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Shopping Tips That Will Help You Prevent Clutter [Episode 39]

Do you know what’s even better than decluttering? Buying less in the first place! If you’re looking for clutter-busting tips that will save you time and money, this episode of the Simply + Fiercely Show is a must-listen.

In This Episode:

  • one sentence that helped me go a year without buying clothes
  • how to practice goal-oriented shopping
  • the unrealistic expectations we have for our stuff and why this is a problem

Featured In This Episode:

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Episode 39: Shopping Tips That Will Help You Prevent Clutter

Hey, everybody, it’s Jennifer here, and welcome to The Simply + Fiercely Show.

Today, I want to share with you a few practical shopping tips that will help you prevent bringing clutter into your home.

I know a lot of you follow me because I share decluttering tips, but ultimately, the best decluttering strategy is always going to be to buy less in the first place. Less, but better.

Tip No. 1 – Be intentional about what you buy

Let’s dive in with tip number one.

I’m reading my notes here and realizing that I’m contradicting myself, but my first tip is, that it’s not just about buying less but it’s also about being more intentional about what you buy.

What that means is really thinking about your lifestyle, your limitations, your living space, etc. What are the practical constraints that you have to consider?

With me, I live in a pretty small home, so it’s me, my husband. I have two kids who are three and six. We live in a two-bedroom apartment that is approximately 660 square feet.

What this means is that there are tons of things that I would like to buy but choose not to.

For example, with my kids, there are toys that they wanted for Christmas that I know they would get a lot of play out of.

They’re really great toys, but realistically, if I don’t know where I’m going to put them, I don’t want to bring them into my home. I’m looking around my house right now and the areas that I have available for storage are pretty small.

So, I can’t buy some giant Paw Patrol tower that my three-year-old wants if I have nowhere to put it. Another example is, it’s not always even the size but being realistic about what is the best way for you to approach certain problems.

Another example, I currently live somewhere that’s subtropical. This isn’t a problem that I have, but if you live somewhere where it gets quite cold and you have a smaller home, you might have to think about, “Okay, instead of having three really bulky winter jackets, I’m just going to have one.”

This might not be my favorite situation, but just having one jacket and then having more layers that’ll keep you potentially, as I said, I’m not an expert in cold weather dressing, but potentially that can keep you warmer than having lots of big, bulky jackets.

The ways that you can apply this tip are endless, but the way I recommend going about it is to start with learning from your clutter.

Every time you declutter something from your home, pause for a minute and ask yourself, “What can I learn from this experience?

I’m getting rid of this because it was really big and bulky and I had nowhere to put it, and I was always tripping over it.”

Or it could be, “I’m getting rid of this because it’s too high maintenance and I can’t, or I don’t want to put in the effort to care for it.”

That’s something where, for me, for example, I’m never going to dry-clean my clothes, so I don’t buy dry-clean clothes anymore. I’ve just realized my own limitations.

It’s not a size limitation, but that’s me as a person. That’s just not something, a chore or a task, that I want to take on.

When you learn from your clutter, you learn about the things that don’t work for your lifestyle or that you’re not willing to care for, and then you can be more intentional moving forward with your purchases.

Tip No. 2 – Deciding in advance what things you are not going to buy

The next tip I have is to decide in advance what things you’re not going to buy anymore or that you might not buy in the near future.

Another way of looking at that is thinking about what areas of your life can you say, “I have enough.”

A great example of this is if you followed me back in, let’s see, 2021 to 2022, which feels like yesterday, but apparently that was three years ago now.

Anyway, I did no shopping, or at least no shopping for clothes, shoes, bags, that kind of thing, for just over a year.

I went through this really long period without buying anything. Then after that, as 2023 went on, I found that there were some things that I needed to replace.

I also found that, and I think a lot of people realize this as well, coming out of the pandemic and the whole work-from-home era, my ability to suffer for fashion is at the lowest it’s ever been.

I really need to be comfortable so there were a few things that I got rid of and then upgraded in my life because I’d made these lifestyle changes.

The last thing that I bought was a dress I bought around Christmas time. It’s a lovely dress that really suits my lifestyle. It’s very casual and it’s linen, which is amazing because, as I said, I live in a hot climate. The style and the color are just a chef’s kiss. They perfectly suit me.

So, I bought this dress, and I remember hanging it up and looking at my closet and seeing all my clothes staring back at me. It was like this feeling washed over me, and I thought, “I have enough. I don’t need any more clothes right now.”

That’s actually how I started my shopping ban back in 2021.

It wasn’t like this really calculated thing where I was trying to prove a point.

I had, funny enough, a similar experience. I had bought a dress and had this whole, ‘I have enough’ feeling.

So that’s what I mean. It doesn’t have to be forever. I’m not going to promise you I’m never going to buy clothes again, but for right now, I have enough.

It’s one more thing I don’t have to think about. I’m not looking at clothing stores. I’m not going online to look at any of my favorite shops. I’m not following any Instagram accounts, for example.

Certain ones always make me want to buy clothes so I’m avoiding those at the moment because right now I don’t even want to think about that. I don’t want to waste any of my brain space.

I don’t want to be tempted to buy things that, right now, I know I don’t really need. So just making that decision, that I have enough, and being intentional about it can keep you from buying stuff that will eventually become clutter.

Now, as a quick side note, I do want to talk about why I can look into my closet and have that deep sense of, I have enough.

Up until four years ago, that’s something that could have never happened. I couldn’t even fathom that happening. It seemed so impossible that I would ever look in my closet and be really satisfied.

But how I’m able to do that now is, going back to what I said earlier about learning from your clutter, I have spent the last four or five years really paying attention to what I enjoy wearing.

A quick tip that will help you with your decluttering and shopping habits is realizing that there is often a big difference between what you like for yourself and what you admire on other people.

That’s especially true with fashion.

Despite being a minimalist, I really adore visually that maximalist style, whether it’s clothes or even home decor. But I know now that I can admire that on other people. Yet at the same time, that is not what I want for myself in my closet or in my home.

It’s from the years that I’ve spent getting really crystal clear on my style.

Now, even though I don’t have a lot of clothes, relatively speaking to what I’ve owned over the course of my life, I have a fairly small closet. I don’t know how many items I own. I don’t count, but I have a pretty limited amount.

I could probably put everything in one suitcase. Yet I look at it, and I think, “Wow, I have so much.” Because everything that I see in my closet I adore.

Invitation to join the One Day Closet Cleanse Program

I want to take this opportunity to mention that if you don’t feel that way if that feels like something impossible, I do have a paid program called The One Day Closet Cleanse.

It is a closet decluttering program, but the method that I teach inside, I call it the style standard method, starts with getting really super clear on your personal style.

Also included in that program is an hour-and-a-half workshop that that I taught a few years ago, which is about how to stop buying clothes you never wear.

If clothing is a big challenge for you, I really highly recommend this program. Again, it’s called The One Day Closet Cleanse.

Tip No. 3 – Check your purchases – Are they aligned with your goals?

Number three is to always look and see, or, I guess, a better way to say it would be to check your purchases and see if they’re helping you achieve your goals.

When you think about the life you want, how do you want to be living? How do you want to feel? What do you want to be doing with your time? What are some things that you want to be doing with your life?

Then what I recommend is that when you are going to make a purchase, look at your item and simply ask the question, ‘Does this take me closer or further from the life I want most?’

There’s no right or wrong answer, but sometimes asking that question really puts your brain into a different mode and you start to see your purchases differently.

I would also recommend naming your trade-offs.

This isn’t about never buying anything, but it’s again coming back to that idea of intention.

What are you giving up to buy this item, and is it really worth it?

For example, one thing that really helps me is that my favorite form of self-care is a physical type of self-care. I love massages and facials.

There’s this place in the town where I live that have these big hot tubs you can soak in and they’ve got saunas and things like that. Nothing makes me feel better.

That’s just my love language. I really love touch. It makes me feel revived and alive.

So, if I was at Target and there were some T-shirts that were kind of cute and they were in the clearance rack, and I’d be like, “Oh, look, it’s only $20. I’m going to buy that T-shirt.”

But then if I name the trade-off and be like, “For the price of two of these T-shirts, I could spend an afternoon at this hot tub place.” I’d be like, “Okay, actually I really want to go to that hot tub place.”

So saying that out loud really helps me make decisions about what to purchase. When I was first overcoming my shopping addiction, if you’re new here, I used to be a really bad shopaholic. One thing is, I thought a lot about, more broadly speaking, freedom.

I used to work a job that I didn’t like. I felt very trapped in it.

I also have always been very passionate about travel. I have family overseas. If you can’t tell from my lovely accent, I grew up in the US, but I have been living in Australia for almost 20 years.

Having money and having time, freedom to travel back to see my family, that’s a pretty big goal for me.

When I was overcoming my shopping addiction, I can remember walking into this one boutique in particular that I adored, and it had all these really beautiful trendy dresses. I would go there all the time.

I can remember when a switch went off in my brain. I picked up one of these dresses and the day before, I would’ve thought it was gorgeous. Now, it was like, “This feels like such a waste. This dress is actively keeping me from having the freedom that I want for my life.”

Then suddenly, it’s almost like it transformed between before my eyes, where it was beautiful, and then I saw it for what it was, which is just fast fashion.

Give it a try.

Try thinking about your trade-offs and what you’re giving up. Sometimes, it’s worth it. I was happy to give up some things for that dress that I bought over Christmas because I knew I was going to get a lot of wear out of it, and it was really comfortable.

And if you haven’t noticed, that’s so important to me.

There are no right or wrong answers, but figuring out the trade-offs, getting clear on what they are, and from that place of an informed perspective, then making your decision.

Self-awareness and consideration of trade offs

Also, when we’re talking about goal setting, another thing worth mentioning is that sometimes when we have a goal that we’re working towards, we use shopping as a way to make ourselves feel like we’re making progress even when we’re not.

 I’ll give you an example. Right now, I am trying to get back into yoga. I used to do yoga quite often. Throughout my life, I’ve been up and down with it. But I had some health issues, and now I really need to start moving my body again.

I’m in my mid-40s and I’m getting quite sore everywhere. So one of my big goals is to start doing yoga again.

It is so tempting to be like, “The first thing I need to do is buy some new yoga clothes.” That feels like it’s logical.

But then what I know is that buying those clothes makes me feel like I’m making progress to my goal without having to actually do anything hard.

What I should do is get my mat out and see if I can show up for myself every day on a regular basis.

Once I do, then I can say, “Maybe now I can see that I need new clothes.” I mean, personally, I don’t even think I need any for yoga, but I could just, I guess, use that as an example because of some things you do need equipment.

So yeah, just have a bit of self-awareness about that. Sometimes you really do need things. Sometimes they really do motivate you, but look at your past, look at your experience. As I said, you’re learning from your clutter.

If you have a closet full of things that you bought for hobbies that you then never started, then ask yourself, “Maybe I should do the work first toward my goals before I buy anything.”

Tip No. 4 – Ask yourself if your expectations of your purchases are reasonable

Okay, so one final tip, and this is a big one.

Before you buy anything, ask yourself, “Are your expectations in terms of what you think this item is going to do for you reasonable?”

The reason I say that is, I think on a subconscious level, very often, we buy things, and because a very clever marketing or whatever other tricks our brains play in us because we think they’re going to create some bigger shift.

I’m going to buy that new day planner, and suddenly, even though I’ve never been organized in my life, I’m going to be super organized and productive.

I am going to buy those shoes, and they’re going to make me feel so much more confident. I’m going to buy those slimming dresses and my body’s going to change.

We buy things but what we expect is going to happen isn’t possible.

I heard a quote once, and I apologize because I don’t know who said it, but it’s like, “If you don’t love yourself, nothing you buy is going to make you love yourself.”

I’m paraphrasing badly, but I think that’s just really important to think about.

For example, I’ll give you a personal thought process that I used to be stuck in. I was a fairly thin person before kids, but even then, all of my excess weight has always been in my belly. It’s just the way my body is. I don’t stress about it anymore.

For years I found myself in this constant cycle of buying jeans, thinking that if I “found the perfect pair,” they would make my body look different.

Sure, there are little tiny changes that jeans can make, but one, jeans are not going to completely change the shape of my body, and two, as I was sort of saying before, the bigger issue is probably that I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin, and jeans weren’t going to do that either.

So the reason I could never find a pair that I liked, the reason that I was stuck in what felt like almost a lifelong cycle of buying jeans, wearing them, then not really liking them, and then looking for another pair or buying another pair is because my expectations for the magic that these jeans were going to work on my body was not reasonable.

I will quickly add, if we look at the flip side, if we look at decluttering, this is part of why certain items can be so hard to declutter. When you buy something, you’re buying into a promise.

This planner is going to make me organized, or this book is going to change my life, or whatever it is is going to change my life. Then you don’t use it, and that change never happens.

When you go to declutter, it’s hard to let go of that item because it’s almost like you’re letting go of your hope that that change was going to happen. That is much harder to do.

It’s why a pair of shoes is not just a pair of shoes.

My point is that decluttering all that heavy emotional lifting is not easy.

So, if you can prevent making those types of almost aspirational purchases in the first place, you’re going to save yourself a lot of headaches and heartache down the road.

Obviously, as we said, if you buy less of stuff that you’re not going to use, that’s going to save you a lot of money as well. So hopefully these tips help you reduce the amount of clutter you bring into your home, because, as we all know, the ultimate decluttering strategy is to buy less in the first place.

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