Latalia White, AMFT

If pressed, many of us would admit that we buy too much stuff and end up with a house full of things we don’t really need.  The phrase “retail therapy” points to why this can happen – shopping for things gives us a temporary ping of satisfaction and makes us feel good, like we imagine therapy will or should.  (Of course, we later realize that this is a temporary high, so we go seeking it again and buy more stuff.) We also are hit with advertisements all day long, and companies know that they can exploit human tendencies to needlessly buy, so of course they do.  The good news is, you can curb unnecessary spending on items cluttering up your life. Try the following suggestions to reduce consumerism:

Do a deep clean and decluttering of your house.

It can be nice to start this process at what might be baseline for you and your home.  Do a deep clean in every room, and organize what you want to keep and what you want to get rid of, whether it needs to be trashed, donated, repaired, etc.  Not only will this allow you to realize what you have that you might have forgotten about – something old then feels new again – you may feel like you’re starting from a fresher, clearer space mentally when continuing with the tips below.

Remove yourself from emails from retailers.

Take yourself off email lists from everywhere you shop – huge department stores, beauty stores, tech stores, etc.  Like most people, you probably don’t realize how many advertising emails you receive in just one day. Rest assured that you can go to the company’s website if you really need to know sale information or something else.  

Enact a “one-in, one-out” system.

Commit to donating or tossing one old item for every new item that you bring home.  This not only helps with clutter slowly building up over time, but it forces you to think about how necessary something new is and if it is worth getting rid of something you have now.  

Dedicate time to appreciating what you have right now.

When you feel the urge to go on a shopping spree, instead carve out some time to go sit in a room in your home.  Physically pick up items in your hands and think about that item. How did you acquire it? What was the reasoning behind its purchase or a gift?  Are there any funny, happy, or sad memories associated with the item? Express gratitude for what role the item has played in your life and how it has served you and may continue to serve you.

Spend less time in spaces and on platforms that tempt you.

This suggestion is tough, because advertising is everywhere – billboards, radio, magazines, TV, smartphone apps, Internet websites, salesmen on the street, etc.  Think about how you can reduce your time spent around these kinds of advertisements. Maybe you cut down on Facebook (a healthy move in its own right) and see less advertisements.  Maybe you eliminate Instagram, because you realize you buy lots of clothing and beauty supplies when you look at your favorite influencers. Maybe you stop watching HGTV shows because you can’t stop buying new throw pillows afterwards.  Whatever it is, be intentional about how much time you let advertising reach you.

Track spending for a month or two.

If you don’t already track your spending, you should when you are needlessly buying things.  The act of seeing the purchases add up in your account can be chilling if you’ve never done it before.  Make sure not to group purchases together but to list out each item you’ve bought individually to get a sense of the quantity of stuff you’re bringing home.  You can go further and do exercises that show how many hours you have had to work to buy that new toy or calculate what the cost per use of the item has been so far.