I Bought 4 Dresses At An Outlet Mall And I Don't Feel Guilty About It

Over the last month I have been mulling over this post, struggling to find the words to articulate what I was feeling and worrying about being misconstrued. But the other day, our friend Caroline wrote her heart out and to be honest, it couldn’t have come at a better time for me personally. It gave me the courage to finally spill out "all the feels" as she so eloquently stated.

A few weeks back, I went on vacation to Gulf Shores, Alabama, only to find myself standing in the middle of an outlet mall buying not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 dresses on a rainy Thursday afternoon. But, mind you, these purchases were purposeful. While on vacation, I made a serious (and much debated) decision: I committed to becoming a “dress person.” Long story short, in the summer jeans are hot and shorts are… well, shorts. A dress allows me to look cute, put together, and be sticky-free.

But after buying four dresses, the guilt was real my friend - so much so that I quite literally did a fashion show for my husband when I got back to the condo. You can only imagine his excitement (enter sarcasm here). Somehow - deep in my psyche - getting approval from another human being was my way of attempting to mask the guilt. I mean if he thought it was okay, then it was okay. Right?

But the more I thought about this “guilt,” the more I realized that depriving myself from shopping isn’t the answer. It’s the problem. I recently read this quote from Geneen Roth that hit home. She says,

Awareness, not deprivation, informs what you eat.

Now granted she’s talking about food, but substitute “what you eat” with pretty much any other action including “what you wear” and I think she hits the nail on the head.

Here’s the thing, the difference between my shopping habits now and my shopping habits two years ago are night and day. I no longer buy items based on what sale is happening or trend is hot. I don’t leisurely go to the mall to waste time. And sure, every purchase may not be planned, but I can guarantee every purchase is intentional. I’ve changed. So why was the guilt still hanging on?

Because somewhere along the way I bought into the message that deprivation is the only solution for change. But as I’ve recently learned,

Change can only happen when you understand what you want to change so deeply that there is no reason to do anything but act in your own best interest.

It wasn’t my own standard that had been compromised when I bought those four dresses at the outlet mall. I did what I set out to do. I was intentional about what I wanted, knew the style I loved, and found something that I would wear for years to come. Instead, I had compromised my corner of the Internet’s unspoken standard. The one that says we can only have 30 items in our closet or else we’re not good minimalists. Or, in other words… good people. So here’s the thing, I like minimalists (seriously, all of the them). They give me thoughts to ponder and actions to take. But, it’s time to admit I’m just not one of them. And I think that’s okay.

It may take depriving yourself of shopping for 30 days or doing a 10x10 Challenge or cleaning out your closet to shock your system, and if that’s what you need, then by all means go do it. But to enact real change - the kind you can build a life on - you must do more than shock. You must understand what it is you’re seeking to change in the first place.

I can only hope that some of you may be like me, somewhere contemplating life and mindful consumerism in the middle of an outlet mall. If so, hi my name is Erin. It’s nice to meet you.