q + a: how i kicked my shopping habit


Teresa asks
“How did you break your shopping habit? Did you go to Shopaholics Anonymous meetings?”
As you may know, I’m a reformed shopaholic. I spent most of my time shopping, returning, had clothes in the closet never worn or worn only once, never really happy with any of it, would just continue to shop and shop… I didn’t go to meetings. Here’e what I did:
About 9 years ago, I made a list of all the things I was unhappy with and wanted to change in my life. Since my home and wardrobe were at the top, I finally had to acknowledge that all these things I was buying weren’t living up to the promise of making me happy.
I stopped cold-turkey, challenging myself not to buy anything for an entire month. Instead of shopping, I started to think about what I wanted out of my things. I paid attention when I was tempted to buy to find my triggers. An important lesson was ‘just because something is beautiful, doesn’t mean I need to buy it’.

Breaking this habit took practice, patience, self-awareness and introspection. It forced me to figure out what I wanted out of life. But by doing that, I now see all things as tools to help me live the life I want to live.


This didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t easy. I still fall into bad habits so I prepared my rules to avoid mistakes. I’m not perfect, and I do at times buy things I shouldn’t. I figure out which rule I broke when I bought it, then either return it, sell it or give it away and move on…

6 responses

  1. Ah, I need to try this (making a list, taking note of my triggers). I can say that decluttering has done a lot to curb my desire to buy stuff. Just watching all that useless stuff go out the door, and thinking about how much money was spent …. I'm now much more selective about what I bring into my home.I'm new here and also just wanted to say how much I am enjoying your blog since I discovered it a few days ago. I've always been drawn to the idea of simplicity and minimalism, but could never relate to the "roughing it" aspects that are usually described in writings about it. I much prefer your "living better with less" version.I am also a "cold" person with regards to interior design. I love color, but have come to realize that I prefer my home to be a cool and calm oasis in contrast to the colors I use in crafts and in my wardrobe.

  2. welcome ms. m!you make a great point of decluttering being connected with getting more selective about what you bring into your home afterwards. it's a big eye opener for a lot of people.i don't believe in depriving your(or my)self. i do believe in going without if i can live without something, but my philosophy isn't about roughing it! i'm glad to hear you can relate. :O)

  3. Beautiful post! Sometimes answering the question "what do I want from my things?" is much harder to answer than it is to actually buy something. I sometimes think in this society we are conditioned to let advertisers tell us what we need rather than to do the hard inner work of figuring out exactly who we are, what things we need to actualize our presence in the world and what we want our lives to be.

  4. I like your comment about ‘Just because something is beautiful doesn’t mean I need to buy it.’ I learned that same lesson a year or so ago. I used to live in San Francisco and when Target came out with some melamine plates and some tumblers that had SF related designs, I bought one plate and one tumbler but I wanted more. Then I realized that just because something has “San Francisco” on it, I don’t have to buy it to remind me of my time there! Plus, what if someone took a paper plate and scrawled the words “san francisco” on it. Would I feel the need to buy THAT?! :)

    Then I looked at advertising and it occurred to me that advertisers have the goal of selling stuff. (brilliant realization, I know) They don’t know (or care about) my personal story. They don’t know if I have a million dollars in the bank or owe thirty thousand dollars in debt or if I have money in savings or not. Just because they make a product, I don’t have to buy it.

    So I’ve become more selective in what I buy. I just purchased a gorgeous bag to use every day but mostly have it in mind to use on a trip I’m taking soon. I love that I can choose not to buy 20 little things that are cute and spend one sum on something that will make me smile every time I use it. And since I don’t have any credit cards, I can only spend what I have cash for.

  5. sunny, thanks so much for sharing your story. and the san francisco paper plate story cracked me up!! too funny but still a important lesson you needed to learn for yourself. thanks!