Becoming a More Conscious Consumer
Over the years, I have always enjoyed cleaning out my overflowing wardrobe, donating clothes and shoes and bags that no longer brought me joy. However, pretty soon I would find my wardrobe was full again and I didn't even have a hanger to spare. This cycle of purging and repurchasing continued for years. It wasn't until I figured out my purchasing triggers that I was truly able to change.
I had moved to an isolated, rural location, I no longer worked in retail and did not have the constant temptation of being surrounded by new things. Naturally, I was purchasing less and forced to use the items I already owned. Since I couldn't just pop down to the local shopping centre, I had to think more creatively about my outfits and find contentment with what I had. After several months without shopping, I felt like my ideals had changed. If I could go months without buying new things (and feel absolutely fine), why did I need to shop at all?
And it seemed like my feelings about shopping had really changed. That is, until we would go on holidays to visit our families in Brisbane. Somehow, I would leave town with one suitcase and return a week later with several extra bags, packed to the brim. Why was this happening? I really didn't think I needed anything, yet I still ended up spending hundreds of dollars.
It wasn't until 2017 that I figured out how and why certain items always ended up in my basket or my wardrobe. I was on a self improvement kick and purchased a few books to help me on my way to becoming a better, more organised, financially savvy and stylish person. One of those books was 'The Curated Closet' by Anuschka Rees. I didn't really think I needed help with figuring out my personal style but this particular book had been recommended by every single person I follow on social media (that's probably an exaggeration but suffice to say, it was very popular).
Once I finished it, I realised I had never truly thought about why I bought something. Yes, I knew I shopped more when I worked in retail and I figured that was simply because I had more access. Physical proximity and ease of access were certainly contributing factors but that didn't explain why I was drawn to particular items or why I chose to shop so much during my holidays.
Typically, I am not someone who is tempted by online shopping - on occasion, I enjoy browsing my favourite online stores but I will rarely purchase anything I haven't planned for. On the other hand, as soon as I enter a physical store, I want everything! I want to touch all the fabrics, the colours and patterns are so much more vibrant, and the item itself seems more real to me.
Suddenly, I realised something about myself. I buy things because of the immediate emotional response. That feeling of pure joy I get when I run my fingers over a soft, woollen jumper or admire some intricate embroidery up close. If I scrolled past these exact items online, I would barely slow down. Yet, in person, they have ensnared me with all their tactile qualities.
In part, this is a good thing. I get real pleasure from pieces that are well crafted and I appreciate the small details that take an item of clothing from basic to special. Although, this also explains why I bought that mint, velvet, crop top. I never took the time to actually consider whether I liked the cut or style of the top or how it would fit into my current wardrobe. I simply had to touch it before immediately deciding to purchase it.
This strong, emotional response to objects eventually became a strong emotional response to shopping. By associating positive feelings with buying things, I ended up shopping more to recreate that feeling. I never assessed my wardrobe or thought about what items I actually needed. I just did it because it felt good. Even when I stopped shopping regularly and was actively trying to change my mindset, I wasn't able to curb that feeling until I closely analysed my feelings around shopping and figured out why I had a particular emotional response.
I now know what my purchasing triggers are and I know how to stop myself from purchasing items I don't need. I mainly shop online and typically plan my new purchases for many weeks, if not months. I know exactly what items I own, what pieces in my wardrobe I am most drawn to and what cuts and styles make me feel my most confident. Yes, I still get drawn in by certain fabrics and colours but I no longer buy mindlessly. I know my wardrobe like the back of my hand and I can quickly figure out whether something will work for me long term.