How to Stop Buying Clothes You Never Wear

Is one of your new year’s goals to stop buying clothes that you never wear? If so, then I’ve got some tips that I hope will help you! 

Everything I’m about to share comes from personal experience. For more than a decade, I was a problem shopper and I’ve honestly wasted tens of thousands of dollars on clothes that never made it out of my closet. (Ouch!

It’s a hard pill to swallow so I try not to focus on the mistakes that I’ve made and instead, I think about the lessons that I’ve learned. 

It’s been a long journey but I’m grateful for everything life has taught me about why we shop and how to change our habits—and today, I’m sharing it all with you. Let’s get started!

"How to Stop Buying Clothes You Never Wear" in a white box with shirts and a blazer on wooden hangers in the background.

Why You Keep Buying Clothes You Never Wear

Before we can talk about how to stop a bad habit, we need to begin by creating awareness around why it happens in the first place. After all, you can’t solve a problem if you don’t know what’s causing it! 

With that said, here are the top three reasons why you keep buying clothes you never wear.

YOU MAKE EMOTIONAL PURCHASES

As a former shopaholic, I can say with confidence that the number one reason people make bad purchases is that they use shopping to satisfy an emotional need.

We’ve all heard of retail therapy, right? If you’re having a bad day, buy something new and you’ll feel better … at least for a little while. (In the long term, it will probably lead to negative feelings of guilt and regret but there’s no denying the short term pleasure of buying something new.) 

But let’s take a deeper look at why this happens. 

I’d argue that emotional purchases are usually fuelled by something more than just a “bad day”. Instead, I believe they’re often rooted in insecurity—we feel lacking in some way so we buy something new thinking it will somehow fill a void. 

This is especially true with clothing because when we buy new clothes, it can feel like we’re putting on a suit of armour—it’s a way of protecting ourselves when we feel vulnerable. Here are some examples:

  • Feeling insecure about your weight? Buy something “slimming”. 
  • Feeling insecure about your career? Buy something expensive so people know that you’re “successful”. 
  • Feeling insecure about your appearance? Buy 4-inch stiletto heels (ahem … this was my personal vice for years). 

Buying new things when we feel bad about ourselves might seem like a way to “fake it until you make it” … but realistically, when we buy clothing that doesn’t represent who we really are, it doesn’t get worn. Frequent emotional shopping is a quick way to end up with a closet full of clothes that you never wear!

YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR PERSONAL STYLE

Another common problem is confusion about your personal style—and this is another lesson I had to learn the hard way! What I realised is that there can be a huge difference between the styles you admire and the styles you actually enjoy wearing

For example, I adore vintage dresses (especially 40’s style tea dresses) and I used to have a huge collection of them. In fact, YEARS ago I nearly created a fashion blog dedicated to them! I loved to look at them hanging in my closet … but at the end of the day, I rarely wore them. 

At the time, this really confused me because I genuinely loved the style but when I went to get dressed, I always found myself reaching for neutrals and basics instead. Things like jeans, tank tops and t-shirt dresses were in high rotation and my beautiful vintage dresses remained in the back of my closet. 

What I eventually realised is that what I like looking at and what I like wearing aren’t always the same thing. Think of it this way—you can go to a museum and admire the art but not necessarily want it hanging in your own home, right? The same applies to our closets too.

YOU’RE INFLUENCED BY OTHERS

Finally, another reason why we end up with clothes we don’t wear is because we let other people influence our purchases. 

This can take many forms. Sometimes it’s as simple as buying a certain style because it’s what all your friends love. After all, shopping can be a really social activity and it’s easy to get caught up in the moment! 

Other times, it’s a bit more complicated. 

There’s no denying that TV, magazines and social media can also influence us. When you see your favourite Instagrammer wearing a gorgeous dress and drinking cocktails by the pool, sometimes it’s hard not to buy into the fantasy. You want the dress because you want the life they’re portraying—even if it doesn’t suit your personal style. 

Retailers try to influence you by creating a similar fantasy in stores too. Everything from the music they play to the shop displays—or even how a store smells—is carefully curated.

It’s all about so much more than selling you clothes. Instead, they’re trying to sell you a lifestyle … and if they’re successful, you end up buying clothes that might not suit who you really are.

Shirts and a blazer on wooden hangers.

How to Stop Buying Clothes You Never Wear

OK, now that we’ve talked about why you keep buying clothes you never wear, let’s look at some techniques that will help you change your shopping behaviour.

RECOGNISE YOUR SHOPPING TRIGGERS

My number one tip is to recognise your shopping triggers. Observe yourself for a few weeks—what happens in the moments immediately before you feel the desire to shop? 

  • Did someone upset you? 
  • Are you procrastinating doing a difficult task?
  • Did you walk by a favourite shop? 
  • Are you comparing yourself to someone on the internet?

If your urge to buy new clothes is inspired by anything other than an intentional choice to add to your wardrobe, then odds are you’re going to make bad decisions. You’re not in the right headspace so you’ll be easily influenced by sales, shop displays, and “helpful” sales associates. 

It’s a much better idea to walk away and shop at another time but in order to do this, you need to catch yourself in the act. This is why investing time and energy into recognising your shopping triggers is absolutely essential.

DO A WARDROBE AUDIT

My next tip is to do a wardrobe audit. This is to help you understand your true personal style—what do you actually like wearing? 

Note that this is different to asking yourself “what styles do you want to wear?” I’m not a fan of this question because if you were good at answering it, you wouldn’t need this blog post! 

Instead, I encourage you to reflect on your existing closet and ask yourself what’s the difference between the clothes you wear all the time and the the clothes you don’t. 

Use this information to make better shopping decisions moving forward. Buy more of what you genuinely like wearing and stop buying everything else. 

I know this sounds simple but I’ve worked with so many women who get this wrong and I’ve also made this mistake myself more times than I can remember. If you want to stop buying clothes that you never wear then don’t skip this step!

PAUSE BEFORE YOU BUY + PLAN TO SHOP

My final tip is a “two for one” deal! Stop making impulse purchases by learning to pause before you buy—and an easy way to do this is to plan to shop. 

Again, let’s break this down further. 

Pressing “pause” means putting some space (time) between the impulse to shop and the actual purchase. There are two major reasons for doing this. 

First, it will help you avoid making impulsive, emotional decisions. If you’re shopping out of anger, frustration, or insecurity… well, these feelings fade with time. Sometimes we just need to blow off steam or invest in self-care, and once we do the desire to shop disappears. 

Time also helps reduce the impact of outside influences. It gives you an opportunity to reconnect with who you are and what you want most, so you can make more intentional decisions

Even a little pause—five or ten minutes—will help but if you really want to stop buying clothes that you never wear then I encourage you to take things a step further. 

Find a rhythm that works for you (once every few months or once a season) and plan to shop. 

Take your time making a list, reflecting on your wardrobe audit, and doing your research. I can almost guarantee this one simple habit will help you make better clothing purchases moving forward.

Want to Create a Minimalist Wardrobe?

If you’re interested in buying less clothes, then there’s a good chance that you’re interested in decluttering your closet and creating a minimalist wardrobe too. If this is the case, then here are a few resources you might find helpful:

Do you find it hard to stop buying clothes? If so, what do you struggle with the most? Alternatively, do you have a shopping tip you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments! x

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4 thoughts on “How to Stop Buying Clothes You Never Wear”

  1. I’m struggling- I resonate with everything in the blog … I understand what I need to do but I just can’t seem to be ruthless enough and part with clothing and shoes I will NEVER wear! I feel a real sense of loss (and maybe even a bit of panic that I might need the item in the future) when I get rid of an unworn item …. it feels like I am losing a bit of ME!

    Reply
  2. Hi Jennifer,

    I was the person that would buy clothing because they were cute, instyle or, like you, vintage style. And then they sat on the hangers – forever. Some even still had tags when I finally gave them away. It took me probably 20 years to realize I needed to shop for my taste and body style. Then my wardrobe shrank and I was able to enjoy all my clothes.

    Great article and I know some people I should share it with. 🙂

    ~Allison

    Reply
  3. Thanks for these great reminders! I am trying a no shop January, then see how long I can take it. I had my first temptation on Friday after my first week back to work. Shopping feels like a reward for hard work, but remembering my goal stopped me.

    Reply

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