All thanks to the global movement towards conscious consumerism, slow living and making sustainable choices every day, we live in a time where we are all encouraged to buy less but buy better. This is in generic comparison to our parents’ generation, bygone eras or actually, maybe just five years ago when we were less willing to acknowledge the destructive nature of our overconsumption.
I was going through mini bouts of wardrobe detox last weekend and by the end of the backbreaking sessions in the sweltering heat of Singapore’s eternal summer, I was faced with a literal mountain of neutral garments. All same same, but “slightly different – it makes all the difference!” Or so, when I rationalised at the point of purchase.
It was like being confronted by my past, and on that balmy afternoon, they all balled up and interrogated me on my mistakes. Did you really need eight white cotton shirts, four same-styled nude tops, five blue denim jeans, nine grey t-shirts and twelve black dresses?
*Breaks into an intense cold sweat*
Guilt-stricken, I realised the concluding answer is never about need but, want. So last weekend really got me out of my rut. How did I let this happen, and amassed this great amount of the-same-things over the years? And because I know for certain everyone has secret stashed of the-same-things somewhere, I wonder: why do we keep wasting money buying the same things over and over?
If you like something, naturally you just buy more of it.
As it turns out, this wasn’t so hard to get to. We’re all creatures of habit and comfort, whether we like to admit it or not. And it’s a no-brainer: if something makes us feel good buying, having, using or wearing, there is a high chance we will continue committing the same crime buying the same things over and over.
You see, that was very likely what happened with my heap of neutral clothing. Coming from a fashion education and having started my career in the industry years ago, my sense of style has become the one thing that really reflects my personality. Like many creatives, I also consider it to be an outlet for self-expression. But even if you don’t come from a creative background, we all want to look and feel good about ourselves, and fashion is such an affordable and accessible way to do so for many people.
There is comfort in the familiar.
Whether it is always buying from the same brand, colour or function, our most hard-to-die habits are deeply rooted in the desire to find comfort in the familiar.
Take my mom for example: she trusts in Corningware because to her, it is fail-proof, convenient and she’s been cooking with it for over a decade. Every time she uses it, she feels she is in safe hands, despite already being an expert from all that time spent in the kitchen over the years. She also feels that food just magically tastes better when cooked in Corningware – which is something up for debate, but I’m not about to start a war with the seasoned home chefs here.
If your mom is not into Corningware, perhaps she is into collecting Tupperware instead? Regardless the collection of her fancy, well, did she need the whole entourage? Were she going to use all of them equally regularly? Perhaps, but most probably not.
The truth is when you find comfort in something you have used and trusted for a long time, it is easier to rationalise why you are spending money on more of them – even when you don’t actually need another. This time, just ask me, because I would know best. My friends often joke how I have ten of the same thing in different colours, and honestly, they are not wrong.
Ever since I graduated and started working, I felt like my wardrobe has to step up to complement the pace of my lifestyle. Unlike my fashion student days, I feel less need to dress to impress. These days, I dress for comfort and I think this is something that never goes out of style. So whenever I find a clothing piece that really works for me, that allows me to get dressed effortlessly in the morning and dash out the house in no time, you bet I’ll get it in all colours available and wear them to death!
Buy Nice So You Don’t Have to Buy Twice
Past our rationales for buying more, there seems to be only one way forward that makes sense, especially in the zeitgeist of our current times: buy less but better. Easy to say, but how to truly incorporate these into your life, right? Fret not, here are some easy questions you can ask yourself before you buy one of the-same-things next.
How often are you going to use it?
When you think about spending good money on a quality item, think about its utility. Will you use this item frequently? Frequency aside, will you use it long-term?
A well-fitting black dress that costs $100 may seem expensive, but if it is a flattering style you can easily incorporate into your ensemble every week, and it is made of a great quality material, then the cost per wear works out to be quite low.
How long will it last?
Sometimes we just want to buy the more expensive option because they look and feel nicer than the cheaper option. But other times, the more pricier option is better for many reasons.
When faced with this dilemma of saving money and spending on a good quality, pricier option, remind yourself this: buying an inferior quality product may make sense now, but it will be a total waste if it spoils easily, and you have to replace it very soon.
Just take the leather handbag for example. Cheaper ones are made from inexpensive materials that don’t get better with age. A good quality handbag will look and feel better with time and can last decades if you take care of it well. So instead of buying a new cheap bag every few months, investing in an expensive one every decade or two works out better.
Is there really a difference?
Or are you selling yourself the idea that there is a difference between the white t-shirt you already have five of at home, and the “latest” one you are holding in your hands at check-out?
Choose the more sensible option.
If it is just a white t-shirt, again, do you need to spend extra bucks on a Calvin Klein when the Uniqlo one is just as perfect?
Also throwing in here something my mom has always told us: if it is something you are going to get very sweaty in, like sportswear and socks, you don’t need to invest too much on it. Anything that gets sweaty and grimy often, you get them replaced often and easily anyway.
Nice Things You Can Splurge On
After going through this article, things can get real depressing real fast. So I thought to end it on a better note: here are some things you can splurge on guilt-free and happily!
- Furniture. Home is where the one place I feel you really can invest in, because it is long-term and you literally live in it. The furniture you choose become the soul of the home. Plus, you use them daily anyway, so skip IKEA – why not splurge on some tasteful, good quality ones? For me, this also includes anything that is related to sleep because I’m just a sucker for a good night’s sleep – mattress, bed linens, pyjamas, room scent etc. Good sleep is so important.
- Experiences. Especially when it helps you grow as a person, because our collective experiences in life helps mould us into the person we want to be or become. I have always found joy in new experiences through travel and learning, but different people find joy in different things, so find yours and invest in your future.
- Energy-efficient products. Sounds super boring, but this is just something I have learnt from adulting and trust me, whether it’s for lightbulbs or kitchen things, investing the money up front is really going to pay off over the years to come.
And finally, despite the title of this article, I needed to include this here:
- Things that make you feel truly happy. At the end of the day, this is your life. If you are already committing to ways that make the world a better place – even if it is as small as rejecting plastic straws and bringing your own bamboo one, giving the zero waste lifestyle a go, thrifting whenever you can instead of buying new items, or maybe you have decided to cut down on the number of annual holidays you take – then I think you can spend some extra dollars when you need to, on something that makes you smile.
For all-things home and lifestyle that are sure to stir joy in you, here’s a little something for your first purchase on IUIGA: use code BLOG5 at check-out.