Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Shopping Sweet Spot


I live within walking distance of TWO Nordstrom Racks.  Two.  For those who don't share my good fortune, those are the stores where everything that didn't sell at Nordstrom goes to be flogged off at discount prices.  While the store is mostly filled with dreck, there are almost always a few unspotted (but soiled) gems lurking around - especially if you're a fan of the kind of clothes that look sort of "meh" on the hanger.

So recently, I wandered into one of the stores and spotted a couple of grey Eileen Fisher tank tops, in her signature fabric that drapes beautifully, wears like iron, and flatters everybody!  And my first thought:

"I could use that!"

Sigh...  The world is full of things that could be useful.  I don't need them, and the odds are pretty high that most of them would hang unused in my closet.  I already HAVE a couple of grey tanks - one modal and one linen - and that really is sufficient for me.

I could make the case that I should grab them so that I have them when my current two wear out, but that assumes that I'm still going to want to be wearing tops like that in three or four years.  Brave assumption...

I walked away.  But it was difficult.  And I'm still pondering the peculiar attraction of the useful...

18 comments:

  1. It's great to be able to filter through what is available on the market, in general, without feeling overwhelmed.
    To be able to separate the available from the useful is something I am honing here. I think once we have a larger vision in wardrobe terms, then we can further filter what is truly necessary.

    The lure of the useful may come from our desire to prepare for an unknown future. That's part of why we as humans collect, save and even hoard. My mum was born towards the end of war, but grew up with her mum's wear, reuse, repair, pass-it-down, put-it-up-it-may-come-in-handy-someday values. Even though the house seemed to be bursting at the seems, stuff past expiry dates, she finds it hard to let go.


    Bookbutterfly

    ReplyDelete
  2. Avoiding sales and specials has done more good for my pocket book than anything else. Took a while to get there and sometimes I still cave in, but it is now a rare exception from the rule.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Eek! Of course, I had the wrong response since I'm not as evolved as you are. I will be in Chicago for a few days this spring and my first thought: Oh boy, now I can finally check out a Nordstroms Rack!

    It's hard to change.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is why I no longer go into TJ Maxx or Marshall's...I always find something that is a good buy, but do I need it? If I were shopping full-price, would I buy it? Do I already have one, or two, of the same thing or something similar? I grew up when a wardrobe consisted of five outfits for school, some play clothes, and a good dress for church. And I was well-dressed! We have much too much.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The Good Will shops have benefited from my impulsive purchases from sale racks, TJ Maxx, etc. So I guess it is not all bad!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Your diagram is possibly the best explanation of why the "over-shopping" phenomenon exists. Lots of people may be able to withstand the allure of the "wants" but have a harder time with the "useful" part of the diagram. It took me a while to discern "needed" from "useful," too. But I learned the hard way (a lot of credit card charges and a bunch of clothes that I really didn't need), but I am now a reformed person.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is also why it can be hard to "de-clutter." "Oh, I haven't touched this in two years!" "Yes, but it might be useful someday!!" It takes a leap of faith to believe that when you do need something, you'll be able to find it (when, for most of human history, that wasn't true.)

    ReplyDelete
  8. For those of us who are difficult to fit or have been around long enough to be aware of the decreasing quality of fabrics used by our favorite brands, the temptation to "stock up" can be difficult to resist. I am most challenged when I know a piece is nearing the end of its life - maybe one or two seasons left - and a good replacement appears at a sale price. I just don't have confidence it will find the replacement when I need it, and certainly not at a sale price.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am the same. Although I do look out for sales of something I will need to replace before it wears out. Since I, like you rarely see it on sale when I actually need it! I normally do this in the last season of it's life. That give me time to find the right item without resorting to a 'just ok' item. I think this is actually wise shopping. Particularly if you have a tight budget.

      Delete
  9. I think part of it is that the "basics" aren't always so basic - sometimes when I've decided to replace a basic (like a grey tank) there are none to be had - so I can completely understand the urge to buy these items when we see them. Bravo to you for resisting the urge!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I remember end of August, Janice did a post on dreaming your wardrobe. I found that very helpful in restricting my focus.

    BB

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. http://theviviennefiles.blogspot.de/2013/08/dream-specific-wardrobe-dreams.html?view=flipcard

      Delete
  11. Yes, it's fairly easy to resist much of what's available when one is aware of her own style, best colors, etc. The allure of usefulness, though, I think comes not so much from "I could use this" but rather from "I might need this in the future". Food for thought, definitely.

    I am delurking mostly to say thank you very much for all the inspiration and education you provide here. I have just started my own Project 333 journey, guided by the lessons I learned from your posts.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I faced exactly the same issue earlier this year, but in my case with the long sleeved purple sweater. Your blog has helped me so much. I took a hard look at my closet to find the gaps and was shocked to see I had 7 L/S purple sweaters/tees, which I wear frequently. My 1st shopping trip with gap list in hand was so empowering. I was drawn to the L/S purple sweaters (so useful) but knowing exactly how many I already had steered me back to the right path (not needed). Thank you so much for your vision!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Good point! I've been struggling with the same impulses over the past couple of year. I did a post recently about it http://birdybegins.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/how-much-is-enough.html

    ReplyDelete
  14. What do I really need? Well, this summer, I would have been happy with 1 pair of capris and 8-10 short sleeved casual shirts in fabrics that didn't show sweat easily. A second pair of capris would have been nice, but maybe not even necessary except when doing laundry.

    I think the difference between needful and useful is pretty tenuous, and basically depends on whether or not you are a shopaholic. My (non-shopaholic) brother once commented that it is sometimes not our favorite pieces that get the most mileage in our wardrobes-- be it because even though we don't love the item, it highlights our eyes or goes with a lot of other things and is extremely functional... and gets a lot of compliments because we look good in it. I have kept this in mind as a shopper because I tend to shop for "favorites." I fall in love with a garment and then patiently wait for it to go on really good sale, even having the store find one across the country if they happen to be out of my size once the clearance sale happens. However, I have several knock out pieces but then have a hard time finding things with which to pair them. That is what I am learning how to do better here on this blog. I just bought a black shirt in that jersey material that wears like iron. It is dressy enough to wear with skirts, but doesn't look out of place in a casual outfit. Best of all, the sleeve style works with my shoulders, which are more square/broad for a girl my size, so ready-to-wear shirts rarely fit me well. Am I in love with it? No. But I like it, and it will probably be one of the most used items in my wardrobe and last until I do something silly like work with super glue (which ruined the last one- a purple in the same style).

    Do I NEED this shirt? I could make the case either way. I have a long sleeved black shirt that I love that functions the same, but I only wear it in cold weather. However, a lot of the skirts I also only wear in winter, typically. So where does this purchase fall? The fact that it will get worn so much means that it was probably needful. I plan to get rid of a black cotton t-shirt that I haven't ever worn, which I bought last winter thinking I "needed" it to fill out my basic wardrobe. Turns out I don't wear black cotton shirts, especially not in the summer. However, because this one is more dressy, I know it will get more use because of how much I used the purple- not so much for the color but because I really liked the cut and fabric, so a black one will extend my options even more.

    ReplyDelete
  15. It;s sometimes very hard to do a definitive "do I need this or not" read, especially when time is short and the item will likely not be there when you return.

    Though I do love a bargain, paying full price (for good quality) limits overstuffed closets. There will always be basic tanks around, of this quality, and it is not the only time you will ever see one on sale.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Janice, I just finished my one year clothes buying fast at Christmas - inspired by you. (exceptions were Birthday and Mother's Day gifts). It was wonderful!

    Two practices help me buy only what I love, find delightful and will use.
    1. I only use cash - it's so hard to spend cash!
    2. I am aware that when I say 'yes' I am saying 'no' to other items. Do I want that practical, clearance top or would I rather continue saving for a wonderful purse?

    I find your blog just beautiful Janice! Linda

    ReplyDelete