A couple of years ago, my morning routine included three things – making myself a cup of tea, scrolling through social media and checking my favorite online stores for deals.
If you’ve been following along here, you know social media is no longer part of my morning. Like, social media, my online window shopping was a compulsive habit – I couldn’t help it.
Every morning without fail, the first website I would check before anything else was a certain Canadian yoga wear company. I would check their sale section every. single. day. Sometimes I would buy something, sometimes I wouldn’t, but the compulsion to check was always there.
When I started down the rabbit hole of minimalism, I began to notice the impact my habit was having on my mindset. If I saw something on sale, that I could ‘afford’, I felt compelled to buy it even if I didn’t like it. Even if it didn’t come in my size.
How messed up is that?
That mindset comes from very influential marketing. The kind of marketing that convinces you that you’d be a better/happier/sexier person if you bought this ‘thing’. Now, I have nothing against shopping or buying things. But, for me, my shopping compulsion was becoming deeply problematic for my finances and my mental health.
But, my habit was just that – an ingrained pattern of behavior that I continued long after it stopped being useful. But, that’s the thing about habits – once you know you have them, you can’t see them the same way again.
For the health of my wallet, my mind and my closet, I decided to tackle my online shopping habit once and for all. Here’s how I did it:
1) Online Shopping Blackout
Step one to tackle my compulsive online habit was self-imposing a website blackout. The websites I normally checked were now off limits. Basically, I pretended they didn’t exist. The logic here is simple, if you can’t access the site, you can’t buy anything. Life. Hacked.
I’ll be honest – the first couple of weeks were very challenging. Like any habit, to break it requires a replacement habit. In my case, I subbed YouTube shows like GMM for online shopping. A much cheaper and funnier habit if you ask me!
2) No Buy March
Once I had tempered my online shopping habit, I wanted to bring it into the ‘real’ world.
A friend of mine told me she was doing a ‘No Buy March’ – which is exactly what it sounds like! And it was exactly what I needed!
Again, the first few weeks were challenging. Once I tell myself I can’t do something, it makes me want to do it more than anything!
By the end of the month, I thought I would have made a list of everything I had put off buying, so I could go on a spree! That couldn’t have been further from reality. I ended the month having created space between what stuff I thought I needed, and what I actually needed.
If you want to do a 30-day shopping ban – pick whatever month works best for you! Don’t feel like you have to wait until March to get started.
3) The Minimalist Game
After banning myself from online shopping and completing a ‘No Buy March’, I realized something. After not allowing myself to shop, I realized I’d already accumulated far too much in my life.
Enter the Minimalist Game! Created by Joshua & Ryan over at The Minimalists, it’s a great way to jumpstart your minimizing journey. The premise is simple; you donate/sell/recycle/toss one item for every day of the month. On day one, it’s one item. One day two, it’s two items. You get the idea. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive decluttering approach, check out this post, a guide based on what worked for me!
I made it to the end of the month easily (remember, I was a shopaholic) and ended up donating/selling/recycling/tossing 496 items. And that was just the start! This game marked the end of my compulsion to shop and kickstarted my journey as a minimalist.
For some people, three steps won’t be enough to kick their shopping habit. But, because of my life circumstances, timing and a certain degree of luck, the three steps above did help me a great deal.
I won’t pretend I never feel the shopping itch anymore – because I do. The difference now is that I know I can’t buy my happiness or lifestyle.