Sometimes (okay, most of the time), it can be really fun to go out and get a little retail therapy. It's fun to shop! It's fun to go out into the wild jungle of commerce and hunt and gather and bring your newfound prizes home!
However, in the West, we often are challenged from having too many choices, too much opportunity and we are often tempted to purchase items on impulse only to leave them sitting in the shopping bag at home or even putting them away never to actually use them. Well, if this sounds like you, I've got some tips to help you determine if you should checkout or get out.
Okay, so I know we are all guilty of Impulse Purchasing. Shopping is fun and can actually make you feel better if you have a bad day...but kind of the same way that chocolate cake can make you feel better. It's not necessarily the greatest way to relieve stress because too much of it can make you feel sick or make you gain weight. One of my favorite books from my twenties was Confessions of A Shopaholic, which was the fictional story of a young woman with a shopping addiction who puts herself into debt from buying designer shoes and handbags. It's a fun, lighthearted book with a serious undertone as I was just getting out of debt from a period of over-shopping myself. These quick hits of dopamine can quickly come with a consequence of creating stress from acquiring crippling debt or creating clutter in your home.
Many of the clients I see when I'm in their homes helping them declutter their spaces, talk to me about their shopping habits and how they may be creating a problem in their homes. I have often seen items of all sorts with the tags still attached or even items in the bags that did not make it out of their packaging once they arrived at home. A great deal of keeping an organized home is to correct some behaviors that bring clutter in your house in the first place and I like to encourage my clients to do what I call Mindful Shopping.
Stop Using Shopping As A Remedy for a Bad Day: I understand, I've done this. The weird truth is...Retail Therapy IS real. Studies have proved it's a highly effective way to relieve stress and anxiety and 82% of purchases made while therapeutic shopping are actually purchases buyers do not regret. While it's true that shopping is really fun, you can often start to rely on this as a crutch for a quick hit of dopamine when you've had a bad day. Just like anything that can make you feel better when you feel bad, you can quickly develop habits and get dependent on these behaviors just like any other vice. Retail therapy can quickly take a dark turn to compulsive shopping.
So, I like to encourage people, if they are having a bad day or they are in a bad mood, instead of grabbing their purse to go shopping without a goal or without specific items in mind (don't just go to the mall), that they redirect their feelings and do something productive instead. The feeling of accomplishing something can be just as much of a pick-me-up as buying two pairs of shoes and it might not have cost you anything except time.
Going to the gym, taking your dog for a walk, emptying the dishwasher, opening the mail...not all these things are "fun" things, but the feeling of accomplishment that you get after they are done can often be enough to improve your mood. So long and short of it...if you're in a bad mood and you want to go shopping to make yourself feel better...don't. That being said if you do go out and do a little Retail Therapy shopping from time to time, it's not necessarily the end of the world. I even recommend that clients take themselves shopping as reward for achieving goals.
Window Shop Instead of Purchase: A study shows that window or hypothetical shopping is just as therapeutic as actual shopping. There was a point in my life when I didn't think window shopping was going to be very satisfying, but it actually is. Sometimes, if I've had a bad day and I want to do some impulse shopping, I will consciously leave my debit and credit cards at home and just go and browse. This actually does make me feel better and after my mood has been improved I still have my money. This practice leads me to the next strategy which is...
Capture and Hold: If you're out and you find yourself in an impulsive shopping situation, instead of taking the item up to the till. Pull out your phone and take a picture of it. You've captured its image and that MIGHT be enough to satisfy you and make you feel better. If you end up looking through your photo roll and really want to go back for the item after some time, than go for it. But if you're still there and feel like you're not sure if you're in the right headspace to make a good decision about the item, put it on hold if that retailer allows. Depending on the store, items can usually be held for a few hours, until closing or for 24 hours, just ask. If you really want it, you can go back for it. If you change your mind, a nice salesperson will put it back on the shelf.
Go Shopping Purposefully: When you are actually out shopping for things you need, you probably won't need to go through this list of questions. However, if you are out by yourself...and you feel out of control...here is your questioning:
Was I looking to buy this item already?
Will it serve a meaningful purpose in my life?
Do I have something similar already ?
Can I make space for it/Do I have a place for it when it gets home?
When do I plan on using this/enjoying it?
I made a pdf cheat sheet for you to reference if you are struggling. Happy Mindful Shopping!