HOW TO STOP BUYING CLOTHES YOU DON’T NEED
Struggling to break a difficult shopping habit or spending too much money and later regretting your purchase? Here are some helpful tips on how to stop buying clothes you don’t need.
WHY WE SHOP
My daughter has been having a tough time at school recently and I suggested we have a shopping trip this weekend to buy some new clothes. It’s time for us to spend together, doing something completely different from managing the challenges of school, work and friends and shopping for new clothes is always fun. Plus, she’s a fast-growing teenager and many of her cold weather clothes from last year no longer fit. So, our shopping trip isn’t just fun, but it’s also practical and necessary.
We all need to shop. Things get used up and worn out. It’s also lovely to get something new and bring fresh change into our home and life.
However, shopping trips can easily become so much more than just fun or practical. They can become escapes from the daily routine, fill an emotional gap of boredom, frustration and unhappiness. They can be an outlet for difficulties, an adrenaline rush to overcome negative feelings and a symptom of other issues that might need addressing in alternative ways.
And, on top of that, it’s all too easy for one purchase to lead to more and what we can’t afford now just contributes to mounting debt that we struggle to pay off later.
Unless you’re very mindful, aware and disciplined, it’s also certainly difficult to avoid the pull towards red sales signs, those easily clickable ‘buy now’ buttons and the invitation to ‘buy now, pay later’.
Whether you’re an occasional shopper, expert bargain hunter or total shopaholic, there’s no denying that shops and sharp marketing tactics from advertisers can have a magnetic pull on us. It can take willpower and clear strategy to avoid being sucked in! Even more so at certain times of the year such as New Year, Black Friday and those regular end of season sales that now feel persistent all year round.
WHY WE BUY STUFF WE DON’T NEED
Shopping isn’t just about the stuff you buy. Although there’s many practical reasons for buying new stuff, very often it’s about the emotions we feel when we’re buying things.
Neil Patel, author and marketing expert, sums it up perfectly…
“The thing is, most people don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy on emotion and then justify their purchases with logic.”Neil Patel
And, as most of us know, emotions are powerful things. They affect our choices, decisions and actions.
WHY WE BUY CLOTHES WE DON’T NEED
No wonder then that many of us have at some time, or often, bought clothes we don’t need. Not only do you have emotions affecting your shopping habits, but also emotions about clothes too. That’s quite a combination.
For anyone who’s tried to declutter their clothes, or create a simplified capsule closet, you might have an inkling of what I mean.
If clothes weren’t such an emotional topic then it would be easy to get rid of the items that are worn out, don’t fit, don’t ‘spark joy’ or that we just never feel comfortable in. Donating or recycling these pieces would be simple so you can just get on and enjoy the clothes you have left in your wardrobe without a second thought.
But, it’s not that simple…
- What if you need that dress for a special occasion?
- What if you lose some weight and fit into those jeans again?
- What about the T-shirt you bought on that wonderful holiday last year?
- What if you can’t find another coat that fits you as well as your worn out one does now?
- What about those boots that remind you of a lifestyle you loved but now can’t live? (Read more about my experience with this in this article on decluttering and self-acceptance.)
All these questions aren’t just about your stuff and, in this case, your clothes. They’re about how you FEEL. How you feel about your life, your self, your identity, memories of past events and places and perhaps even what you wish you had/are/were doing instead.
So, coming back to the question of why we buy clothes we don’t need – it’s often because our emotions are calling the shots. To stop buying clothes you don’t need, it’s helpful to adjust those emotions…
AND WHAT CLOTHES DO YOU ACTUALLY NEED?
In this article I’m sharing some tips to help you stop buying clothes you don’t need, but how you define what you need and what you don’t is totally up to you. Some of us need more clothes than others. This is why I avoid mentioning specific numbers of anything when I offer decluttering advice, whether it’s related to clothes or something else.
- You might be home-based for work or raising a family and don’t require another set of clothes just for work.
- As one reader recently explained to me, they have regular hospital visits needing a change of clothes and they just don’t have the energy or time to keep up with the laundry, so having some extra clothes relieves the pressure of washing, drying and ironing.
- For others, clothes (and fashion) may be a passion of yours and having a wider selection of clothes to choose from brings you happiness and joy and is an important part of your identity, interests or even work.
- Conversely, you might be concerned about the effect of excessive waste and consumption and for sustainability reasons prefer to limit your wardrobe and avoid the environmental impact of fast fashion.
Deciding what clothes you actually wear is a whole other topic of its own, but perhaps to help you stop buying clothes you don’t need, it may be helpful to consider what that ‘need’ looks like for you. You’ll find some tips on this in the first few points below as decluttering your clothes, creating a capsule wardrobe and defining your own personal style can all help you start to work this out.
Once you’ve decided what clothes you DO need, the following tips can help you stop buying clothes that you DON’T need!
TIPS TO HELP YOU STOP BUYING CLOTHES YOU DON’T NEED
Here are some tips to help you stop buying clothes you don’t need. Some ideas are very practical and straightforward. Others may take time to work for you.
1. Declutter your clothes first
This tip could help you stop shopping for clothes by making sure you always have a framework for future purchasing decisions. As you’ll read from the following tips, buying unnecessary clothes usually comes about for two reasons. One – how you’re feeling when you decide to shop. Two – you’re not totally clear on why you’re buying what you’re buying.
Decluttering your clothes first gives you a kind of clean slate. You can clear your closet of clothes you don’t wear so that you know everything that you DO keep in there is an option for your outfit today.
Decluttering clothes isn’t easy and it’s a huge topic so if you want to read more about it, here are a couple of articles that might help:
- How to Declutter Clothes in 10 Easy Steps
- Which Clothes to Declutter? Simple Questions to Help You Decide
2. Create a capsule wardrobe
Decluttering your clothes is a great first step, but a second step which I highly recommend you explore, is to create a capsule wardrobe. My approach to my own capsule wardrobe is very simple and stress-free and there may be some helpful ideas you could try for yourself.
A capsule wardrobe helps me stop buying clothes I don’t need because it narrows down my options for what I’m going to buy. That doesn’t mean I don’t have plenty of options, but it helps me focus in on what I want and need, rather than what’s shouting loudest from the store clothes racks!
Further reading: 12 Capsule Wardrobe Tips: A Simple Wardrobe Made Easy
3. Define your personal style
This tip is another neat trick for removing the problem of too much choice and temptation. Coming up with my own personal style helps me not get swayed or side-tracked into buying clothes that I won’t really end up wearing. Again, this doesn’t mean you have to stick to it rigidly, but you can use it to guide your purchases if you’d like.
You might enjoy this article on how to create your own personal daily uniform for some ideas.
4. Understand why you’re going shopping
Before buying clothes you don’t need, ask yourself why you’re going shopping in the first place. Are you bored, lonely, sad, anxious? Could you do something else to alleviate these feelings instead of going shopping? Our brains get used to reacting to situations in certain ways but it’s possible to rewire our brains to react in different ways. Next time you feel any of the above, why not try doing something different to shopping?
5. Take a shopping list
If you’re going shopping because you actually need to, or you really want to, try writing a clear, focused shopping list – which you stick to. Keep that list on your phone or handy at all times so you always have it with you in case you find yourself at the shops for some reason!
6. Create a budget
If your shopping habits get you into financial trouble, try creating a budget. How much money could you put aside or allocate to clothes shopping each month?
Be realistic, but sensible. It might not be realistic for you to stop clothes shopping altogether so setting a budget of zero would set you up to fail, but what could be sustainable for you? A bit like a diet when you cut out all sugar and then feel like a failure for eating that slice of chocolate cake and you give up on your diet completely. A small clothes shopping budget (or slice of cake) is more sustainable for most of us than no shopping budget (or cake) at all.
7. Take cash
To avoid buying on credit or store cards or spending more than you can afford, take cash. Work out what you can afford to spend and take just that amount of cash. When you’ve run out of cash, it’s time to go home.
8. Be in the right frame of mind
I know myself that if I’m feeling down and head out to the shops then I’m more likely to make impulse buys and spend unwisely. Maybe it’s wanting to block out troublesome thoughts and divert and distract myself with the quick shopping fix. Or it could just be not having the patience or bandwidth to think clearly and rationally about what I’m buying and, importantly, WHY I’m buying it. If you’re not in the right frame of mind to go shopping, can you find another activity to do instead just for now?
9. Think before you make the purchase
This is a little habit that I’ve got into recently but it does really help focus the mind to make wiser shopping choices. I even encourage my kids to do it too.
If I find an item of clothing I want to buy and I’ve tried it on so I know it fits, then I don’t buy it straightaway. I hang it back up (usually hidden at the back of the rack!) and then return to the store 10-20 minutes later to buy it. I have time to mull it over, what it will go with, when I’ll wear it and I have the extra hurdle of going back to the shop to find it again. This gives me enough time to really think about whether I want that item or not.
10. Be clear on what your purchase will go with
In the past, one of the common themes I’ve noticed when buying clothes I don’t need, is that I purchase the item in isolation from anything else. It’s not a well thought-out plan, going through my mental checklist of what it will go with and do I have anything similar already. Instead, I spot the item, get tunnel vision, and before you know it, it’s in my shopping basket as I head for the checkout.
One way to stop buying clothes you don’t need is to be clear what your purchase will go with. That pretty top in your favourite shade of pink might look good on a hanger but will it also look good with anything else in your closet?
11. Avoid sales
Big red flashy sales signs capture our attention and draw us in. They’re designed to do that. So, if your financial situation will allow it, try to avoid buying clothes in the sales. Strategic shopping habits go out of the window as we spot those brilliant bargains, for stuff we wouldn’t buy without the big red flashy sales signs luring us in. If money is tight for you, the sales are a great place to buy clothes but just stay on your guard and shop mindfully.
12. Just because something is cheap, it doesn’t mean you have to buy it
This tip is just as it is. It is not a bargain if you weren’t going to buy it in the first place and just because it’s cheap, doesn’t mean you have to buy it either.
13. Do you like it more than what you have already?
I like this question a lot and often find myself using it when deciding whether to buy something. I’ve learnt not to buy clothes that I don’t like as much as what I have already for one simple reason. When they’re hanging in my wardrobe I know I’ll always just end up passing them by and choosing to wear the item that I prefer the most.
Every item in your wardrobe needs to be there on its own merit. It needs to be good enough for you to choose to wear it, regardless of what other alternatives there are.
If you’re standing in the shop changing room trying on a new pair of leggings but there’s something not right about how the waistband fits your tummy, are you really going to be happy choosing these leggings to wear once they’re in your closet? Being realistic and honest, wouldn’t you rather reach for your other pair that you know fit and you won’t be pulling and adjusting the waist all day?!
14. Forget the one in/one out rule
The one in/one out rule can be a useful decluttering maintenance strategy. It gives you flexibility to buy new stuff but stops the build up of clutter because you’re also letting go or getting rid of something else in return.
But… this rule can also encourage us to shop without intention, mindlessly being ok with buying new things whilst having the safety net of thinking that we can just get rid of something else to make space for it.
To stop buying clothes you don’t need, think about where you’re going to store your new purchases. Do you have space for it/them? Will you have enough space to hang everything that needs hanging without it be squished? Do you have room to move hangers around, clearly see what you’ve got, take care of your clothes?
Weirdly enough, I find having more space in my wardrobe actually makes it more fun to enjoy my clothes and enjoy the experience of looking through and choosing my clothes instead of feeling overwhelmed and struggling to pull things out and stuff them back in. Having less clothes actually makes me enjoy my wardrobe more.
Think about the difference between high street chain stores vs little boutique shops. Instead of racks piled high and hangers all squashed together, the smaller boutiques display items with more space and aesthetic design considerations. Less is more.
15. Consider spending money on experiences, not stuff
As I mentioned at the start of this article, buying clothes you don’t need often has roots much deeper than just fancying a trip to the shops. Shopping can become a habit, a default reaction to a recurrent problem. A weekend shopping trip to offset a stressful week, a way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon, to numb the pain of a challenging situation. Nothing wrong with shopping for pleasure and leisure but when your shopping habits are becoming a problem then it might be time to make some changes.
If this is you, could you find another outlet for these feelings? Could you go on a day trip? Out for lunch? Buy a theatre ticket? Take up gardening? A minimalist life isn’t about never spending money but it’s often about spending money on experiences and memories, not stuff.
IF YOU BUY CLOTHES JUST BECAUSE (AND DESPITE OF ALL THESE TIPS)
As I’m writing this article I’m also acutely aware that the world is a difficult place and there are so many people who are struggling to get by without the basics of food, water and shelter. In a way, wanting to know how to stop buying clothes you don’t need is a very privileged problem to have.
That being said, shopping problems can affect us deeply, no matter how much money we have in the bank and they can impact our finances, our mental health, even our relationships and the environment.
If, after reading these tips and researching other resources for creating better shopping habits, you still feel you need support, please do seek it out – from a loved one, a friend or a professional.
Here are some more resources on how to create a simplified, minimalist wardrobe plus other ways you can adopt some mindful, intentional shopping habits.
- How to Purge Your Closet Quickly – If you’d like to declutter your clothes but struggle with deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, here are some ideas on how to purge your closet quickly. Create space in your closet and make getting dressed each day quicker, easier and more enjoyable.
- How to Stop Impulse Buying and Purchase More Intentionally – Do you struggle with overspending and impulse buying? Are you a shopaholic and having difficulty curbing your shopping habits? Do you love the sales and can’t resist a bargain? Here are some tips on how to stop impulse buying and purchase more intentionally.
- Minimalism and Shopping: How to Shop with Intention – For those who aspire to a simpler, clutter-free and minimalist lifestyle but still love to hit the shops every now and then, here’s a helpful little guide to Minimalism and shopping and 18 ways to shop with intention.
- Minimalism and Money: How Minimalism Can Help You Save Money – Minimalism is a lifestyle that encourages us to be mindful and intentional about how and where we spend our money. Here are some ways minimalism can help you save money and prioritise life over stuff.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
I hope you enjoyed this article and found these tips useful to help you stop buying clothes you don’t need.
Clothes are important for how we present ourselves to the world and show up for our life and it’s fun to go shopping for clothes that we love and want to wear. I think the key to buying clothes in a way that’s responsible to the planet and benefits us as individuals is to shop mindfully and with awareness.
As Francine Jay says so well, “It’s asking “why” before you buy.”
Do you find yourself buying clothes you don’t need? If so, do you know why? How have you found ways to overcome this?
I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment below.
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I’m Antonia and on this blog I share practical inspiration to simplify your home, time and life. Follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest! You can also subscribe to Balance Through Simplicity and receive regular simplicity tips straight to your inbox for free. Make sure you never miss an article plus you’ll get a copy of my free Declutter Starter Kit as a welcome gift!