I wasn’t addicted to shopping. At least that’s what I would have said if you asked me. Yes, I bought multiple items every weekend and yes, I was also aware of the ridiculous amount of clothing I had (most of which I wore once, never or only in the few short weeks after buying it).
“It’s all secondhand,” I would reassure myself, “I’m a conscious shopper.” Plus, it was all money I had; never once did I not pay my credit card bill in full. I wasn’t buying because I wanted more clothes for the sake of it. With each piece I trotted to the register I felt the feeling of this — this is it. This is going to change things. This is going to make me different.
Years later, having come through the other side of my unhealthy relationship with shopping, I now help women with their own personal style as a style coach and teacher. I do this work now because in my overbuying and consumerism, I realized the way out wasn’t in changing my buying habits; it was in changing my entire approach to personal style.
Whether we shop every week or just feel that urge to buy new clothes every time there’s an upcoming event we’re attending, our buying habits are not the root problem. Our personal style is.
To stop buying things you don’t wear, we need to go much deeper than clothes:
Start with how you want to feel.
We are attracted to clothes for the same reason we are attracted to a painting or piece of music: because it makes us feel a certain way. This is what we are chasing with each new piece of clothing we buy — a feeling.
The problem: Most of the time, we aren’t digging deep enough to figure out if this new piece makes us feel the way we actually want to feel. We will never be satisfied with what we have if what we have isn’t in alignment with our values, how we want to show up and ultimately, how we want to feel. (So we try again and we buy another top.)
The first step is looking inwards and deciding how you want to show up. What do you want people to know about you? How do you want them to feel with you? What do you most want to feel in your own skin?
Use your answers to guide your style and what you buy. Does this piece of clothing make you feel the way you most want to feel?
We will never be satisfied with what we have if what we have isn’t in alignment with our values, how we want to show up and ultimately, how we want to feel.
Raise the bar (live in your style zone of genius).
I use to shop every week and there were still things I wanted and never got. Now I go months in between purchases, yet I buy everything I want. I raised the bar on what I wanted to bring into my closet, put on my body and be a part of my life.
When we get really clear on how we want to feel, we can then figure out what colors, fabrics, silhouettes and styles make us feel most that way. We can also decide what brands we feel good supporting and how much money we feel good spending on a particular item.
Then, instead of shopping and dressing anywhere in the realm of new, good enough and “I think I can afford it,” we can live only in our best, most intentional style (our style zone of genius.)
Direct your loving attention to what you already have.
Overwhelm, guilt, inadequacy, regret. When we have over-buying habits, this is what we feel when we open our closet. It’s hard to pick out outfits that make us feel good — that make us feel the way we want to feel — when our closet as a whole sends us first into a spiral of negative emotions.
Once you know where your style zone of genius lies, you can start to clear out the items you have that don’t measure up. And, more importantly, re-connect with the great pieces you already have.
Spend a Saturday afternoon or start with five minutes every day and begin to shift the pieces that make you feel how you want to feel to the front and centre of your closet. Meanwhile, the pieces that aren’t in your style zone of genius can start to move out of your line of sight when you open your closet and eventually out of your closet all together through donation, reselling or repurposing.
Then, show the pieces that remain some love. Wear your most treasured dress on an ordinary day. Try on your favorite top with bottoms you’ve never paired it with before. Complete your looks with bright lipstick or dazzling jewelry that makes you feel your most radiant.
Taking these steps to build a wardrobe in alignment with you, that leaves you satisfied instead of hungry, is our best antidote for shopping addiction, impulsive purchases and a case of “closet full of clothes, yet nothing to wear.”
So tell me, how do you want your wardrobe to make you feel?
Feature Image via Kristen Wasik