Overcoming a Shopping Addiction: How to Quit Impulsive Purchases For Good

closet

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:

shop

Image via Monica Friese

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.)

tan shoes jeans

Image via Monica Friese

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

Rebecca is a women’s personal style expert, coach, and stylist who teaches purposeful style to powerful women. Working with speakers, entrepreneurs, and experts in their niche, she focuses on everyday achievable feel-good style that supports their bigger life and business goals—whether teaching in-person in her home sweet Toronto or with women all over the world through her virtual programs.

29 COMMENTS
  • valerio vicci June 8, 2017

    That is awesome!

    http://www.valeriovicci.nl

  • Rike June 5, 2017

    I like that you say Style is what is underneath! Thanks for this article.
    It’s an important topic, also in my life, as i’m dealing with shopping addiction for over an decade.
    I’m 27 now, and depression helps me to change. This addiction is an expression of being not connected and sad for me.

    I want to feel playfull, comfortable and sophisticated!

    • Rebecca June 6, 2017

      Aw thanks for sharing that, Rike! It’s 100% true that addiction can often be an expression of not being connected to others and more importantly to yourself. Love how you want to feel! Now you know to only seek out the clothes that make you feel that way 🙂

      xx rebecca

  • Rachel Smith June 1, 2017

    Great advice! I LOVE the idea of living in your zone of style genius where every outfit you own is your favorite outfit. An issue that I come across repeatedly though, is that I often feel the clothes and styles I’d really like to wear are out of reach because of being overweight. What if you are drawn to and really admire certain silhouettes and styles that don’t flatter your body? Do you have any advice on bridging the dissonance between what we would really like to wear and what is comfortable/flattering to wear?

    • Rebecca June 6, 2017

      “every outfit you own is your favourite outfit” <— YES! Love that way of saying it too! Here's what I've learnt to be true and what advice I can give: clothes are easy to like in theory, it is more challenging to love them in practice on your own body. This is what finding your style zone of genius is—it's not just the clothes you like on Pinterest, on a hanger, or on someone else—it's finding the clothes you love on YOU 🙂

      xx rebecca

  • Michelle Holloway May 25, 2017

    Great perspective. I have been on a minimalist kick of trying to get rid of things and doing a capsule wardrobe tailored to my style, even sewing some of the pieces. I have also been introduced to LuLaRoe and am pleased with several of their products that look good on my plus sized curvy body. I find watching the FB live sales very entertaining (nothing really on TV good anyway) . I just cannot get over the same names I see on different sales buying and buying, and I am thinking to myself, they have to be in trouble!!!!! I get obsessed with watching and learning about LuLaRoe, or Bullet Journaling, or minimalist living (Mom died six months ago and was a hoarder) . I just cant see going crazy buying 30 pairs of leggings! I am OCD but thank the Lord I am not an addict. I can see where in today’s society people can easily be because it is so easy when emails, facebook and advertising all say BUY BUY BUY. I do like to buy a new piece or a new lipstick, for some reason I feel empowered! But I have to remember my budget first!!!! Thanks!!!

    • Rebecca Jacobs May 26, 2017

      Interesting! I don’t know too much about LuLaRoe or those FB live sales, but I’ll be honest it sounds like an environment for bad shopping decisions! Glad you are enjoying without going overboard 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Michelle!

      xx rebecca

  • Anne May 25, 2017

    I want to feel comfortable, yet more classy. I’m still looking for those knitted, fluffy but chic sweaters to combine with jeans and boots. I loved that brown, long knitted dress without arms. Where is it from?

    • Rebecca Jacobs May 26, 2017

      So good, Anne! Now you know that you will only buy things that are comfortable AND more classy. Awesome!

      As for the items pictured, I can’t say as the photos belong to Monica Friese but you could click through to find out!

  • Natalie Ann Redman May 25, 2017

    I just want my wardrobe to feel comfortable!

    • Rebecca Jacobs May 26, 2017

      That is awesome, Natalie! I think a lot of us would agree! I bet if you think about it there’s more to it than that—that you want to feel comfortable AND _____. What’s in that blank for you? Something to think about 🙂

      xx rebecca

  • Marianna May 24, 2017

    I adore your perspective. So balanced and bringing peace of mind. Thanks!

    • Rebecca Jacobs May 25, 2017

      Thanks, Marianna! So glad you enjoyed the article! And yes style should feel peaceful—it should feel aligned with you and not like a source of resistance you face each day!

      xx rebecca

  • Faye Dorazio May 23, 2017

    I am a recovering alcoholic, and I have a ism , which means it’s a shift of wanted more! I can be easily be addicted to anything! My addiction to shopping has been quite active but I have been hitting a bottom because I don’t like how I feel! I am not in debt but I think how much more I could be saving. The difference between need & want is a big divide! I know a person has to hit a bottom and be in a enough pain to make a change in any addictive behavior! I am powerless over this shopping addiction and that is my first step to sanity ! Not looking at what clothes that I owe because I would of stopped that along time ago! I do appreciate your article on any to make a new beginnings in ones behavior.

    • Rebecca Jacobs May 25, 2017

      Faye, thank you for sharing that. I am so glad to hear you feel committed and ready to making a shift and I hope this article helps give you a path to better shopping habits. Congrats on the first step and I know there are lots of experts out there who would love to support you.

      xx rebecca

  • Hannah May 23, 2017

    I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever had a shopping addiction, like an empty wallet due too buying clothes or a closet overflowing with clothes or anything of that sort. But I know that I still make impulse purchases from time too time, usually bc I’m hoping to look or feel like someone that I saw wear something similar. My style has changed a lot through the years as a young, unmarried adult in school it was all about bright colorful pieces, bohemian looking tops and dresses. And then with a changing life, marriage, working, motherhood, it became about things that made me feel comfortable, calm, confident, and pretty. I’ve always loved white, but now I am really in love with neutrals and pieces that can be layered and worn multiple ways. I condensed my wardrobe to under 50 pieces two years ago, and started buying some fair-trade pieces and more versatile pieces, but now that I’m pregnant with my second it feels like I’m starting from scratch. But I love the question; How do I want this too make me feel? It would be great too see a piece on maternity style!

    • Rebecca Jacobs May 25, 2017

      “I know that I still make impulse purchases from time too time, usually bc I’m hoping to look or feel like someone that I saw wear something similar.” <— that is so true and something so many of us have done! Love hearing how your wardrobe has shifted over the years—thank you for sharing that!

      Maternity style does post some challenges. Where we want to buy our regular wardrobe to last, we can almost do the opposite with maternity and buy a purchase we will be obsessed with for a few months and then forget about lol!

      xx rebecca

  • Melody Todd May 23, 2017

    Simplifying my closet each quarter has been one of the most restorative, refreshing and eye opening tasks for me….a former shop-til-ya-drop (and never feel fully satisfied) gal! Having worked for a retail company for nearly 16 years has taken a toll on my style and my wallet, but I am happy to say that making the commitment to quality over quantity has been the best decision. I have found myself more comfortable and confident in the most basic of pieces and the most neutral of colors! But I still feel fashionable, classic/classy, and put together! Something I need as I’m raising kids (and usually have some sort of food stain or dirt on me 🙂 It has truly become an effortless feeling, which I am so grateful for after years of feeling like “I have nothing to wear, but an ungodly amount of clothing, and an empty bank account”. Thanks for this great article!

    • Rebecca Jacobs May 23, 2017

      I love that shift you experienced, Melody! Thank you so much for sharing it! You committed to only the clothes that work best for you and you are reaping the benefits! You’re doing a great job!

      xx rebecca

  • Liana W. May 23, 2017

    I think besides having a closet full of “nothing to wear,” Ive always struggled with knowing my personal style. sometimes I’ll buy a piece that I love, and other times Im left wondering why I made that purchase. Now I can ask myself, “how do I want to feel when I wear clothes?” Thank you! Very insightful!

    • Rebecca Jacobs May 23, 2017

      So glad it was helpful to you, Liana! And thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Find me later and let me know how this makes a difference for you—I would love to hear it! Thanks for reading, love!

      xx rebecca

  • Dina Chavez May 23, 2017

    Beautiful, comfortable and proud to wear.

    • Rebecca Jacobs May 23, 2017

      Yes, Dina! LOVE that. That is how you want to feel, and now you can focus on only the pieces that make you feel all of those! Thanks for sharing with us and I’m glad this resonated with you!

      xx rebecca

  • Jess B. May 22, 2017

    This is a great perspective shift – rather than chasing an elusive signature aesthetic or “look,” I’d much rather consider how I want to feel on a daily basis. Thanks for this advice!!

    • Rebecca Jacobs May 23, 2017

      Yay! The thing is the reason we like a certain aesthetic or “look” is because it makes us feel a certain way. So we can just skip the middle man (that can sometimes deceive us and lead us astray) and focus on what matters—how we feel! Thanks for reading, Jess!

      xx rebecca

  • Anna Oates May 22, 2017

    This is so true! Every now and then I’ll see something and think that it is cute, but I never wear it because it’s not really me, it doesn’t fit my style that well. It’s just trendy and it would look really good… on someone else.

    • Rebecca Jacobs May 23, 2017

      Right! You nailed it! We are used to buying things we think are cute, when really thinking it’s cute does not equal we will wear and love wearing it! Thanks for reading, Anna! And glad you can relate to it!

      —Rebecca xx

  • I need to share this with my Mum, haha! She’s always buying, buying and buying!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

    • Rebecca Jacobs May 22, 2017

      I hope you share it with her! I can totally relate to always buying, buying and buying! And it feels so good to have that habit out of my life. Thanks for reading, Charmaine!

      xx rebecca

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