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Confessions of a (Reformed) Shopaholic

June 5, 2018
Confessions of a Reformed Shopaholic | Tiny Ambitions

When you read people’s minimalist origin stories, there’s often a clear point in their lives that jump-started their journeys down the path to living a simpler life. More often than not, something terrible or profound made them change their lives for the better. My story is no different.

Up until now, I’ve only shared snippets of my past as an online compulsive shopper. I’ve shared how I kicked my habit, but I’ve never dived deep into my habit and how it jump-started my journey into minimalism. Well, today’s the day, friends.

My Pre-Minimalist Shopping Self

It’s embarrassing to admit, but back in my compulsive shopping days, the very first thing I would do in the morning was check my favourite sites to see if any good deals had popped up while I had been sleeping. Literally, it was the first thing I would do after opening my eyes. If there was something that was a ‘good’ deal and in my size, I would probably end up buying it. Even if I didn’t totally love it or need it. It was on sale – how could I resist that? If I had to describe my online shopping habits in one word, it would be ‘mindless’.  

That’s exactly what it was. The process went a little bit like this – ‘Website, sale section, something in my size, purchased’. I never once stopped to think about how my purchases were impacting my finances (negatively, if you were wondering), the environment or my general state of well-being. It literally never crossed my mind that this kind of compulsive shopping was detrimental in any way. Shopping is a hobby, a time honoured tradition – what could be harmful about that? (oh, how naive I was).

Yoga Pants Were My Kryptonite

Since we’re getting into the nitty-gritty, back in the day, my number one go-to store was Lululemon (yep, the same one that is synonymous at this point with poor quality merchandise and see-through pants). At the time, I had just started getting into yoga. I was practicing multiple times a week (I would later become a trained instructor), and I obviously needed ALL the yoga things. Like, all of them. Or at least, that’s what I would tell myself. I couldn’t possibly practice in the same pair of pants more than once a week – how embarrassing that would be!

I am not exaggerating when I say I would get a delivery almost every day of something ‘new’ I’d purchased online. Thinking about it now makes me nauseous. That’s how I ended up with probably over 50 pairs of yoga pants (I never counted at the beginning of my minimalist purging phase, but at the height of my shopping, I needed an entire closet just to hold my yoga gear). 50 PAIRS! Last time I checked, I only had two legs!

Enter Minimalism

Minimalism is one of those things I stumbled upon that made absolute and utter sense as soon as I read about it. My first memory of my minimalist journey was when I was doing my B.A. in 2011. I was surfing Facebook and saw a quote pop up in my feed.

“We spend all of our time working jobs we hate, to buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like”.

That was my lightbulb moment.

I realized I didn’t need nearly any of the things that I owned, but this was especially true for clothes. It wasn’t until the last year of my Master’s Degree that I started to act on my minimalist urges. I was so overwhelmed with the amount of ‘stuff’ that I owned that it was starting to affect my mental health. It was like I was drowning underneath everything I owned. I had a perma-suffocated feeling every day.

Confessions of a Reformed Shopaholic {Pin} |Tiny Ambitions

Trigger Me Happy

Our habits don’t exist inside of vacuums and lucky for me, I had a lot of help as an online shopper.

Sale emails were probably my number one trigger – they seem like free money delivered right to your inbox! On social media, ads on Instagram are particularly potent. It’s harder to tell reality from carefully crafted and paid-for narrative.

Being the introvert that I am, I hate shopping in brick and mortar stores (I am such a millennial, I know). So, when online shopping exploded in the 2000s, it was basically my dream come true. I never had to leave my house and beautiful, amazing things that I NEEDED were delivered right to my door. That was the dream.

Buyer’s Remorse

You might be surprised to hear this, but, I honestly can’t think of any single item that was a really bad impulse purchase during my compulsive shopping days. While most of my purchases were impulsive, with few exceptions, I wore or used everything I bought online at least once. I then promptly forgot about them and moved onto the next shiny item. What was much worse for me was recognizing that cumulative behaviour of compulsive consumption and how it was impacting my daily life. (Like being the roommate that ‘got daily packages delivered’).

Curb Your Enthusiasm (err.. Shopping Impulse)

The three most important things for dealing with my shopping habit were ‘unfollow’, ‘unsubscribe’ and ‘delete’. I did a huge email and social media purge when I decided to get my shopping habit under control. For starters, I unfollowed all brands on social media (regardless of how much I loved them). I also unsubscribed from 99% of all marketing emails from brands. All of the shopping apps (Amazon, Etsy, eBay, etc) on my phone were deleted. It’s amazing how much your mindset changes when you’re not being constantly confronted with that kind of information or have one-touch access to the online shopping world.

I also had to replace my first-thing-in-the-morning shopping impulse with another behavior. Now, instead of compulsively shopping as soon as I wake up, I read blog posts or listen to podcasts from creators I enjoy.

My Post-Minimalist Shopping Shelf

Right now, I’m doing a year-long shopping ban (and I’m almost six months in)- so my online shopping behaviour is great! Up to this point though, I have become much more mindful of my shopping behaviour. I only shop for something when I truly need it (like when something I wear a lot becomes damaged and I cannot repair it). And my shopping process is a very long one. Now, when I shop online, my first place to check is second-hand and vintage sites like Etsy and eBay. If I can’t find something used, I try to find the item from a Canadian company. I’ll consider an item for as long as possible before adding it to my cart. Really considering an item and how it will fit into my day-to-day life has helped me cut down on impulsive purchases that I know I will regret.

So, that’s my minimalist origin story. It might not be as dramatic as others, or as ‘glamorous’ (if there’s such a thing as a glamourous life-changing realization). But, it’s the truth. Who knew something as innocent as yoga pants would jumpstart this wonderful journey?

How did your minimalist/slow living/simple living journey start? Let me know in the comments!

If you missed my five-month shopping-ban update on Tiny Bites, you can listen to it here.

Image Credit: Tiny Ambitions


  • minimalismlite June 22, 2018 at 9:30 am

    Awesome post! My “wake up” call finally came after moving for the 4th time in 2.5 years. Yes it took 4 times to finally realize, why do I keep all this stuff in boxes and just store it forever? There was a huge amount of guilt after having the same group of friends help lug my stuff from place to place.

    Now that I’ve sold a bunch of stuff on Kijiji/Craigslist I realized you can buy almost anything you need used! eBay and Facebook Buy and Sell groups are great. My go-to is now to avoid full price. I also make myself wait about 2 weeks before pressing “Place Order” on my Amazon cart. This usually helps me realize I can live without it.

    Good luck on your shopping ban! You’re totally crushing it.

  • Justyna June 20, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    Yeah, definitely working on that, too. For me the good part is that I return most of the things, after already selecting carefully before buying. This is the habit that I have learned with time – I just leave what fits and looks great. BUT Im already a running joke in my office as compulsive shopaholic, as I order waaay more than any of my collegues. It is still unfair as they dont see all the returns and dont account for the fact that Im single (and quite lonely) and I dont have obligations most people have.
    But still Id love to stop. The good thing is that I started selling my old stuff online, so at least I fight with hoarding 😉 jokes aside, it is good to know there are more of us 💚

    • Britt June 20, 2018 at 8:15 pm

      Its true, not everyone can see the full picture of what your consumption habits look like. The main thing that matters of that you’re happy with them and know you are consuming mindfully. Thanks for reading, Justyna!

  • […] December (thank you, unexpected car repairs), I needed a refresh. I had felt the slow creep of my compulsive shopping tendencies start to slip back into my […]

  • Christin Erbele June 11, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I am currently working on how to not be a shopaholic. Like you, clothing is my thing. Especially dresses. I thought I had it under control last fall but the monster has been coming out again quite frequently. My friend and I have been challenging each other to a 21-day no spending project but it seems every few days one of us fails and we keep starting over again. If you have any more tips or advice on how to beat this, I’m all ears. I’m constantly deleting emails and unsubscribing from all the things. I’ve been off FB for 5 months now because it was a huge trigger and turns out, I can live without it! Thanks, Christin

    • Britt June 11, 2018 at 7:09 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Christin! Maybe you and your friend would have better luck if there was a financial incentive involved? For example, maybe if you buy something, you have to donate the same amount of money to charity. It may work as a shopping deterrent, and if it doesn’t, then you’re still donating to a worthy cause!

      • Christin June 12, 2018 at 8:09 am

        That’s a great idea! My friend said she heard of doing the opposite and donating to something you’re against …. that would really keep you on track, but I would feel better about donating to something positive IF it comes to that. 😉

  • snarkingtofreedom June 11, 2018 at 12:58 am

    This was me and books! Sooo many books! And then the Kindle came out😅

    • Britt June 11, 2018 at 7:13 am

      I did a book ban at the beginning of last year because I had so many books on my Kindle that I hadn’t gotten around to reading. It made a big difference!

  • Penny (@picksuppennies) June 6, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    I’ve written a lot about shoes because they’re easily quantifiable. As someone who easily owned well over 200 pairs, I feel this so hard. Also anything else I could buy. Handbags, belts, shirts, pants, tank tops. Ugh. I watched Clueless way too many times growing up. And I only say that half in jest.

    • Britt June 6, 2018 at 1:58 pm

      I had a serious shoe problem too! I loved buying high heels, but I never wore them (can’t walk in them).

      Is there a Clueless anonymous group? I’ll join with you! I wanted to dress like Alicia Silverstone so much haha

  • Jess June 6, 2018 at 3:43 am

    I definitely know the shopaholic feeling! Almost like I had to “collect” the items in the sale section, as if I were going to miss out. Package addiction was definitely a problem too – it felt like getting presents in the mail. One small benefit about shopping a lot was that I tried a lot of different styles, so I was able to narrow down my style and shop less now.

    • Britt June 6, 2018 at 7:48 am

      That’s exactly what it feels like! Serious FOMO!

      And I agree with you – my shopping habit has certainly helped me narrow down my style. So at least there’s one silver lining.

      Thanks for sharing your experience and for reading!

  • Sarah June 5, 2018 at 8:43 pm

    Sounds like we could have gone through Lululemon rehab around the same time! I spent a disgusting amount of money on their stuff years ago (although was able to resell a lot of it) and was obbsessed with checking their WMTM section and the weekly product drops. I do still buy the odd thing from them but now it’s more of an annual expense instead of weekly.

    Getting off those sale emails is HUGE. Makes such a difference in kicking impulsive spending habits.

    • Britt June 5, 2018 at 10:29 pm

      Oh my goodness. Don’t even get me started a out the WMTM section. That section and I had a standing date every day for years!

      We can start a Lululemon rehab support group together! The only saving grace is that most of it has resold well.

      Thanks for sharing and reading, Sarah!

  • Linda Sand June 5, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    My first foray into minimalism was before that even became a thing. My allergist said I needed to get rid of my books. I donated seven bookcases full of books to a church book sale. Then I was done. Until 2008. My husband and I decided to move into a 24′ motorhome to go explore our great country. That was a huge motivator to sell nearly everything we owned including our house and two cars. Now we live in a one bedroom apartment which has too much room in it. I have started to purge again but it’s taking more effort this time.

    • Britt June 5, 2018 at 5:23 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Linda. That sounds like quite the adventure! To think it all started because of your allergist – what a weird and wonderful world we live in.

  • theluxestrategist June 5, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    I really love getting packages, and I’ve never had a major shopping problem, but I’ve found that I shop much less now that I’m a lot more intentional about my purchases. My issue was buying things that were “good enough” and then never wearing them. Now that I save for the real things that I want, the higher price points automatically make me a minimalist 🙂

    • Britt June 5, 2018 at 4:18 pm

      I also definitely struggled with “good enough” items. I haven’t increased my overall clothing budget by much from those days, but I’m willing to wait it out for something I love and will actually wear. Thanks for the comment, Luxe!

  • Erin | Reaching for FI June 5, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    Woah I never would’ve guess you had a shopping/yoga pants problem back in the day because you’ve made a complete 180 since then! Unsubscribing to sale emails was definitely the best thing I’ve done lately. I can’t be tempted if I don’t know there’s a sale happening!

    • Britt June 5, 2018 at 1:47 pm

      Haha If nothing else, I’m a great before and after example for minimalism!

      That’s awesome that you’ve been on the unsubscribe train lately. It makes such a difference!

    Hey! I'm Britt. I write about living a tiny, simple, intentional life. Because life doesn't need to be lived big.