Thursday, September 20, 2012

Shop: Thoughts on retail restraint

I've put some thought into this no-shopping thing. It's Day 11, by the way.

First, I will create a list of all the goodies that I would have bought outright during this time frame. After the 3 month time period, I will review the inventory of all the "impulse buys" so I can take a long hard look at my spending habits. Which items were so impulsive that I would probably give them away, completely unused? Which are so trend driven that they have already passed their peak by the end of the three months? Which would I still love to have? Perhaps this will allow me to shop smarter. I try to buy intelligently but I see evidence in my wardrobe proving that I could have used more restraint.

The second benefit I see is the opportunity to use all of the 'beauty' products that I have bought which are currently sitting in duplicate and triplicate on my shelves. I know I could have employed this strategy at any time, but somehow the motivation inherent in a three month challenge encourages me to use up the products I have so that I can be more sensible when I replace them. I don't need four bottles of toner (all open, all in progress) or stock piles of Bath & Body Works room wallflowers (but damn do those sales lend well to stocking up!). I am a hoarder. I'm not sure when this happened but I point the finger at my family (you know who you are!). You know the type; TP and paper towel stock pilers; we simply must have two of everything or it's as if we've run out! But this habit is bad for storage space and even worse for letting things run past their expiry date.


This whole thing makes me think on my shopping habits over the years. In my early twenties I subscribed to the following Tyler Durden truism: "You buy furniture.  You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life.  Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled.  Then the right set of dishes.  Then the perfect bed.  The drapes.  The rug.  Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you." (Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club) I was little Ms. Indignant, fist pumping  and yelling "Hell Yeah!" in agreement. But as my career progressed and I started to do better financially, I realized it was easy for the younger me to think that way since I simply couldn't afford most of the things I admired. I trained myself not to want what I couldn't afford. But slowly I realized that I wanted to dress better at work. A nicer purse, a nicer pair of shoes, a nicer overcoat, etc. At home too, I found myself replacing those 'temporary' Benix warehouse student purchases with more "quality" items. I realized that (despite what they say) inanimate objects do make me happy at some inexplicable level. All the years of denial and scrounging lead me to a period of overindulgence which I'm only just now realizing.

Was I happier when I didn't have as much stuff that 'owned' me, or now that I own stuff? There's a middle ground in there somewhere, and I'm hoping that being more intelligent in my purchasing habits will help me find the right balance. When I think of quotes from Fight Club now, such as "If you don't know what you want, end up with a lot you don't" (Chuck Palahniuk) I still believe they ring true. Moving everything I own from one home to another over the years has make me see how tethered I am to all these inanimate objects. I could do with less. I'm not saying I want to give it all away or set everything on fire, I worked hard for these things. But I do think I could use some reflection on what I'm bringing into my life/home and whether or not they bring me value/happiness/use.

And yes, I took the opportunity to include not one, but two Chuck Palahniuk quotes.

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