Shopping isn’t fun anymore.
I never thought I’d eventually say this, but: I’m getting tired of shopping.
In the past, I often refused to brand myself as a shopaholic, merely because I saw other people doing a worse job at controlling their spending, and I compared myself to other people who did “hauls” of dozens of purchases—who bought something literally every day, who went into debt because of their shopping addiction—and because I became privileged enough to be able to afford buying many clothes at a time without going into some kind of debt.
Shopping was something I did for fun. When I was out and about, I would go shopping just to kill time before meeting up with a friend. When I got bored, I would go on my phone or computer and browse clothes online. It would often be a distraction from the more important thing I had set out to do or that I should do. Spending money on things for myself made me feel good. I wanted the dopamine hit when I felt like giving myself a reward. It couldn’t be a pat on the back, or the intangible satisfaction that I’d done something. It had to be a physical, tangible reward. I searched for the dopamine hit when I was in a crappy mood. I often engaged in retail therapy, but denied my habits by calling it “online window shopping”.
Window shopping is fine, your intention is to have a look around but not buy anything. I identify as a minimalist (still—after over ten years), so this was often my reasoning for not completely going through with a transaction and ending up owning new things. But I believe I still had the habits of a shopping addict. I could afford to do a “haul” of things just to try stuff on and then return it. I’m now in a place where I realise the consequences of my actions. Returns don’t always get put back into inventory—although a friend of a friend who works for one of my favourite retailers, The Iconic, confirmed that things really do get processed and put back into inventory. I am contributing to more carbon emissions and potential waste by having something shipped to me, only to return it through the delivery network—yet I make the “excuse” that it keeps my dad and other folks in a job because they work for the postal service. I am also, again, so bloody privileged to be able to buy that many things in the first place.
Over time I’ve slowly become more ashamed about two things: I preach sustainability—reusing, recycling, “un-buying”—but I don’t really practice what I preach, and people literally knowing me as someone who has parcels delivered to them almost every day. Before the pandemic, and when we had an office, I frequently had my clothing hauls (that I’d return 90–100% of) sent to work. My coworkers once, as a joke, hid the parcels I received while I was on holiday (that goes to show how addicted I was, purchasing stuff on holidays), so when I returned, I had to ask them if they’d seen them. Another coworker regularly joked that I “always have parcels”—a joke he made several years after the aforementioned event. I found it kind of embarrassing.
Around this Black Friday sale period, I’m proud to say that I’ve bought far less clothes than I have in years prior, and mainly bought things that are truly a bargain to purchase at the moment, like coffee, and protein powder, which is normally quite expensive. This success isn’t perfect. I also think that the ease of resistance to buy everything in sight may partially be due to some of the warehouse clothing sales I’ve attended recently. I was able to purchase items from my wishlist at a bargain price, and I also felt like the environment forced me to make conscious decisions in a short period of time. You can’t return items you get from warehouse sales, and it’s easy to miss out and feel FOMO because of limited stock, but keeping a narrow list in mind and going in with no expectations actually helped me exercise restraint.
Another large factor that really encouraged me to do better was reading Clare Press’s book Wear Next: Fashioning the Future, which I chanced upon in my local library. The book made me realise that there is a lot I’m doing personally to be a better consumer and to be less wasteful with clothing and textiles, and even felt validating because of how many initiatives and small businesses whose stories I knew that were featured in the book. But at the same time it remained me of how much guilt is associated with treating clothes in a disposable manner, and in a way it motivated me to do even better. I felt encouraged to make more steps to reduce and reuse, and to participate more in circular fashion.
As I fight to be patient and wait for interested people to buy my second-hand clothes online, and as I educate myself more about sustainable fashion, and as I dive into trying a rental wardrobe of curated pre-loved pieces—I know change doesn’t happen overnight, and I strive to make small steps of progress. But my shift in attitude, from adding everything I only remotely like to a virtual cart on a screen, to the buildup of resisted urges to open an app just to look–is a sign that I’ve advanced further than I thought. And I’ll take that.