How To Curb Your Shopping Addiction

Shopping is not bad, just make sure it's intentional.

I’m not here to make shopping evil.

I think when people hear about minimalism, they immediately picture the closet with two shirts, one pair of shoes, and two pairs of jeans. They promptly roll their eyes and think, “Seriously? This is ridiculous. I could never do this with my current lifestyle.” I am not here to punish anyone.

This might sound weird coming from someone who’s actively striving for minimalism — with clothing and beyond — but it’s not bad to want something. Wanting is not evil.

When wanting becomes an uncontrollable, compulsive desire, then we’re in trouble. If that’s you, then you may have a chronic shopping problem.

Clothes Are An Extension Of You

When we put on clothes, we’re telling a story. We like to feel good about ourselves. Many times, we express ourselves through clothing. You tell others you’re a professional or that you’re someone with a quirky personality.

This can still be expressed without buying more items… Somehow, we’ve bought into the lie that we must purchase items to tell our story.

Here’s the thing: you tell your story. Clothes should be a natural extension of you, which means you don’t constantly need new clothes unless you’re constantly changing personalities.

To me, this is the easiest way to view your style. Sure, you might change jobs, become a mom, move to an area with a different climate, but your style doesn’t change. For instance, I gravitate towards neutral colors, so if I move somewhere colder, I won’t buy a bright orange jacket because that’s just not “me.”

In other words, know yourself to discover your style, which will cut your main shopping for trendy items. As new trends speed by, you won’t be nearly as enticed if you know your own style doesn’t match the new trend.

Buy Less To Save Yourself And Our Planet

Minimalism isn’t anti-trend; it’s anti-excessiveness. Today, the average American throws away roughly “80 pounds of used clothing per person.” That’s a lot of wasted clothes! On the other hand, nearly “100 percent of textiles and clothing are recyclable,” but “85 percent of used textiles still go to national landfills.” Doesn’t this blow your mind?!

The best way to reduce our waste is to reduce our consumption. When necessary, I love to shop secondhand or buy from ethical, sustainable shops.

Minimalism, however, is the strongest advocate for reducing waste, protecting the earth, saving our wallets, and keeping our shopping addiction in check.

As a blogger on ethical and sustainable living at Maiden Will Voyage, I talk about how to choose ethically and live sustainably, along with news about the environment.

It’s easy to jump online and say, “hey, buy this, it’s a better choice for you!” It’s harder to write, “don’t buy anything if you can help it.”

But this is the advice I want to give you today. Buy less.

This, of course, is easier said than done. The easiest way to shop less is to stop shopping. The problem lies in how to shop less.

How do I say no to that top? How do I say no to the sale? How do I keep my money in my wallet?

Shop Intentionally

When my husband and I got married, I was only 22. I was still going to college and he was working a customer service job making $14 an hour full time. I’m not even sure it was $14 to be honest. (For a while, I worked at a movie theater and made tips. I ended up leaving, however, due to taking 18 units in the quarter system in college.) In other words, after our one car payment, insurances, tuition, groceries, etc., we had very little to spend. (We did not have to pay rent thankfully!)

As a shopaholic, my mom would still buy me items when we went shopping together because she’s amazing. Otherwise, I was not spending money on clothes.

In fact, when I spent anything over $20 in a month, I would feel guilty because I knew it was money that could go towards something else. As a result, I had to learn how to curb my shopping addiction.

Shopping is not bad. I repeat: shopping is not bad. It must be intentional, however, and not compulsory.

If you haven’t bought anything new in a while and feel the need to buy something new— for the sake of buying something new — then there has to be a new way to view shopping.

In fact, UCLA neuropsychologist Robert Bilder, PhD argues excessive shopping is an addiction because you’ll “find yourself needing more and more.”

For many, including myself, minimalism is about putting myself in the driver seat. I will decide if I need anything. If I want something, I find ways to ask myself why.

Minimalism is a reaction to overconsumption. We own too much. In fact, it’s been scientifically proven that we can become emotionally attached to an item by simply holding it too much.

If you’re looking for a way to curb your shopping addiction, I hope the following tips from my past experience will help you. 🙂

Going Cold Turkey

I don’t mean shop less. I mean stop shopping — go cold turkey.

Don’t go into a store. Don’t shop online. Unsubscribe from emails if you must. Unfollow bloggers that make you doubt your ways.

If you put yourself into temptation, what do you expect to happen? If being a marketing consultant has taught me anything, my extensive research on the act of marketing is finding ways to get into your head. Learn to get them out of your head.

Limit Shopping With Other Shoppers

For me, shopping with others typically makes me want to buy more items. Your friend tells you, “that looks so cute on you!” Your mom might say, “that’s perfect for your upcoming event!”

You might even look in the mirror, doubt yourself, but end up wanting to buy the item because your shopping partner convinces you otherwise.

In a minimalist closet situation, this tends to work against you. Personally, I do love shopping and I love spending time with my mom, but sometimes its best to find other avenues. For instance, grab lunch or coffee instead. Get a pedicure together. You have so many options!

Allocate Your Energy Elsewhere

If something tempts you to shop, try to find a different outlet for that energy. For example, when I wanted to shop, I would go into my local Barnes & Noble and walk around the store because I love books.

Sometimes, I’d treat myself to coffee. I didn’t buy any books, but I found it helpful to allocate my energy elsewhere.

You can also take a walk, grab coffee with a friend, catch up on cleaning at home, organize your current closet, journal, read a book, etc. Trade your time shopping for time in something else.

Maybe you have an interest you never started, such as pottery. Find ways to redirect your desire to shop.

Find Your Style

As I mentioned earlier, if you know your personal style, it will stop you from at least half of your desired purchases.

In today’s day and age, trends are constant. Business of Fashion agrees: “Social media dictates trends today. The trend emerges overnight and disappears almost as quickly.” I’m sure you’ve seen this yourself.

If trends can be born and decease within the same breath, why chase the trends? Truly, if you don’t know your style yet, take time to discover it. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself and it can be fun. Create a Pinterest board of looks you love and see if you can find any patterns.

My style has always been very classic and not super trendy. I prefer golds over silvers in jewelry. I love neutrals, florals, and stripes, along with simple, versatile shoes. In addition, I am heavily influenced by my mom — a very stylish lady! — and classic icons, such as Audrey Hepburn.

I love stereotypical Parisian outfits with a touch of bohemian. (If you need help getting started, this is my Pinterest board for fashion.) You have to dress like yourself. Otherwise, the things you own will own you and you’ll find yourself wondering, “why did I buy this?”

Read Books And Watch Documentaries

Not everyone who loves practicing minimalism is necessarily into ethical, sustainable fashion. Personally, this was a huge catapult towards minimalism for me.

I watched The True Cost documentary and read lots of articles and books about our clothes. Find out more about the Rana Plaza collapse. Read more on the history of clothing and even luxury brands (and why they aren’t even luxurious creations anymore).

The more you know, the more you’ll realize we consume the McDonald’s version of fashion, even when it’s expensive. For me, I feel like I’m exploiting another human being around the world by purchasing a non-ethical item.

By saying yes with your dollar, you’re saying yes to supporting a horrible lifestyle for someone else around the world. This is probably the #1 way I stop myself from making a purchase.

When You’re Ready To Shop Again…

After a few months, when you’re ready, start shopping again. Ask yourself if you are missing anything.

Now, you’ll know if you need to shop. You’ll be properly equipped if you step into a shop or online. You’ll have knowledge of the clothing industry, your style, and how to shop well. Shop smarter, shop better.

If you like an item, don’t buy it. Think about it. If you’re still thinking about the item a week later with all the ways you’d wear it and actually need it in your closet, then consider it more strongly.

I like to ask myself the following:
“Does this support an unethical company and exploit the ones who made the item?”
“Do I really need this in my closet or do I just want this item because it’s cute?”
“Will I wear this a minimum of 30 times?”
“Is this eco-friendly?”
“Is this how I want to spend my money?”

These are the steps that worked for me. Think of other ways to “reward” yourself, such as an extra coffee per week, a vacation for next year, or investing in an ethical, sustainable wardrobe. You know how to motivate yourself best!

How do you curb your shopping habits?

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