Why Continue to Shop?

This post was inspired by a reader question in response to one of my Project 333 updates.   I love how my readers challenge me and lead me to think more deeply about my behavior and thought processes!   I’m so happy I started this blog, as it’s already exceeded my initial expectations.  I’m delighted that it’s helping others deal with their wardrobes and shopping, as well as accelerating my own awareness and growth.

Here is the reader question I’ve been pondering over the past couple of weeks:

Why do you continue to buy clothing when you have so much already that you haven’t made decisions about?”

I decided to answer this question in a post, as I’m guessing other “shopaholics” will be able to relate to my answers.  As I wrote about in “The Reasons We Shop Too Much,” there are many motives behind compulsive shopping behavior.  Just as a compulsive overeater doesn’t overindulge because she’s hungry or loves food, the frantic buying behavior of shopaholics can rarely be attributed to a love of fashion or genuine wardrobe needs.

Shopping as a Coping Mechanism

Virtually all compulsive behavior serves as a coping mechanism for dealing with unpleasant emotions.  Instead of experiencing our pain, we shop, eat, drink, gamble, or engage in some other form of behavior that allows us to escape our feelings.  Of course, such escape is only temporary and the difficult emotions soon return, only to be intensified by guilt and shame for engaging in self-destructive behavior.

Shopping as a Coping Mechanism for Depression and Anxiety

I want to shop because it makes me feel good in the moment.  While I’m in a store surrounded by beautiful clothing, shoes, and accessories, I experience a powerful high that temporarily anesthetizes the depression and anxiety with which I’ve suffered for years.  Not only do I get a rush from shopping, I also feel a sense of success that often evades me in other life pursuits.  I embark on a “treasure hunt” in a store or mall and virtually always find at least one treasure to accompany me home.  Contrast this to other expeditions in life.  How often are we successful pretty much every time we enter another life arena?

Dealing with Failure and Disappointment

I’ve experienced a great deal of failure and disappointment in my life, particularly in the areas of career and relationships.  While I consider myself infinitely fortunate to have my wonderful husband, my other relationships haven’t generally been as successful.  My family interactions are either superficial or strained and I can count the number of true friends I have on one hand.   And when it comes to career, I’ve dwelled in the sphere of mediocrity – or worse – for as long as I can remember.  I have high hopes and I try very hard, but I’m nowhere near where I hoped to be in life by the ripe old (well, middle…) age of 46.

There are no easy fixes to most problems in life.  I’ve had more problems than some and a lot fewer than others, but the bottom line is that I don’t have the answers to my current life predicaments.  When I think about how I can fix my broken relationships, cultivate deep and lasting friendships, or foster a career that will be both fulfilling and lucrative, my brain literally hurts.  I just can’t figure out how to make some areas of my life work.

I’m a “Champion Shopper” – or Am I?

In contrast to most of life, shopping is easy – and it’s fun.   And I’m good at it, or so I thought until recently.  I always found “great deals” and came home with “fabulous pieces,” so I had to be a champion shopper, right? Well, no… as I’ve suspected for months but only recently confirmed.  I’m not all that great at shopping after all, at least not when I shop for myself.  I do far better when shopping for others, as I can be completely objective and rational.  When shopping for myself, there are far too many emotions muddying the proverbial waters.

I haven’t shopped for a couple of weeks now.  I know that’s not a very long time and it would be a complete “cake walk” for most people to stay out of the stores for such a short duration.  But I feel sad and numb, like a dark cloud is following me around day and night.   To add insult to injury, I’m also addressing my intense caffeine addiction, so my two primary “drugs of choice” are no longer at my immediate disposal.  I know I’m doing the right thing, but it definitely isn’t easy.

My Wardrobe Isn’t as Great as I Thought…

Through preparing for and doing Project 333, I’ve learned that my wardrobe isn’t as great as I thought it was.  I’ve discovered that even in a wardrobe as large as mine, functional and aesthetic “holes” can still exist.  I now see that I frequently bought new items that were incredibly similar to what was already in my closet.  While I’ve varied my purchases in terms of colors and patterns, the shape and fabrication of a majority of my garments is much the same. In addition to my psychological “need” for shopping, I think I was also motivated to shop as a result of a functional lack that I felt but couldn’t pinpoint.

I still can’t articulate exactly what that lack is and I know the void exists more inside my soul than in my closet.  While there may be closet pieces I really do need to buy, I don’t believe this is the time to do it.  I don’t trust myself to make the proper choices right now.

Accepting a Dare from a Reader

Another reader dared me not to shop this month.  I told her I would think about it, as I was not yet ready to commit.  Well, I’ve thought about it and I’ve decided to accept the dare.  I commit to not buying anything new during the month of May.   I will continue to do Project 333 and experience the feelings which come up for me as a result of the challenge.   I will write about how I feel and make note of any items that I feel compelled to buy.  At the end of May, I will evaluate whether or not any real needs exist and if I should continue my shopping hiatus or allow myself to purchase a new item or two.

As I’ve mentioned previously, my goal is to cultivate a minimalist wardrobe filled only with items I love and wear regularly.  An important step toward this goal is to evaluate the pieces already in my closet, as my reader so astutely observed.  If I continue to focus on what’s “out there” instead of what’s in here (both in my closet and in my psyche), I’ll never reach my goal.  I believe that a brief shopping hiatus, coupled with my Project 333 experience, will help move me in the right direction.

Have You Taken a Shopping Hiatus?

I’d love to get your feedback!  Have you ever taken a break from shopping?  Did it help you to shop more wisely?  What did you learn about yourself and your wardrobe from shopping your closet instead of the mall?  If you’ve done Project 333 or a similar challenge, what did it teach you about yourself, your style, and how much you really need?  I truly value your input and I thank you all for reading and following along on my journey.

58 thoughts on “Why Continue to Shop?

  1. Thank you for your honesty Debbie. I can particularly empathise with you about great, lasting, deep friendships, and also not being where you thought you might be in your career despite working very hard. I haven’t got any easy answers, except to say that you–and I–are enough just as we are, even as we work to improve areas of our lives.

    I think the idea of a shopping hiatus is a good one. I do this occasionally. The times I find it easiest is when I have something else ‘big’ on at the same time such as an interesting project or something like camping where I’m focused on other things and I barely notice the lack of shopping. I also like to keep a ‘long-term’ shopping list where I write down anything I think my wardrobe needs such as a piece of clothing in a particular cut or colour. Then I leave it on my list for as long as possible, without going out and buying it (although I can one day if I want to). This means I let my brain know I’m remembering that item so it lessens the pull, and I can leave it to hopefully drop off the list. Not a failsafe tip, but hopefully helpful.

    • Kim, thanks for your kind words and tips! They are much appreciated and I’m sure will help others as well. I definitely plan to keep a long-term shopping list, but right now I’m too confused to even know what I need. I’m sure the hiatus will help me gain some clarity. I like what you said about us being “enough” just as we are. I often forget this, but it really is true!

    • Frugalscholar, Very true! I do feel less alone through my blogging and it feels good to know that my blog touches others. So glad you like it!

      • I happened onto your blog quite by accident, but I feel my soul is yearning to find some answers to my addiction to shopping. I was shocked while I read, sentence by sentence, your description of failed career, superficial family relationships and so forth. You were writing my story, which unfortunately is the story, I dare say, of many more people than we know. I feel our health problems play viciously into our addictions as well. Your honesty is helping me become more honest with myself and my family in general. The others have always known. Sad is the only way I could describe the way my adult children looked at me recently, pleading for me to stop buying too many gifts for Christmas! As a matter of fact, they told me NO GIFTS PLEASE! I thought at first that they just didn’t realize all the hard work that goes into those gifts. Second thought, I love the WORK of shopping and the gifts are bought for my pleasure, not theirs. I have a long way to travel down the rugged road of HONESTY! Ironically I am always reading books about minimalism and simplicity. I long for these treatments, but I also know I have to actually act on the gems of wisdom I deem. I want to ask if I can tag along with you, and take back a life as you describe so well, a life of meaningful experiences and loving relationships. HAND IN HAND, we will find our truth. Thank You Debbie.

      • Welcome, Pam! I’m glad you found my blog are feel resonance with what I’ve written. I agree that more people struggle with issues similar to ours than we know. Awareness of the problem and a willingness to change are two very important first steps. It takes a while to recover and there ARE ups and downs, but it IS possible to overcome shopping addiction. I am living proof that it DOES get better. Hang in there and let me know if you have questions or if there is anything I can do to help.

  2. Well, I started getting rid of things in the closet a few years ago but really looked more carefully after discovering your blog. I think I had too many black things left, so I added back what I wore a lot of in my happy colors of pink, blue red and purple. I remember once my dh telling me that he liked how when he looked in my closet, he saw all those pretty colors that make him think of me! I also discovered that though I wear almost all of my clothes, outerwear and shoes regularly, I did not do the same with belts, scarves and jewelry. I have worn the heck out of two pairs of earrings! Guess I need to revisit:)

    • Hi Lil, Good to hear from you again! You were one of the first to comment on my blog! Sounds like you’re learning a lot and doing quite well with your wardrobe. Black is nice, but it’s great to wear color. I wasn’t wearing my scarves and jewelry much, either, but am now that I’m doing Project 333. Need to buy some belts… believe it or not, that’s a hole in my huge wardrobe! Continued best wishes to you!

  3. I’ve been reading off and on about the Project 333 for some time and after buy some pieces that I thought I was missing, it has been a few weeks since I bought any clothes. I have bought a new pair of shoes and one belt but no clothes. I’m being much more aware of the things I buy, I rarely buy new I’d rather buy on ebay or at my local nearby Goodwill. I use to feel that if I bought used and didn’t wear it, oh well no biggie. But now I don’t feel compelled to shop. I think it’s true, when I shop I am trying to fill a hole in wardrobe but it’s really a hole in my life. I love to read your posts, keep up the good work.

    • Mina, thanks for sharing your insights. It sounds like you’ve made some great progress. How wonderful that you’re feeling less compelled to shop! Maybe you are finding other ways to fill the holes in your life. That’s what I plan to do as well.

  4. Greetings Debbie, I’ve been following your blog and following your struggles.
    It will be hard to not go shopping for a month, like an alcoholic resisting having a drink.
    Better to concentrate on they “why” … they why of the “feelings” that cause the desire to medicate them. Keep up the good work.
    PS: I have a similar issue with purchasing the same item of clothing, usually one of each colour. My family laugh at me!! They don’t understand the why of it … and neither do I … if it comes to that!

    • Wendy, Thanks for your encouragement! So far, I’m doing okay with the shopping hiatus. One day at a time… Good to hear from a fellow “multiples buyer.” It can be a hard habit to quit, but it’s important to resist the urge unless we want a wardrobe that lacks variety. Multiples aren’t always bad, but it needs to be done in moderation.

  5. I think it’s refreshing, in our culture of “image is everything”, that you are willing to be candid and make yourself vulnerable by doing so. Thank you! I’m no expert, but I think every single one of us in some fashion, deals with some aspect of their life in an unhealthy way. My unhealthy go-to to escape loneliness is facebook (and to a lesser degree, the internet in general). I can’t give up facebook completely (business reasons), but I’m committing to use it for personal stuff a max of 30 minutes a day in May. If you want an accountability partner on your no-shopping dare, count me in. 🙂

    • Patti, Good to hear from you. Thanks for sharing your insights. I’ve been guilty of Facebook overload as well. I think that lots of good things can become bad things when done in excess, and moderation is harder than going “cold turkey.” Thanks for being willing to hold me accountable on the no-shopping promise. I’m doing okay so far… will give updates on the blog.

  6. What perfect timing! I just decided today to stop shopping for the rest of the month of May. I can so relate to you and your struggles with shopping. I have gone on a shopping hiatus several times. The first couple of times I did were not very productive. I was at my worst shopping and I felt like I white knuckled it through. I binged before and after and probably bought more than I would have. The most success I have had is when I browsed normally, but did not buy anything right away. I do a lot of online shopping so I would wait and if I still wanted it I would buy it. 85% of what I thought was a must buy I didn’t want after a few days. This is how I usually shop now. However, sometimes like the beginning of this month I overdo it. I can feel myself starting to slip back into my old ways and shopping and buying consumes too much of my time. I take a break for a few weeks so I can gain perspective again. I guess I am better than I used to be and I hope that I can continue to improve. Good luck with your hiatus!

    • Tonya, I really appreciate your insights on shopping. Glad to know I have a partner on my shopping hiatus! I think your tip to not buy anything right away is a good one. I feel that most of my “bad buys” could have been avoided by pressing the pause button. It sounds like you’re doing well. It’s a process, but we can overcome our shopping problems! You’re already well on your way and I will be soon, too.

  7. Hi Debbie, this is the best post I have read by you – so heart-wrenchingly honest. The section about Dealing with Failure and Disappointment is particularly poignant. I really hope you get to the end of your month without buying anything – I think both reaching the goal and going through the painful process will be immensely rewarding for you, try not to give up and why not let your blogging community know if you feel tempted – we’ll support you!

    I have decided I will not buy anything new unless it replaces something else that is definitely going to be removed or is worn out. I have only bought one item in over a month – a pair of Merrell shoes which I needed for my work. They were fiendishly expensive but I have hardly taken them off, they are so comfortable and on dry days I have used them to walk the dog too (don’t want to get them dirty). The shoes I replaced are now consigned to dirty dog walking days or gardening and eventually the bin! Oh, and I ordered them on the internet to stop me going near shops and buying more stuff – this worked!

    Keep going, Louise

    • Louise, Thanks so much for your kind words. I’m glad you liked this post. I will definitely reach out for support when I need it, but I’m doing okay so far. I haven’t really been that tempted to buy. I want to learn more about my wardrobe and myself so that I can shop smarter. Your Merrell shoes sound like a very wise purchase. They may have been expensive, but I’ll bet their cost-per-wear will be quite low when it’s all said and done.

  8. Hi Debbie,
    I think you are very brave to accept the dare. If a whole month feels daunting don’t forget you only have to do it one day at a time. Each morning you can say just for today I won’t buy anything. I wish you well in your struggles. By the way, I can’t believe you are 46, you look 10 years younger.

    • Marion, Your comment about my age made my day! I will be 47 in less than 3 months and I always love when people think I’m under 40 🙂 I am definitely taking the shopping hiatus one day at a time. Very wise tip!

  9. Hi Debbie, and thank you for a most thoughful and thought provoking post. Somehow you make all of us reevaluate our choices, good or bad.
    Yes, I have been on self-imposed shopping freezes. My first one was early last year after I found Vivienne’s blog whilst she was on a 1-year shopping hiatus. I ‘loosely’ joined the fun because I realized that I had a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. During that year I bought two pairs of jeans (I had lost 15 lbs.) and two gorgeous EF linen tops. This year I purchased two pencil skirts, a linen sweater and (swoon) a Pucci scarf while in San Diego :). This is it until I travel to Germany later this summer and look for two pairs of mid-size heals. Now, I may throw in a few new bras if the fitting reveals that I need to change size after the weightloss but that will be it. All my good clothes were altered, the rest went to charity.

    I have done my share of emotional shopping in my younger years, and I didn’t realize until my closet purge that less is really more if you buy fewer good things and then wear them. We moved to a cooler climate about three years ago, and it took a year to give myself permission to wear that expensive cashmere sweater on a regular basis instead of saving it (for what???).

    Not shopping for a month will be a great first step in the right direction. I have never been a frequent shopper, but I could do a whole lot of damage twice a year. What helped me in getting rid of my more expensive but not loved clothes was by moving them out of my closet into a spare one and telling myself I could bring anyone garment back if I wanted or needed it. Not one item made it back, and yes it was a bit overwhelming to load them up and getting them out of the house. But my closet is now organized and easy to oversee, no more moving back and forth for the seasons (with the exception of cashmere which resides in a cedar lined chest during the warmer months). It is now an easy pleasure to get dressed for work.

    Keep up the good work. Remember baby steps are fine. 🙂

    • One more thing concerning life’s disappointments. Nothing has gotten me over the rough patches in my life better than volunteering. It has put a new perspective on everything and taught me more and given back more than I ever thought possible.

      • Cornelia, You’re right that volunteering can be very rewarding. I’ve done quite a bit of it but not so much recently. I took a bit of a break after a few bad experiences (giving too much and not being appreciated), but I think it’s a good idea to explore volunteering again now. I think perhaps I’ll try something completely different this time.

    • Cornelia, You shared a great deal of wisdom in your comment and I really appreciate what you wrote. I didn’t know Vivienne didn’t shop for a year! I must have started following her blog after her hiatus was over. I’ll have to go back and look at her posts on that. It sounds like you’ve doing quite well in paring down your wardrobe and buying fewer but higher quality pieces. That is really my goal and I recently realized I needed to take a step back and pause for a bit before I’m really ready to do that. I love the idea of only bringing things back into your wardrobe if you need them. I think I will do something similar after Project 333 is over. I like having a more roomy closet, so I will only bring things back as I wear them. I may do Project 333 again, but probably not right away. We’ll see…

      How exciting that you’re traveling to Germany! I hope to make it there at some point as I’m 1/4 German. Congrats on your weight loss, too!

  10. Thanks for such an honest reply to the question. I truly hope that you find a way to believe that you are perfect just the way you are and not that your wardrobe has to be perfect for you to be ok. I’m not there yet myself and sadly my 91 year old mother still focuses on perfecting external appearances rather than the heart, but I continue to look to some role models who let the love, joy, and sparkle that comes from inside of them matter way more than what they wear.

    • Juhli, Thank you for posing the question, as it made me think a lot and learn more about myself! Sad about your mother. My mother-in-law is like that, too, and she’s about to turn 80. I love her but don’t want to be like her at her age. It’s good that you’re finding positive role models for love, joy, and sparkle. I’m trying to do the same. I’m ready to feel more love for myself and to let more joy into my life.

  11. I love this post Debbie! I think you speak for a lot of us as you describe your feelings about life and your disappointments. I also feel like a champion shopper at times–I love to share my successes with my daughter and my mother. It’s difficult to stay out of stores when you need to shop for other members of the family (pre-teen son and teenage son don’t care much to go shopping) and I find myself “just looking” for things for me.

    I have also experienced feelings of anxiety this past winter. I tried an interesting experiment of creating a gratitude journal. I write down 5 things I am grateful for each day–small things whether they are physical things in my life or kindnesses done by others. I have felt that it has helped me to shift my focus from the things that are “wrong” in my life to all the good things that I have. Just thought I would share–you have been so kind to share so much with all your readers!

    • Kirsti, Thank you for sharing about your shopping issues and your gratitude journal. I used to keep a gratitude journal (I also wrote down “successes” to show myself I am successful in various ways) and it was helpful. Your comment has me thinking I should do it again! It really helps to focus on what’s right instead of what’s wrong or missing.

      • Keep writing Debbie! Your blog helped me today. I felt an urge to go to the store, but thought about what you have said and decided to work in the garden instead. Thanks!

      • Yay! How cool! Glad I could help. Hope you had fun in the garden! The beauty you create there will likely be longer lasting and more fulfilling than anything you would have bought in the shops.

  12. Hi Debbie, what made me sad was the part “I’ve experienced a great deal of failure and disappointment in my life, …. and I can count the number of true friends I have on one hand.” I think a lot of people have wrong ideas about friendship, fostered by tv and the idea of popularity in school, the mindeset that one “needs” lots of friends and if you don’t have many friends something is wrong with you. But that’s not the case. A handfull of good /real/true friends is a lot! Friendships need time and energy and I think it’s better to have few good friends then lots of acquaintances. I know that’s not the focus of your post, but I hope you’ll find a way to be happy about these friends, no matter how few/many they are.

    • Daniela, I appreciate your insights. You are right in that quality is much more important than quantity in terms of friendships. I am grateful for the close relationships I have, but I realize I need to reach out more to people and do better at keeping in touch with people. Many of my friends do not live near me and I don’t call or write all that regularly. It’s important to nurture relationships so they stay close. Your comment is a reminder to stay grateful and stay in contact with those I love – thanks!

  13. Hi Debbie~ I totally appreciate the honesty of your post. We are probably each dealing with sadness and disappointment in some area of our life. I know I am… so many things that have gone wrong, whether through my fault or through circumstances beyond my control.

    As for the clothing issue, I find that the more I get rid of, the pickier I am about what I keep and the less satisfied I am with what I have! I still have way too much, but I want the quality to be better in terms of style & fit. Like you, I enjoy having some variety of choices. And when you want every item to be at least an 8 out of 10~ that’s tough to accomplish! So I keep wanting to shop, to improve the overall quality and fill in the gaps…

    I have a challenge for you also, which might coincide well with your month of no shopping. When reading your posts I’m always struck by the fact that you never mention anything you enjoy, other than shopping. Do you have any other hobbies? I enjoy walking & biking (for exercise), crocheting (to relax in the evening while watching TV), reading, gardening, dog training & photography, to name a few. My boyfriend cooks as a hobby, in addition to walking & biking with me. My sons play guitar, record music, read, paint, play video games, run… There are so many choices!

    Maybe you could spend some time exploring things you might enjoy other than shopping? If shopping is your only “hobby”, it’s no wonder you feel sad and down when you can’t shop. Depending on what you enjoy, you might make some new friends in a book club or a gardening club, for example.

    FWIW, I have lots of casual friends, but really only a few close friends and I think that is probably normal. I am fortunate to have good relationships with my sisters & brother, especially now that our parents are gone.

    I wish you luck in finding your way… just know that you’re not alone on the journey. Thanks for sharing!

    • Diane, Thanks for the share and the challenge. I do have some hobbies, but I could probably use more. I enjoy walking and go for walks with my husband at least 3 or 4 days per week. I also enjoy reading and movies. I used to do Toastmasters and comedy Improv, but grew tired of those things. I also used to be in a book club and would love to do that again, as well as potentially learn photography. I know that if I’m going to shop less over the long term, I need to replace it with other activities, so I need to figure out what those activities will be. I appreciate the insights and suggestions you gave!

  14. Hello, I just wanted to share one good tip for shopping hiatus. I rarely took it, but when I did I obviously felt the urge to buy something. Whenever felt like buying a certain item, I would take a shot of it and then wait till my shopping hiatus wasn’t over. Most of the stuff form photos never made their way into my closet, fortunately :). And in fact, I have quite a lot of pictures of clothes that I thought I wouldn’t be able to live without, but I didn’t buy them. Those “trophy photos” symbolize my ability to resist my nasty shopping urges and I’m pretty satisfied looking at them now.

    • Kasia, What a great tip – thanks for sharing! I’m a very visual person, so I like the photo idea. This is definitely something I want to try. I think the “trophy photo” gallery would help me to see that I’m stronger than I think, much like it’s done for you.

  15. that “trophy photo” idea is so cool.
    Maybe you’ll do a blog post where you show us the pictures of all the things you didn’t buy?
    🙂

    • I find that if I delay purchasing an item … nine times out of ten I don’t end up making that purchase! So the trophy photos I think are a good idea! Perhaps delaying gratification is one of the most powerful tools! I find Internet shopping another area of difficulty … because the shops are accessible 24 hours a day! What do other people do to stop themselves from going online to shop??

      • Wendy, You’re right in that delaying a purchase can be a powerful tool to combat overshopping. I just need to use this tool more often! Online shopping is definitely a challenge. I read a good tip for this… Log out of the shopping sites and clear the cookies in your browser. That way, you can’t just buy with a single click. That gives a bit of time to second-guess the purchase. If others have good tips regarding online shopping, please share!

    • Chris, Great idea for me to share photos of what I didn’t buy in a future blog post! I’ve already started to save the photos, so it will be easy for me to do this. Perhaps at the end of my shopping hiatus 🙂 Thanks for the suggestion!

  16. I have a recent shopping story to share. Always interested in new trends, I read several fashion magazines each month. Most recently I thought it might be fun to have a sheer shirt to layer over a cami for summer. Since I began downsizing my wardrobe, I decided I was only allowed to have one sheer shirt and it had to coordinate with at least 3 bottoms. Placed floral prints are very popular now, so this was what I was looking for (i often focus my shopping expeditions to look for very specific items.

    After visiting several of my favorite retailers, I seemingly miraculously found the perfect shirt at Marshall’s. It was sheer, cut like a sleeveless collared shirt, and flowy. The colors of the floral could not have been more perfect to coordinate with my bottoms–it included every signature color in my seasonal capsule, and the looks I could create were far more than 3.

    You would think I would be fulfilled at scoring the perfect shirt, that this would be a happy ending. But, sadly no.

    You see, I allowed myself to be so seduced by the chase and the exhilaration of finding this more-than-perfect colored print–in my size–and the only one in stock–that I swooped on it like a huntress, happily carrying my booty to the checkout.

    Then I got home. True, the shirt coordinated dizzyingly well with my wardrobe, just as I thought it would. It fit passably well–i would give it a 7. But there was something terribly wrong that hit me all of a sudden as I examined the shirt.

    The shirt was a sham of a garment– all looks and no substance. Away from the high of the shopping experience, I examined the shirt more closely and was frankly shocked at the poor quality sewing and I realized that beyond the superficial attraction of the print, the fabric was really substandard.

    All of a sudden I felt ashamed for not paying attention to what I had bought. And I thought about how, in a factory across the world, thousands of shirts like this are being churned out in factories by toiling garment workers to stuff the forever greedy maw of the American consumer. I felt disgusted at our appetite that creates the scenario of such shoddy goods being produced in the first place, creating a whole plethora of problems–from changing social values to pollution from factories durin production on down to what to do with these garments when they are no longer fit to wear. Because the garments aren’t designed to last more than a few wearings, and then where do they go? Maybe they end up in the Goodwill, where they might be put out for sale, but what is even more likely, is they are shipped in bales to poor countries where people need clothing, and if those people won’t wear them–you guessed it–all that polyester ends up in a landfill or is recycled into carpet padding or similar products. It is a tremendous production cycle that uses vast amounts of energy and resources.

    We have created a huge global polluting industry over our lust for cheap accessible clothing that is such poor quality that even indigent people will not choose to wear, instead of scaling back and returning to manufacturing quality goods for a fair price, in our own country, giving jobs to our own people.

    I am ashamed because I should have known better. My grandmother was a seamstress and an embroiderer in a time when seamstresses and garment workers were a respected trade. She would have been appalled at the shirt I so mindlessly purchased.

    It will be awhile before I go shopping again, and when I do, I will be far more mindful of where my clothes are coming from, the conditions under which they are being produced. Those of you who shop for the high or the temporary anesthesis it provides, might do well to pause, as I have done and consider the social and global implications of our next impulsive purchase. As for me, the cheap shirt is going back to the store, not to be repeated.

    • Deborah, Thank you so much for sharing this powerful story with me and my readers! You said it all so well – bravo! I’ve learned some similar lessons myself as of late…

      For those who want to better understand where their clothes come from and want to shop more wisely, a reader (the wonderful Janice of “The Vivienne Files“) shared this link recently: http://www.betterworldshopper.com/. Specific information on clothing can be found here: http://www.betterworldshopper.com/r-clothing.html. I will share more as I become aware of other resources.

    • Debbie … I agree … the quality of goods available is so poor that I don’t understand why people purchase them in the first place! Surely a more expensive well made garment that lasts many seasons is a much better decision! We’re all being robbed by cheap clothing!!

      • So true! I seem to find better clothes at thrift and consignment stores than at the mall lately, but things are going downhill there, too. I definitely recommend reading “Overdressed.” It really helped to open my eyes!

  17. I have to add one more thing. Around the same time as my shirt shopping story, I began reading this book, which I highly recommend to everyone who is thinking about their clothing. Always looking for some bargain at Target or the like, what I learned in this book has been an awakening for me about the reality of being a shop-return-aholic. I dare say, I may have taken a great step towards a cure!

    Overdressed : the shockingly high cost of cheap fashion / Elizabeth L. Cline
    Book
    Cline, Elizabeth L.
    New York : Portfolio/Penguin, c2012.
    338.477469 C641 2012

    • Deborah, I recently read this book as well. It had a profound impact on me, too! I wish I would have read it long ago… I plan to offer my thoughts on the book soon, but thanks for sharing the book with my readers!

  18. Debbie, I just want to encourage you to continue on your journey and to continue doing the hard work. It’s incredibly courageous of you to be so honest and to work on the underlying issues. While I conquered my shopping issues a few years ago, I’ve been enjoying reading your blog immensely. Keep up the good work!

    • Mrs. M, Thank you for your kind words! I’m glad you are enjoying my blog and I appreciate your taking the time to tell me so.

  19. Thanks so much for your blog. I have been struggling with shopping for as long as I can remember. I’ve known about project 333, but have yet to take the leap. So much in this post rang true for me. I have too many clothes, but also have a lot of “holes” in my wardrobe, when I look I have too many of one item and not enough of another. I have taken shopping hiatus but they often seldom last long. So I try to take it all one day a a time, but often despair that I make any progress at all. Your blog is very helpful. Thank you.

    • Pam, I’m glad you like my blog and can relate to a lot of what I write. We are definitely not alone! The excellent response to my blog shows me that this topic really needs to be addressed. Take it one day at a time. That’s what I’m doing. If I think too far into the future, I go nuts. Slow, steady improvement will get us there!

  20. I love what you’ve written here–I can see myself in this article more ways than I can count–and am inspired to follow suit. I’m committing today not to shop for clothes for a month. Thanks for your blog–I really appreciate your openness.

    • Welcome and thanks for your comment! I’m glad my blog is resonating with you. Congrats on joining me in the shopping hiatus! Please comment again and let me know how it goes. Best wishes to you!

  21. I am a new shopaholic. I told my boyfriend that I have a problem with shopping because we are engaged and I felt he would have some empathy and compassion. Since I told him my life have been living Hell! Every time I bring something in the house there is stress. I have bought 3 things since I told him but he doesn’t know that. I wore a pair of shoes that I had before I told him and he treated me very disrespectful in front of his grand kids and told them I have a sickness. I am so stressed out. He is a recovering addict and I have NEVER treated him so bad about his problems and he has never went into therapy. I need some suggestions to deal with this!!!!

    • Welcome, Val! I’m glad you found my blog and I hope you will find my articles helpful. I think it’s difficult for many other people to understand those of us with a compulsive shopping problem. They think, “Why can’t they just shop less?” If your boyfriend is a recovering addict, the two of you probably have more in common than he thinks. The motivations for many addictions are very similar. If you read my article “The Reasons We Shop Too Much,” you’ll see that many of these reasons can apply to other types of addictions, too.

      I think your boyfriend may be more compassionate if he better understands what you’re going through. Try to talk to him more about it when you’re alone and he’s calmer. Be open and honest and share your feelings with him. Let him know that his previous responses were hurtful and tell him what you need from him. Also find out what he needs from you. Try not to hide things from him, as it will only get worse if he finds out later. I had a lot of arguments with my husband about my shopping and things were always worse if I had been dishonest with him about what I bought and how much I spent.

      I tried to find some other resources for you. April Benson (author of “To Buy or Not to Buy“) has a page “For Friends and Family” on her website: http://www.shopaholicnomore.com/category/for-friends-family/ . Perhaps it might help if your boyfriend reads that. There is more I could write, but I hope this helps at least a little bit… Best wishes to you and feel free to write back again if you need more help and advice.

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