Did you know that the average person buys 60% more items of clothing and keeps them for about half as long as 15 years ago? And why is that you may ask?
Well nowadays, with the advent of the Internet, it has become effortless for us to buy on an impulse. We are constantly bombarded with information, new trends, ideas, things you must do, things you mustn’t do, people you must follow, rules you have to live by, things you have to buy and … STOP. Breathe in, and out.
We know that our shopping habits are destroying the planet. We buy way more than we need and wear our clothes way less than we used to. When we’re bored, we throw them away (hello waste), and go on an Instagram quest to find “something fresh”. We buy mindlessly. We look at an item once, put in our virtual shopping bags, credit card already saved (how convenient), buy, wait for two days, and there it is.
Today, our little brains are stimulated all the time by modern advertising and marketing techniques, but what if we stopped for a minute (or two, or maybe more)?
About two years ago now, I chose to rethink the way I buy clothes. I stopped buying new items for some time. But I work in fashion. I love fashion. I love the creativity of assembling pieces. But I also love my planet. So I stopped and aimed to rewire my brain (it’s still a work in progress) to shop more consciously. Two years later I buy WAY less than I used to (again, always a work in progress), which benefits the planet, my wallet and my mental health. Winning!
So, without further ado, here are my nine tips for mindful shopping!
1. Ban the phrase “I love shopping!”
How many times have I heard that phrase? I used to say it before too. You know, when they ask you “oh what do you do in your free time?” and you answer “I love shopping!”. Why? How has shopping become leisure?
My first tip is to ban that sentence (and all similar phrases) from your vocabulary so that you stop seeing shopping as leisure. I try to see it as a search, a process, almost like work, something I put my heart AND head into. I don’t love shopping. I shop, sometimes, to buy and assemble pieces that inspire me and that will inspire me in the long-run.
2. Plan and think hard
Go through your wardrobe, note what you might need. Is it a replacement? Can it be fixed? Really think about the WHY you want or need to buy something. Also, do you have enough space? And no, buying new shelves is not an option.
This is also the time to have a look at what you have, discover forgotten pieces and fall back in love with what you already own.
3. Set limitations
When I was younger, my parents always had a rule for Christmases and birthdays: my sister and I had to go through all our toys and decide which ones we wanted to keep and which ones we wanted to donate before we could have new stuff. And I’ve tried to keep following this rule as an adult with other things that I own. For a new item to come in, one or more (preferably more) have to go out. Check your wardrobe, decide and count what is definitely going out (and can be donated, swapped, sold, re-purposed). Divide that number by AT LEAST two. And there you have the number of new items you can add to your wardrobe. Set limitations and aim to follow them.
4. Do some research
You know how many items you need to buy, good. Now, do some research on the brands you had in mind (hot tip: the Good On You app is an excellent resource for that): are they implementing sustainable practices? Are they ethical, paying a living wage, have good working conditions? What materials do they use? Can these be recycled? Are they using animal-derived materials? How does that make you feel?
Do your best, with what you have, and what’s available, but do learn more about fashion brands and what they’re doing. It will completely change your perspective.
If you’re buying online, you can contact the retailer to inquire about the fit of the item, to make sure you don’t have to send it back.
5. Go in there with a plan
You know what you need to buy, how many items you need to buy, and from whom.
Make a plan, research, note down each specific item, where you’re going to find each one of them. From which store? Is it new? Is it second-hand? Are you going to buy it online? Are you going to the physical store?
And now, we wait. I wait for at least two weeks, some times more. I do some more research. I look at my shopping list again. I go in the store to touch the fabric, see the shape, the size. Take a step back. Do I really need that? Do I love this? Am I going to wear it in five years?
Waiting helps me not to buy things impulsively. That’s when I bring my heart into the process. I make sure to really fall in love with what I have my eyes on. I imagine myself wearing that item, how I could style it with what I already have. I think long and hard about my list. Sometimes I forget half of the things on it, that’s when I know we were not meant to be. But the items that stick, the ones I reaaaaally think about, I know I can trust.
7. Do not save your credit card details
I repeat: do not save your credit card details. Saving your details very often leads to impulse buying, it’s too convenient. For me, going to get my credit card and typing the numbers is yet another “delay” in my buying decisions, which is good. Having my “money” almost physically in my hands makes me think one more time, do I need this?
It happened. You’ve shopped. You’ve anxiously waited for your items. Congrats! Now savour it. Take your time. Breathe. Touch the fabric. Look at the washing instructions. And try it on! Make sure it fits and that you love EVERY bit (or at least 99%) of what you bought. Trust your instincts, your gut feeling. Thinking “Meh, maybe later”? That’s a nope. You and I both know there is no “later”.
Think of it as the first Tinder date. You’ve been talking for weeks; you’ve done some research, asked your friend, planned your outfit. And now you see them for the first time. Does your heart skip a beat? Do you have butterflies in your stomach? Yes? Great! No? Move on.
Bonus tip: so you’ve bought something, but it doesn’t feel great. That’s okay. Is there someone in your household, a friend, a family member, that might be interested? Instead of sending back your items, ask around.
9. Avoid temptations
Last but not least, avoid temptations. The Tinder date was a success, you’re in love, you’re committed to a serious and long-time relationship now. You’re not going to go back on Tinder to check for hot new dates, right? Then it’s the same for shopping.
Delete the apps. Unfollow the brand on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, EVERYWHERE. Unsubscribe from their newsletters. Unmark their website. Do not watch “Shopping Hauls” On YouTube. Whatever you need so that your brain is not tricked into thinking you need to buy that new trendy piece.
I also tend to avoid malls/shopping centres aka the temples of consumerism — too much risk of impulse buying.
A quick note on Black Fridays and sales: yes, they’re good for discounts, but they’re also great at making you buy tons of stuff you don’t really need.
And voila! Let me know what you think, and if you have other tips and tricks you find particularly useful.