Shoe Challenge # 50
One year ago today, I set myself a challenge: to wear every pair of shoes I owned within the space of the next year, and to document them all here on this blog.
This weekend, I finally completed the challenge, having dutifully worn and documented all 75 pairs of shoes in my collection (And lost and gained a few pairs along the way!), so I figured that before the next challenge starts (more of which later), I’d take some time to look back over the year just gone and write down what I learned along the way: so here goes!
Why did I decide to wear every pair of shoes I owned in a year? Well, having been a shoe obsessive for most of my adult life, a few years ago I’d started to realise that while I owned more than my fair share of shoes, I wasn’t actually wearing all of them: in fact, the vast majority of my shoe collection languished unworn in the back of my closet, while I kept on wearing the same few pairs of shoes over and over again, and replacing them when they wore out. Meanwhile, the fact that I wasn’t actually wearing all of my shoes didn’t stop me buying new pairs, so I’d become the not-so-proud owner of an ever-growing collection of shoes, most of which went from the store straight to my closet, never to be seen again.
Now, this bothered me. You see, while I’d probably describe myself as a shopaholic -and I’d definitely describe myself as a shoeaholic – I’m not comfortable with the idea of waste, or of constantly buying new things that never get used. I like to think I’m getting my money’s worth out of the things I buy, and that definitely wasn’t the case with my shoes. The Shoe Challenge was my way of forcing myself to actually get some use out of my shoe collection (and to give them the love they deserve), and to hopefully re-examine my shoe-buying behaviour and, change it for the better. The “use it or lose it” rule I made for the challenge meant that any shoes I didn’t wear during the year would have to be either binned or given to charity, and my hope was that this simple rule would force me to think long and hard about the shoes I decided to buy.
Shoe Challenge # 38
When I started my challenge, I figured it would be pretty easy. I was wrong though. Here are a couple of things that helped:
- The One-In, One-Out rule
As the year went on, I realised that some of the shoes in my collection were ones I’d realistically never want to wear again: either they were so old and worn that they should have been binned years ago, or they were just no longer to my taste: some didn’t even fit very well, and had obviously been bought in moments of madness on my part. Forcing myself to wear them purely so they could be “saved” seemed to go against the spirit of the challenge – the idea, after all, wasn’t to make myself wear shoes I didn’t like, or which didn’t fit me, so I started to think about how I would deal with these shoes. Meanwhile, several new pairs of shoes had entered my life – and entered the challenge. Yikes! In June of 2010, I went on holiday to the US … and came home with four more pairs of shoes than I’d left with. Something had to be done, so I took the new shoes out of my suitcase, but before I put them in my closet, I jettisoned four old pairs I knew I’d never wear. From that point on, I implemented a “one in, one out” rule, which meant that for every new pair of shoes I bought, an old pair had to go – either to the charity store, or to the great shoe shop in the sky, as per the terms of the original challenge. (Obviously I could have just waited until the end of the challenge to get rid of those shoes, but space is a huge issue in our house, so I decided to just get rid of them as I went along instead.) The result of this was that I ended up with a shoe collection I’m much, much happier with: no more old, worn out shoes that don’t suit my style or fit my feet, and instead, a collection of shoes I’ll wear until they fall apart – or so I hope, anyway!
- The Shoe Shelves
One of my biggest issues when it came to making use of my shoe collection, was storage. As I often say, my house is roughly the size of a shoe-box, and when the challenge started, my shoe collection was stored anywhere it would fit: there were shoes in various closets and various rooms, and I had a hard time remembering what I had, let alone wearing them all. (This is possibly why I have so many pairs of tan peep toes – I kept buying more, forgetting that I already had some!) Then, in July, I came up with the solution: I would take the under-used shelves in our home office and turn them into shoe storage:
Shoe Challenge # 40, with my storage solution in the background
Once I’d done this, things became much easier: in fact, I think it was the thing that made most difference in helping me complete the challenge, because once I was able to actually see which shoes I had, and which ones I still hadn’t worn, it became much easier to plan outfits around them, and find inspiration: result!
What didn’t help…
- The weather! When I started, I hadn’t anticipated such long periods of snow: the challenge spanned two of the worst winters we’ve ever had in this part of the world, and there were long periods of time when rubber boots were the only possible option!
- The fact that I write a daily shoe blog. I know, it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. It makes it much tougher to resist all those lovely shoes when you have to look at photos of them every day for a living, though!
Shoe Challenge # 33
What I Learned
Most of the lessons I learned from the Shoe Challenge were ones that came early on in the process. Here’s what I discovered:
- I’d much rather have a small collection of shoes that I wear all the time than a large one full of shoes that rarely ever see the light of day.
- They’re only a bargain if you’re actually going to wear them: if you won’t, put them back on the shelf!
- Storage is key: actually being able to see your shoes will both inspire you to wear them, and prevent you buying new pairs in styles you already have.
- I have far too many pairs of nude/tan peep toes.
- And too many summery styles and not enough winter-appropriate ones: there’s no point buying lots of pairs of peep toes and sandals when it rains or snows for 363 days of the year!
- Implementing some kind of “use it or lose it” rule is a great way to stop yourself shopping unnecessarily: the fact that I’d have to wear – and document – each new pair of shoes I bought helped me talk myself out of many an “I’ve nowhere to wear them, but I just have to have them!” type of purchase, and I also returned a couple of pairs of shoes I didn’t manage to resist, having realised, in the cold light of day, that I wouldn’t wear them, and would just end up having to give them away.
Shoe Challenge # 30
While the Shoe Challenge definitely helped change my shoe collection for the better, and changed the way I approach new purchases, it wasn’t without its downsides:
- I probably bought more clothes than I otherwise would have. Knowing that I “had” to save a particular pair of shoes made me more likely to think, “Hey, that dress would be perfect with those shoes… and I DO have to save them!” That definitely wasn’t part of the plan, and is something I’ll have to think carefully about for the next challenge!
- I have a tendency to buy out-of-season shoes, either on eBay, or in sales. That wasn’t a problem at the start of the challenge, because although it was winter when I started, I knew I still had the whole summer, plus a good few months of the NEXT winter in which to wear the shoes. Over the past couple of months, though, when the weather has been freezing and I knew the challenge was going to end before nicer weather set in, I really struggled not to succumb to the temptation of summery sale shoes which I knew I wouldn’t have a chance to “rescue” before the end. This is something else I’ll have to address for the next challenge, I think, because I still think buying out of season can be a good idea if you know you’ll definitely wear the shoes next season.
- Photographing the shoes/outfits. This was the hardest part of all. As well as being fairly time-consuming, there were a lot of photos which I just really, really didn’t like, and it was hard to post those photos online and listen to everyone’s feedback. I knew going in to the challenge that not all of the comments I’d get would be positive, and I was prepared for that, and willing to accept it, but some of the crueller/more personal comments were hard to read all the same.
Shoe Challenge # 70
The next challenge
As the end of the challenge approached, I started to get a lot of questions about what I was going to do next. Up until early this week, I was absolutely adamant that I wouldn’t be doing ANYTHING next: I was all challenged out, basically, and I was really looking forward to just being able to wear my shoes without having to think about “saving” them. Having thought about it some more, though, I think the Shoe Challenge is something that should be repeated: I want to continue getting use out of my shoe collection, and to avoid slipping back into my old ways, so I’m excited to announce that the next challenge will begin in the next few weeks, with the exact date to be confirmed soon.
The next challenge will have more-or-less the same rules, but it will be slightly different, in that this time around I want to involve all of YOU in it too (and don’t worry, you don’t have to have lots of shoes to join in!). I’ll be putting together a post within the next few days in which I’ll be asking anyone interested in taking on the next Shoe Challenge to sign up and spread the word. Once the challenge starts, I’ll be doing weekly roundups featuring all of your shoes and outfits, as well as my own, and I’ll also be creating a list of participating sites. More details coming soon, so stay tuned, for that!
Finally, I don’t want to end this mammoth post without thanking all of my readers for sticking with me through my challenge. I would almost certainly have given up if it wasn’t for you cheering me on, so thank you for that, and here’s to the next challenge!
And here they are: all 75 pairs of shoes!