Going From Shopaholic To Mindful Consumer

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For the past few months I've devoted a piece of my blog to talking about minimalism, and that's something I don't want to slow down with even now as I'm writing a few more superficial product posts. I am perpetually in the limbo of wanting/needing to buy things and also feeling guilty that I do, but I know that I can't be the only person out there who lives in a western society and feels this way. I have done some research and looked at the extremes on opposite ends of the spectrum, and have learned that I fall somewhere in between - my ego says yes to frivolous purchases, but my mind knows how to keep these desires at bay. 

For today's post I wanted to discuss how I toned down my intense shopping and really transformed my mindset from shopaholic to mindful consumer. Of course, I can always do better and there are times when I slip and maybe buy something I definitely don't and never will need. However, my perspective of physical items has changed a lot over the past year and I wanted to share my thoughts for anyone else making the transition. 

Back when I was working my full-time office job, I hated my life between 9am to 5pm. After it was done I was free to be myself and pursue experiences that I genuinely enjoyed. But every day I was back at my desk, typing away lethargically about topics that didn't interest me. And you might be thinking, "Why didn't you just quit?". And that's a very valid question because no one was forcing me to be there (other than the university loans I was still paying off) and many more people would have been ecstatic to be in the position I was dreading like a plague.

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The latter point is exactly why I stayed there for as long as I did - the notion of prestige, or knowing that others wanted this lifestyle, had me convincing myself that I belonged there even when deep down I knew I didn't. And, not to forget, the monetary compensation I was getting to work a high-stress job that eventually made my hair turn grey was a factor in this decision to stay. 

The longer I stayed, click-clacking away on emails I hated writing to people I didn't care about, the more justification I needed to stay doing it. What was the point of this if I didn't get a fuzzy feeling in the pit of my stomach when I did it? That's when I turned more toward shopping to give me that fuzzy feeling. The thrill of buying something new and shiny was just as gratifying as the smell of coffee in the morning or the crisp breeze of early fall.

Soon I was popping out every lunch break to by some new makeup or clothing items or even food, just to pass the time at my desk and keep me excited knowing there was something to look forward to. I spent money on things I didn't even care about once I took them home, gained some weight in the process, and eventually felt trapped by this cycle of making money, spending it, then making more to pay off my credit card. Needless to say, it was getting scary. 

That all stopped when I decided to look at my purchases less like an extension of who I was, but rather an addition to an already complete person. Filling the hole left in me from work with useless stuff wasn't working, so it was time to change my method. I knew that I needed to start recognizing myself as someone capable of carrying on alone with no strings attached to anything that wasn't breathing. I obviously have very deep connections to certain items, but not because of how they make me feel anymore. My connection lies with value and what these objects bring into my life. I've decided that I could live without most of my personal possessions except my laptop, camera and cell phone, only because these keep me connected to my friends and family and help me create the art I enjoy.

I use to think that without a certain item or product then I'd never be the ultimate person I admired, but when would it end? What thing would be the last in this journey of self-improvement? I've now learned that the answers to these questions is 'never' and 'nothing'. If you aren't okay with yourself without your makeup collection or without your designer clothes, then you'll never be.