Wedding Wednesday: The Dress

This post contains affiliate links.  This does not affect your browsing experience, cost, etc of things at the other end of said links in any way.  I’ve been getting really annoyed lately at the amount of people who don’t disclose this, so now if I see a link in someone’s blog to a shopping site, I have to assume it’s an affiliate link unless they’re upfront about it in their linked posts and about page.

The dress was one of the first and last things I found. It was the first, I bought it for £12.99 and it arrived 18 months before our wedding – before we even had a date. It was beautiful, and everything about it seemed perfect except… it was too short in the body. It was a jumpsuit comprising of 2 parts, an opaque figure hugging inside in white sequin and a see-through outer part in floaty white. It was beautiful. But the opaque inner was too short on the body meaning either my booty could fit in or my boobs could, but not both at the same time. This was super unfortunate and I thought I could fix it with some straps and some extra trim around the bottom but I made about 10 modifications to it and it still didn’t fit my height, so I gave up with three months to go before the wedding.  I will do something with it at some point I’m just still deciding.

I then had a series of dresses that didn’t turn up, didn’t look remotely like the picture, weren’t designed to fit actual people; one even got cancelled on Ebay after bidding had ended because it hadn’t sold for enough (they hadn’t put a reserve on, they just cancelled the bid and refunded my payment that I sent straight after the listing ended.  They even emailed and told me they’d sold it elsewhere. Disgraceful)… In the end, the dress was the last thing I bought; with two weeks to go, I bought a £10 white satin dress on Ebay that was completely perfect, and it arrived a week before the big day.  It was an ex-Debenhams either overstock or factory second, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with it and it fitted perfectly.  It was satiny fabric but it was actually 100% polyester, and the satiny layer was overlaid with that fine meshed plain lace that the veil is also made of, all made of polyester which is made from three chemicals which are petroleum byproducts (as is plastic, because as I’ve discussed somewhere before, chemicals aren’t made from nothing they’re all made from the natural resources on our planet):

My £10 wedding dress, on my actual wedding day.  That's about $16.
The Dress
A full length candid shot of the dress during movement.
A full length candid shot of the dress during movement.  Not the best photo of me but a good pic of the dress.

My veil cost £2.50 and came from China.  I advise you to read listings carefully to check exactly what you’re getting – some veils don’t come with a comb, for example, so are just a big square of filmy fabric.  Mine came with a comb and it said freshwater pearls but I knew they would be at the very best made of glass, and were actually made of plastic, which was perfect because pearls are an animal slaughter byproduct.

My shoes were a story in and of themselves that I’ll come to on the actual day.  These were the ones I bought for the wedding:

Silver jelly shoes currently going for about £7 ($10) here: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/D14-Summer-Ladys-Mary-Jane-Jelly-Hollow-Shoes-Breathable-Crystal-Sandals-UK-/141563283137?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&var=&hash=item20f5d446c1  But there are plenty of other sellers for these if you use similar search terms such as
Silver jelly shoes currently going for about £7 ($10) here: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/D14-Summer-Ladys-Mary-Jane-Jelly-Hollow-Shoes-Breathable-Crystal-Sandals-UK-/141563283137?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&var=&hash=item20f5d446c1 But there are plenty of other sellers for these if you use similar search terms such as “ladies jelly sandals wedges” it just takes some looking to get the right one in a good size.

I made my own jewellery using crackle Glass Beads and plastic glow in the darkpony beads and semi-precious beads and elastic and nylon wire from Amazon.  I started making the jewellery about 4 months before the wedding and found that it was a good de-stress project during the planning stages.

I accessorized with a unicorn bag that I’ve had for ever and a broccoli bouquet because I don’t like the idea of wasteful flower bouquets and broccoli could be eaten by the rabbits later in the day.  Broccoli was 49p at Morrissons, we took our time to choose a really nice symmetrical one the day before the wedding. It made for some damn good photos, and we spent absolutely nothing on flowers which was amazeballs because I felt like the cost of floristry was going to be mandatory wedding robbery when I don’t like large quantities of flowers that aren’t growing somewhere.

One thing I hated about dress shopping was that there’s this expectation that you are an inadequate human being if you don’t spend hundreds or thousands of pounds on a dress.  In all the wedding planning sites I looked at, I was shocked that there was an assumption that the dress would be up to 1/3 of the budget (excluding honeymoon).  Unless your wedding only contains three items – your dress, his suit and a priest (no rings, no indoor space to get married in, no food, no invites etc) – it’s a little disproportionate.
You don’t even need to spend £50 to get a decent dress that will look really nice on the day and in the pictures afterwards.  It doesn’t need special stitching or whatever because probably you won’t wear it again (even if you think you will), it doesn’t need preserving because it’s only special to you, and it doesn’t need saving for children because they want to choose their own dress.  Just like you did.   Think about those articles that say things like “you can use your mother’s wedding dress by cutting it into pieces and wrapping the bouquet with it” then think whether that’s worth £250 or £2500 to you, for your child to take a pair of scissors to it at some point in the future and use it as a tablecloth or bouquet wrap for their own wedding.  Bear in mind they’re probably only doing it so you don’t feel bad that they don’t want to wear your dress.  Was that worth the effort?  I decided in my case that it was all insane levels of excessive money and object gluttony, and I wanted to start the marriage as I meant to go on.

In the words of Francine Smith’s Chinese Parents:  Wastefulllll.

You wasteful!
Wasteful!

As I kept reading this crap I felt myself straining against it as it tried to suck me in.

Keep yourself safe from being brainwashed by the Wedding Industry, friends.  A minimalist wedding is possible and the bride’s (or brides’ – YAY GAY MARRIAGE) outfit is one of the hardest stages to keep your resolve, particularly if you get hypomanic spending like I do.

Total cost of bride’s outfit including “bouquet”: About £30.  £43 if we’re counting the first one.

Wedding Wednesday: Setting The Budget

This is my 100th post, and I just want to say how amazed I am that you guys read stuff wot I write.

This is another of my wedding articles, today we talk budgets; this is probably the most serious, judgemental and opinionated post I will ever write.  Remember folks, this is my opinion, if you don’t like it, there are trillions of mainstream wedding websites filled with articles that can suck you back into the safety of the lunatic idea that £5000 to £10,000 ($10,000 to $20,000) is a budget wedding.  It’s an idea that many of my friends’ weddings subscribed to.  This article will be unashamedly one sided in favour of not wasting money, because I pride myself in trying to show brides-to-be that there is another way, that you don’t need to buy into the stuff you were culturally conditioned to accept, that one bride – this bride – had a modern wedding for vastly under £1000.  Yup.  I’ll write that in words in case you’re lost.  My wedding didn’t come near costing a thousand pounds.  Yours doesn’t have to either.

As a child, I think I only ever drew a wedding picture once.  I didn’t like them because the dresses had to be white which meant you couldn’t colour them in.  That was super-boring.  I preferred drawing princesses in huge flowing dresses of yellow, green, blue, purple and orange.  Never pink.  I think my mum threw out all the pink crayons before they ever got to me.  I might have been four.  You know what else I wanted to do when I was four?  Be an astronaut and eat chocolate and live in a castle and have hair that was blonde and longer than my feet.  In Hawaii.  I also wanted to be the greatest composer who ever lived, learn how to sing like Pavarotti and for it to snow every day.  I also wanted to go to Argos more often, because it meant we sneaked chips from the chip shop when my dad-who’s-not-my-dad was at home growing peas in the garden.  I also wanted to be a mouse and drive a tank and hang out with Berk from TrapDoor, Snuffy and Big Bird from Sesame Street, and Thomas the Tank Engine, and play Lego with them.

My point is, four year old me had no freaking clue what was reasonable or practical.  Being an adult is about having major fun and happiness but in ways that are possible, do-able, and ensure you get to have future fun and happiness.  That’s why they let us cross the street on our own.  Basing your financial decisions on something a four year old came up with results in such disasters as The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl In 3D.  It’s worse if you were the four year old, because one day you will wake up and be unable to believe that a responsible adult (future you, in fact) actually threw inconceivable amounts of money at turning one adult day into something better suited to a little girl’s birthday party.  And forced a boy to go along with it.

While researching things for my wedding I came across loads of “budget bride” articles and websites and every single one of them had a “budget” in mind that was a) many times what I was willing to spend and b) treated it like it was the booby prize.  Oh, you’re poor, but you can still fritter the money you don’t have on a wedding, said the subtext.  A dress for £500. A starter ring for £600.  A cheap theme.

We knew from the outset that we absolutely did not want a super-expensive wedding. Our relatives assumed that we wanted a low cost wedding because we didn’t have much money. We were both bringing in a comfortable amount of money at the time, and I didn’t really know the word “minimalist” so couldn’t articulate why I/we felt so strongly that we didn’t want to waste £5,000 or more on a one-day event.

I had a lot of conversations that ended with me being steamrollered into tears by relatives trying to throw money at me and suggesting more and more ridiculous and extravagant ideas. One example was when a relative asked to take me dress shopping, after I’d bought my dress, and when I politely declined (she knew I had a dress already), she said “but that’s not your real dress, is it? Five hundred pounds is a good price for a wedding dress.” I pointed out that it was my real dress, and that it had cost ten pounds. She then asked if my £10 wedding dress needed any alterations, because she would like to pay for that. I have never needed a single clothing alteration in my life that I couldn’t do by myself with my sewing machine or my bare hands.  I politely tried to explain that we were happy paying for our own wedding, that we were very flattered that (assorted relatives) wanted to take an interest in the wedding, and that we were fine for money.  I will discuss how we survived the relatives a lot more in a separate article, later.

Additionally we had just bought a house (the sale completed in mid-September) when we started making these big wedding decisions, and we’d just ploughed all of our life savings into our deposit, so we could take out the smallest possible mortgage, which meant we weren’t very keen to make another large-scale expenditure any time soon.

I looked around at wedding ideas and made some pricing enquiries before finally settling on a complete budget of £500 (with a £200 tolerance, because weddings always go “over budget”). We felt that this would enable us to have the wedding we wanted, on our own terms, without having to pay for it in ten years’ time.  My biggest way of saving money on the wedding?  Buy most of your stuff from China.  I didn’t buy my dress from here because Chinese sellers seemed singularly incapable of producing a dress that was anything like the pictures, but my veil and shoes came from China.  I wrote an article about this for Offbeat Bride, which details what you need to know about buying from China.  You can find it here.  Naming specific sellers to recommend is pointless because they often have multiple selling IDs and the one who was good at one point isn’t necessarily going to have what you want to buy in the future.

As a side note, Offbeat Bride is an excellent resource if you’re looking for inspiration and encouragement for your non-standard wedding.  They aren’t geared up towards the sort of budget that I had, I’d say they’re representative of all budgets, but they do have a wide range of different ideas and whatnot.  I will refer to them more in future articles because they really helped me keep my sanity and if you’re doing a non-standard wedding I highly recommend you sign up to their forum because the Offbeat Bride Tribe is the most supportive wedding community you can find; my favourite part is that there is a total embargo on talking about weight loss.  No-one’s asked me to say that, they don’t even know I’m writing articles on weddings, but they are amazing so go check them out.

There’s a lot of scaremongering about how you can end up with a disaster if you spend less money on a wedding, but I am here to tell you that, while that’s possible, it’s also possible to have an awesome wedding.  It comes down to how much work you, as an individual, are prepared to do and how flexible you are about the whole thing when it comes to specific wedding ideas, and at the same  time how rigid you can be in the face of mainstream criticism.  This is where Offbeat Bride really came into its own for me – there are loads of examples of weddings that attracted a lot of mainstream criticism, but the brides went, “this is how I’m doing it.”  You also need to be a bit cynical about anything you buy from overseas (see my article on buying from China).  My £10 dress was anything but a disaster:

My £10 wedding dress, on my actual wedding day.  That's about $20.
My £10 wedding dress, on my actual wedding day. That’s about $20.

Other ways I saved money included driving myself and my future husband to our wedding in my own car, cooking all the food myself (because there were no vegan caterers that remotely covered my area), buying a pre-loved ring (my ring would have cost about £1700 brand new), and using a public park as the celebration venue.

What I found really hilarious during the budgeting phase was the amount of articles saying “20 ways to spend £500 on your wedding” which always began, “got an extra £500 to spend?” and always featured 20 items which were always *just over* £500. Because they haven’t squeezed enough money out of a bride until she’s actually had a heart attack from the pressure of all that money.

That was another big reason I didn’t want to spend on the wedding – with a huge expenditure, non-refundable deposits and items that are out of their refund period, comes the weight of having to live up to that expectation. To perform, to be perfect, and most of all… to not back out of it at the last minute. These were stresses that I didn’t need, especially since I quit teaching in February 2014 due to a newly-formed anxiety disorder that was directly caused by my previous teaching job.

Seriously though, who even thinks to themselves, “well I spent £15,000 on the wedding, it is a little over-budget, but y’know what? Sod it, I’m gonna buy me a £589 glass bowl to put fruit in. … and some fruit to put in it. Because it’s my wedding.”

I felt a bit sick when I saw what some people had spent money on for their wedding. I felt even sicker when I saw the amount of ebay listings for the shoes I was after, which had the line “bought new for my wedding but I ended up buying another pair so they are unworn.” These shoes retailed at over £100 brand new. I couldn’t buy them in the end, the consumerism was just too tragic. I felt the sickest when I saw the wedding drama that some people had created for themselves by demanding tens of thousands of pounds from their poor parents then getting all bitchy that mom or dad wanted some kind of say in what that money got spent on. If I gave someone that kind of money, I’d want it invested. This was the stirrings of the start of my journey into minimalism.

The thing that really gets me is that people don’t actually notice all that crap that clutters up the modern wedding. Ask your average wedding guest what they thought of the seat covers, the tablecloths, the *insert superfluous accessory or item of decor here* and they’ll maybe notice one or two if they were unique or interesting. Mostly they won’t care. People who you should care about go to weddings to see other people get married (and party together afterwards). The rest of them don’t matter.

We didn’t really save up or put money in a separate account or anything, we just used money as we got it to buy things as we found them, and kept track of it in a spreadsheet that looked like this:

The formula to get the total is "=SUM(B2:B13)" (you change the letters and numbers inside the brackets depending where the stuff you want to total up is found).
The formula to get the total is “=SUM(B2:B13)” (you change the letters and numbers inside the brackets depending where the stuff you want to total up is found).  As you can see, I was £20.49 over tolerance!!!!!

At the end of the day, no matter what all the mainstream wedding media tells you, you can have a beautiful, moving, happy and, especially, memorable wedding without gorging yourself by frittering money away.

This was for about 80 guests, by the way.

Is there anyone else out there who is totally unwilling to waste gajillions of pounds on something that was generated in four-year-old crayon pictures; drawings that should stay where they belong – on your parents’ fridge?

Wedding Wednesday: How to organise your planning

Minimalist Vegan Wedding:

In this series of articles, I’m going to discuss my wedding, paying particular attention to the planning and veganisation. I will also share with you my resources and inspirations.

Me on my wedding day, June 21st 2014.
Me on my wedding day, June 21st 2014.

The concept:

Neither my fiancee nor I had ever really thought about what sort of wedding we should have. We got engaged in 2011 and then we didn’t get married until 2014. Around November 2013, we woke up one morning and said to each other, “you know what? We should start planning our wedding.” Just about the only thing we knew was that we didn’t want it to be expensive. We decided that a picnic at a public park would be a good idea – but would any of the parks be open for the entire time we wanted our wedding to last? What if they were closed for flooding? What if it rained? We didn’t have answers yet, but we knew we needed an outdoor wedding. It was the only detail we felt certain about, amongst a sea of huge and confusing decisions about all sorts of other little details.

This is the list of articles I will be publishing over the next few months in this Wedding Wednesday Slot. Some of them will be shorter than others:

1. Why get married?

2. Overview of how I organised my planning (you are here).

2b) Getting inspired

3. The budget

4. The venue

5. The food

6. The entertainment

7. The legal bit

8. The dress

9. The groom’s outfit

10. The rings

11. The invitations

12. The name change decisions

13. The decorations

14. The cake

15. The honeymoon

16. The rabbits

17. The relatives

18. The wedding party

19. The day plan

20. What we would have done differently if we were to do it again.

As you can see I’ve got lots of things to talk about as I obsessively overplanned every last detail – I found this helpful to ensure the whole wedding was unified and that everything went to plan.

Wedding Wednesday: Why do you want a wedding?

Starting off my new weekly Wedding Wednesday slot, I thought I would begin where people ought to – with questioning why anybody would want a wedding at all.

Getting married for the right reasons is like doing anything for the right reasons – it’s a good, strong foundation on which to build.  For sure, we could build our house on poor foundations, and who knows?  It might stay up and last the test of time – but it’s less likely.  So if you want the best possible chance of having a happy and long lasting married life with your significant other, you need to introspect and ask yourself why you even want to get married.

Here’s some answers the Internet gave me when I researched this for myself a couple of years ago, and my responses to this.  I may come off as an opinionated asshat about weddings.  I feel quite strongly about them:

This is the same ring my cousin got when she got married 18 months ago.
This is the same ring my cousin got when she got married 18 months ago.

1. For the ring.  
…Or you could just go to a shop and use that Personal Loan to buy something REALLY nice from Tiffany & Co, instead of wasting time and effort on the rest of the wedding.


2. For the dress

…Why not hire one and have a wedding themed fancy dress party instead?


3. For the one “Perfect Day”

What about the day after?  Could you really live with the rest of your life knowing that the one “perfect day” had already passed you by?  The idea that we only get that one “Special Day” and that all the other days are dull is very depressing.  I’ve had my share of perfect days but they were never the “One Perfectest of All Perfect Days” and they sure as hell weren’t my wedding day.  Throwing money at a specific point in time can’t actually perfect it – soon you’ll find yourself throwing more and more money at it for smaller and smaller gains (in maths, known as an asymptote), until even the most patient bridesmaids will wonder whether those seat covers were worth £500.


4. For money/financial security
Could you spend your time and energy doing something productive and contributing to your own financial security by … I don’t know… getting a job you care about and earning your own money?  If you want a wedding so you can become dependent on someone else, you’re going to struggle when they get sick of you sponging and leave you to fend for yourself.  This is NOT the same as taking time out to raise kids, which is more altruistic and assumes that at some point in the future you will get a job.  HOWEVER this is something you should discuss before you get married to be sure you’re on the same page.  A marriage is a 2 way street not a way for a needy dependent person to get their claws into a “good catch.”  Seeking Arrangement is there for that.


5. Because you’re pregnant
This can be a really good reason to marry the right person – my Aunt was 15 when she got pregnant and she got married about two days after her 16th birthday.  She is still married now she’s hit the big 5-0 and has three kids, a great career as a nurse practitioner (she started her nursing training after giving birth and worked her way up), a beautiful garden… none of this is because she got married at 16, but it’s the life she and her husband have built together, because they were thrown together by that one unfortunate act.

Conversely, I know someone else who got married at 19 because she was pregnant and thought it would make the father commit.  It didn’t.  Marrying someone doesn’t give you control over their actions and people will do what they like whether you’ve had a wedding or not.  If they’re a no good scoundrel, they aren’t going to change just because they’re married.  Guess who was divorced at 23 and is now struggling to pay childcare?  She would have been a single mum if she hadn’t married him anyway, it just delayed the inevitable and caused everyone involved a lot of stress and drama in the meantime.

6. One of you is terminally ill
This can be a lovely reason to get married, but make sure both parties are onboard, and that the commitment to care is going both ways.  Living with someone who is terminally ill is very difficult and caring for them can get very harrowing towards the end.  Make sure the person who isn’t terminally ill has a good support network, that they maintain contact with friends and family outside the relationship, and that their physical and emotional needs are getting met.  If you’re the carer, remember the best thing you can do to take care of your partner is to keep your own self in good working order 🙂

7. For the romantic fairytale experience
Go to Disneyland.

8. For the wedding presents
Um… the money you spent on the wedding could have been used to buy yourself nice presents instead.

9. For the honeymoon
Book a holiday.

10. For your parents
Parents often think they are doing the right thing by “nudging” people in the right direction but you should marry when you’re good and ready not when someone else wants you to.  Likewise, if your future spouse isn’t ready, take the pressure off by waiting until they’re ready (and stop pestering them about it) because respect goes both ways.

11. For love
Is love enough to get married?  Some people think so.  Others point to the fact that there are two stages that all relationships go through – the infatuation and the cooling off period.  If your relationship is still in that stage where you get chills EVERY time he or she walks through the door, you might want to wait a bit to make sure you haven’t gone off each other, it could be an expensive and stressful mistake.

12. After spending days of research on this, and trying to come up with a better answer, I finally arrived at my own reason for wanting to get married:  To honour, in the eyes of the law, a commitment that you are making, to stay by the side of another person, even if you’re geographically far away, to always keep a place in your heart for them.  For me, then, the wedding was meant to be a reflection of this, not froofy dresses (you know, they look like they belong in a fairytale… or on top of a toilet roll in an old lady’s bathroom, depending on your point of view), rings or anything else.  Those were the garnish on a salad of marriage.  Throughout planning my wedding, I found myself remarking several times to my future husband “can we just skip the wedding and get to the part where we’re married to each other?”

I am pro-wedding but I believe that people should do what’s right for them and that too many people lose sight of what’s really important when they start to plan their wedding – and who can blame them, with the overstimulating wedding industry and the average wedding costing over £17,000 now (including honeymoon, according to The Telegraph and The Guardian newspapers) or $25,000 (excluding honeymoon, according to http://www.costofwedding.com/, a free wedding cost calculation tool), it’s big money for people to make you want more than you need on your “Big Day” (as if you’ll only have one big day in your life).  I am very concerned that people are taking on debts they can’t afford to repay in order to buy their wedding, and that they are doing so for all the wrong reasons.

But what if you’re SUPER EXCITED about all those other reasons, to the point where you’re starting to worry that, according to this very list, your reasons are all wrong?

Ask yourself:  Do you love your partner?  Do you see yourselves getting older together?  Do you communicate with one another and have you both discussed your future plans and your opinions on things at length so you know whether there are any sticking points or areas of compromise?  Do you at least mutually care about each other the same amount and get both of your needs met through your relationship?

If that’s a no to all of those, you probably shouldn’t get married.  If you had at least a couple of “yes” answers, then maybe you just need to hash a few things out and check that you’re both on the same page.  Getting crazy excited about your wedding is natural.  And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, providing you’re not causing yourself (or other people) financial difficulty, and as long as you are getting married for the marriage, not for the wedding, and that you know that on the day after your wedding, you’re going to wake up with a big smile and say, “I married you.”

Is Fear of Leaving Empty-Handed Making You Shop?

Fear of Leaving Empty-Handed

Have you ever gone into a shop and browsed, only to feel like the woman behing the counter is watching you, and like you can’t leave empty handed? That compulsion to buy something?

It can get a bit ridiculous. When I first left home, I had to know what was inside every shop, I think it was just curiosity and an enjoyment of the time I could spend doing it. However, I seemed to keep leaving the shops with an item or two. Sometimes three. Sometimes these items were fairly expensive. Always I didn’t want or need them. I couldn’t understand why I kept doing it until I got stuck in a particularly cloying boutique.

It was the kind of shop that calls itself a boutique, that sells things which are labelled in squiggly handwriting with the name of some unreadable (and unremarkable) “designer.” The window display had been some pretty hats, and for some reason it lured me in. I wondered what else they sold.

I went inside. A particularly sour-faced older lady in the over sixty category, wearing a very unattractive floral print dress (prints had been out for about 10 years by this point, and wouldn’t ever make a comeback in the garish incarnation she was sporting) and a necklace that seemed to be garotting her neck fat. She glared down her nose at me and didn’t say a word. I looked around to see what the shop sold. There was a lot of things that the older lady might wear to watch a regatta or go to a wedding. I could see the Queen shopping somewhere similar. Nothing had any price tags on. I started to panic because there was nothing in the whole shop that I could buy. Not a single thing. Everything was repulsive in some way or another. I felt too hot, the temperature was stuffy and the artificial floral air freshener was catching in my throat. I wanted to leave, but I couldn’t buy anything, so I looked obsessively at every single item, pretending to be interested, and I had an epiphany – I didn’t have to buy something in order to leave. The exit was right there, all I had to do was be brave and walk out. I suddenly realised that when I came into shops like this I tended to worry that sour older women like that would just see my school uniform and assume I was shoplifting when I wasn’t, causing unpleasantness. She couldn’t stop me for shoplifting – because I hadn’t shoplifted anything. It didn’t seem like such a silly worry at the time, so I had to take a very deep breath, close my eyes, pull the door open… and I was back on the street, walking away, never to see the inside of that awful place again.

I felt like I’d escaped from a spider web.

For years, I felt very uncomfortable when trying to leave a shop without buying anything, although it wasn’t unmanageable. I did still find it quite difficult, however, and there were a few times I ended up leaving with something I thought I wanted to buy, but if I’d really thought about it, I wouldn’t have bought it. It all came to a head in my first year of university. I’d just got my student overdraft, and I saw a dress in the window. It was sparkly and pale pink. I went inside to try it on. It didn’t fit particularly well and it had a huge design flaw that made my legs look terrible. Additionally, it was actually a very unflattering pale peach, and made my skin tone look dead. Oh, and it was also £250. But do you know what I did? I bought it anyway. I didn’t find out about the colour until I got back to my room; they must have had some very odd lighting on it in the shop.

I got it home still feeling really pleased with myself about buying the dress, pleased that I was now the sort of person who could spend £250 on a dress without thinking about where that money would come from. Pleased, in short, that I was able to participate in consumerism at a higher level than when I lived at home. I equated spending power with success.

It was about seven or eight years later that I finally realized that I had made a poor choice. The years came and went, I never actually wore that dress to any of the variety of functions I attended, at all of which it would have been appropriate, because I was afraid of someone spilling something on it, or standing on the hem. Every time I tried it on I would look in the mirror and feel very pleased with myself for having such a nice dress. Through the bad times, the times when I was working at McDonalds and when I was unemployable because I couldn’t walk, I would try the dress on and feel the same way I had when I bought it – like I was going places. I felt like anyone with a dress like this must be on their way up in life. I loved it. And underneath that thought process, I also hated it. I felt like it was a tangible reminder of my own weakness, my inability to not buy things, something I knew was a personal failing even as it made me feel happy. The feeling grew on me that I had never worn it, and time was always moving forward, and it was just taking up space in my life. I didn’t need it, and I didn’t want it. Every time I altered the hemline or changed the drop of the skirt, it still didn’t look right and I couldn’t put my finger on the reason.

The bottom line was, it was an expensive waste of money and it was also an overpriced and poor fitting monstrosity that I would never have occasion to wear.

When my wedding day came, I pulled it out. The most expensive dress you ever wear, we are told by the Wedding Industrial Complex, is supposed to be your wedding dress. Well I wasn’t going to spend £250 on a wedding dress, but I also didn’t actually like that dress and didn’t want to wear it in public. I think the peach colour had progressively faded from the moment I bought it and when it came to my wedding year it was a really yellowish peach that made me look positively anaemic (which I was, but I didn’t need to look like I was). My actual wedding dress was £10. When I first started minimalizing the house, six months after the wedding (we haven’t been married anywhere near a year yet), that £250 dress was one of the first things I got rid of.

Do you know how good that felt? It felt better than when I bought it. I felt like I’d unhitched a cart that I’d been dragging behind me for years. I felt lighter and more moveable. It’s several weeks later and I’m still glad I got rid of it.

The fact that I was able to get rid of it means that I am putting that part of my life – the naive thoughts that being able to consume more expensive items equates to success and happiness – behind me, I’m committed to minimalizing my life and letting go of the things that are weighing me down.

All my sandbags will be cut loose, so I can soar amongst the stars.

No longer am I afraid of leaving empty handed. I don’t need to buy things to prove to shop assistants that I have spending power. I know that I can buy anything I want to, but that doesn’t mean I have to use that power. In Kung-Fu, it is taught that true wisdom is knowing when not to fight. So in minimalism, we learn that true wisdom is also knowing when not to purchase things.

I think this is probably linked to FOMO – or fear of missing out.  Sometimes I worry that if I don’t buy something when I see it I’ll never get back to buy it when I really need it.  This is an obstacle I’m still trying to overcome.  But that’s okay, because minimalism is a journey, and it starts with choosing which pair of shoes to wear to take that single step.  Unless you’re a centipede.  In which case you can wear all of them.