141. When shopping isn’t making your life better (mindful and minimalist tips for shopping)

Feel like you are shopping too much? Want to bring a minimalist approach and mindset into how you shop?

Every season we seem to be bombarded with the latest fashion trends – a marketing strategy that fast fashion uses to get us to keep buying all the latest colours and patterns.  I know I feel like I need to buy a new wardrobe each season and need to remind myself of everything I already DO have in my closet. 

In this episode, I will talk about WHY we shop, how to know when it is causing a problem for you and how to bring a mindful and minimal approach into your shopping. 

Make sure to get the free downloads that go with this episode, right here

Why it feels good to shop

The neurochemical payoff

In her great book Tame Your Anxiety by Loretta Breuning outlines the neurochemicals we like to get (serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine). I share my view on how I think we get each of these neurochemicals from shopping. 

Control and choice

Shopping is also something we can turn to feel in control, which is a desirable feeling for many of us. 

Avoidance strategy

Many of us can turn to shopping when we want to ‘feel better’, or also to say when we don’t want to feel the negative or uncomfortable things we are facing. This is like emotional eating, we can emotion shop. Many coaches call  this a buffer (a term coined by Brooke Castillo), the things we turn to for distraction from feeling poor. 


When shopping isn’t making our lives better

Years ago I started decluttering my home and it hit me how much my shopping habits had contributed to the state of my home. 

I could see that I had spent a lot of my 20s buying things that I thought I needed to be a credible adult. I had accumulated so much by using shopping as entertainment and by shopping by reaction more than intention. 

It caused a problem for me because I could see that I had a home full of stuff that was 


How to know when you are shopping too much

Shopping in itself isn’t a bad thing or a negative activity. Shopping can be fun! Often it is how we meet a lot of our needs and create the life we want. 

Something things to consider to know if you are shopping too much is its impact on the different areas of your life. Shopping may be a problem for you if you notice a negative impact on your relationship, your finances, your space, your ability to be present, or your own sense of integrity. 


Bringing a minimalist approach to shopping

The work starts before you even go shopping or load up the online store. To bring a minimalist mindset into shopping, you will want to only buy what you need and love. 

A strategy that is really helpful here is to start with an inventory of what is already in your home. You can avoid bringing in a lot of unnecessary items when you ‘shop your home’ and see all the inventory you already have. 


Being mindful about how you shop

It is important to shop with intention rather than reaction. Having a plan when you shop can keep you on task here, make a list of the items you are specifically looking for. 

I unpack some powerful, mindful questions you can ask yourself WHILE shopping. You can get a download of these questions to keep on your phone right here. 


Get in touch

You can find the Simple Squad (our community on Facebook) right here. 

Send me a message or tag me on Instagram @simpleonpurpose.ca 


woman holding a sweater, text overlay reads "when shopping isn't making your life better + mindful and minimalist tips for shopping'

Full Episode Transcript 


And on this podcast, I share ways that you can simplify your home, simplify your heart and simplify your life. And I want to talk about getting rid of distractions and clutter in those areas, helping you identify what you’re keeping what’s important what you value, and show up for that. Simplify and show up. So today we’re going to talk about shopping. So how did you for me right now, do you ever feel like you’re shopping too much? I just had that experience, Connor was away hunting, he goes on a couple of hunting trips in the fall. And so it’s me and the kids. And you know, I prep for it, I plan for it, I know what’s going to happen. But still, there’s some hard parts, right? There’s some hard days in that like all the time, right every day is a little bit of hard and a little bit awesome. But man, I was definitely feeling the hard. And one of the ways that I tried to make myself feel better. When the kids were in bed, and I was alone at night was to shop with do some online shopping, and I do a lot of online browsing, I fill a cart, and then I just never buy it, I never check out. But this time I was I found myself shopping, buying some clothes, buying a record player. And I found myself also justifying a lot of my shopping on the prices or the necessity. And I know also about myself that every season that comes along, I kind of get into the mental trap that I somehow need a wardrobe refresh, which is weird, because I’m not someone who really leaves my house maybe a couple days a week. So I don’t know why I think I need more clothes.

But maybe you feel like this, too. I think it’s a really clever marketing that fast fashion does for us, where our clothes are only good for one season. And then the next season comes in and we have to buy a whole new capsule wardrobe for that season. But I really want to lean into using what I have. And over the years, I know I have this skill, but I was definitely forgetting. Maybe you feel like that too. When the fall sweaters come out and they start filling up the store shelves and you’re like, Oh, we don’t know what to net color. Or there’s some new boots and you’re like, Well, I have boots, but they’re not waterproof boots. So I want to talk to you about why we shop. I think it’s really powerful to kind of understand the neuroscience behind it and gonna nerd out a little bit. I also want to talk to you about when to know if it’s too much, right? Is it a problem even. And if you’re interested and you feel like you want to make a change some minimalist mindsets that you can apply to your shopping habits. So why we shop? There’s a really great book called tame your anxiety by Loretta Bruning. And she talks a lot about the the neuro chemicals that we have in our body shouldn’t that’s a really big core of this book. She talks about the feel good hormones that we spend a lot of our day chasing, and there’s three big ones. There’s serotonin, and serotonin is one that your body will release when you feel skilled or special. Its role is to give you Social Security, right? Like these neuro chemicals. They exist for a reason, right? They are part of our survival as a human and as a species. And then there’s oxytocin, which is also called like that love hormone, that connection hormone. You get it when you feel like you belong, you’re part of a group, you get it when you’re holding your newborn baby. And it has a role in developing social trust amongst groups of people. And there’s one that’s really popular dopamine, dopamine is related to meeting your needs. So when you feel like you’ve met your needs, or you’re going to meet your needs, or you’re going to achieve something like filling that shopping cart, online, you’re going to get dopamine. You also get dopamine when you anticipate that package arriving or when you anticipate that reward dopamine is in the anticipation as well. In my opinion, considering serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine, we get all of these from shopping. For one, I bought something, it makes me special, I have something that’s going to make me special or increase my status I get serotonin or maybe you bought something that makes you feel like I belong. I belong with this brand. I belong with this group I fit in you get oxytocin, maybe you feel like you’re meeting a need somehow like that need to have this nice thing and you get to look forward to it in the mail, you get dopamine, shopping also makes us feel in control. We feel good from it. Even if it’s not long lasting, we get a temporary boost from it and that’s why we turn to it. That’s why we turn to it especially when we are feeling not so hot when we are overwhelmed, stressed, bored, anxious, frustrated, any kind of those uncomfortable feelings. We don’t want to Feel, we’re gonna turn to it, and it’s gonna make us feel better, like emotional eating right, we can also emotional shop. In coaching, we call a situation like this a buffer, it’s a distraction we turn to when we don’t want to feel the things that we’re feeling. So we might turn to the screens, to the food to the drinking to the shopping. And, of course, we all do some of these things to some extent. But you know, it’s a buffer, you know that it’s a coping mechanism, when you know that it’s a distraction for you, when it becomes a negative part of your life when it’s giving you a negative impact. So let’s go back years ago, to I don’t know, seven, six years ago, with some flashback music, and I am decluttering. My basement, I just realized for the first time, I had permission to get rid of stuff. There was basically a walking path through my basement. And so I’m standing there amongst boxes, asking myself questions like, how did all of this pile up? Why did I ever bring this into my home? Why did I ever buy this, and I could see that I had spent the past 10 years, my whole 20s buying the things I thought were necessary for me to be a credible adult. So I looked around at all this stuff, I was getting rid of the clothes, the kitchen gadgets, just the stuff. And it also parallel to that I started to watch how I would consume how I would bring in how I would shop. And I would see that I bought things that I thought I should have in order to fit in, I would watch how I would turn to shopping for entertainment, something fun to do. Go to the mall, whatever, like I don’t live near a mall, but it would be this big event to go out and go shopping or shop online, I would shop to feel better. And I would shop without reason really, I would just see something decide I like it and just get it there was no intention, it was just reactionary. Around this time, I also started to do the moms 3430. And I’m gonna link some links to that in the show notes. That’s where I wore 30 items of clothes for 30 days, it was kind of a personal challenge that I put together for myself and other bloggers and friends would join in on Instagram, it was always really fun. I’ve done quite a handful of them over the years. But that first one, it was a very eye opening experience to see how many of my clothes I was actually wearing. And how many of my clothes were just sitting there taking up space. There were clothes that over the years, I thought I had to have them I spent money on them. And then they just sat there only for me to stare at and feel guilty for not wearing them. And dissatisfied with my closet because I wasn’t wearing these clothes, which led to more shopping. And really in doing that 3430 I learned a few things I learned I can solve my nothing to wear problem by actually taking time to wear what I have. And for me that meant spending time putting outfits together and trying things out and seeing what I had and how I could use it. I called it an interview with my clothes. And at the end of that month that 3430 I was cutting some things I was cutting things that I didn’t want anymore. And I was sometimes spotting a couple of gaps of things that I thought would be useful for me to bring into my closet so that I could make more use of what I already have. Because I actually liked my clothes. I bought them all for a reason, right? I liked a lot of them. So as I went forward after doing that 3430 considering kind of building up a closet of clothes that I love to wear, I developed a model around future shopping, and it is if you don’t love it, don’t buy it. And I think the hardest part about that motto is that we accept a lot of substitutes, especially when we are in the mindset that we need something. Like if you think you need a certain boot this year or certain pan for baking something, do you spend the time to find exactly what you want? Or do you just find the closest thing available for yours I had wanted to buy a coffee table for our living room, we didn’t have one. And we have been actually using our dining room bench we’ll pull it over in front of the coach and then we’ll put it away. Like just moving it around all the time. And I didn’t want that to be the permanent solution. It was temporary. But what I want it to be the permanent solution was a coffee table that worked for our family how we wanted to use it and something I really liked to look at. And as I kind of had this mental narrative, oh, I need a coffee table. I need a coffee table. I would be out shopping or whatever looking at stores looking online and almost buy a few that I didn’t actually love but just they were going to get the job done. And I would tell myself like no, don’t settle like there’s something out there. There’s a coffee table for you. It’s waiting for you. Because I wanted to find that one that was gonna work. You know what that I liked but also that Connor liked that he was going to be on board with you. It took us almost a year to find what we really liked. So over the years of decluttering, I could look at my house, and I could see a lot of substitutes for what I really wanted. There were also a lot of things I told myself I needed, and then I really didn’t. So I had this perceived urgency, and this perceived necessity around the item. And there were also a lot of things that I bought, because it’s who I thought I was, or wanted to be, or who I used to be. And that turned out to be identity, clutter, identity, clutter, are those things we keep, because they were who we were, who we think we want to be, who we try to be, or who we want to be one day, or who others also tell us who we think we should be. They’re kind of this aspirational, almost false identity that we build up through stuff. I’ll link a post on that in the show notes as well. But let’s bring it back to shopping. For me shopping was a problem for me in my earliest 20s. You know, you, you go out into the world, with your big old student loans in your pocket, and someone’s given you a credit card because you’re student. And for me shopping was a problem because I was actually spending money I didn’t have. And also another problem I was shopping for things I didn’t really need, I was really naive at what I thought I was gonna need. Because I don’t think that shopping is wrong. I don’t think shopping makes you a bad person. It’s a tool that we have to meet our needs and create the lives we want. I like shopping. I like getting stuff. I remember when my daughter was smaller, and she’d get her allowance, and she’d just burned through it. And then one day, we came home from the store. And I was like I noticed you just like buy something all the time. And if you don’t have money you like, asked me for it. And I don’t give it to her. And I was like what’s up with that. And she’s like, I just want to buy something every time I go out because it makes me feel good. That was like, Yeah,

I know. That’s the whole thing, girl. So here’s the thing, shopping isn’t bad. But sometimes it’s giving us a negative impact in our life. Maybe it pulls you away from living from being present, it’s a distraction for you. Maybe you’re spending money you don’t have and that debt is accumulating. Maybe you’re hiding it from people and that’s hurting your relationship, how you want to be in a relationship with them. Maybe you’re feel like what you’re buying is not the person you want to be you feel out of integrity with yourself. Maybe you’re running out of room in your home, like the input exceeds the output. And maybe you just don’t like why you’re doing it maybe you feel like your motivation for shopping for that item is not in line with who you want to be and what you want to be motivated by. And I can relate to all of these, I won’t tell you what you do is wrong you get to decide if it’s not working for you the way you’re doing it. So if you think that you want to refresh your relationship to shopping, here are some of my own approaches that I’ve developed over the years towards shopping with the obvious caveat sometimes I don’t follow them as seen with my recent shopping haul while my husband was away hunting for the week. You know, I always do something when he’s away hunting usually it’s a home project I tear out a closet, I paint something, this time I shopped so maybe I need to be proactive and actually go to the paint store before his next trip. So I’m going to give you some of my ideas and I’m going to put them in a little printables well that you can get from the website. So don’t feel like you have to scribble all this down while I’m talking. Let’s talk about before you even go to the store and maybe you have a desire you’re at home you’re like I want to go shopping or I think I want to go buy this thing. My best tip before you go and buy more stuff is to do an inventory of what you have. Whether you’re cleaning out your makeup drawer or your shoe closet, this is why that 3430 stopped a lot of my clothes shopping because I was like I do have so many clothes, I could wear something new every day for like months and never have to do laundry. So really do an inventory of what you already have. It’s like shopping your house already. And then the next challenge in that part is to start using what you have. Because we cannot appreciate something we’re not using our items. When they’re not in use. They have no value to us. They’re not being used, they provide no value. So we have very little appreciation for them. Think about the things that you actually use every day that you highly value like your favorite spatula or your toothpaste or your favorite shoes. We use these every day. We appreciate them. We don’t find ourselves with the need to go buy more of them we will replace them obviously but these are just things that we have a natural appreciation for. Maybe this would be a challenge for you. Maybe you want to use a new spice everyday this week. Maybe you have a clause or a cupboard full of spices. Maybe you have a cupboard full of beauty products under your bathroom sink, have a spa night for like every other night. Do a 3430 we have so much in our house already just sitting there just inventory sitting there. The Going unused. So let’s say you’ve done that, and you’ve, you’re kind of like, yep, but there’s still some stuff I want to go get.

I don’t like shopping for the sake of shopping for the sake of entertainment. I tried to go shopping for a reason, it doesn’t always happen, because sometimes I just want to go out and see what’s out there. But just like, it’s not my hobby, like shopping can’t be my hobby anymore. So I try to come into shopping with a list, shopping from intention and not from reaction. That’s why inventory is really important. You can see gaps like, I need more fuzzy socks, I need a coffee to go cup, I need more conditioner, we probably don’t need more conditioner, you probably have like three half used bottles in your bathroom, put them all together, use it all up. And then you can vote go buy more conditioner. But we buy a lot of things on reaction, just on the fear, the fear of what if the fear of the scarcity mindset, like it’s a good deal. I’ll link a couple links to those in the show notes about what if I need this one day in scarcity mindset, because over the years, I have learned that I can walk away from a lot of deals with the abundance mindset, that it’s going to come back around the things that are for me in this world, they’ll come back around, I don’t want to buy into the urgency and the scarcity of a good deal unless it’s something I was already planning on buying. And it’s something that I really like, love. Because that’s the next kind of rule that I have for myself is buy what you love. And I know that’s hard, because sometimes we think we just need to solve a need. And we’ll accept a lot of alternatives. So sometimes it’s helpful to ask yourself, what is worth holding out for? If I have this item in mind, am I just going to accept a substitute? Or am I going to hold out for what I really, really want? So then the item is in your cart? Let’s say, here’s a couple things you can do. You can do an identity check, does this item work with your lifestyle? is it part of the life that you want? Does it kind of represent the person that you are that you want to be and not this aspirational version of you? And then do a motivation check? Do you like your reasons for getting it? Do you like your reasons for spending money on it? Do you like your reasons for bringing it into your home? And sometimes I do a delayed gratification check which can kind of go with the last point about the sale and the scarcity mindset. Because especially if it’s a kind of a big ticket item or something you didn’t plan on buying, you can ask yourself, can I hold off on this? Can I give it a day to think about this. Remember when we would put items on hold at stores, I did this a lot when I was younger, like it was a thing I rarely went back to the store. Because when we’re in the moment and we have that dopamine rush of like I’m gonna buy this, it’s so exciting. If we kind of step back from that and and let those emotions kind of simmer down a little we can think about things a bit more rationally. And then just a practical step. If you are bringing stuff into your home and you feel like storage is an issue, clutter is an issue. maybe think about how you want to be handling that do you want to get rid of stuff that you’re not using anymore Do you want like a one in one out system. So be mindful also of how you’re accumulating and be intentional with that. I’m going to wrap up with a simple pleasure and I think this is the perfect time of year for this one that I’m going to share. And that is a hot bath. I consider hot baths to be a form of water therapy is cathartic For me it is relaxing for me, I feel like I sleep better. I feel like I’m more relaxed. My friends know that I’m kind of notorious for loading up the iPad watching TV in the tub. Well sipping something delicious, whether it’s an old fashioned or a tea, or honey water, whatever, put on some candles. And I just love to have that time I feel like it’s one of the only times where I can just sit and be still and be really quiet. And my kids have also started to do it too. They asked for a hot bath with some salts and some music and some candles and I set them up and actually in my seven year old son the other day told me I want to relax in a boozy bath. So I didn’t teach him that one. But he’s not wrong. Because it does kind of feel fancy. If you get those good smelling soaps and a couple candles, it’s the whole experience. It’s a whole spa experience. I know some of you are like I don’t want to have a bath, I’m anti bath, I don’t want to bathe in my body water I get it, I get it, you’re gonna have a quick rinse in the shower and then fill up that tub and just have a really relaxing way to kind of unwind for the night.

I also love to read in the tub, read some good books, it doesn’t always have to be with the screen guys. So that’s my simple pleasure that I would encourage you to try out this week. All right friends, as always, I love to hear from you. I love to hear from you in the Facebook group on Instagram and I love to hear your reviews. Thank you to those of you who have left reviews recently. I did see some in New Zealand and in the States. I would love for you to leave a review as well if you’re in Canada my home country I’d love to hear from you guys. Just go to your podcast player, scroll down to the bottom of the podcast and click leave a review. I’d love to see you there. Have a great day


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