Guest Post: Jill Chivers on What I Learned About Shopping (and How it Changed My Life)

Today’s amazing guest post comes from the very talented Jill Chivers. Jill is an Australian reformed shopaholic who is now an advocate for conscious shopping. After successfully completing her own year without clothes shopping, Jill launched the world’s first online membership site for other women who want to slay their own shopping dragon and create a healthier relationship to shopping, themselves, their wardrobes, and their wallets. Jill has been interviewed about compulsive overshopping by countless media outlets, including ABC4, NBC affiliated King 5, the San Jose Mercury News, the San Francisco Chronicle ,and the Wall Street Journal.

Since I have undertaken my own shopping bans and experiments, and since I know that many of you are interested in shopping habits, relationships with money, and related topics, I thought that sharing Jill’s story here would be helpful and enlightening. And if her words resonate, do take a moment to check out www.shopyourwardrobe.com. It’s a great resource.

Read on for Jill’s story.

* * * * *

Imagine standing at the bottom of a large mountain. The day is blustery and a little chill. You look up and see in front you a large mass of earth and rocks and scrubby bushes. You can’t remember getting here, but here you are. The mountain is real. You’re at the bottom. And there’s only one way forward.

This was me in early December 2009. The mountain I found myself in front of was a shopping problem. Well, more accurately, an overshopping problem. It had dawned on me slowly – I was buying too much. I was wearing too little. I had racks and racks of stuff I didn’t need, or even want. How did it get there? How did I get here?

Recognising I had a shopping problem was quite painful for me. I wanted to pretend I didn’t have a problem, and I succeeded in doing that for a long time. Months. Over a year. But the whispering – you have a problem with shopping! – grew louder, and louder. Until it became a shout and I couldn’t ignore it any longer.

I had become very good at minimising the problem – surely it’s not that bad! It’s just a few shoes for goodness sake! – through to justification – well, I have the money to cover it and we’re not in credit card purgatory – how bad can it really be? And finally landed at acknowledgement – well, it’s real, it’s here, I can’t ignore it anymore – my shopping is spiralling out of control. And blessedly, shortly after that came action – what can I do about it?

A key moment for me was the insight: I needed to stop shopping for a year. I talked to my husband and close friends about taking a year off from clothes shopping and all of them responded positively. “Do it”, they said. The best ones said “You can do it”.

And so on December 15, 2009, I started my year without clothes shopping. Fear was my constant companion for many months. Fear of failure. Fear of other people’s judgement, criticism and ridicule. Fear of something I couldn’t even describe – the best I can describe it is that I feared missing out on something.

I had many ups and downs during my “year.” I had a few tears and some frustration. Some self recrimination. I had moments when I wondered why are you doing this stupid challenge? What are you trying to prove? At times, I was listless and directionless and dispirited.

And I also experienced great grace. Flashes of insight so clear and bold that they took my breath away. Feelings of utter presence and completeness that confirmed I was on the right path. Connections with others so profound and meaningful that I knew there was richness and purpose to my journey. It was truly a profound and life changing journey. I learned much about myself, my shopping, my relationships, my failings and talents.

Now over two years “clean” with my own overshopping problem, much has changed. I no longer feel a compulsion to shop and my life is so full and varied, I can’t imagine wanting to spend a day at the mall.

I still love clothes and style, but now it’s geared more toward “shopping my wardrobe” than shopping in the stores. There’s so much creativity to be found in creating a unique ensemble out of pieces I have owned for years!

The online program I designed to help other women who shop too much and want to stop, My Year Without Clothes Shopping, continues to attract members from around the globe, and those who have finished the journey report its transformational impact on their lives, their wallets, their wardrobes and their self-esteem.

I am asked to share my story regularly with entrepreneurs and women’s networks. I am invited to work with others frequently, to write articles, create videos, and deliver teleseminars and workshops. And I have appeared in over 40 media stories in Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Europe. And none of this would have been possible without that first step. That first step of acknowledgement. Of stepping into the fear, rather than away from it.

And then taking the next step. Then the next.

Image courtesy justbe.

  • http://notdeadyetstyle.blogspot.com/ Patti @ NotDeadYet Style

    Bravo for you Jill! Shopping consciously is one of my mantras, and your experience is so relevant. It’s a great feeling to be free of a compulsion, too.

    • http://www.shopyourwardrobe.com Jill Chivers

      hi Patty – thanks so much for your comment here. Yes it is all about conscious shopping, that is the goal exactly. Moving from a place where shopping is done mindlessly to one where shopping is done mindfully. And yes, it is light a ten tonne weight lifted, to be free of a compulsion to shop! Glad you enjoyed the piece!

  • Colleen

    I like the overall message of shopping conscientiously, but this type of writing invites comparison to other stories of addiction because of the wording (“I had a problem” “the first step is acknowledgement” etc.) I am not a fan of framing anything as a type of behavioral addiction when the sufferer can just quit cold turkey for a whole year. True addictions are very rarely that simple to beat. It could be read as making light of a serious issue.

    • http://www.shopyourwardrobe.com Jill Chivers

      hi Colleen, thanks so much for your comment. You are so right about not treating compulsions to overhsop lightly. Those who have studied compulsive overshopping (and I’m thinking about people such as Dr April Lane Benson, a friend and also a colleague), draw a comparison between overshopping and overeating. I can see those comparisons myself. People with a problem with overshopping seem to fall on a continuum, a spectrum – like people with an overeating problem. And as such, there are (or should be) many ways such issues can be addressed, everything from a full therapeutic intervention that delves deep into someone’s past and heals very old wounds, through to more ‘accessible’ programs such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig where the emphasis is on changes in behaviour.

      Thank you for highlighting how serious an issue this can be.

  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/gypsumoon Cynthia

    Just signed up, can’t wait to check this out!

    • http://www.shopyourwardrobe.com Jill Chivers

      thanks great Cynthia – will look forward to sharing more with you! Glad you enjoyed this piece.

  • Dee

    Looks like a very interesting program, too bad I didnt know about it a few years ago. I was pretty much a clothes shopaholic a few years back but I would say I am reformed now! It took getting a full time job (vs a part time one in retail sales), and some soul searching. I still love clothes and shopping but other things are more important. Buying more clothes than I can really use or enjoy I realized was not a good use of my time or money. Life is too short. I never quite settled on the reason or reasons I got ‘hooked” on shopping but I am over it now, so not going to worry.

    • http://www.shopyourwardrobe.com Jill Chivers

      hi Dee, you are so right that there are many things in life that are more important than shopping. And the thing is, as you have discovered, that you can still love clothes and style without doing all that buying, buying, buying all of the time!

  • Debbie

    I’m so glad that Jill did a guest post on your blog because many more people will become aware of her wonderful program! I learned about Jill’s program when you mentioned it on your blog last year. I checked it out and a few months later, I signed up! I am now in Month 5 of the program and have learned SO much, both in terms of concrete information and insights about myself and my shopping behavior.

    I highly recommend Jill’s program! It is well worth the price! Jill provides information, structure, and support. She responds to every post on the member forums and is always a positive and encouraging presence. I now have faith that I can and will overcome my overshopping problem. I already feel a lot more peace and calm around the issue. I am incredibly thankful to Jill – and to you, Sally, for letting me know about her program all those months ago.

    • http://www.shopyourwardrobe.com Jill Chivers

      hi Debbie – great to see your comment here! Yes, Sally has been a wonderful connector and I’m so glad you found our program through her and this site all those months ago. And thank you for lovely comments about how our program has helped, and is helping, you on your own journey.

  • Marsha Calhoun

    I appreciate seeing Jill’s perspective, and reading of her experience, which is the opposite of my own: a year without having to shop would be my idea of heaven! I am consciously working on trying to enjoy my clothes (with some success, thanks to you and others) and being willing to purchase things that I like and can afford. But shopping itself – I’d rather go to the dentist – at least I can wear headphones and read magazines I’d never see otherwise. I can’t seem to get over the sense of being deliberately and disrespectfully manipulated by the vast majority of retailers (the ones who don’t are the ones I am learning to patronize).

    • http://www.shopyourwardrobe.com Jill Chivers

      hi Marsha, I’ve met a lot of women who don’t love to shop, so the notion that all women love shopping is indeed a myth. And Sally is a true inspiration with what she does here, providing a wonderful resource and ideas on style, without it being hooked to buying.

      The retail world is certainly on the hook as being part of the landscape in which so much mindless overshopping happens. Which is where the ‘mindful’ part of shopping comes in.

  • http://pockyandanne.etsy.com Anne

    I agree with Colleen. Did you need therapy or rehab to overcome your compulsion? Did you have relapses? Did you ever delve into the deeper issues that contributed to this problem in the first place? It really bothers me to see this framed as an “overcoming addiction” story. I’m trying not to judge- I can’t argue against the validity of another person’s experiences- but it pains me when people don’t seem to realize how serious real addiction can be. (I’m not arguing against the concept of “shopping addiction” as a whole- I’ve personally known people with that problem; however, it got them into debt and was related to various other mental health issues and seemed much different than what you describe here.)

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      I have had very personal experiences with addiction of several types, and am of the opinion that getting help is an important step. Even if the first type of help you seek just leads to other, deeper kinds of help.

      If you’ll take a peek at Jill’s response to Colleen’s comment, you’ll see her explanation and views. I don’t think anything in this post has made light of addictions, to debt/shopping or otherwise.

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