OPINION: I've taken steps to kick my addiction to buying new clothes

Rachel Moore admits she was addicted to buying new clothes

Rachel Moore admits she was addicted to buying new clothes, but is kicking the habit in 2002 and only buying second hand clothes - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

To get value from the clothes we wear, each item should be worn 33 times.

Three times would be pushing it for many women. A much-quoted statistic is that most women wear just 20 – 30% of their wardrobes.

The rest just sits there taking up valuable space and gathering dust.

Clothes shopping has shifted from an essential chore to a leisure pastime, with shoes collected like stamps and old coins once were. With the growth of throwaway fast fashion, buying clothes has become a hobby.

Very little is replaced because it’s worn out. We buy and rebuy in multiples, leaving the results of a day trudging around the shops with friends, hanging unworn, unnoticed and neglected in cupboards for years.

Online shopping has made a bad habit worse. Browsing sites makes clicking to buy so easy. Then the item turns up in crisp new packaging, giving a little thrill.

It is addictive and becomes habit.

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Last month, I realised my habit was out of control. 2022 was designated the year when I try not to buy anything new.

Turning the former study into a walk-in wardrobe was such an overwhelming experience, uncovering stuff I had forgotten existed. The amount of clothes I had, and barely wore, felt mountainous and obscene.

And lockdown made most of my work wardrobe redundant.

Cupboards and every available space in my home are stuffed full of vacuum bags full of bits and pieces that haven’t seen the light of day for years.

Like many people I know, I rarely get rid of anything, to the point when I was ever so slightly sickened by the amount of clothes, coats, jackets shoes and boots collected over the years.

MP’s wife Baroness Anne Jenkin, said in an interview last month that weaning yourself off clothes shopping is like weaning yourself of sugar. “You won't want to do it again.” I imagine she is right.

I weaned myself off sugar years ago, so addressing stopping buying clothes should be a breeze.

She claims to own just 10-15 items of clothing. That’s enviable. No paralysis in the face of choice every day. Loads of storage space and packing for trips away must be a cinch.

It’s what stylists call “a capsule wardrobe”, which once felt like an affectation but now feels like a mindful life choice.

My favourite wardrobe of the year is when we take an old Broads river cruiser for a week and I’m allowed just one small bag. No choice, no stress. Simple.

Baroness Jenkin says she has only bought “undies” in the last 10 years, and “refreshes” her wardrobe at charity shops and online selling sites and has no intention of buying new clothes again.

My addiction issue came to a head when we were moving offices and the Hermes delivery driver looked genuinely distraught that our new office was out of her area. I was one of her biggest customers, she said. I wasn’t proud.

Deep disgust at the mountains of chuckaway clothes that end up in landfill every year, and the obscenity that is the fast fashion industry was my motivation to stop.

But I love clothes and outfits. I have since I was a child. Like some people like horse riding or cycling, Clothes have always been my ‘thing.’

At university, my dear friend was bemused how I had no old clothes, and everything “went together.”

Scrolling Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration for how to put clothes together is how I spend down time. I’m not ashamed. Taking pride in appearance isn’t a negative but fuelling a fast fashion industry and the horrors it masks, then filling landfill with discarded tat is.

Instagrammers and stylists/influencers don’t help, encouraging people to buy, buy, buy.

Realism and self-awareness told me that going cold turkey was pointless. Inspired by online accounts of other women who look for second hand, vintage and charity shop finds, my resolution was no new clothes, but the odd foray to charity and second hand shops.

Long gone are the days when shopping with friends was pleasure. I’d rather wrap up and walk on a windswept beach on a Saturday than spend a day shopping.

It feels obscene seeking gratification by retail and there are far better things to do.

Like many things these days, I look to younger people for inspiration. My sons, 25 and 22, have the least possessions of anyone I know. They actively seek out the secondhand and vintage and eschew “stuff.”

Possessions weigh them down and they look to second hand selling sites like Depop and eBay to buy their clothes.

Now, six weeks in, it’s been huge fun. Friends have been inspired to join me, in the not buying new and looking to second hand.

I’ve donated my old stuff and found some amazing finds in Norfolk and Suffolk charity shops, including an exquisite lovely MaxMara red wool coat for £6, a silk shirt still for sale on the label’s website for £130 for £3 in my village charity shop and a Jaegar jacket for £3.

Giving a home for something that could end up in landfill gives even more of a buzz than fuelling fast fashion.