How I’ve stopped impulse buying and how much better I feel for it

Okay, first things first. I love shopping. The hunt to find the perfect piece and the buzz you get when you do. The way it feels when you wear it.  Admiring it hanging in your wardrobe and daydreaming about all the fun times you’re going to have together (I kid you not!).

What I don’t love, is impulse shopping, regret, guilt, disappointment and ultimately returns! I do enough of these in my day job as a fashion stylist, I certainly don’t need to add to the pile with items I’ve haphazardly bought with a swipe up and Apple Pay checkout that I didn’t even really think about.

Over the past year, with so many restrictions in place and the joy sucked out of so much of where I found it most, shopping was more prevalent for me than ever.

The thrill of a package arriving and that little hit of dopamine I got when I opened something shiny and new was sadly replacing the intense array of emotions I got from real life, even if only momentarily.

My Hermes, DPD and Royal Mail delivery drivers were becoming way too familiar with both myself and my concierge, and by concierge I mean my working from home husband. I was less able to hide them as ‘being for work’ when in a global pandemic that meant the shoots were fewer and further between. And the fact I was even thinking about how to hide them made me realise it had got too much.

I needed to stop. 

So, I chose February. Not just because it’s the shortest month (promise!) but also because I find January can already be a difficult month I hate adding more pressure to it with New Year’s resolutions, diets or in this case shopping bans. In February I was going to attempt to rein it in. And here is how…

  1. I started by deleting all my shopping apps, unlinking all my saved check out methods and removing my credit card from my PayPal account. I’m going to be completely honest and tell you this alone wasn’t easy and I put it off for a while but once it was done I genuinely already felt this was going to work.
  2. I then unsubscribed from all marketing emails. I would later sign up again to the ones I missed reading as I genuinely love a lot of the content on them, but reminding me what was in my saves and asking me if I still wanted to check out was not going to be helpful right now.  Flash sales were not going to stop be completing the month.
  3. I read somewhere to just wait 24 hours before checking out on anything before buying on impulse, but for me even waiting 1 hour would make a massive difference. I promised myself I would always, always wait.
  4. I made a list of any pieces I had wanted to purchase so that I could look back and review it at the end of the month. I think it’s important to give yourself permission as it were to spend money on yourself, be it £10 or £100 knowing theres a little something allocated just for you to spend how you wish is what got me through!

These 4 steps are really not ground breaking, but for me made a massive difference to my spending habits and in turn my impulse buying. I quickly began to realise how much time I would spend aimlessly checking my shopping apps, scrolling through them like social media, adding to cart like I was playing a computer game in which it was all make believe as if the magical AMEX fairy paid of my credit card at the end of the month. The ‘extra 20% off’ marketing emails I would click through and end up buying something I hadn’t previously even thought about disappeared and I was excited to review my wish list at the end of the month. The mere thought that I could then carefully choose what I actually wanted, needed and could afford made me feel more in control than I’ve felt in a long time.

To be clear, for me this wasn’t about not shopping at all, I am really not about going cold turkey in any situation, but it was about shopping more consciously.  When I look back pre 2020, I had always been a conscious shopper. I would mull things over before purchasing and go back to stores to re try on an item if I still wasn’t sure.  When an item made it home with me, I’d have a big ole session playing around with my new piece and working out if it fit well with lots of my wardrobe before deciding on keeping it. But with the shops being closed so much of last year and the internet being in my hands more than ever with me both using my phone for work and play, I had altered the way I shop, and not for the better.

So, did I make it through February impulse buying free? Honestly, I did.

That’s not to say I didn’t finally check out on those sandals I’ve been daydreaming about on March 1st, but I did it after considering if I needed them, which clearly I did.

Five steps to an organised wardrobe

I grew up, as many second children did, in the box room. It consisted of a single bed,a small desk and a purpose made half wardrobe. I still put my need for organisationin my bedroom down to growing up in this space, which by the way I loved, but mygod what I would have done for that extra half a wardrobe! Now I am the very proudowner of a dressing room, (if my 13-year-old self could see me now…!) where I havea lot more space, but the need to remain organised has not left me.With so many of us staying at home, and by week 8 probably looking for things to dothat we didn’t previously have time for, it is the perfect time to go through, clear outand reorganise your wardrobe. Put your phone down, put some good music or apodcast on and get ready to go. 

1. Take absolutely everything out. It seems extreme and really laborious at thetime but it’s the only way you’ll really consider each item. If you are short onspace do this in sections, putting everything on your bed as you go so you willbe encouraged to finish it at some point that day.

2. Try every single thing on. Trying the item on makes you really see each pieceit; it reminds you why you haven’t worn it in a couple of years, even thoughyou may like it and helps you notice any marks or parts that may need fixing. Isuggest doing this by category. Pop on a plain T-shirt and try on all yourtrousers jeans and skirts, then leave on your favourite jeans for example andstart doing your tops.  For me, it helps to do this when I have showered,brushed my hair & put a bit of makeup on – nothing looks as good if you’vethrown your hair up and have the remnants of last night’s mascara still on!

3. Create piles as you go in different corners of the room. Keep, mend,sell/donate, store. Once tried on, assign the item to a pile. Keep the items youlove and that fit as you wish. Mend the items you still love but haven’t worn asyou never got round to dry cleaning it last time, or fixing the strap. If you don’tknow a seamstress and don’t feel confident enough to give it a go yourself,most local dry cleaners will do amendments if you’ve pinned it in place. Withjeans, consider taking a pair of scissors to any that don’t feel the right lengthand have a raw hem.   Sell/ donate those items you no longer feel good in,that no longer fit, or rather no longer fit as you wished they did. The items thathave seen better days, are no longer to your taste, or don’t suit your lifestylecan also be added to this pile. eBay have a great scheme where you can selland donate a proportion to charity, well worth checking out for those pricieritems. Always keep giving to friends in mind at this stage too. Store anysentimental pieces that you won’t regularly wear and your out of seasonitems, (big chunky knits, heavy coats and high summer pieces) in breathablecontainers which you can pop under the bed, in the back of the wardrobe orwherever you have space. I’ve found the Lackisar structured storage bagsfrom Ikea great as they have ventilation to keep my clothes fresh, and theylook nice so I can keep them somewhat accessible.

4. Once the sort out is complete, hoover and clean out all the available space.Separate the pieces you plan to sell and bag up anything you are going todrop to friends or donate to charity. Then, the best bit, hang everything backin the wardrobe in organised sections – you can also colour code if that’s yourthing, of course it’s mine! Slim velvet hangers are my go-to for most items,they save on space, look neat and are much better at keeping your clothes onthem than others.  You can buy them with trouser clips too for skirts, strapless items or those with unconventional necklines. Plus it means you can cut out any hanger loops out that inevitably end up on show. More solid wooden hangers are my preference for coats and jackets that require structure to keep them hung well.

5. If you have started a 5th pile, named the maybe pile, (I am definitely guilty ofthis) put the hanger the opposite way to all your others when you hang it backin your wardrobe. In 6 months – 1 years’ time if it is still the opposite way youwill know haven’t worn it and therefore really do not need it and its time for itto go to a new home.

Although it can take a while and be a task that midway though you will ask yourselfwhy you ever started, I guarantee you will be glad you have done it and feel like youhave more rather than less when you are finished. Plus you should now only havepieces in there you want to wear so getting ready each day should be much easierand more enjoyable!