I carry a PocketMod in my wallet. On the front page it has a quote: “Shopping addiction is defined as the deficiency of impulse control which appears as the eagerness for constantly making new purchases of unnecessary or superfluous things”. The next page has a list of all the current internet orders I have pending delivery. The very back page states my goals as far as ceasing my seemingly endless stream of purchases: zero pending orders, savings account at a certain total, 0 “new” clothes purchases (used and necessary is ok), after I reach 0 pending online orders, only make one MINDFUL purchase at a time. By the time this podcast is released, I will be at 0 pending online orders (the final two arrive tomorrow: a tank top I bought with a gift card and very necessary new underwear… yes, I’m justifying my purchases to you).
Do I believe I have the true process addiction of shopping? Maybe not bad enough to go to meetings and work the steps BUT it’s an issue. Also, some of my behaviors in the past were very indicative of an issue (hiding the boxes before my husband got home, making a separate account so he wouldn’t know what I was getting, getting defensive if he mentioned my spending, etc). I didn’t like the way I was shopping and spending, hence, it was problematic. If you don’t like a behavior, it’s a problem for YOU! I never bankrupted us, I never diminished our savings, I didn’t rack up or max out a handful of credit cards BUT I was hitting “buy now” or “checkout” mindlessly. When I’d find myself at Target (dangerous place), I’d find myself filling my cart with various plastics and fabrics that either wore out fast, didn’t fit in a flattering way (do any clothing items flatter a mom-bod?), or didn’t capture my children’s fancy longer than a couple days. These things always ended up in my donation pile in no time. Or my CraigsList free ads. By the way, let’s stop inundating GoodWill and Salvation Army, just list your stuff on CraigsList for free, and happy people come take your things away. It’s great. Ok, back to the show. I also attribute my mindless shopping behavior to the smartphone. Always at the ready, for any idea that may pop into my head. My kid trips and falls and smashes her head, oh wait let me buy some gymnastics mats real quick. The birds come looking for food where there isn’t a feeder, let me buy another feeder for that hook. I walk in the house and get dry crumbly dirt on the kitchen floor, let me buy a boot scraper for every entryway and utility mats, too. Oh, wait… they have to match or be uniform with each other. So, I’ll get rid of the one mat, and get three matching mats. Well… that doesn’t match my industrial farmhouse aesthetic so let me change it up. And so on and so on. I wasn’t using what I already had, dealing with the pain mismatched entry mats were causing and moving on. I wasn’t dealing with it because I didn’t have to! Amazon App, Walmart App, Wayfair App… blah blah blah. 7 years ago, I didn’t have a smartphone. I had a Virgin Mobile Pay as you Go phone… it was a fake blackberry. A fake berry if you will. It may have had the capability to download apps, I don’t remember. Maybe I didn’t know how, honestly. I had an Amazon and eBay account since maybe 2006 but I didn’t have any money AND I only shopped on the desktop computer (see aforementioned lack of a smartphone). When I was engaged to my now husband, we got on the same phone plan and he took me to pick out a new fancy, flat screen looking smarter-than-what-I-had-phone. I would’ve been content continuing on with my Fake Berry but NO I had to get with the times. Suddenly, email, shopping, browsing, social media… was all at my fingertips! I also didn’t have to pay rent by myself and had more liquid cash to throw around. Did you know there’s a way to go on your Amazon account and request purchase history for date ranges? So you can set it up to start when you opened your account until now… let me just tell you. Bleak. So, about 1.5 years ago, maybe 2… I deleted my Amazon account, my WalMart account and my Target account. I also had Zulily, WayFair, and many others to contend with. I erased all my saved passwords, all my saved payment methods and either manually deleted accounts or called their customer services to delete my account for me. They literally ask you why you’re deleting your account! I’d always say “I’m on a dangerous pathway to destroying my family, home and personal finances” and I’d always receive a generic answer or silence.
Later, I got on my husband’s Amazon account to hold myself accountable for my purchases as he gets email alerts every time I purchase something. Yes, there were times I’d get on his email and delete everything from Amazon. More problematic and addictive behavior. I’ve deleted all shopping apps from my phone. Do I have addictive behavior with my phone, most definitely! But, that’s another episode for when I get a good manage of that. I feel pretty confident talking about my shopping addiction. Now, I consider myself in recovery. I don’t feel this constant knee-jerk impulse to grab my phone and purchase something (the urge occasionally pops up).
How did I quiet the impulse, loosen its grip on my psyche? I educated myself about the environmental problems that overproduction AND overconsumption is causing. We are consuming at an alarming rate and it’s frankly destroying the ground we stand on and the air we breathe. If we slow our consumption, companies and corporations will eventually slow their production. Our dollar is powerful. I also educated myself about the inhumane conditions these companies create for their employees. I educated myself on the constant factory fires and collapses in India, China, Africa and more. Our garbage is jamming up other communities overseas because we are a bunch of “give it to me now!” babies. New new new, now now now. No no no! Wow I didn’t think I’d be able to say that. Then, I leaned into minimalism. I’ve been listening to podcasts for years, and reading SubReddits about this lifestyle. This freeing opportunity to say “no thanks”. Granted, you walk into my house you don’t think “wow, a minimalist lives here” and that’s all my husband’s fault. Ha! Just kidding… kind of. But! I try every day to think, think before I buy. Think before I consume and hit “purchase”. Think before I buy another plastic shape or plastic lump from Target, thinking “gee, my kids would really like this lump for 2.5 hours”. I think, “can I buy this from GoodWill?”. I recently went on a shopping “spree” at GoodWill and honestly came away with some good clothes to wear and a couple to re-sell (yet another episode: the world of re-selling). But, in my time browsing the shelves, I realized you can find just about everything you may need or think you need. Granted, I wouldn’t buy underwear or socks used but there’s plenty of ethical companies that have those things available NEW (though maybe created from recycled materials). Another place to shop: other people’s closets and houses! Just break in and take what you need. No. Kidding. Your parents have tons of crap they don’t use and you’ll have to deal with it when they’re not around. So, ask them for what you need NOW! My mom has about 3 butter dishes. We broke our butter dish so I asked her for one of hers. After about a year, we broke that one. That’s when I bought one new… I’m still ashamed to confess it. A new butter dish I could’ve found used. But, when we break this one (which we will… the butter dish life expectancy in our house is never longer than 3 years), I’ll head to GoodWill. I needed a melon baller to scoop cookie dough… guess who had one she never used: my mom. My girlfriends all have tons of clothes they’d love to give me. I never scoff at a quality cast off. I’m wearing my friends’ clothes as I speak! My pants have been feeling looser (don’t worry it won’t last forever) so instead of rushing out to buy the next size down, I put a damn belt on. Voila! Common sense prevails. And I didn’t buy a new belt! I asked my main squeeze, Aubrey, and she indeed had an extra belt she mailed me post haste. With some Tide wipes I’ve already used up!
So the key to breaking the vicious purchasing cycle: stop and THINK. I’m not going to tell you a hard set rule of “wait 24 hours” or “put it in your cart for 36 hours and think about it”. What worked for me: not going to problem stores. Not having shopping apps on my phone. Having my husband hold me accountable. Be vocal that I’m trying not to buy or acquire. Deleting my saved payment methods. And if I find myself browsing the internet at night, or drifting around Target… I invite that tiny voice in my head (which is growing stronger day by day) to start screaming demeaning statements: “what the heck is that?! You do NOT need that. Put it back, you idiot. You’ll never wear that. Heels?! When was the last time you wore heels… your wedding?! You didn’t even make it to the reception in them! A blazer?! You’re a stay at home mom that is a nurse on the weekends… when will you wear a blazer. Or that dress. Or those neat paper-bag waist style pants.”
People. Don’t go chasing fast fashion... Stick to the leggings and the jeans that you’re used to. I give you permission to act like a cheap skate, a penny pincher, a dumpster diver. I give you permission to dress in what’s comfortable. Forget about style. I bet you’re my age, because you’re probably one of my friends listening to this… and you probably have kids. Stuff your grocery bag gut into your leggings, put on your husband's tee shirt and your tired ass Crocs. Cause sis, I’m tired too. We’ll never look good again, so let’s enjoy comfort, without the self-imposed expectation to be “on trend”. And hey, let me know when you wanna go get a beer. Cause now you’ll have the money to afford to buy me one.