Why is it that even when our closets are bursting we still go shopping? Why does it feel so good to acquire… and how can we avoid buying too much?
If we want to get organized, one of the major habits we need to conquer is bringing “more” into our lives. While purchasing necessities is a part of life, many of us lack the ability to set and maintain boundaries around a healthy level of accumulation.
As a result, we buy more than we need, often to the point of creating unwanted clutter in our homes and offices. In other words, we are our own worst enemies in the battle to maintain order.
So why do we do it? There are a variety of reasons, but the common thread is that we find it rewarding. Retailers are experts at attracting us and getting us to have a positive experience when we spend money, so naturally there is a long list of benefits we experience:
- The environment makes us feel good: there is pleasing music in the background, the lighting flatters us, and the people around us are frequently in a good mood.
- New purchases bring with them a sense of optimism (for example, “I will look attractive in this outfit” or “This item will save me time”)
- For many, shopping is a social experience. Shopping with a group of friends often connotes conversation, emotional support, and positive reinforcement.
- Shopping is frequently entertainment. Perhaps you enjoy exploring the downtown of a city you are visiting and stopping in boutiques along the way. Maybe you go shopping with friends and stop for a Starbucks coffee or Wetzels pretzel. Maybe you like to stroll your baby through the stimulating sights and sounds of a mall.
As a result of these and other “upsides”, you may end up making purchases even when you don’t have a need. To fight this inclination, the best strategy is to decide in advance whether you are shopping or buying.
You are shopping if…
- you want to have a social experience
- you want to get ideas
- you want to be with friends
- you don’t need anything
- you don’t bring any new items home with you
You should only be buying if….
- you have a need for an item
- you know the specifics of what you need (e.g. size/color)
- you have designated a place where you will keep the new item
- you have set a budget for what you are willing to spend
- you are not trying to make yourself feel better about something unrelated
- you are not trying to alleviate boredom
Both shopping and buying can play healthy roles in life. The key is to understand your motivation, and to be fully conscious of what your purpose is before you head to the mall, Home Depot, or wherever you find most tempting. Remember, it is always easier and more fun to add material possessions than it is to sort and get rid of them.
Next week: Understanding the stress of disposal.
Seana Turner is a professional organizer in Darien.