I’d like to share a story with you about two very different types of shoppers. One is a shopaholic who shops unconsciously, buys too much, buys the wrong types of things, and returns at least half of what she acquires. The other shopper shops much more carefully and mindfully, buys far less, and doesn’t need to return many of her purchases.
Both of These Shoppers Are Me!
The interesting twist is that I’m writing about the same person at two different points in her life. In fact, both of these shoppers are me! The first shopper is me prior to starting this blog and the second shopper is me now, in October 2013. In this post, I share a before and after comparison of how I used to shop and how I shop today.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a recovering shopaholic. I don’t have it all figured out by any means. I still make mistakes and at times I still shop for the wrong reasons and buy the wrong things. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I have made some important changes that I’d like to share with you today.
Before the Blog…
Prior to starting “Recovering Shopaholic” at the beginning of this year, I spent an average of $5000 per year on clothing, shoes, accessories, and alterations. I shopped in brick and mortar stores at least once a week and often several times per week. I also spent an average of two to three hours a day reading style blogs and forums and combing through online stores. I added close to 200 new items to my closet each year, and that doesn’t include the many, many pieces that I bought and later returned.
I shopped for a variety of reasons, the least of which being a defined wardrobe need. I shopped when I was bored, I shopped when I was lonely, I shopped when I wanted to avoid something else in my life, and I shopped when I wanted to boost my mood, as well as a whole host of other reasons. I didn’t even need a reason to shop. “Just because…” was as good a reason as any for entering a physical or online store.
An Altered State of Consciousness
Whenever I shopped, I entered an alternate state of consciousness. I lost myself in the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of all of the bright, shiny, new items around me. When I entered a store, I began moving quickly and speaking rapidly. I was a woman on a mission, so much so that I was frequently mistaken for a store employee. My personality completely changed. I went from a normally reserved introvert to an exuberant and bubbly extrovert whenever I was surrounded by racks of clothing, shoes, and accessories.
I could spend hours and hours in a store without getting tired. I shopped and shopped, but I never “dropped.” Quite the contrary, in fact. Shopping actually energized me instead of draining me. I was “in the zone” when I was shopping. Shopping was my drug of choice and I imbibed in it with the vigor of any addict. Instead of drinking, doing drugs, gambling, or overeating, I shopped. I felt compelled to do it and there was a “payoff” for my actions. But as with any addiction, there were also consequences…
And Then the Spell Was Broken…
When I left the store or the mall and loaded my bags into the trunk of my car, the spell was broken. I then became gripped with a sense of sheer panic. I was ashamed at what I had done and started to plan ways to avoid the negative repercussions of my actions. I used faulty logic to justify my behavior and I resorted to covert and underhanded activities to hide my ill-advised deeds.
I acted in ways I wasn’t proud of and which didn’t reflect my true beliefs and morals, because I wasn’t ready to change. I didn’t want to give up the highs I experienced from shopping in order to escape the lows I felt after my shopping sprees. The payoffs I was getting from shopping outweighed the negative consequences for quite some time. However, as 2012 drew to a close, I knew I not only needed to change, but I also wanted something different for myself.
In January 2013, “Recovering Shopaholic” was born. I vowed to do whatever I needed to do to trade my full closet for a full life, and I agreed to openly and honestly share my journey with anyone and everyone who found my message through the blogosphere. Fortunately, many people have found me and I’ve been blessed with an abundance of support and encouragement from my readers.
What’s Different Now?
In the past two weeks, I’ve made a few pilgrimages to the mall. In doing so, I’ve noticed some important shifts in the way I approach shopping today as compared to a year ago or even earlier this year. Most of these shifts are very positive and I’m proud of myself for the changes I’ve made. However, there is a downside to my transformation which I’ll share a bit later.
First and foremost, I no longer lose myself in the shopping experience. My brain now remains in the driver’s seat instead of my emotions. I stay calm and with my wits about me as I survey the merchandise and decide what, if anything, to try on. I consider my shopping list and why I’m there and don’t allow myself to be overcome with the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of the displays.
While I still look at the sales racks, I’m now able to do so without putting on my “sales goggles.” I now feel much less temptation to buy something just because it’s a “great deal.” If it doesn’t fulfill upon my wardrobe needs and desires, it stays in the store!
Sometimes I Still Get Emotional While Shopping
Occasionally, however, I still find myself becoming emotional while shopping. I sometimes feel myself drifting towards shiny, pretty items that I just don’t need. I shift my efforts toward what’s easy for me to find, such as tops and jackets, instead of searching for those difficult pieces like jeans, pants, and skirts. My emotions push me to do what’s easy and mindless instead of what will best serve me in terms of my wardrobe and lifestyle needs.
When I feel that “shopping high” creeping up my spine, I’m now able to put the kibosh on it before it takes over my brain. My rational mind steps in and presents compelling questions to diffuse my emotions before they start running the show. I ask myself things like:
- “Do I really need that?”
- “Is it on my list?”
- “Do I already have something similar?”
- “Where would I wear it?”
- “Does it suit my lifestyle?”
- “Does it fit my budget?”
Fewer Buys, More Sales Resistance, Great Progress!
I now buy far less than I did before. I sometimes even leave stores empty-handed, even after I’ve tried on a number of pieces in the fitting room and have been assisted by a helpful (and sometimes pushy) salesperson. I have much more sales resistance as I’ve become better at keeping my wardrobe goals in mind instead of shopping as a hobby or as a diversion from the rest of my life.
As I mentioned earlier, I still make mistakes and at times I have to return things or just cut my losses, but in the balance, I’ve made tremendous progress in shifting the way I deal with shopping.
But There IS a Downside…
That all sounds great, doesn’t it? What could possibly be the downside to the changes I’ve made in the way I shop? Well, there is one negative point that I need to find a way to overcome. You see, I used to love shopping. It was my primary hobby and a great passion in my life. I used to derive great enjoyment from shopping, but I don’t anymore.
Now that I’m shopping more mindfully and with purpose, the experience no longer feels all that fun to me. Since I don’t lose myself in the experience, it doesn’t provide the type of escape or diversion I crave. It’s become more of a chore or a means to an end at this point. Sure, it’s satisfying when I find an item on my list, but when I don’t, it’s often quite frustrating and draining.
No Replacement for Shopping as of Yet
I know many of you have lots of activities you enjoy and which fulfill you in various ways. While I definitely have things I enjoy doing and am working to cultivate new hobbies and interests, I’ve yet to find a replacement for shopping in my life. I’m sure that will come with time, but at this point I feel a bit of a loss for what shopping used to mean for me. I know it was very destructive to me in many ways, but I miss what it provided for me.
I’m sure I will find my way and grow to love a lot of other things in life besides shopping. I’m sure that shopping will eventually find its rightful place in my life as an occasional activity that meets a defined need. I’m sure I’ll eventually create the full life I want to replace my full closet. But right now, I feel a bit sad and I’m mourning the loss of shopping as a hobby and passion.
In the Balance, I’m Happy with the Changes
In the balance, though, I’m very happy and proud of the changes I’ve made. I know I still have a long way to go, but I’m happy to now be a different type of shopper, one who shops with her brain instead of her emotions.
I’m sure I will always like nice things and want to dress well and I’ll need to shop from time to time to fill closet gaps and update my wardrobe. But shopping is no replacement for truly living and enjoying my life. Shopping will never fill the emptiness in my soul. That emptiness is still there, but with some time and a lot of work and soul-searching, I believe I’ll find other ways to feed my soul. I will have faith and continue to walk my path of recovery. I thank all of those who are walking with me and cheering me on along the way!