Taking a Closer Look at My Recent Buying & Returning

Updated: Jan 11, 2019

Why Do I Buy & Return So Much?

I put the last strip of packing tape on the box and counted…One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight! Eight packages filled with returns that I now needed to drop off at either UPS or the Post Office. Some of those boxes contained multiple items which meant I was returning over a dozen different articles of clothing that did not suit me or that I never really needed to begin with.

Why? What happened? What caused this sudden Buy/Return to occur. In order to decrease the chances that this happens again, I need to understand what triggered it. Then I can make adjustments to help prevent myself from purchasing so many items and returning so much.

When you shop online there is always a greater chance of returning because you do not get to see the items and try them on before buying. Retailers know this, which is why they make it easy for us by providing free return labels. Sometimes, if I am unsure which size to get, I will order two sizes knowing I will be returning at least one. Those types of returns are hard to avoid, unless I am willing to travel to the store to try things on, and sometimes that is just not feasible.

However, 90% of what I returned in those 8 boxes had nothing to do with fit.

Here’s what happened…

My shopping guard was down. I had entered the holiday season strong minded and confident that I could breeze through it, Fa-la-la-ing and not Ca-ching-a-ling-ing. I felt I had it all figured out, and truthfully I had for a bit. Then, in the blink of an eye, I started getting caught up in the emails, the store displays, the TV holiday shows and all the talk of “what to buy” and “what to wear”. What started as “well, maybe just a couple of new things, turned into “I’ll get this and that and that and this”. It just felt good to buy.

Somewhere in the far reaches of my brain, I may have heard a little voice yelling “Stop! Don’t do it! Don’t fall for all the retailer gimmicks!”. But ultimately I told that little voice to “Shut up and stop trying to rain on my parade!”. I knew I wouldn’t keep everything I was buying…I couldn’t, but I had visions of new, new, new things dancing in my head!

Once the packages arrived and I unboxed the merchandise, nothing seemed as appealing anymore. Everything was squished, wrinkled and wrapped in plastic bags. Without the bright photography lighting, beautiful models, and filters, the clothing was just, well...it was clothing…nothing magical.

With my senses returned, I stopped to evaluate each item. Why had I bought it? What was I really buying? There was a bit of a theme in the items I had purchased….most of them were white. Yes, I do love wearing white, but was it merely a coincidence that I had recently watched the classic holiday film “White Christmas”? Was I trying to shop for my own merry white Christmas?

I knew things had really gotten out of hand when I started to hope I wouldn’t like items on me as I began to try everything on. If it didn’t look great on me then it wouldn’t “hurt” to return it. I also recall feeling a sense of relief when I received an email from a retailer informing me they could not fulfill my order because the item was no longer in stock.

Inside me there is a child that wants what she wants when she wants it. This child does not want to hear “no”. Then there is the more sensible adult in me that “knows better” and makes mindful decisions. I had let the child in me control my shopping.

As I was sifting through my purchases, it was fairly easy to determine what needed to be returned. Mindfulness set in and I made good choices. I only had difficulty with one white sweater. It was a beautiful, soft cashmere and fit perfectly. The only issue was that I really couldn’t justify purchasing another sweater and this one was pricey. I let it sit in the box for a day and then tried it on again. Although I did love it, and it met all my fashion criteria, I knew that my wardrobe just didn’t need it. I have not once regretted sending it back.

How could all of this been avoided?

First, I should never have let my shopping guard down..no matter how confident I was feeling. This caused me to forfeit using my biggest mindful shopping Super Power….THE PAUSE. Looking back (with my 20/20 hindsight), I believe I would have decreased my purchases by over 50% had I simply PAUSED and given myself time to really think about it. I know this because during the time it took for the clothing to arrive, I already knew a few items that I would be returning.

Had I not rushed to complete my purchases I would have realized that I really didn’t need (or even love) many of the items. I knew that the quality for some items were questionable, some were too expensive, and others were better suited for my fantasy life.

What can I do the next time I decide to shop? First and foremost, I’ve clearly learned that I can not purchase items without first PAUSING and asking myself the following questions recommended by Dr. April Benson:

  • Why am I here?

  • How do I feel?

  • Do I need this?

  • What if I wait?

  • How will I pay for it?

  • Where will I put it?

In addition to these questions, I also need to ask myself:

1. Am I certain that I will wear it?

If I can’t think of a concrete time, place, event that is in my foreseeable near future then it’s not worth buying.

2. Do I really love it or is it just puppy love?

This question can not be answered quickly as I always think I love everything. To determine if I really love an item it must fit into my fashion rules. For example, I do not like crew necks, I wear only neutral or warm colors, fabric must be soft, and it must be of high quality. If it doesn’t fit into my fashion criteria then the love won’t last. Eventually I will tire of it and maybe even hate it…I might even abandon it after only one wearing (if I ever wear it at all)_.

3. Is there anything else “influencing” me to purchase this?

Have I been dreaming of my fantasy life lately? Or am I buying it because I am trying to be like someone else? This can usually be answered by what I am feeling inside once I ask myself this question (that gut feeling). I know that I have been guilty of this many times. In fact, purchasing a red velvet blazer (which I returned) was inspired after seeing it on someone else. I knew I had no need for a red velvet blazer. I knew there were no occasions I could see myself wearing it anytime soon. Had I stopped long enough to think about this purchase, I would have realized that I wasn’t actually buying the blazer. I was buying the “wish” to be more like this other person…someone who I admire. Had I waited I would have reminded myself sooner that I don’t need to be anyone else. I like myself and am best when I am just trying to be me!

On a positive note, once all the holiday festivities were over and the new year rolled in, my shopping triggers have all calmed down. The holiday spell has been broken and I’m back to my more “in control” mindset. I’ve been working very hard the last few days on decluttering the basement. It is even worse down there than I had thought. There is just so much to sort through and then reorganize.

I have found that being so actively busy has kept my mind from drifting toward thoughts of shopping. When I am engaged in something productive I sense a fulfillment in myself…this is an extra perk of decluttering! Between taking an online writing class, an online decluttering course, and also actually decluttering the house, I hope to continue to be so busy that I forget all about shopping. Is that even possible?

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