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  • Writer's pictureFIRE with a family

Living with a shopping addiction

This blog post is written by my wonderful wife, Allanah. Enjoy!

How do you suddenly curb that shopping addiction? Do you want the truth or a big fat instagramable lie?

The truth is it's not sudden. It can be painful, and it does not happen over night – I am STILL working on it.

I loved online shopping and shopping in general, especially when the kids were babies. It was the easiest way to curb boredom for me and to take my mind off the daily grind. I deserved it, you know. I worked hard so I should spend. It’s a habit that is hard to break.

I would scroll through website after website adding things to my cart, sometimes guilting my self out of clicking "pay now", other times I would say screw it and go all in...

$300 on kids clothes that they didn’t need, kitchen appliances that won't get used and homewares that will just sit and collect dust. It is a temporary high for an item that would later be sold in a garage sale for a tenth of the price.

You see, its not the actual item that we want. It’s the rush of dopamine that we are craving and that hit of dopamine actually occurs whilst you are purchasing and waiting for the item to arrive. Once it arrives you are due for another hit of dopamine… so you fire up the laptop again to get that item that you “really need”.

I was the kinda girl that would walk into a clothing store and pick up handfuls of clothes, not try them on, take them home, put them in my cupboard and leave them there because they either didn’t fit or I didn’t like what they looked like on. But I LOVED the way I felt in a store when I was purchasing the items! My friends would often comment…“aren’t you going to try them on?”, “wow Len, you don’t muck around!”, “Len, we can always count on you to shop up!”. I had no value for money or knowledge of the impact that fast fashion and consumerism has on the earth (that topic is for another day).

Fast forward to moving to Canada. This was my first ah-ha moment.

Blake was already in Canada working for a few weeks and I had travelled back to Oz to finish packing up the house and say goodbye to friends and family. I had 10 days. 10 days to sort through our memories and figure out how much I can fit into 4 suitcases, two carry ons and two packing boxes.

For a person who is sentimental and has a shopping addiction this was torture. Every cupboard that I emptied I found “special” things that I kept for a rainy day or that had a memory attached to it. My best friend Jayme helped the best that she could to sort through everything and it was exhausting physically and mentally.

I started selling, giving away, throwing out and storing as much as I could. I had spent HUNDREDS on things like photo frames – to turn around and sell them dirt cheap in a garage sale or give them away.

Was is sad to start with? Of course! But then it got easier and the weight was starting to lift off my shoulders.

When we got to Canada, we had 4 suitcases with us and that was it. It was freeing and that was the first time that I felt like “stuff” wasn’t necessary to have any more. We could live quite comfortably without it!

Another revelation that I had when we moved here was the amount of space that an average family thinks that they need. I’m talking housing square footage. We were placed in company accommodations when we first arrived here, and it was not the space that we were accustomed to. However, we soon started to realize that the more space you have, the more crap you want to buy to fill it.

It was these types of realizations that started to curb my addiction. It’s a work in progress, but here are some key tips that have helped me along the way:

Start by doing a clear out of your possessions

Start with the easiest room. Walk in and make mental notes about the must keeps and discards. Really think about the “must keeps”. What is it about this item that you love? Is it connected to a certain memory? Will that memory fade if you get rid of that item?

I say start with the easiest room because as I mentioned above, doing a clean out can be just as mentally exhausting as it is physically. Don’t feel ashamed to walk away from it for a little while and come back to it, but I promise, once you get on a roll you will feel the weight being lifted. An organized space allows you to really evaluate each item that you have and whether or not you need to add to it.

Keep a list

This has been a game changer for me. When you have a shopping addiction, you will literally justify any item wholeheartedly because you need it. When I would find my self loving an item that has popped up one way or another, whether it be targeted ads or through the recommendation from a friend, I started writing it down on a list and then you wait… THIRTY DAYS!

If you go back to that list in 30 days and you still want it, you have thought about it regularly throughout the 30 days and you truly believe that your life would be better with the item in it. Then go ahead! Get it.

Finally, ask your self these three questions

  1. Can I buy this second hand?

  2. Am I impulse buying this item?

  3. Do I already have something similar that will do the job?

If you answered yes some or all of these questions you may need to re-evaluate your purchasing decision.

There you have it folks, secret’s out! I had a shopping addiction and I am still working on it today. I still get the rush of dopamine when I see that “50% off now” email or walk past a favourite store window but we have strategies now and it is working!

Allanah - FIRE with a family

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