2009: The Year with No New Clothes

We’re down to the last two weeks of the year that was 2009. This time last year I was convicted of the amount of clothing bursting open the doors of my closets and also my penchant for idle shopping. These two factors were heightened by life in Qatar where consumerism takes on new heights because much of the population is very affluent and rest are borrowing money ala middle class America to keep up appearances.

I gave up shopping in 2009 as a way to bring this impulse under control and you’ve been kind enough to read along with my (mis)adventures. At times I did better than others but in most instances I was confronted by the truth that set me out on this quest: there were many lovely things in my closet I wasn’t wearing through no fault of theirs. I simply couldn’t see many things because they were so crammed onto hangers or in drawers.

Two unexpected things happened from this self-imposed diet: I was much more careful with the items I chose when it was my birthday, anniversary, or other gift giving opportunity. I would identify the one thing I really wanted and when it was given to me, I treasured it like the new possession it was. The second was more inexplicable: trimming back on clothes raised an awareness of the multiples I had of other items such as the twelve bottles of perfume on my dresser that I determinedly worked my way through. I suddenly wanted to use up things to the best of my ability and it also made it much easier to let them go: whether a bottle of mousse or sandwich I couldn’t finish, I realized the value of stopping when you’ve had enough of something. And you’re that much less likely to order with your eyes rather than your appetite if you see how much is leftover on your plate.

The other slightly wonderful aftereffect is that slight tinge of guilt when I wander the racks this holiday season. More often than not, I’m saying no, rather than yes, to most items. The sales tags which used to scream to me $15!! now clearly explain why a certain item was overpriced to begin with.

I set out in 2009 wanting to be content with the things I had and maybe by default, my life. I certainly developed an appreciation for the tried and true items like handbags or shoes.

The natural question is what is next in 2010. Giving up something is a good way of shaping a habit.

I’ve been contemplating the idea of giving up my time in 2010 to do something that was a central part of my weekly activities before I moved to Qatar: communal worship. The fact that services are on Friday morning – the equivalent of Saturday in the Middle East- made it a weekend in reverse. Private worship is something I never gave up and to this day do a devotional in the morning in bed. But you miss an important aspect of spirituality if you only pray by yourself. There is a missing element when you forsake gathering with other believers. The question is: am I missing it enough to make it a year long commitment?

Are you contemplating resolutions? Or ridiculing the January ‘lose weight’ promise? Tips for successful year long campaigns are welcome.