please’ at the end. I’m generally irked by tokenism and lip service especially when it’s late in life and not after having the knuckles bloodied to the point of distraction making it hard to think beyond our own little bubbles. Many who can feel empathy when faced with hard choices or information but then go back to normal in no time. There’s nothing wrong with preaching but to talk the talk we gotta be walk the walk. Throwing reverse labels around is easier for most instead of listening to the favour they’re doing or waiting until it’s too little too late but of course you’ve thanked those who’ve given you the wake up calls.

    This plan can be done, you’ve figured out what you need to do with punishments and reward, very organized, you know best what will work on you. I know not shopping can work because I’ve seen plenty of others hold back and I haven’t bought clothing/accessories at all in approx 18 months either. Good luck to you. There are many people in this world better than I and I give credit where credit is due, I know my place is no equal to theirs and nor do I expect it to be, I focus on to better myself – I love it when I come across them. It’s nice you’ve come across some for yourself and are grateful.

    Oh also – don’t worry, nothing we post online is without repercussion, nothing anyone says to you goes un-noted and vice versa. Even if deleted it’s always backed up.

    • mtsedwards says:

      Oh, my. That’s two days in a row. We’re on a roll. I feel like I’m back in college (university for you, I think?) and I’m discussing the finer points of life and our place in the universe.

      Thank you for such a provocative comment. Although it’s difficult to determine tone over the interweb, I believe you’re not being combative or censorious. That said, I’m a bit flummoxed by your last sentence: were you being facetious or reassuring?

      • dapperdolly says:

        Eh no o_o not being combative or censorious, tone is very different to when I’m thinking, typing and re-reading it to myself as it is for those reading and when they write comments.

        Like you said in another comment – reduced to emotions. Or these *(-_-)*

        I gave up discussing the finer points with others early because I’d spent my pre-teen days doing it with adults and by the time I was 18 had figured out my own philosophy only to find Aristotle had beat me to it many places. Bugger. That said your posts were/are about ethics, and your intentions/planned actions, so I didn’t think it out of order to comment in the same vein rather than the usual gregarious support I give. I apologize for being out of line.

        The last sentence of my previous comment was just a fact.

        I think… My lack of use of the usual emoticons has not helped and trigger words that people don’t like hearing like the ones I quoted as well others people often use e.g. self righteous, indignant, defensive etc are tough to properly interpret unless actually in an argument as well. Like at times they’re not bad words when people have deserved and made the effort and had the genuine desire to the best people they can or live very much so in a clean living manner which benefits many beyond their direct reach. At other times they’re used by people who know and admit their faults but don’t like others doing so. I guess I can say that because I’ve always been on my back with self-evaluation. But anyway, as always I look forward to your refreshing outfits and how you’ll interpret and re-use what you already have or acquire by methods you’re more happy with than the current situation.

        I of course won’t be chiming in on how to ‘fix you’ – there’s probably far more qualified people for that and whose example/advice you’d relate to and be comfortable with. Plus it’s not something I’m looking to do really.

        All the best 🙂

        • mtsedwards says:

          No apologies necessary. You are not out of line at all. As I mentioned, I prefer these long discourses over banal one-liners (and now, having said that, I’ve probably offended people with my use of “banal” or “one-liner” or both. Insert smiley emoticon here).

          And I understand your reticence about fixing people. I try not to unless otherwise solicited and even then, I try to tread carefully because you’re right – sometimes they SAY they’re ready to be fixed but they really just want to rant/vent and then get taken aback when you actually try to be constructively critical/helpful. (Am I speaking from experience? Yes, yes I am !)

          Please don’t ever feel hobbled with me. Speak your mind. I revel in intelligent discourse. I feel I learn so much from you – your mindset and culture is vastly different from mine and I’m thoroughly intrigued. By the way, what is Common Purpose? Wiki-ed it but wanted to make sure we were on the same page.


          • dapperdolly says:

            I recalled that I sound a little deadpan to myself on subjects like this in my non-argument and non-in depth discussion posts but to the recipient my posts aren’t always clear because there’s so much I can’t or am not disposed to say for whatever reason. So ya, no worries, when I do actually argue I’m focused on every point so it’s more clear and sharp. So if I suddenly become very clear and efficient then you’ll know lol but it doesn’t seem likely 🙂

            By the sounds of it you are ready and prepared for change that you want and are looking forward to :-). My reticience is due to what you say but also my approach. I’m firm but fair to most people and most people find that is not what what they prefer and find it challenging to their authority/way they see themselves and what they consider they deserve needing the reigns of power of their development/fixing or ‘punishment’ firmly in their hands. I see things more on the macro and micro scale, like you said, with our place in the universe but on an individual and social basis also. Most prefer the AA approach – ‘hello my name is, I’ve been there and done it, got the t-shirt, now I can help you’. I’m not against it, it works in terms of results and I believe in supportive behaviour, but even though I sympathise and empathise I’ve done my best to avoid or put a stop to harmful situations so many can’t relate to me and find it off-putting. Plus I put emphasis on taking responsibility for actions done when most just want to move on and start new as it were. Anyways…

            I’ve just looked at the Wiki CP page and that is and isn’t what I meant. Hard to describe – the info there is motivation or excuse for the behaviour described as CP. Basically it’s a recruitment system for management in many professions. It’s an extension of the guild system for professionals like engineers, docs, lawyers, accountants and spread to it any industry particularly where there’s middle management or positions of mid lever power underneath a higher boss but control and power of others. It’s a leadership scheme but incorporates surveillance, it’s been normalized as a part of business like snooping on candidates and workers via social networks and it in practise can easily be likened to cold war tactics. Almost like a neighbourhood watch scheme that becomes a popularity and need-to-be-in group. The rise in service industries hasn’t helped really. Has various uses, some clandestine like one person I know had separated from her daughter a while before going on her JSA, and so she’d written the correct household status on her application forms and yet the interviewer still asked about her daughter who had left, by name. When the applicant said she’d never written that daughter’s name the interviewer claimed they hadn’t said anything. On another occasion an agent doing the bi-weekly signing on process said they’d visited her flat and the neighbours said she didn’t live there, when she did. These people do a lot more than what we consider their jobs and security is a blanket excuse. When some of the job centres were being closed – did the general public have sympathy for the workers? No. The general outcry was ‘it serves them right! See how they like it!’ It’s the doubled edged sword or coin – people want more investigation due to what they see on highlights and superficial news but don’t want to think for themselves and have an implicit trust in the same people that they’d usually call all kinds of things down the pub or when political scandals come to the forefront. Then they either just get used to or dislike how investigation and measures are enforced, which is understandable.

            In regards to the wiki page it shows the belief and overall result of those recruited and accentuates what can go wrong e.g. more and more people being put on watchlists for ridiculous things like keyword spamming, the content of their library books and in the most recent decade complaining i.e. notifying local authorities of vandalism and getting blamed for it yourself or trying to make product complaints in stores and getting yourself on a constabulary watch list because the manager didn’t like your tone. Complaints against managers tend to get ignored. This all comes under the widespread CP term in the general understanding. It’s nothing new though, just the labels tend to change with each major war.

            • dapperdolly says:

              Ack – JSA is Job Seekers Allowance.

            • mtsedwards says:

              This is the seedier, grittier side of England, isn’t it? It’s certainly not the idealized, romantic, Harry Potter/Jane Austen/Downton Abbey-esque idyll I’ve made it out to be in my mind. It’s almost incomprehensible to me, but then again, politics often is. I just can’t wrap my mind around it. Like calculus. Sigh. At the end of it all, I guess I enjoy fiction over reality any day.

  9. hahaha. Well I’ll be waiting and watching to see what your plan of attack is Maricel! Whatever you do, don’t forget to factor in the value of happiness. I’m not saying that shopping equates to happiness, but if you feel happier when expressing your personality through a wide range of clothing, then take that into consideration. It may be time to explore consignment and thrift stores?

    • mtsedwards says:

      I can’t believe you read all that, Sue! It just be a slow news day. LOL.

      Yes, there is happiness in experimenting with clothing. Thank you for understanding and articulating that so well for me. It’s really not the shopping per se, is it? It’s the ability to express my personality without being limited to the choices in my closet.

      That said, I would so like to explore consignment/thrift stores. I just need to find some in my area.

Tell me all about it! I'm listening...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: