How To Break the Bad Habit of Compulsive Shopping

Monday, January 22, 2018

Retail therapy or shopping addiction has become so common place that we do not even think of it as a real problem. It is something everyone does and is therefore easily acceptable. There’s even a book series about a Shopaholic and while I haven’t read it, I watched the movie and just laughed off her addiction.

The idea of sitting in a circle with a support group and talking about shopaholic behaviour seems and unreal. People have bigger problems, terminal illness, depression, anxiety, grief, alcoholism and drug addiction, anger management issues. Problems that may have severe impact on their lives and those around them.

How To Break the Bad Habit of Compulsive Shopping

In comparison shopping addiction seems trivial, and maybe it is to others. All I know is that many people (myself included) shop compulsively. Not because we really and truly need those things but because we just do.

In my last post I discussed the various behavioural manifestations which may indicate that someone needs minimalism in their life. You can read the blog post here.

This week I would like to go over how we can break the bad habit of shopping. I am nearing the end of my three months no clothes shopping promise (24th January, 2018) and it made me reflect on the last 3 months and how I managed not to shop during this period.

I am being completely honest when I say that I do not feel the need to shop immediately. I do not have a list of things I need to buy stat, nor am I counting days till my no shopping period ends. In fact, with some advice from the awesome Tania from Sustainably Stylish, I am hoping to extend the period a little longer.

How I broke the bad habit of compulsive shopping and you can too.

Three months without shopping is not that long when you think about it. But in the past, I would not have gone through a twelve-week period without shopping for a single piece of clothing. There was also the Christmas sale in December and the ongoing Republic Day sales (in India).

Looking back at the last three months I felt a little proud of myself for holding on to my promise. I reflected on how I managed to achieve this little feat and thought I should share it here on my blog.

Make a quantifiable commitment to yourself and stick to it

I usually do not like to set hard rules for myself because I think they are artificial and meant to be broken. In fact, I read about the 3-month shopping fast on Style Bee and while I liked the idea, I didn’t love the semantics (which is why I call it my no shopping promise).

Making a quantifiable commitment helps. You know what is expected of you and there is a clear end-goal in sight. The three-month shopping period worked for me because I had made a very specific commitment to myself. If there was anything I needed to buy it could wait during these three months and I would learn to live without it for the time being.

Instead if I had just said no shopping, the chances of my finding something I loved and wanted to add to my wardrobe were very high. Without a specific period, I would have made exceptions and reverted to a lifestyle of impulsive shopping. 

How To Break the Bad Habit of Compulsive Shopping

Find someone to hold you accountable

I know we all have an inner voice that tells us not to do the things we aren’t supposed to do. But we often ignore the inner voice. So, find an anchor that will hold you accountable.
It could be a person, or a journal or social media. The choice is yours. But once you tell others about your goals it becomes easier to hold yourself to them.

For me it was my blog. I began blogging at the same time as when I made my commitment to minimalism and it has really helped me stay on track. The fact that I am sharing my journey makes me feel responsible for my actions and lends greater weight to my word.

Explore things you can do with your free time

Looking back, my number one reason for shopping was boredom. I didn’t shop unnecessarily when I had other things to do and my mind was occupied. I shopped when I was bored.

These activities can be hobbies or taking on additional responsibility at home or work or even helping out friends with something.

I am not suggesting that you replace one addiction with another. But doing a variety of things I enjoy make me happy without blowing up a ton of cash and cluttering my house. Whether it is writing and promoting this blog, learning new things (hello photography and website theme installations), catching up on old hobbies or even simply giving myself an off day and watching movies. The added bonus; I don’t carry any guilt from these activities.

Delete and unsubscribe from shopping apps and mailers

This is the most obvious one. Shopping becomes a habit because we are constantly bombarded with messages about the latest collection or the best deals and discount coupons. Ignoring those messages are hard when they are being thrown at you on your phone and email.

Instead of being brave and saying you will ignore those messages, just delete and unsubscribe. For the SMS notifications (which can’t seem to unsubscribe) I just use the DND feature on my iPhone. I don’t get notified about incoming messages and I delete them in bulk without opening when I go to my messages app.

Sometimes ignorance really is bliss so just shield yourself from those pesky notifications and mailers. Once the apps and mails are absent from your life, the urge to open the app or website and window shop online will gradually leave you.

Avoid visiting malls and window shopping

This is another biggie because malls are so easily accessible and a convenient way to spend the weekend without making actual plans. And I know it is not possible to not visit malls for an extended period of time.

But when possible avoid it. If you are meeting friends for coffee or drinks, choose a place that’s not inside a mall. Avoid going to pop-up shops, farmers markets and trade shows.

Recovering alcoholics avoid hanging out at bars and stores are the drugs of shopaholics. Treat it as a rehab for some time and make plans that don’t include a retail environment whenever possible.

Put all your clothes in one place

A lot of capsule wardrobe projects tell you to pack up everything excluding the thirty-odd items you will wear over the designated ninety-day period. I find that it doesn’t work for me.

Having the full extent of my wardrobe in front of my eyes helps me to remember just how much stuff I own. It is easier to think you don’t need more when you can see the enormity of everything you already own.

Face the problem head on and with open eyes. Preferably hang everything up in your closet and you will see that you already have a lot more than enough.

How To Break the Bad Habit of Compulsive Shopping

Do a capsule wardrobe project

OK I know this might seem contradictory after what I just said about packing things up. Capsule wardrobes may not be perfect, but they have a lot of merits and doing a capsule wardrobe can be a very eye-opening exercise.

You don’t have to commit to the full ninety-day project at once, if you don’t want to. I did StyleBee’s 10x10 micro-capsule where I wore only 10 clothing pieces for 10 days with the exclusion of everything else in my wardrobe. 

You can read my experience with the 10x10 capsule wardrobe here

The 10x10 capsule wardrobe compelled me to think of my outfits as a complete unit and try mixing and matching different skirts, jeans and tops to create unique looks that I would like to wear. I also learnt to focus on styling to make a repeat outfit interesting with jewellery, shoes and accessories.

They helped me think of ways to make a tiny wardrobe versatile and interesting which in turn made me realise that I don’t need a bloated wardrobe to look good every day.

So that’s it. These are my 8 steps to breaking out of the bad habit of compulsive shopping. Do you think they work for you or do you have suggestions on what else can be done. Let me know in the comments section below.

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