Enough is Enough

One of my favorite things over the last several months has been listening to the Raw Milk podcast, a creative business podcast by writer, photographer, and Instagram expert Beth Kirby. In the episode titled Business and Finance for Creative Entrepreneurs, Beth interviews business strategist and finance coach Shanna Skidmore, and they talk extensively about the concept of enough – defining it, achieving it, and finding contentment in it. For the most part, their discussion of enough centers around money, but after listening to the episode, I couldn’t help dwelling on it as an allegory to my own closet.

The gist of the conversation is this: as a culture, we are indoctrinated to believe that more is always better. Our goals are rooted in the ideal of more without identifying what more will actually do for us. A six-figure salary sounds good, and so do a million Instagram followers, but…why? What is that salary paying for? More stuff? What do those Instagram followers mean to us? More prestige? And when we get all that money and all those followers, what then?

We want more, usually.

Over the course of the episode, Shanna talks about coaching her clients to identify more than just a number that seems arbitrarily good because it is large. She asks them to define what would be enough. What do they actually want, and how much money does it take to achieve that? That should be the guiding principle, Shanna argues, not just going after more for more’s sake.

That conversation haunts me a little bit every time I go on a late night Poshmark spender-bender or make another shopping list. I keep adding more, even though I’ve pledged to consume less, and frankly, I’m exhausted by this relentless pursuit of a “perfect” wardrobe. I find myself struggling to determine if my desire for more is a genuine, justified route to the wardrobe I envision for myself, or if it’s just an empty promise being sold to me by companies that specialize in making us feel like one more thing will make us complete.

Here’s an example. Last week, the online clothing retailer Everlane dropped a random $20 of store credit into my account. Exciting! I shared the info with friends who learned that they, too, were the recipients of the mysterious $20. At that point, I felt like it was my duty to share the tip more broadly with my Instagram following, and it blew up. Lot’s of people had the credit. Some people didn’t. Some cited an email from Everlane that included a deadline after which the credit would disappear. As the DMs rolled in and the frenzied browsing intensified, that initial excitement turned to anxiety, and then quickly, to dread.

I spent most of my day browsing the Everlane website and trying to decide if I wanted to use the $20 to offset the cost of an investment piece (like a cashmere sweater or a silk camisole – things I could not really afford even with the $20 discount and was considering going into even more credit card debt for, by the way), or choosing a basic, like a t-shirt or underwear, the cost of which would be covered entirely by the store credit, leaving me guilt-free (or so I rationalized).

In the end, I bought a black cotton turtleneck, which was on my fall wish list prior to credit-gate and with shipping cost me just about the price of lunch. I texted my friend and said, “I bought a turtleneck, just to put myself out of my misery.”

I’m not an expert, but even I can tell you that if shopping is making you miserable, you’re doing it wrong. I don’t really regret the turtleneck – I probably would have bought one within the next few weeks, anyway – but I regret how that simple “gift” of $20 sent me spiraling. I needed to get more while the gettin’ was good. In the aftermath, I thought again and again about enough, and whether I’d ever be able to define and rest on it without getting caught up in the fever pitch of shopping for something new.

I feel like this is normally the part of the post where I tell you how I figured something out and explain in a neat little numbered list how you how you can do it too, but today I’m coming up short. What I have so far is just a vague direction, a notion of what needs to happen for me to get to a place of contentment and to feel like enough is enough.

Part of it looks like pulling back from Instagram. I’m currently taking a little break, living my life unexamined and refreshing my aesthetic palette. For a week, I can be free from the constant compulsion to scroll and post and tag and shop. In the coming weeks, I’ll attempt to create a healthier Instagram schedule that protects me from that anxiety and doesn’t always leave me roiling with envy over wardrobes that I perceive to be so much better than my own.

Another part of it looks like reprioritizing my daily activities to contribute to meaningful goals (i.e. getting out of debt, saving for a house, working on writing as a craft and a career). When I’m only focused on comparing my wardrobe to other wardrobes, I forget its real function, which is not to compete but to serve – to serve me in my everyday life and in the activities that I do. What kind of wardrobe supports me in the goals I have for my life?

Lastly, I think part of it does still involve occasionally buying stuff – thoughtfully, and balanced by the removal of other stuff, but still buying stuff. I have a vision for my style that I want to work toward, however muddied it may have become since Instagram hijacked my brain. I’m not at that ideal place yet, and I’m not sure that I do have enough, but I’m working harder now on figuring it out.

-r

5 thoughts on “Enough is Enough

  1. I’m the same. My goal from now on is to sew my own wardrobe, and with two small boys my sewing time is virtually nonexistent. Which in turn means that I have to really consider what I will make. Instagram has served its purpose in helping me to narrow in on what I really need, but now it’s definitely time to rein in the time I spend on my phone.

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  2. There’s so many emotions and feelings wrapped up in shopping and dressing. It’s bad enough when you’re just contending with passively comparing yourself to others. Then marketers get involved… That $20 gift wasn’t a gift, it was the same as a promo code for $20, which I bet all of us would be a lot better at resisting. “I don’t need anything right now even though I’ve got this coupon.”

    But the excellent marketers at Everlane knew that seeing that credit sitting in your account (and giving you that deadline) would do exactly what it did — make you panic a little! Make you feel like you had something to lose if you didn’t act. Boy did it work! I bought something too.

    I don’t have a pat takeaway for how to become OK with “enough” instead of desiring more. Oftentimes I think it takes making the mistakes to learn from them. I feel guilty when I overdo it on purchasing, and then ruminate on it for weeks. I try to channel that icky guilt feeling the next time I feel pulled to make a purchase. It’s probably not the healthiest, haha.

    Taking a step back from distractions and triggers like you are this week seems more sustainable. Sometimes I look up and think, “Gee, I haven’t thought about buying anything lately. That wasn’t so bad.” It’s those moments we need to remember, to remind ourselves of the mantra “enough is enough” even when it doesn’t feel true. Like any habit, slowing our desires takes time and persistence before things start to feel more natural.

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  3. Yes I got that credit too and it did make me feel panic – panic to find something to buy before it expired. I didn’t like feeling that way and in the end skipped it. Yesterday morning when I woke up and thought about it, I was happy it was gone.
    I don’t want companies or people to make me feel like I’m missing out on things/perfection/happiness. Enough is enough – thank you.

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  4. I identify with everything you wrote, and so appreciate your honesty and openness about the situations and the emotions around them.

    My actionable plan is that I’m doing a shopping fast for a few months (not all items, but clothes, shoes, accessories, makeup, new skincare products that aren’t refills, etc.) to sort of realign myself, but I’m in a place I can do that. I won’t be cold or wet or miserable this fall or winter if I don’t purchase clothing, my shoes and boots are in good condition, my favorite coat crapped out but I have another one I can wear that’s warm, I haven’t recently gotten much bigger or smaller, I’m not going through a medical condition that necessitates new clothes, and I don’t need new clothes for work or a side hustle. So it’s a good choice for me, for now.

    I started the fast Sept 1, and I already tried to talk myself into breaking in. On Sept 1. But got over the first hump. Then the second. And now it feels okay. Almost spacious? And less frantic and terrible all the time.

    I’ve started a list, very very small, of the items I’m considering for next summer, and it feels fun again. It also feels nice to think through how they fit my style vision versus that of everyone else on Instagram. It really does hijack one’s brain. :-/

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  5. I also bought something with the Everlane credit! Normally my strategy is to stick stuff on a Pinterest board called “Investment Purchase,” where it can hang out until I’m ready to pull the trigger, a sale comes around, or I move on.

    This time I replaced a couple of Everlane T’s that had holes…and also fell for a new silk tank. Whoops.

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