How to stop a compulsive shopping habit by decluttering

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Hands down, the best way to stop a compulsive shopping habit is to purge some of what you already have.

This can be a powerful way to wake yourself up to the clutter you’ve already accumulated, provide clarity on what it is you really need, and dampen that constant desire for more.

The process can feel daunting, so I’m outlining what I think is the easiest, least complicated way to get this done so that you can feel accomplished, organized and inspired to take on more action toward the life you really want.

Step 1 – Define your parameter and goal

compulsive shopping

Are you just cleaning out a closet, a whole room, or an entire floor of your house? Stick to a specific space and set a clear goal for what you want the area to look like when you’re done. An example of a clear goal is “I want everything in my closet to be visible at a glance and organized by function and color. I want to reduce my overall closet volume by half.” An example of a useless goal is “I just want to clean things up a bit”. That goal will deliver exactly what you aimed for – nothing.

Step 2 – Create three areas for your soon-to-be-piles

You’re going to designate 3 separate piles by creating a sign for each area. Get a sharpie and 3 boxes or just sheets of paper to lay on the floor. On each, write the following and then drop them on the floor. These are your guideposts:

  • Keep it
  • Sell it
  • Donate or toss it

Now, before I set you loose on your project, I want you to think about your life for a second. If your project is a kitchen, bathroom or garage, think about how you spend your time in that space. How much do you use what’s already in the space, what you love using, what is it you never use and what you’re likely to use in the future? This is not the time to consider your Martha Stewart dreams of becoming a pastry chef or starting an organic herb garden. If you haven’t done it yet, it’s likely because it’s not a priority and that’s important intel.

If you’re about to do a closet purge, think about your next year and what you have planned. Will you be spending the majority of time at work? At home? Also consider where you will NOT be spending a lot of time (ie galas, weddings, and bat-mitzvahs). Be clear about what your wardrobe needs are before you start or else you’ll hand onto everything and I really want you to be ruthless (and honest with yourself).

Step 3 – Pull everything out and sort them into the 3 piles.

Once again, be ruthless. Avoid thinking  “I may need this someday”  because someday is a very rare occasion and it most likely won’t happen. The more you purge, the lighter you will feel, so let it all go.

  • Get rid of clothes you don’t fit into anymore. Don’t hold onto things that don’t serve you as you are right now.
  • Get rid of gadgets you never use. Unused items cause undue stress to the body and mind. With every purge, your stress levels are going to drop.
  • Old photo albums stored in an attic or basement are of use to no one. Make a plan to scan the photos and put them in a place where they can be shared and loved by everyone in your life. Physical photos don’t hold your past. You do.

Step 4 – Move Everything To It’s Respective New Place

Put away your “keep pile” mindfully

Once you have everything situated in their respective piles pull out your phone and take a few pictures of everything you’ve just pulled out of your space. I’ll explain what to do with it later.

Now start with your “keep” pile. Put each item back in its place one-by-one. As you do, ask yourself, “am I really going to use this and do I really love it?” If it’s a hell yes, back it goes. If it’s a maybe not, reconsider selling or donating. Remember, less stuff = less stress.

Address your “sell pile” immediately

Next up, look at your donation/sell pile. You might think you’ll have great luck selling some of your items, but I’m going to prepare you for a stark reality. Very few people will want to pay you for your stuff. Most people won’t want it. Yep, even the good stuff. I literally couldn’t give away a Breville Juicer that I only used a few times. None of my friends wanted it.

But give it a try! I recommend the following sources for selling stuff:

The key thing is to not temporarily store things away until you have time to sell them because they will be forgotten. If you want to sell them, take pictures of them right away and store them somewhere that they can’t be forgotten about again (like, near the front door). Give yourself a week to sell everything. If it’s not gone within 7 days, donate or toss.

NOTE: This is a powerful exercise in understanding that idea that once you own something, it’s your problem. Very often it’s not until we want to not own something anymore that we realize how little value it actually has. This is the critical lesson to learn as it will begin to influence how you spend your money going forward.

Take your “donate pile” out to the car

Take your donation pile right to the car or call your local charitable organization that does pickups and schedule a time to have them come pick your items up. Again, make sure they get out of the house asap as you want to feel the benefits of this project as immediately as possible.

Be careful with your “toss pile”

Now for your “toss” pile – this is straightforward although be mindful of what you’re putting in the garbage. Things like paint cans, electronics, and batteries all need to go to special waste facilities. Google your local drop off places and remember – this may be a pain in the ass, but it’s SO WORTH IT.

Step 5 – Take a Moment to Appreciate Your Newly Cleared Space

Now that your space is cleared, take a moment to see how it feels. Yes, you’re most likely exhausted and in need of a glass of wine and a comfy chair, but also consider how your space feels now. Does it give you energy? Are you more excited about what remains in the space?

I hope so! This is just the beginning of your journey, so connecting to the feeling of openness and peace that comes from clearing space is really important. It’s also a good idea to reflect on the stuff that you just invested the last 3 or 4 hours on. Not only did you trade time for money to buy all that stuff, now you spent more time (and time is money) to manage it and you still have more work to do to sell and donate. That’s hours of your life for all those items.

I bet some of them were totally worth it and some were a total waste of time and money. Take a moment to consider what stands out in each category.

This isn’t an exercise in rubbing your nose in potential mistakes. I don’t want you to feel bad about your purchases and things. I want you to feel aware of them. That way you can make more aware choices in the future. Choices that are better aligned with your goals, aspirations and direction in life.

This is what we call the “hard work of getting real with ourselves and our lives”. What you did was a massive step forward. Now go celebrate your efforts with a little self-care, whatever that means to you, as long as it’s not shopping, of course 🙂

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