My shopping addiction – how I finally kicked it (and you can too!)

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If you can’t kick your shopping addiction, your house will never be organised. You will never feel happy or free. You probably won’t achieve many of the goals that you set, if you even set any. It’s that simple.

By constantly bringing new things into the house, you’re keeping yourself in a cycle of buying, organising, buying things to help you organise, decluttering, then buying to fill the “gaps” again (and as a reward for decluttering!).

So, what do you need to do to break the cycle and actually get organised once and for all?

Curb your shopping addiction.

I know, right. Scary idea.

 

My shopping addiction story:

Not many people know that I was addicted to shopping. Not so much in physical stores, but online. Online shopping was my vice, and I was seriously addicted.

Every single day (I’m not exaggerating) I would go through this one website that had a heap of sales for all different things, and have about a billion tabs open of all the things I saw that I liked. Plus tabs from previous days of things that I couldn’t afford or hadn’t decided whether I liked or not yet.

I revisited these tabs throughout the day, closing ones I decided I didn’t like. It was a great way to procrastinate and distract myself from the study or assignment that I should’ve been working on.

By mid-afternoon I’d narrowed it down to the things I liked and the things that would require more days of thought.

I’d add all the things I wanted to my cart, and then decide what I could do without to get the total amount due down to an acceptable level. This wasn’t a figure I’d predetermined, just an amount that I could bear to part with for the items in my cart.

Then I’d go through with the sale and eagerly await the items in the mail. It was unusual for a day to go by without me taking delivery of an online purchase.

If I’m being real, it got to a point where I was embarrassed about how much I was buying. I hid my parcels from my partner at the time so that he wouldn’t judge me.

But I didn’t stop. And I didn’t acknowledge that I had a shopping addiction.

 

My organisation frustration:

During those dark days, I also spent tonnes of time organising everything I owned. I tried really, really hard to condense all my stuff so that it would fit in my tiny college bedroom. I was constantly rearranging, trying to make things fit better.

If I had been prone to cleaning at the time (I certainly wasn’t), it would have taken hours to do. Purely because of the sheer amount of stuff I had to clean, and to move, just to clean the surface underneath.

Amazingly, now that I have much less stuff, I don’t mind cleaning because it’s quick and easy.

Anyway, I began to buy things to organise my things. I had ample hanging AND drawer space, but I “needed” to buy one of those hanging compartment things for all the extra clothes I had.

I bought storage bins to store random things that didn’t really have a home in my room. And to store things that I bought with the future in mind, including a number of household items that I wouldn’t use until I had my own house (at least a couple years away), and that were luxury items anyway, not necessities. They were frivolous and very much surplus to needs.

 

How this negatively affected me:

I was stressed, constantly disorganised, and couldn’t focus properly on study or my relationship at the time.

I always felt like I was falling behind in life and certainly couldn’t find the time or mental space to actually work out what my big life goals were, let alone take action towards them.

I was drifting through life, just doing what was immediately necessary, without regard for where I might want to head later on in life. I let myself down, in a big way.

Because of my love for things, I didn’t (and couldn’t) focus on the bigger picture, what was really important – my future. I just couldn’t provide it with the mental space that it needed.

I could spare no thought for travel or experiences like this, because I was too burdened both physically and financially from my shopping addiction.

 

 

What changed:

It wasn’t a direct intervention from friends or family, or running out of money (not that I had a lot, but I had enough to get by), or my embarrassment getting to a point where I could no longer deal with it, that triggered a change in my behaviour. Or even finally acknowledging my shopping addiction.

It wasn’t even getting sick of the constant stress and disorganisation. I thought it was uni stressing me out and the disorganisation was due to a lack of space. More space would totally solve the problem…

Right?

Anyway, at the time I was studying sustainable business, and as part of that I completed a unit on the environment.

The facts and figures shocked and disgusted me. The impact of the manufacturing industry, of the shipping industry. And the fact that consumers were driving the destruction of our environment through – wait for it – their consumption of goods.

Buying stuff.

Just as I was doing, every single day.

 

Breaking my shopping addiction:

It wasn’t immediate, but it definitely happened and I’m not going back.

I didn’t have a plan, I didn’t sit down and work out my values and what I was going to do. They just sort of evolved over time, but now that I know what they are I do my best to stick by them.

And by sticking by them, I naturally wasn’t able to buy everything I was buying before.

If I couldn’t determine whether something was made of recycled, or at the very least sustainably sourced, materials, then I wouldn’t buy it.

If it wasn’t ethically made, in factories where the workers were treated with respect, paid minimum or above wages, and had good working conditions… I didn’t buy it.

If a local or small business didn’t make it, I would make sure the company at least had a resource recycling scheme or some other evidence that they cared for the environment.

If it wasn’t made of natural materials, or had a long or lifetime guarantee, I wouldn’t buy it.

If I could get it second hand, I would do that.

Like I said, it took some time to work out all these values and apply them. Purely by making sure my purchases had less of an impact on the environment, I curbed my shopping habit.

Now, present day, I ask myself whether I really need it at all first.

 

What you need to do:

If you’re struggling to save money, to beat stress or disorganisation, to get somewhere good in life, to be happy, or you want to reduce your environmental impact… You need to reign in the shopping.

Don’t consider it quitting. You’re not giving up shopping forever, and you can still buy things.

Think of it more as developing a discerning taste, becoming more sophisticated, and curating your possessions.

Changing from an average, basic person who lacks discernment and self-control (yes, that was me) to one who’s a bit more refined, who other people aspire to be (I’m working on it!).

So, you want some solid steps you can take?

 

Steps to breaking your shopping addiction:

First up – educate and shock yourself. You don’t need to do a university class for this, just watch a few documentaries. There are plenty of good ones out there. I recommend a couple in my free beginner’s email course, here.

Secondly – work out what your values are. Not sure how? You should develop some from your documentary-viewing. Still not sure? Just Google “shop your values” and you’ll have a plethora of options at your fingertips. Again, I list a heap of values in my free email course, here.

Third – start applying your values. I don’t need to say much more. Just don’t buy things that don’t fit your values. It’s really that simple.

It can be really hard at first. And you’re not going to be perfect at this, especially in the beginning.

That’s where step four comes in – work out what motivates you to do the right thing, and use it as leverage against yourself. You’re going to need it.

Remind yourself of the terrible conditions sweatshop workers have to put up with, and put yourself in their position.

Or remind yourself of those pristine beaches you want to go to for a holiday. They’re increasingly covered in trash as a result of our endless consumption.

There will be something that trips your guilt switch, and that’s what we’re looking for.

I’m not trying to actually make you feel guilty. Most of us were raised to see ‘things’ as status. And it’s normal to want to buy stuff you like. But it doesn’t make us happy, not long-term, and not even long-short-term. And it doesn’t contribute to a happier planet, either.

 

Go on, give it a go:

It’s worth kicking the habit, trust me. You will feel infinitely better and suddenly be able to focus and have time for friends and family.

You might not believe me, but just try it for a little while and then try to tell me it doesn’t make any difference.

Living by your values is a much more satisfying existence. For every purchase, ask yourself if it ticks all your boxes.

Then start asking yourself if you really need it in the first place.

Check out my post on how to bulk declutter once you’ve kicked your shopping habit!

If you liked this post, join those of us living the zero waste minimalist lifestyle by enrolling in the Beginner’s Guide to Zero Waste Minimalism above. It’s free, simple, and easy to do and starts you on your way to a content life.

Image credit: freestocks.org

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