Eight Habits of the Non-Acquiring Mind

22 Mar

Recently, I went to the Boston Flower and Garden Show. I walked all of the aisles with their 200 vendors, and all I bought were these gardening gloves (and a delicious, chocolate truffle, which I consumed on the spot). This was a victory for me in my quest to acquire less.

I remember times when I became so frenzied searching for the right top to match the skirt I’d just bought that I would put off eating until my blood sugar was so low that I felt ill. I also recall exhilarating moments of shopper’s high, spreading out my purchases to admire them. As a frugal youngster (I never spent my meager allowance), I grew into a relatively frugal young adult, spending my not-for-profit salary on experiences rather than things. But once I had a decent wage, I relaxed that standard. I had become accustomed not only to beefing up my wardrobe each season but also buying books that, as a writer, I considered the tools of my trade, finding charming and/or seemingly useful tchotchkes at craft fairs, and coming home from travels with meaningful souvenirs.

Since I began my slow-downsizing, which coincided with the downsizing of my own business, I had to reassess my buying habits. Because what is the point of getting rid of things if I was only going to accumulate all over again? It would be like that whack-a-mole game where I could never make progress.  But the shopping habit is a hard one to break, especially if money isn’t a critical part of the equation, and even if it is. Here are some new habits to develop to control the urge.

  • Make some rules. With clothes: One in, three out. Only the replacements. One to-die-for item a year. With books: buy only to support one’s author friends—then buy to give to someone else. Put a new title on your Kindle. Go to the library. You get the idea. You decide. They are your rules.
  • Plan ahead and stay focused. If you need a new pair of sneakers, go to a store expressly for that purpose and don’t buy or look for anything else. Leave when you have found what you want.
  • Resist the lure of the sale. A sale is still a purchase, and it’s not a bargain if you don’t really need it.
  • Avoid shops as much as possible. It’s sometimes that simple. Don’t accompany friends on shopping trips if you think you’ll be tempted yourself. Friends who like to shop will encourage you to buy that cute little dress that they’ve urged you to try on. If you are by yourself, don’t just wander in to see what new merchandise is available. Stick to window shopping. Or make shopping a special occasion once or twice a year.
  • Unsubscribe from retail websites. These are time sucks, too. Cancel catalogs as well.
  • Re-negotiate gift receiving (see my post on “Downsizing for the Holidays”). Agree to give and receive consumables or expendables (services, theater tickets, flowers, a box of chocolates).
  • Nix yard sales. You don’t need someone else’s junk.
  • Take photos and keep a journal while on vacation to remind you of the good times. Buy a food product.

I haven’t entirely lost my taste for shopping, but like fried food, which I used to love but now doesn’t agree with me, the thought of spending the afternoon shopping no longer has the allure it once had. And I don’t want to spoil my appetite for my downsizing, which has taken over as my new “hobby.”

What are some ways that you've developed to beat the shopping habit?

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