I live in Atlanta where the summers are hot, the tea is sweet and you can’t throw a stone without hitting a strip mall. I can buy frozen yogurt at four different chains within a few minutes drive and there are three grocery stores within two miles of my house, all at the same intersection. Is your city the same? If so, you might think, “It’s no wonder clutter is a problem for so many people!” Although most suburbs are home to more retail stores than you can shake a stick at, I’m here to tell you shopping isn’t really the problem.
You see, I think of shopping a lot like I do eating. It’s a necessary activity, but nothing good ever comes from it when you use it to regulate your mood. We all regulate our moods in different ways. Healthy ways to self-regulate include exercise, meditation, self-talk, prayer and talking with friends to name just a few.
However, regulating your mood by eating for comfort, out of boredom, anger, or to reduce stress can quickly pack on the pounds. Using shopping as “retail therapy” to soothe yourself, get revenge or de-stress can rapidly result in financial distress and unmanageable clutter.
If you shop for reasons other than genuinely needing something and you’re suffering the consequences buried in a house (or office) full of clutter, here are six tips to help you shop smarter and guess what? You’ll spend a lot less money too!
1. Question your motives. You already know what happens when you grocery shop on an empty stomach, so pay attention to how you feel when you shop for other things. If your shopping is frequently emotion-driven, recognize it and leave the store immediately until you feel more centered.
2. Evaluate the need. Do you need something new or do you just want it? There’s a big difference. Do you have something similar already? Do you really need a seventh pairs of black pants or do you just like this one in the moment?
3. Practice the art of browsing without buying. Leave your wallet at home and go to the store. Remember, you can like something without having to own it.
4. Think it through. Where will you keep it once you get it home? Is there a cost of upkeep to consider? Do you have room for it in your home, office and life? Will it replace something else? What are you willing to give up in order to bring this new one home? Will it require maintenance? Is it a good value? Is it a one-time use item that you might borrow instead of buying? Thinking past the transaction all the way through the life of the item helps you be objective about the purchase before you buy it.
5. Never buy on price alone. If you “just can’t resist” a sale, then for Pete’s sake that’s your cue to run out of the store like your hair’s on fire! Buying something simply because it’s a great price is only smart if you would have bought it anyway at full price. Ask yourself, “Would I consider paying full price for this item?” and if the answer is no, you’re probably just being lured by a sale.
6. Pay cash. Whaaaaat? Yep. Credit and debit cards disconnect you from the actual act of trading your hard-earned dollars for goods and services. When you hand over cold hard greenbacks, you’re more aware of the exchange so you’re more likely to think twice before buying something you don’t really need.
What are your favorite tips for helping keep clutter at bay by shopping smarter?