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.