Note: This is a guest post from Julianna Poplin of The Simplicity Habit.
It wasn’t that long ago when a trip to the mall would mean hours scouring stores looking for the best deal and all the new trendy things I just had to have. Shopping, for me, was part-hobby, part-sport. It my idea of fun.
If I spent too much, I’d feel guilty and experience buyer’s remorse. There would be a sinking feeling in my gut every time I opened my credit card bill. But that didn’t stop me from continuing the cycle.
I maintained that pattern from my teenage years into my thirties.
But then, something changed. I had children and suddenly my time, priorities, and life began to look different. When my kids were little, I started on a journey to simplify my life—one drawer and one closet at a time.
It wasn’t easy. The process forced me to ask difficult questions: Why had I spent money on some of these things? What had I been thinking at the time? I felt careless and foolish for some of the decisions I’d made.
I decluttered my home. Somewhere along the way, my thoughts on shopping changed drastically.
Here are 5 ways my shopping habits changed after simplifying:
1. Shopping is no longer a hobby
Gone are the days of enjoying marathon shopping trips just for the fun of it. I no longer find myself in a store because I’m bored or can’t think of anything else to do. That doesn’t mean I don’t have downtime in my life, it just means I have found other things to do that are more enjoyable than walk through a department store full of things I don’t need.
I’ve come to a place where my desire to live simply and without clutter outweighs any desire I have to shop.
It isn’t easy to live simply in a consumer culture. We’ve been told shopping is a great way to spend your day or that the sale happening right now will never be repeated. Social media is filled with memes about moms shopping at Target because there’s truth to it. I used to be one of those moms.
But I’m not embarrassed to say that Target isn’t my happy place anymore.
After dealing with my clutter, I saw consumerism differently. My eyes were opened anew to marketing messages and the consumer traps I’d fallen into. I woke up and saw advertising for what it is: Companies trying to make money by making us feel like we need things that we don’t actually need.
Occasionally, I enjoy shopping with my mom and sister but only when I’m looking for a specific item or am trying to help them find something.
Shopping is no longer something I do for entertainment. There are better things that I can do with my time for both my bank account and my well-being. I much prefer reading, writing, or having coffee with a friend. Consider how your time could be better spent if you quit shopping for fun. What would you do instead? How could your money be better used?
On the rare occasion when I do go shopping, it’s for something specific. I often leave the store empty handed. I’m fine with that. It saves me money. The only time it frustrates me is when I feel like I’ve spent too much time looking for just the ‘right’ thing.
2. I have become extraordinarily picky
After simplifying my home, I have become more selective when I do buy things. Simplifying has resulted in me becoming more intentional in my purchases than ever before.
This is an artifact of sorting and decluttering so many items from my home. During the process I removed so many items I had simply settled for and never really used or loved. At the time, maybe they were on sale or I hated the idea of leaving a store empty-handed. But I felt the pain of regret on having wasted money on so many unnecessary things.
Clothes were the biggest offender. I’d convince myself I needed to be on trend or buy the latest style or color. I’d try on various pairs of jeans and simply settle for what was good enough. But in the end, they didn’t fit quite right or I’d have to keep pulling and tugging at them. They became more annoying more than anything and I didn’t feel like myself when I wore them. Life is too short to wear uncomfortable or fussy clothes.
Nowadays, I need to be sure I really love or need an item before I purchase it. The high of simply buying something new wears off quickly and the process of dealing with regret and mistakes feels terrible. So be selective in what you buy. Don’t settle. You’re better than that.
3. Buying gifts is a greater challenge
In the past, I rarely considered the potential impact of a gift on the person I was giving it to. If it was an item I thought they might enjoy or was their favorite color, I’d buy it. But after simplifying and decluttering, I’ve become much more intentional in my gift giving.
I don’t want to create clutter in other people’s homes. I want the gift to be enjoyable and useful. I never want someone hanging onto a gift I gave them that they didn’t like. (I know some people have a hard time giving things that are gifted to them).
I give much more thought to whether a gift will actually be useful to them. I have found that buying consumables or experiences as gifts helps considerably in my thought process. In those instances, I know the gift will not be something that adds clutter to their home.
Don’t be afraid to ask people what they want or would find useful. Let’s agree to stop giving each other clutter!
4. I have become more protective about what my kids receive from others
I am fortunate to have parents and in-laws who try to respect my need for simplicity. I know that is not always the case.
In my family, before holidays and birthdays, family members will ask me for suggestions on what to get my girls. My mom’s love language is not gift giving, she much prefers quality time. So her new tradition is to take my girls out on a date. They enjoy breakfast together and then shop for something I’ve said they need—usually shoes.
My in-laws, on the other hand, are gift givers. It is their love language and they enjoy seeing the girls’ faces light up at whatever toy they’ve purchased for them. Most years, I’ve been able to think of something fun they would enjoy—but I will admit it is getting harder as they get older.
I don’t want more toys in the house. They already have too many. I have one child who will easily declutter and one who struggles greatly to let things go. Even though I know it isn’t the intent, it is still challenging to not see additional gifts as a burden.
This is a big change in how I see the world.
When kids have more toys than they can manage, it creates problems. Things stop getting put back. They get stressed over ‘not knowing where things go.’ I either end up doing more picking up or we have ‘heated conversations’ over needing to take care of their things otherwise mom will take the things away. It is an unneeded stress for them and for me.
I am now a fan of experience-based gifts. The kids enjoy them and they don’t create more clutter and stress in our home. And this isn’t just about keeping clutter down, science tells us those experiences create far more meaningful and lasting memories than a plastic toy. It’s not always easy to get everyone on board with what you think is best, but a mom can try.
If you buy gifts for kids, don’t buy cheap junk just to bring a smile to a child’s face. There are other ways to accomplish that smile without adding the burden of clutter.
5. Shopping exemplified my selfishness
How you spend your money reflects your priorities and your heart.
When I would shop for fun and buy things I ultimately didn’t need or want, my priority was me. It was a self-centered experience focused on what I thought I was lacking. Marketing was aimed towards making me think about me more, which I didn’t need help with. That’s a pretty natural tendency.
My shopping habits were selfish, and it ended with me having a cluttered home. This can be hard to admit, but it’s true. And ultimately, it cost me more than it benefited me.
Once I was able to get outside of myself and my own desires, I was able to see how much true need there is in the world. Suddenly, the purpose for my money wasn’t just to make me happier.
Simplifying helped me see there are better and more important things I can do with my money than spend it on things I don’t need.
Wasting my money on silly things made me feel satisfied in the short-run, but it resulted in me feeling bad in the long-run. Choosing instead to be responsible by saving and giving brought me long-lasting peace and contentment.
My life and shopping habits have changed for the better as I decluttered and simplified my home and life. I no longer have the desire to window shop or buy things just because. Instead, I focus on what I already have. I choose to be grateful instead of dwelling on what I’m lacking.
I don’t miss shopping, not at all. I think about all the time I’ve gotten back to do other better things. Simplifying didn’t force me to stop shopping—it increased my awareness and changed my perspective so I no longer enjoyed accumulating more.