I’ve been writing this blog for over a year now. When I started the blog, I selected the title “Recovering Shopaholic” as a way of declaring my intention for recovery to myself and to the world at large. I also hoped to connect with and inspire fellow shopaholics who want to overcome their compulsive shopping habits. Over the course of this past year, I feel very fortunate to have achieved some measure of success on both fronts.
I went shopping the other day for the first time in about a month. As I left the mall, I was struck by a very strong feeling of “maybe I’m cured.” I didn’t feel the same “pull” or exhilaration for the activity of shopping as I used to feel. My mind was clearly “running the show” rather than my emotions and I felt very pleased at the shift in both my thinking and my behavior.
What Has Changed?
As I’ve reflected on the experience over the past couple of days, I took some time to consider what has changed. I pondered the question,
What’s different from the way I used to shop?”
In today’s post, I share my answers… Of course, these are not the only ten signs of recovery from compulsive shopping, and I’m sure I could come up with more over time. In addition, recovery occurs differently for different people, so your signs may not be the same as mine. However, I believe that many of you will find resonance in these signs. If you do, I hope you’ll take some time to acknowledge your progress!
For those of you who aren’t “there” yet, I hope this post serves as an inspiration for things to come, provided you stay on the path and keep working toward your recovery. I’ve been in your shoes, as my earlier posts reflect, and as with any addiction, I know that I’m in danger of backsliding if I’m not careful. But I’m living proof that recovery is possible! I haven’t reached the proverbial “finish line” just yet, but the signs below are a reflection of how far I’ve come. I’m going to continue working on my goals for my shopping, my wardrobe, and my life (I’ll provide an update soon…), but just for today, I’m pausing briefly to revel in my progress.
The 10 Signs
So without further ado, I present my ten signs that you’re a recovering shopaholic. If you have other “signs” to add to the list, please share them with me and your fellow readers in the comments section of this post.
Sign #1 – You go shopping with a defined purpose and plan instead of just to “browse.”
For most of my life, I approached shopping like a sport. I shopped for the sake of shopping rather than for any defined purpose. I loved browsing the stores and picking up any “great deals” that caught my eye. I no longer shop that way. I now preselect where I will shop and what I am shopping for. I have a plan for what I will and won’t buy and this plan guides my shopping activities.
Sign #2 – You leave stores empty-handed.
I used to hate leaving a store without a shopping bag in my hand. I felt like a “failure” if I didn’t manage to snap up something new and exciting at each and every shopping destination. It felt like a let-down for me to ever leave a store without buying something. This is no longer the case. In fact, I often feel proud of myself when I exit a store without a bag in my hand, as I know I had the willpower to resist “impulse buys.” I’m happy to have increased my shopping standards and to not buy anything unless I find things that meet my predefined needs.
Sign #3 – You don’t buy something because it’s not on your priority list.
In the past, my only priority when shopping was to buy something “fun” or “cool.” If something was eye-catching and/or on sale, it often made its way to the cash register in my hands. I’m now more than willing to pass up the flashy pieces and the “great deals” in favor of searching out my defined wardrobe needs. I know that buying pieces to fill real wardrobe gaps will lead to much more lasting fulfillment than the fleeting thrills of snapping up flashy finds or “must-buy” sale items.
Sign #4 – You no longer buy duplicates or multiples (or you buy far fewer of them).
For many years, whenever I found an item I liked, I would buy it in three or four colors. “The more the merrier,” I thought. I also bought duplicates of many pieces of my wardrobe (as you may remember, I once had nine black skirts!). I purchased duplicates for several reasons – I wasn’t fully aware of what I had, I lacked awareness of what I needed, and I was stuck in a style rut.
I now have a much stronger awareness of what I have and what I need, and I’m working on escaping the style rut in which I had been mired for several years. I realize that part of why I kept wanting to shop was because my wardrobe lacked variety, yet I kept perpetuating the problem by buying the same types of styles over and over again. There was definitely some shopping insanity going on there! Fortunately, I’m now working to turn things around.
Sign #5 – You don’t buy something because it doesn’t fit your budget.
I used to set a shopping budget every year, but I never once kept to it. Instead, I overspent my clothing budget each month and practiced “creative accounting” to cover my tracks. My primary concern was immediate gratification rather than being a woman of integrity and honoring my financial commitments.
These days, I’ve gotten much better at delaying satisfaction until I can actually afford the things I want to buy. I trust that what I want will be available when I can afford it or that something equally good or better will come along. As a result, the fulfillment I’ve gained from honoring my word is far greater than the short-term rush I felt from buying beyond my means.
Sign #6 – You let a store coupon expire without using it.
Those of you who hold store credit cards are familiar with the coupons sent to cardholders on a regular basis. Such coupons either grant the holder a certain percentage or a particular dollar amount off a future purchase, and generally must be used within a relatively short time window. For years, I rarely let these coupons expire without using them. In fact, I typically rushed out to redeem them right away, as it felt like money was burning a hole in my pocket.
At this point, I only have one store credit card (and it’s a debit card), but I still receive coupons from stores by email and via social media. However, they no longer excite me like they used to and it’s not uncommon for these coupons to expire before I end up using them. But I no longer feel remorse at the “lost savings.” Instead, I realize that something is only a “deal” if it meets my needs and fits my budget.
Sign #7 – You don’t shop during Nordstrom’s Triple Points Days (or other stores “Friends and Family Days,” etc.).
When I was in Nordstrom the other day, I was informed that “triple points days” started the following day. I heard other customers raving about this and asking sales associates to hold their purchases and charge them when they could receive more credit for them (points accumulate leading to discount coupons for later use). I used to jump all over such “opportunities,” but they no longer excite me. I realize that these types of incentives and deals only serve to push people to buy more. I now focus on buying what I need and don’t spend time and energy worrying about how I can save a few bucks.
Sign #8 – You no longer hide your purchases from your significant other.
Back when I shopped several times per week, I was always thinking of ways to hide my purchases from my husband. I didn’t want him to know how many things I bought or how much I spent. I would often hide things in the trunk of my car or under the seats or “smuggle” smaller purchases into the house inside my purse (throwing the packaging away in the dumpster downstairs to hide the evidence). Deep inside, I hated myself for my duplicity, especially since my husband and I had such an open and honest relationship in all other respects.
These days, I proudly show my husband what I bought when I return from a shopping trip. I no longer feel ashamed for buying too much and I enjoy showing him my purchases, as they are fewer and more prudent. At this point, I’m quite a bit under my clothing budget for the year, so I have no reason to hide anything from the man I love. I feel much better about myself for exercising restraint in my shopping and honesty in my communications.
Sign #9 – Your wardrobe is getting smaller instead of larger.
During my shopaholic years, my closet was bursting at the seams. In fact, I had two or even three closets for many of those years, plus I stored additional clothing in a storage unit. I kept bringing more and more clothes into my wardrobe and rarely took the time or the energy to purge the things I no longer loved and used. My focus was directed toward the acquisition of new things rather than the maintenance of what I had.
Over the course of the past few years and especially since early 2013, I’ve made a concerted effort to pare down my wardrobe and be more deliberate about what I buy and what I keep. As a result, all of my clothes now comfortably fit into one closet and it’s easy for me to see what I have. It’s now much easier for me to get dressed each day and any wardrobe gaps I have are more readily apparent. The shopping I do these days is far more deliberate and targeted. I’m buying a lot less than I used to buy and making shopping choices which more appropriately suit my lifestyle needs.
Sign #10 – Shopping is no longer your “default activity.”
Shopping can be the sole hobby for many shopaholics, as was the case for me for many years. Whenever I had free time or needed some downtime, my default activity was shopping. Even when I was on vacation, I looked forward to checking out the shops in whatever locale I was visiting. In fact, I often opted to shop, something I could easily do at home, over taking in sights that we unique to my vacation spot. Who knows how much I missed out on as a result of my obsession with shopping!
When I have free time now, I sometimes still shop, but I also elect to do other activities much of the time. This past Saturday, I had planned to shop, but because the weather was so beautiful, I chose to go on a long walk along the water with my husband instead. I sometimes choose to write, read, or do other activities besides shopping as well. I’d still like to find more hobbies to enjoy, but I’m happy that shopping is no longer my default activity.
An Intention Fulfilled…
The above ten signs show me that I’m progressing well in my recovery. I’m pleased that the intention I set for myself last January – for becoming a recovering shopaholic – is coming to fruition. I’m going to keep moving forward and taking my recovery process one day at a time. I’m reminded of a saying from 12-step groups (which I attended years ago for eating disorders), “Keep coming back. It works if you work it!”
I wholeheartedly believe that change is possible for all of us. It may not occur in a linear fashion and instead may progress in hills and valleys, but we can overcome the challenges we face in life. Stick with it and keep putting one foot in front of the other. You’ll be amazed at what you can do. If I can do it, you can, too!
I’d love to get your input on the topic of recovery. What have been the greatest signs you’ve seen as you’ve progressed on the path to overcome your compulsive shopping and/or closet overload challenges? If you’re still early in your journey, what signs do you hope to see moving forward? I invite you to share your experience and insights in the comments section. If you’re reading this post via email or a feed reader, please click here to comment.