Overspending

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NOTE: This article was originally posted to my previous blog, “The Healing Project,” in April 2010.

I love to shop!  Walking around a boutique or department store, I’m like the proverbial kid in a candy store.  I revel in the delights of pristine new clothes, shoes, and accessories.

Sometimes I am content to just look, but more often than not, I feel tempted – or even compelled – to buy.  I feel as if I lose my sense of reason and rationality when I find myself face-to-face with new things.

I love to shop, and I often buy far too much!

There’s No Reason for Me to Buy So Much!

I often do buy, and at times it’s just too much.  After all, I don’t work in an office surrounded by the same people day in and day out, so I can repeat my outfits more often than those in the corporate world.

In truth, I spend many of my days at home in front of my computer wearing workout clothes.  For much of the time, the only ones who see me are my husband and my cats.   I do enjoy dressing up for my husband when we go out, but he’s fine seeing me dressed casually at home, and I know the cats don’t care if I’m wearing pajamas or a little black dress!  Suffice it to say that I don’t really need a large wardrobe, but need doesn’t seem to factor into the equation much of the time.

A Rare Shopping Outing with a Friend…

Not long ago, I allowed myself the rare weekday outing of shopping with a friend.   I found myself buying things I didn’t really need and which aren’t exactly practical for my life.  As I drove away from the mall, remorse hit me like a ton of bricks.  Not only was I afraid to reveal my purchases to my husband, I felt weak and ashamed.  I had broken my commitments to my husband and to myself around spending and sadly, this was far from the first time I had done this.

A Comedy Brought Realization and Tears

A few months ago, I watched the movie “Confessions of a Shopaholic.”  This movie was supposed to be a comedy, yet it brought me to tears.  While I was watching this movie, I realized that I, like the main character, had a shopping problem.

I hate the feeling of being out of control.  I imagine that the way I feel in a department store is how a compulsive gambler feels in a casino.  I know someone who had a gambling problem and she is steadfast in her belief that she can never gamble again.   I shudder to think of never shopping again, yet I know I need to do something about this problem.

Buying, Returning, and Lack of Self Control

When I buy too much, I often end up returning at least some of my purchases.  This helps to alleviate some of the stress, but it sure would be easier not to buy these things in the first place…  I dread going back to the stores with my tail between my legs, but far worse than my embarrassment is my feeling of weakness and lack of self-control.

Most People Have Compulsive Behaviors

I know that not all of you have shopping problems, but I’m guessing that you can relate on some level.  We all have our compulsive behaviors, whether they be shopping, drinking, eating, sex, gambling, working, or something else altogether.

I have vacillated among several compulsive behaviors throughout my life, with the most difficult being shopping and eating (or at times, not eating).  There seems to always be something, but I am self-aware enough to know there is a much deeper issue than the compulsive behavior itself.

There is an emptiness inside that I am desperately trying to fill, yet I know no amount of new clothes or shoes can fill that hole.   Awareness of this fact is the first step toward healing my shopping problem.  I know I won’t overcome the problem overnight, but I am on the right track.

The Joy of No

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No…. Just hearing that word brings a feeling of joy to my heart.  Why?  Because I now know the freedom and peace which uttering this one simple word can bring to my life.

I have had to learn the hard way the pain of being a “yes woman” and piling too many projects and responsibilities onto the plate of my life.  But I am now enlightened to the power and serenity that becomes possible when one replaces “yes” with “no” on a more regular basis.

Choosing no

The word “No” can bring us freedom and joy.

A Simple Phone Call about a “Good Cause”

Let’s begin with a simple scenario…   You receive a phone call from a local organization asking you to participate on a committee or a fund-raiser.  It seems innocuous enough and besides, it’s for a good cause.  So you say yes and feel good about it at the time.

Then the other shoe drops…  You learn that you’ll need to attend bi-weekly meetings plus spend numerous hours working on projects related to your newly appointed role.  The nice idea of helping out turns into almost a second job and you find yourself spending more and more time on your new project.

Sadly, you find that you now have less time for your hobbies, your family, and your friends.  This may be okay if you feel passionately about what you are doing and if it’s in line with your highest values or fulfills one of your most important goals. But often, that is not the case.

I’m All for Volunteering, But…

Please don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying you should never say yes when approached to lend a helping hand or contribute to a worthy cause.  What I am saying is that some careful contemplation and consideration is necessary before saying yes.

Make sure you get as much information as possible about what you’re being asked to do.  Ask lots of good questions to find out the specific responsibilities of the role, as well as the time requirements.  After getting this information, do a quick check-in with yourself to see what your gut answer is, yes or no.  Trust your intuition; there is a tremendous amount of innate wisdom to be found there.

If You’re Unsure, Delay Before Giving an Answer

If your answer is not a definite yes or no, I’ve found it’s helpful to delay before giving an answer.  A good way to buy some extra time is to say something like,

“I need to look at my current responsibilities to determine if I will be able to give this project the attention it deserves.  I’ll get back to you with my answer tomorrow.”

This type of response will give you some time to carefully consider the request and to determine whether it fits into your life in a positive way.  If the requester demands an answer immediately, say no.  It’s better to err on the side of caution than to commit to something that you may regret later.

Consider the Following Questions

If you have delayed your response to a request, take some time to answer the following questions during your consideration period:

  1. Is this project or task something I want to do?  If it is something you feel you should do but it doesn’t excite you, that’s a good sign that you might want to say no to the request.
  2. What am I willing to say NO to in my life if I decide to take on this new project?  It’s a good practice not to take on anything new unless you first let go of an existing responsibility. This will help you to avoid overwhelm.
  3. Which of my core values or primary goals will this project honor or fulfill?  If the answer is “none of them,” say no!  Find a project which will excite you, as well as honor your values and enable you to meet a treasured goal. 

The Enemy of the Best is the Good

A good rule of thumb is to remember one of Stephen Covey’s famous quotes,

“The enemy of the best is the good.”

There are many projects out there which are valuable and which seem like a nice idea at the outset.   But if you are spending so much time working on things which are good but not great, you won’t have time to engage in pursuits that you’ll really enjoy and which will bring you lasting fulfillment.

You don’t need to say no to everything which comes your way, but for those of us who are more prone to saying yes, it may be helpful to err on the side of caution.  Remember the wisdom of the famous anti-drug slogan, “Just Say No!”  It applies to many other situations in life…

Reflections at Midlife

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NOTE: This article was originally posted to my previous blog, “The Healing Project,” in August 2010.

This coming Sunday, August 8th, is my birthday.  I will turn 44, which officially places me in my mid-forties.   There’s no denying it at this point; I’m now “middle-aged.”  I don’t like the imagery evoked by that term, but I know intuitively that the term has no real intrinsic meaning.

The labels we place on ourselves are what we make them, much like life itself.  To quote an old Talk Talk song from the 80s (I don’t have to worry about “dating” myself since I already gave my age away!), “Baby, life’s what you make it.  Celebrate it!”

What have I learned about life and myself over the years?

Instead of fearing the aging process or denying it, I choose to embrace it and face it head-on.  Although I have the requisite wrinkles and grey hairs that inevitably accompany middle-age, I feel the positive points of having reached this milestone far outweigh the negatives.

I’ve decided to dedicate this post to my reflections at mid-life.

  • What have I learned about life and myself over the years?
  • What would I tell my younger self if I could be transported back in time to talk with her?
  • What wisdom could I impart to her to help make her journey a bit less troubled and fraught with difficulties?

Key Points

I can encapsulate my key words of wisdom into three main points, which I will address in detail below:

  1. Feeling good is more important than looking good.
  2. Life is more than accomplishments.
  3. Strive for balance in all things.

Feeling Good is More Important Than Looking Good

When I was in my teens and twenties (heck, even a large portion of my thirties), looking good was of the utmost importance.  I risked my health in countless ways, all in the pursuit of my image of beauty and perfection.  I starved myself, exercised obsessively, binged and purged, and abused diet pills and other substances in order to achieve the unrealistic and unhealthy level of thinness I felt was attractive.  My eating disorders pushed me to the brink of death on multiple occasions and I am extremely lucky to have survived and to be alive today.

My younger self lived for the moment and didn’t consider the potential lasting repercussions of her actions.  I didn’t realize at the time that I would still be feeling the effects of my misguided behavior many years down the road, yet I am convinced many of the health concerns that continue to plague me are rooted in the self-destructive behaviors of my earlier years.

Sadly, it is only in the absence of good health that many people come to value their physical well-being.  It is all too true that vibrant health and vitality is our greatest blessing and that it is difficult to experience life happiness without it.  The old adage that without our health, we don’t really have anything is painfully true.

If I were granted the ability to speak with my young and troubled self, I would do my best to convince her just how important health is and that feeling good is more important than looking good. I would also strive to expand her view of beauty to include body types other than extreme thinness and to highlight the value of inner beauty.

I am not sure how much of an impact my pleas would have on the young me, as I was extremely depressed and void of any real sense of self-worth at the time, but perhaps my words will have a positive effect on some of my young readers.  If I could turn back the clock, I would embrace my youthful health and strive to be strong, vibrant, and athletic instead of thin and unhealthy.

Life is More Than Accomplishments

When I was younger, my life was all about achievement.  I wanted to graduate college with honors, do the same with graduate school, and climb the corporate ladder to what I thought was “success.”  As I’ve matured, my perspective on success and accomplishment has changed.  The things I thought would lead me to feel happy and satisfied did not produce that result.  I’ve come to realize that true success consists of inner peace and being able to look in the mirror and be happy with the person you see staring back at you.

If you ask a person in his twenties or thirties about his goals for life, it’s likely he will speak about career aspirations and the “American Dream” of owning a home.  Of course, he might also mention his dreams of marrying and starting a family, but chances are his initial statements will be career-related.

If you ask a person in his fifties or sixties to share his goals, the response will generally be focused in a different direction.  He will likely speak of spending more time with his family, pursuing a hobby, or traveling to other areas of the world.  The older person typically values experiences over accomplishments.   This doesn’t invalidate career pursuits, but it does highlight the importance of balance in life.

A few years ago, I was out with a small group and we got to talking about success.  When I lamented my lack of success, I was met with surprise from my companions, who stated that they considered me to be quite successful.  When I tried to argue with them, one woman enumerated the facets of my success:  a happy marriage, living in an area I love, my educational accomplishments, my freedom to set my own schedule and pursue passions, and my continued path toward self-improvement.  When I thought about it, I realized she was right.  Although I didn’t necessarily fit the societal definition of success, my life was quite successful indeed!

Truth be told, I still wrestle with my personal definition of success and grapple with feelings of failure and inadequacy.  However, my view of success has become more expansive in recent years.  It now includes more facets of my life besides career and money and is centered more on living a happy and balanced life.

The midlife me knows that at the end of my life journey, I won’t be wishing I’d spent more time at the office or engaged in the pursuit of career accolades or the financial trappings of success.  If I could, I would tell the younger me that she should invest as much energy in her relationships and passions as in her education and jobs and that she would be happier for this.

Strive for Balance in All Things

I touched on this point above, but it is worthy of repeating.  A balanced life is a happier and more fulfilling life.  The young me would often focus on one aspect of life (such as career) to the exclusion of all other areas.   I would often work very long hours and sacrifice my relationships and health in my steadfast striving to reach certain milestones.

The more mature me knows it isn’t wise to allow any one area of life to occupy all or most of my time and attention.  I now make sure to devote energy to all key facets of my life.  I don’t necessarily dedicate the same amount of time to all areas, but I no longer neglect any area completely.

What Else I’d Tell My Younger Self

There is a lot more that I would say to my younger self if I were given the chance.  I would speak to her about the importance of gratitude, self-awareness, growth, self-respect, kindness, and many other values and traits.  I would also illuminate the subject of balance further, which will be the topic of a future post.  For now, I will simply state that I am extremely grateful to be reaching my 44th birthday and to be on the important and rewarding path toward healing my life!

On Success and the Tonight Show

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The Tonight Show with Jay LenoNOTE: This article was originally posted to my previous blog, “The Healing Project,” in October 2010.

Last Friday, my husband and I went to see a taping of “The Tonight Show.”  This was something we’d wanted to do for a long time but kept putting off.  We are so glad we finally made it happen, as we had a wonderful time!  It was very interesting to see how a show like this evolves behind the scenes.  I recommend it to anyone who is curious and finds themselves in the Los Angeles area.

There Are Lessons Everywhere…

While we were at the taping, I had an experience that is worth writing about in this blog, as it relates to an ongoing issue that is one of the focus areas in my journey to heal my life.  This experience shows that there are lessons inherent in all of life, even things we thought would be purely fun and entertaining.  We should always be open to lessons and gifts in everything we do.

When we got to the NBC studio where “The Tonight Show” is taped, we were given numbers and asked to line up in an audience holding area.   As we were waiting, I noticed a few staffers pulling people out of line to interview them.  My curiosity was piqued, so I decided to smile at one of the staffers and use the power of my thoughts to manifest my becoming one of the interviewees.  It worked and I was pulled out of line a few minutes later!

My 15 Minutes of Fame?

I was asked to participate in a segment of the show called “Q & A with T & J,” in which audience members ask questions of Jay Leno and his guest, Terry Bradshaw.  I was handed my question to ask and was shocked at what it was… “How do you know you’ve reached success in life?”

As a person who is constantly focused on the issue of success and my associated self-doubt, I found it very interesting and perhaps more than coincidental that I would be given this question to ask on national television!

The taping was done and I asked Jay and Terry my question at the appointed time.  It was fun to interact with both of them and to get their humorous take on such a serious question.   Although I was excited to appear on television and posted about it on Facebook, I was disappointed to see that my question ended up on the proverbial “cutting room floor.”   However, I did get to bring my group (which also included my father and stepmother) to sit in great seats in the studio, plus I was given a Tonight Show t-shirt, so all was not lost.

How Do You Know…?

All in all, my Tonight Show visit was a great experience, but I continued to reflect upon the question in the days that followed.  During a walk the next day, I posed the question to my husband, “So, how do YOU know you’ve reached success in life?”

His answer was a good one… He said that for him, success relates to freedom.  He knows he’s successful when he is free to spend his time as he wishes and can make empowered choices for what he wants to do in life.  Success for him doesn’t equate to a particular job title, dollar amount, or material possessions.  It is more related to how he spends his time and how much freedom he has to choose his professional and personal pursuits.

The American Dream?

We talked about how success varies from individual to individual and from society to society.  In our society, the most prevalent measure of success relates to career achievement and monetary earnings.  A person is said to be successful if he or she has a particular type of job or earns over a certain amount (which varies by region).

Home ownership is also a large factor in determining whether or not one is successful, such that the phrase “American Dream” has become synonymous with owning one’s own home.  This collapsing of concepts contributed to the mortgage crisis of recent years, but that situation is a bit off-topic for this blog…

Success vs. Failure

Are you a success or a failure? It’s all relative!

The limited definition for success in our society has many people feeling like failures because they don’t quite “measure up. “ This has been an ongoing issue for me, particularly in the years since I left my corporate job in 2003.  During the past seven years, I haven’t even come close to earning my previous corporate salary, and I’ve changed my career path several times due to acute feelings of disillusionment.   It has become habitual for me to consider myself a failure and that self-inflicted label has wreaked havoc upon my self-esteem.

Redefining Success

I haven’t really taken the time to profoundly consider my personal definition for success in a number of years.  In pondering the Tonight Show question, I remembered a quote I found long ago which deeply resonated for me.  Fortunately, I was able to rediscover this quote through the magic of the Outlook search feature.  It was published in professional coach Chris Barrow’s newsletter in March 2004:

“Success is doing what you love to do, when you love to do it, with people you love working with.” – Chris Barrow

I like this definition as much today as I did six years ago!  It dovetails well with my own definition for success that I have created subsequent to last Friday’s Tonight Show visit.

My New  Definition of Success

So how do I know I’ve reached success in life?  There are five key factors in my newly constructed vision.  I could write a complete post on each of these individual aspects, but I will briefly define them herein.

  1. Health – My recent health challenges have affirmed the truth of the old adage, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.”  Health serves as a powerful foundation for success in all other areas of one’s life.  If we feel healthy and vibrant, we are much more up to the various challenges we take on and we can more readily withstand stressors along the way.  Achieving good health is an accomplishment in and of itself, especially as we age and health becomes much less of a “given” than it was in our younger years.
  2. Freedom – I steadfastly agree with my husband’s assertion that freedom is an integral component of success.  The freedom to choose the type of work we do and where and when we do it is a big part of how successful we feel.  I remember when I was first able to move to Lake Tahoe (and later San Diego) and work from home.  I think that’s when I felt most successful in my work.
  3. Happiness – Success is about so much more than career and money.  I believe a successful life involves joy and happiness each and every day.  If we can stop and ask ourselves at various times of the day, “Am I enjoying what I’m doing?” and answer with a resounding yes, we’ll likely feel much more successful people who feel somber and uninvolved in their activities.
  4. Connection – No man or woman is an island.  As human beings, we want and need to feel a connection to those around us.  We want to experience love and affinity and to develop functional and enriching relationships with the people in our lives.  If I feel connected to others and am able to communicate honestly and deeply with my friends and family, I feel happier and more successful in life.
  5. Growth – It is highly important to me to continue to grow and learn throughout my lifespan.  I want to always feel like I am evolving as a person and discovering new things about myself and the world around me.  I am successful if I can easily answer yes to the question, “Am I growing and learning new things each and every day?”

A New Fresh Outlook

So, have I reached success based upon my own definition?  Not yet, but I am definitely on my way… What’s more, I find this new definition infinitely more inspiring and empowering than the old one to which I subscribed.  I’m not suggesting that career and money are not important in life.  Of course they are, but they are not everything.  While I still hope to achieve career success and earn a decent income, it feels good for me to know I can still be successful in life without reaching those milestones.

Who would have thought I’d learn so much from a trip to see a taping of the Tonight Show?  I now move forward with my healing project with a fresh outlook and new goals.  As I proceed with the final four months of my journey (that is, if I don’t extend it beyond a year…), I am newly invigorated and feel hopeful and positive that I can and will heal my life!

Time Management – or Life Management?

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Time management … Like work/life balance, it is a term which is frequently quoted and often misunderstood.  It is actually kind of a misnomer, as we can’t really manage time.  We are all given the same number of hours in a day, week, or month, and we cannot change this number.  So what we want to manage is not time, but our lives.

Time Management

We can’t really manage time, but we CAN manage our lives.

A Few Questions For You…

  • On how many days do you start out with a “to-do” list and good intentions to accomplish all of the items on the list?
  • On how many evenings do you feel disappointed and discouraged when there are still outstanding items?
  • Do you think to yourself, “I really need to manage my time better”?

If so, I understand.  I have said that same statement to myself many times and have felt the accompanying dismay and self-criticism for not getting everything done.

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

I could now launch into a series of tips for getting more done and making better use of your time.  But that would be akin to putting a band-aid on a wound.  It wouldn’t be getting to the heart of the matter regarding time-management and life management.

In my opinion, the first step for managing your time more effectively is to get a really clear picture of your priorities, what matters most to you.  The following are a few steps to help you to do that.

What Are Your Roles?

First, write down all of the roles in your life.  Your roles are basically your areas of responsibility, as well as your key relationships.  For example, my roles include wife, friend, family member, writer, coach, speaker, volunteer,  and home/financial manager.  Other roles which you could have are that of parent, student, employee, musician, athlete, etc.  The hobbies in which you engage on a regular basis and the organizations to which you belong should be included among your roles.

Next, take some time to rank your various roles in order of their importance to you.  This step can be a bit tricky and may require some deep introspection.  Don’t worry about having the “right” answers.  No one needs to see your list but you, so be honest.  Also, remember that your roles – and their level of importance – can change over time.  We are looking at your priorities at this point in time; the exercise may need to be repeated down the line as your life evolves and your roles change.

Roles, Time, and Focus

After you have your prioritized list of roles, answer the following questions:

  1. How much time do you spend focusing on your highest priorities?
  2. Are you satisfied with the amount of time you spend in your various roles?
  3. Are there some roles which have fallen off your “radar screen”?
  4. Are certain roles occupying the majority of your time and energy?

If you have difficulty answering these questions, it might be helpful for you to track all of your activities for a week using a time grid.  I did this recently and found it very enlightening.  I learned that I spend a lot more time on certain activities (such as email, meals and workouts) than I thought.

Awareness is the First Step Toward Change

As Dr. Phil says, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge,” so awareness is the first step toward powerful change in your relationship to time.  My next article will continue the topic of time management, moving on to how to include your highest priorities in your life on a regular basis.

Turn the Page

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For the past two years, this site was the home page for my wardrobe styling business.  If you visited debbieroes.com up until recently, you could find information about how I worked with clients to help them clean out their closets, discover what looks best on them, and hone their personal and professional style.  While aspects of this work were very fulfilling and I was able to help a number of women feel better about their wardrobes, their styles, and themselves, I’ve decided to move on.

Fork in the Road

I’ve reached another fork in the road in my professional life…

Why I’m No Longer Doing Styling

Before I divulge my reasons for closing the doors on my wardrobe styling business, I’d like to share a bit about why I opted to start that business in the first place. My entry into personal styling evolved out of my own style transformation as I neared the age of forty.  I wanted to transform my quirky way of dressing into a more sophisticated, mature, and classy style.

After a lengthy period of self-exploration and immersion into the topics of style, fashion, and body image, I started applying what I learned to not only help myself but also friends and family members.  Since the feedback I received from these key people was overwhelmingly positive, I decided to launch a new business offering wardrobe consultation services, including closet audits, “shop your wardrobe” styling sessions, and personal shopping.  I believed the unique background I brought to the profession – a lifelong passion for clothing and shopping combined with my education in psychology and life coaching – would offer my clients knowledge, compassion, and perspective.

My primary reason for becoming a stylist was to help women increase their confidence, improve their body image, and feel more empowered to take on the things that matter to them in life. I wanted to focus the bulk of my time on my strength, working with clients, instead of on the process of finding and securing business.   Since I’ve long struggled with the sales and marketing aspects of business, I opted to join a nationwide group of wardrobe stylists (at a considerable cost).  I believed this association would give me a greater chance of success, as well as allow me to partner with others in my new profession.

When my styling group collaboration failed to yield the client referrals I hoped for, I hired a marketing consultant to help me hone my message and promote my business. I also joined several networking groups and professional associations, attended regular business seminars, and started blogging to raise my online profile and search engine rankings.   While these things helped somewhat, I still had a very difficult time obtaining new clients.  In addition, due to the nature of the personal styling business, most new clients only worked with me for a total of ten hours or less.  I was constantly struggling to find new clients and I did not enjoy that part of the business at all.

Then There’s the Shopping…

Part of the reason I decided to enter the profession of styling was because I loved shopping and was good at it.  I was always able to find nice clothing, shoes, and accessories at good prices.  Whereas many women find shopping overwhelming, tiring, and draining, I relish the experience. I can shop and shop – and never drop!  In truth, I shop too much and have struggled with a fairly serious shopping problem since my teenage years.  As a result of my overshopping, I’ve experienced debt, an overloaded closet, and relationship issues, as well as feelings of being out of control.

By becoming a wardrobe consultant and personal shopper, I felt I was making “lemons out of lemonade.”  I reasoned that if I could help others shop and get paid for it, then some good would be coming out of the otherwise bad situation of my compulsive shopping problem.  What I didn’t know was that my work as a stylist would plunge me even deeper into shopaholic hell.  The intense pressure I felt to “measure up” in terms of my appearance and style as a de facto member of the fashion industry had me visiting the online and brick and mortar shops far more than ever before.  In addition, when I shopped with clients, I found myself wanting more and more new things, and the buying cycle intensified.

All of the focus on fashion, style, and new trends had a negative effect on me.  Not only was I shopping pretty much all the time, I also started to feel shallow and like I wasn’t being true to myself.  I wanted to help women feel better about themselves, but I worried I was potentially helping to create more shopaholics to feed the consumption machine in our society.

Recovering Shopaholic Blog

As 2012 drew to a close and I conducted my end of the year clothing inventory (I started tracking my wardrobe at the beginning of 2011 as a way of getting my shopping and wardrobe under control), I was forced to face the grim facts of my compulsive shopping problem.  I had a hopelessly bloated wardrobe and close to half of what I owned had only been worn once – or not at all – during the entire year of 2012!  Clearly, something had to change, especially since my husband and I had made great strides toward simplifying our lives in virtually every other way.

Recovering Shopaholic blog

I started the “Recovering Shopaholic” blog in January 2013.

Inspired by Jill Chivers of “Shop Your Wardrobe,” who healed her shopping addiction through setting rules for herself and blogging about her progress, I decided to start a new blog.  In January 2013, Recovering Shopaholic was born!  At first, I had no idea if anyone would even read what I wrote, but I was surprised at the tremendous response my blog received within a few short months.  I grew a committed readership and started receiving many comments and emails in reaction to my writing.

As I’ve blogged about my journey to overcome shopping addiction, I’ve started to recover.  What’s more, I’ve also been able to inspire others to face their compulsive shopping and simplify their wardrobes.  I started to post more often and spend more time on my blog and less time on my personal styling business.  Over time, what I was doing with the blog felt more important and more in line with my values and personal path.

While the blog does not provide much income (save a bit of affiliate income from Amazon and other businesses), my styling business was not exactly lucrative either, despite the large amount of time and attention I gave it for two years.  Although I was happy to be able to help a small number of women with their closets and image through my styling business, I’m able to touch many more people though my blogging.  It provides me with tremendous personal fulfillment to know my words touch women all around the world who struggle with shopping too much as a way of dealing with their emotional issues.

What’s Next for Me?

I’m not exactly sure what’s next for me in terms of my career.  I’ve tried a number of jobs and several businesses over the years and while a few of them were promising, none of them quite felt like my true purpose in life.  While many people would have given up by now at the not-so-young age of 47, I still believe there is hope for me to find work that both makes a difference in the world and pays a decent income.  I’m inspired by the words of the late, great Steve Jobs:

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.  If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.  Don’t settle.  As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.  And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.”

As I considered shutting down yet another business, I found myself consumed by worry about what other people would think.  I didn’t want to have to tell my family and friends that I had experienced one more “false alarm” in the professional realm. I feared they would consider me a flake – or worse, a loser.  But as I pondered my decision and my future, I was reminded of another powerful quote by the inimitable Mr. Jobs:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” 

So I soldier on and will follow my heart and intuition into the next chapter of my life.  At this point, things are still quite cloudy. I don’t know the specifics of what I will do other than that I’ll continue blogging.  I feel passionate about that pursuit and know I’m making a difference through my writing.  While I struggle with self-confidence in so many ways, I believe in my abilities as a writer.   I’m also considering getting back into life coaching and pursuing potential speaking opportunities, but I will let things “percolate” a bit more before making concrete decisions and plans in those areas.

Watch This Space!

Over the coming months, this site will change to represent my new professional ventures as they evolve.  In many respects, I see myself coming full circle with previous pursuits instead of branching off into something completely new and different.  As things become clearer to me, this website will shift to represent the exciting career developments I feel confident will come my way.  I just have to trust myself and life and listen to the inner voice Steve Jobs spoke about.  As he says, everything else is secondary.

How to Make Your Clothes Last Longer

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Fold your sweaters and knits

If you look inside your closet, do you see garments that are in sad shape?  Do you see fading, pilling, holes, stains, scuffs, and other flaws in your clothing and shoes? Of course, some of these items may be old and past their prime, but others are relatively new and should be in much better shape.

Although there will come a time when even our most treasured clothes and shoes will need to be discarded, there are things we can do to extend the lives of our wardrobes.  This post offers a few tips I’ve found beneficial over the years that I hope will be helpful to you as well.

Buy Better Quality

Sometimes people are surprised that the t-shirt they bought at Target for $10 last year has become stretched out, pilling, and ready to be thrown away.  Now I am not one to knock Target or similar discount retailers, but we need to be realistic in terms of what we’re getting when we shop there.  The clothing offered at such stores is cheap for a reason, and the store is still making a profit despite the low prices we’re paying.  They are cutting corners somewhere and often in multiple places, including fabric type and weight, workmanship, and quality control.

It isn’t an iron clad rule, but it is usually true that you get what you pay for.  It’s fine to shop at lower-end stores, but don’t expect the things you buy there to last forever.  What I recommend is that you purchase wardrobe staples and classics at medium to higher-end stores and buy trendy pieces at the discount retailers.   Trendy items have a shorter shelf life anyway, so it usually isn’t a good idea to spend a large portion of your clothing budget for such things.

Store Your Items with Care

Do you hang your shirts and sweaters on the wire hangers you get from the dry cleaners?  Or do you use the plastic tube hangers that are only slightly better?  If so, please stop that!

Our clothes spend more time in our closets than on our bodies, so it’s important to store them properly.  I recommend that you fold sweaters and knits whenever possible, as they have a tendency to become stretched out when hung.  For other garments, I suggest the felt-wrapped hangers that not only protect your clothes; they also take up less space than standard plastic or wooden hangers.  You can buy the original brand name “Huggable Hangers” at either Target or The Container Store, but I’ve found a similar version at Costco (not currently listed on their website) that works just as well.

Laundry Tips

Most people wash their clothes after every time they wear them and this is often not necessary.  If you’ve only worn something for a few hours or if it wasn’t worn directly next to your skin, you might be able to get another wear or two out of it before a wash is really needed.    Sometimes a quick “spot cleaning” is all a garment really needs to be ready for another wearing.

When you do wash your clothes, here are a few other tips to help extend your clothing life span:

  • Use warm or cold water instead of hot.  Hotter water is harsher on clothing fibers.
  • Wash jeans and pants inside out to minimize color fading.
  • Hand wash bras and other delicate items and lay them flat to dry.
  • Use mesh bags and the delicate cycle when machine washing lace or embellished garments.
  • Hang clothing to dry on a clothesline or drying rack instead of using the dryer.

Shoe and Handbag Care Suggestions

The way we store our shoes also impacts how long they will last.  Store shoes in their original boxes (you can snap a photo to attach to the box for easy identification) or in a shoe rack, as opposed to piling them into a box or on your closet floor.   Use boot shapers to retain the shape of your boots in between wears.

To keep your shoes looking fabulous, I recommend using a Quick Shine sponge.  It’s quick and easy, leaves no mess, and is very inexpensive.  You can even keep one of these sponges in your handbag for quick touch-ups as needed.

Speaking of handbags, they retain their shape best when stored right-side up and stuffed with paper or fabric.  Many better purses are sold in cloth bags that can later be used for storage purposes.  The Container Store sells boxes and shelf separators which are useful for storing your handbag collection.

 

Beware of Sales!

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sales shoppingJanuary is a time of year when sales abound in all of the stores.  Not only are retailers trying to clear out the holiday items that didn’t sell, they’re also trying to make room for their spring merchandise.

As you may know, the fashion industry and retail stores are always a few months ahead of the game.  While we’re still shivering (yes, even here in San Diego!) and donning coats and boots, the stores are beginning to stock everything that’s new and exciting for the warmer weather ahead, even if we won’t feel that warmth for another four or five months.

When a Bargain Isn’t a Bargain…

Sales can be a wonderful thing, but they also present numerous hazards for shoppers. We often lose all common sense when we see a bright red “Sale” sign in front of us.  I say “we” because I too have often fallen prey to the allure of a “bargain” that was just too good to pass up, only to find myself with an unworn wardrobe “orphan” down the line.

Since many of you will be shopping the sales this month, I would like to offer a few tips to help you shop smarter and avoid making misguided discount purchases.

Shop with a List

I always suggest that people maintain an ongoing shopping list to take with them when they hit the stores.  Not only should you create such a list, but you should use it to guide all of your shopping decisions – even when shopping the sales.

I’ve learned this one the hard way.  Since it’s very easy to find tops that fit me (don’t even ask me about pants…), I would frequently snap up beautiful tanks and tees at rock-bottom prices.  Sounds good, right?  But many of those discount purchases, as well as the other tops in my closet, were never or rarely worn because I had far too many of them!  It would have been far better for me to focus on my actual wardrobe needs than to amass more and more of what I already had.

Use your shopping list to target your purchases at the sales, and don’t try anything on that isn’t on your list unless it’s beyond extraordinary.

Shop for What You’ll Wear Now

It’s easy to be tempted to buy in advance for events in the future, but this can be risky.  Sure, you’ll find lots of formal dresses on sale in January, but if your only dress-up events occur around the holidays, what are the chances that you’ll want to wear your sale pieces eleven months from now?  Chances are you’ll want the latest and greatest items, or perhaps your size may shift such that your bargain purchases no longer fit you.

If you’re going to buy something on sale, buy garments which you can wear right away.  For example, you’ll find lots of sweaters, coats, and boots on sale this month.  Since the cooler weather will be around for at least a few more months (and longer for some locales), you can buy such items on sale and wear them immediately.  These purchases will fit your body, the weather, and your current style aesthetic.  If you can’t wait to wear a prospective purchase, and you know you’ll wear it very soon (and it’s on your list!), it’s a good buy.

Ask Yourself this Key Question

One magic question can save you a lot of money on misguided sale purchases:  “Would I buy it at full price?”  If you can honestly answer yes to that question (and the item is on your list and for the current season), it’s a good buy.

So often people buy something because it’s cheap, but they would never consider purchasing the item at full price.  This is one of the biggest hazards of thrift and consignment store shopping, as well as sale shopping.   We have a tendency to make allowances for color, style, and fit when the price tag is low, forgetting that it’s not really a bargain if you don’t wear it.

If you don’t love something enough to buy it at full price, don’t buy it on sale, either.  It’s very likely your purchase will hang in your closet and collect dust!

Damage Control

Last but not least, consider whether or not you’ll be able to return the item should you change your mind.   Even the best shoppers among us can make mistakes at times.   We can get caught up in the sales frenzy or fall victim to poor lighting or “skinny mirrors” in store fitting rooms.  But, unfortunately, many clearance items are “final sale,” eliminating the possibility of returns.

When shopping sales (and in general), it’s best to only buy things that can be returned later if necessary, if not for a refund than at least for store credit.  Try to only purchase “final sale” items when you are absolutely sure they work well for your body, lifestyle, and personality.  Reserve these risky purchases for “10s” that you want to wear immediately!

Take Your Time

I hope these tips have been helpful to those of you who are planning to shop the post-holiday sales.  I will leave you with one final tip… Take your time when shopping.  Some of the worst shopping mistakes are purchases that are made on the fly.  I understand that people are busy and it’s hard to set aside a full day for shopping, but try to give yourself a couple of hours if at all possible.  Take your list with you, try everything on, aim for “10s,” be careful, and have fun!

I gave a few of my best tips, but I know there are more valuable insights out there. If you have any other tips for sales shopping, please share!

Celebrity Body Image Role Models

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In a recent article, I wrote about a few of my personal “body image role models,” women who embody healthy body attitudes and have helped me to cultivate similar perspectives.  Now it’s time to consider the celebrities…

We often hear about the negative effects of the media and the damage created by trying to live up to celebrities in terms of beauty and thinness.  While it’s true that many stars are not good role models for young (and older) women, there are some women in the limelight who possess refreshingly positive attitudes related to weight and body image.

Today’s post shares a few quotes from some of my celebrity body image role models, as well as my commentary on what they had to say.   The women quoted represent various professions – an athlete, a model, a singer, and a reality TV star – but they all have powerful insights to share with those who are working to rehabilitate a negative body image.  It is my hope that you will gain a few tidbits of wisdom or “aha moments” from reading the quotes below.

Beautiful Inside and Out!

 “What I’d like to teach my daughter about self-image and self-esteem is that you’re beautiful on the inside and the outside, and not to get obsessed with pictures that are out there in magazines of skinny models.  I had an eating disorder in college and wanted to look like those models and be thin.  So I’ll probably share that experience with her and let her know that you’re beautiful just the way you are.”  – Dara Torres, Olympic swimmer and mother to a 6 year-old daughter

I have been a fan of Dara Torres for years, both for her athletic prowess and her tenacity to keep pushing herself to succeed at an age when most people in her sport have hung up their goggles.  Now I can add another item to my list of reasons for admiring this remarkable woman.  She is striving to cultivate a healthy body image and self-esteem in her young daughter and hopes to spare her from the pain that she herself endured while growing up.

Parents really can have a positive impact on their daughters and help mitigate some of the damage caused by the unrealistic standards perpetuated by the media and entertainment industries.  Dara is sending a positive message to her daughter that we should cultivate both inner and outer beauty – and above all, self-acceptance!

A Healthy Perspective on Aging

“I don’t have anxiety about [getting older], so I’m not running to get Botox.  Maybe that will change, but I don’t think so.  I feel comfortable in my skin and comfortable with aging, so I think it’s okay that I get wrinkles.”  – Heidi Klum, supermodel and host/producer of “Project Runway

Heidi Klum has always looked beautiful, healthy, and vibrantly youthful.  Her attitude toward aging is a healthy one.   It may help that her heritage is German instead of American.  I’ve found that European women don’t tend to be as obsessed as American women with being wrinkle-free, perhaps because older people are celebrated more in other cultures than here in the United States.

Whatever the reason for Ms. Klum’s attitude on growing older gracefully, it’s a welcomed and refreshing message!  I join her in avoiding Botox and other such anti-aging treatments.  I do my best to take care of my skin, but I’m a 46 year-old woman and it’s okay for me to have some wrinkles!  I don’t need to look like I’m 20; I just want to look like the best possible version of myself.

Accentuating the Positive

 “I am not a sample size, and I am okay with that.  I’m good with who I am.  I like to accentuate the positive.  My waist is something I love to show off.  I’m also happy that more and more women are embracing who they are, because everybody’s different.  You don’t have to be a size 0 to be pretty.  You just have to be comfortable with who you are.” Jordin Sparks, American Idol winner

I think that all women should strive to identify and accentuate the positive aspects of their bodies instead of simply lamenting the aspects they feel are flawed.  This is something I encourage all women to do!  We all have positive attributes that can be highlighted and celebrated, regardless of our size.

Most women are unable to achieve a model-thin figure without excessive diet, exercise, and obsession, but we all can look our best and show off our best traits.  For me, it’s my arms and shoulders.  I am blessed with toned and slender arms and broad, square shoulders.  I do my best to highlight those features through the way I dress.  I am also grateful for my height and long limbs.  I am much happier when I reflect upon my positive attributes than when I curse my hips and thighs.  It’s all about where we place our focus!

Embracing Your Curves

“All my friends were super-skinny.  I watched my mom and she helped me with my outlook.  I have curves and that’s never going to change, so I’d better start embracing them.”  – Kim Kardashian, reality TV star and entrepreneur (on growing up in Hollywood)

Kim Kardashian is echoing the positive message expressed by Jordin Sparks above.  Ms. Kardashian not only embraces her curves, she is known for them and has become a very wealthy woman as a result of being a “poster child” for curves in Hollywood.

I, for one, am happy to see women with curvier bodies becoming famous and being regarded as sexy and beautiful in our society.  Had Kim Kardashian hidden her curves or dieted down to a standard Hollywood body type, I doubt she would be as successful and famous as she is today.  She also embodies confidence and self-acceptance, which are as sexy as her curves, in my opinion.  Kudos to Kris Jenner, Kim’s mom, for teaching Kim to be proud of who she is and to love herself and her curves.

Who Are YOUR Celebrity Body Image Role Models?

I know that there are many more celebrity body image role models out there. If you have any quotes you’d like to share, I welcome your feedback and may even include your quote in a future post.

Body Image Role Models

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Body Image Role ModelsA lot of attention is given to celebrities who have enviable figures.  We’ve all seen magazine articles with such titles as “The Hottest Hollywood Bodies,” “Body after Baby,” and a multitude of other stories chronicling celebrity weight loss and body ideals showcased by the stars.  Similarly, many of us know “real people” with amazing physiques and we may compare our own bodies to theirs and find ourselves coming up short.  Seeing beautiful bodies can either motivate us or deflate our spirits, depending upon our mindsets and how we feel about our chances for achieving our body goals.

While it can be helpful to have body role models, it is even better to have body image role models, especially for those of us who are working to rehabilitate a negative body concept.  This post will highlight a few of my personal body image role models and show what I’ve learned from the women in my life who embody healthy attitudes toward their bodies.

Role Model #1 – Refreshing Friend

For much of my twenties and thirties, I found it exceedingly rare to meet a woman who didn’t continuously expound upon her diet and weight loss pursuits.  As someone who was desperately trying to overcome a deadly eating disorder, it was not healthy for me to engage in such discourse.

This is why I found it so refreshing to find one friend who didn’t waste a single moment disparaging her body or discussing her battles with weight and food.  She didn’t have to make an effort to avoid such talk; it simply didn’t occur to her to worry about these things.  She embraced her body for what it was, ate what she wanted when she was hungry, and went about her life.  Yes, it helped that she was naturally slim, enjoyed exercise and outdoor activities, and had grown up eating natural, healthy food.  However, as she gained weight in her late thirties and early forties (as can often be the case), she continued to love and accept her body and treat it with honor and respect.

Wrong Clothes, Not Wrong Body

I am grateful to this friend for being a body image role model to me for close to twenty years.  She showed me an alternate way of thinking and behaving in regards to body image, and it was healthy for me to spend time with someone who refrained from negative body talk and obsessive diet and exercise activities.

I remember shopping for clothes with my friend on a number of occasions. When she would try on garments that didn’t fit, she didn’t blame her body, as is common for women to do.  She either grabbed the next size up or decided the particular clothing style didn’t suit her and moved on to something else.  She knew she was just fine the way she was, that garment manufacturers tailored their clothing to particular body types, and it was just a matter of finding the right brand and style for her body.  In short, the clothes were wrong (for her), not her body.  A powerful distinction that is important to remember!

Role Model #2 – Confident Family Member

Another body image role model is a relative who has fluctuated in weight quite a bit over the years.  She has vacillated between having a tight, taut and fit figure and being dramatically overweight, and I never know how she will look when I see her.  However, no matter what she weighs, she has never expressed any feelings of shame toward her body.

This woman has no problem getting changed in front of others and will proudly strut around in the buff regardless of whether she’s thin or heavy.  She has a freedom around her body that I truly envy and greatly admire.   She also doesn’t make her weight mean anything about herself as a person.  She knows she is intelligent, capable, lovable, and fabulous no matter where the needle on the scale may fall.  She doesn’t let her body image dictate her self-image.  Who she is consists of infinitely more than what she weighs.  I aspire to be more like her in this regard and I honor her for what she’s taught me about body pride over the years.

Role Model #3 – She Loves Her Curves!

I have a new friend who is also a body role model for me.  This woman is beautifully curvy with a figure similar to the wonderful Christina Hendricks.  She proudly showcases her curves in body conscious clothing that makes the statement, “I love my body and enjoy showing it off.”  Her outfits are always beautifully put together and give off a powerfully confident “bombshell” vibe.

I already admired this woman, but then I learned she used to be sixty pounds heavier.  Amazingly, when she started to accept her body, take more pride in her appearance, and dress the body she had, she was able to drop the excess weight.

I could tell her story, but she chronicles it so beautifully herself in her own words that I will let you read it for yourselves.  Of note is that she reveals both her highest weight and her current weight in her article.  There is absolutely no shame attached to either number for her.  I aspire to be more like this amazing (and young!) woman.  That she was able to overcome her body image issues at such a young age is a tribute to both her strength and fortitude.

Lessons from My Role Models

In closing, I would like to recap the lessons I have learned from the three body image role models I briefly introduced above.  These three magnificent women have taught me the following:

  • There is so much more to life than dieting and weight loss.
  • All bodies are worthy of love and acceptance.
  • Take pride in your body regardless of its shape and size.
  • It is normal and natural for our bodies to change as we age.
  • Dress for the body you have, not the body you wish you had.
  • If clothes don’t fit you, your body isn’t bad or wrong!
  • Your body image should not dictate your self-image. You are not your weight or shape!
  • We all have positive body attributes that are worthy of showing off.

The list could go on and on, but the items above capture the most powerful lessons I’ve learned from my personal body image role models.

Body Love and Acceptance

When you look around for role models related to your body, I encourage you to search for those who will help you feel better about your body instead of worse.  I urge you to find those women in your life who embody body love and acceptance and who can help you develop those same desirable qualities.   We can all find bodies to admire and envy, but real growth and empowerment come from emulating those who can push you toward the ultimate prize, true body acceptance!