Try channeling your inner Marie Kondo: Walk over to your closet, look around, and rate your level of joy. Though it may seem like a simple idea, this is actually a complex way to approach the items you own. Because many senses can trigger an emotional response — from scent to texture — people often hold onto or purchase items merely based on an impression and not out of necessity.
“When you clean out your closets and see how much stuff you have, it is a major eye opener,” says affordable style expert and author Patrice J. Williams. “A few years ago, I did a massive closet cleanout, and I've since become very conscious of what I buy and why, because I don't want to start accumulating things that do not suit my needs.” It’s not about simply taking a less-is-more approach, she adds, but becoming a smarter, more mindful shopper.
Like mindful breathing and mindful eating, mindful shopping is all about being aware of what’s happening inside your head while you do it. “The idea of mindfulness stems from the practice of meditation, in which you go deep within to connect with your personal intentions,” says Linda Lauren, psychic medium and author. Identifying the root of your shopping habits, the emotions you experience, and what each purchase represents will help you better understand your urge to spend, so that you can craft a space of items that nurture your spirit. Even better, it will help you save time and money.
So, how you can turn your gotta-have-this-right now attitude into a method of mindful shopping? Here, a few ideas to get you started.
Determine a want from a need
Studies show that 68 percent of consumer decisions are made at the point of purchase, making it harder to determine a "want" from a "need." To master the art of mindful shopping, you must make a clear connection to what you need and the purpose it serves, rather than giving into desire, says Lauren. Give yourself time to think about the items you intend to purchase, then once you determine something is a necessity, make a list of nonnegotiable features it must have. Don't settle for anything that doesn't check each box.
Remember what you are shopping for
“Often, people start adding things to their cart without stopping to ask if they are even buying what they set out to buy,” Williams says. For example, if you are shopping for a new pair of black jeans, then why do you have three shirts, two dresses, a pair of shoes… and still no jeans? “That's not to say you may not need those other things, too, but reminding yourself what you came for can help you focus on the task at hand,” she adds.
Save shopping for when you are zen
Feeling frazzled, stressed or even excited can lead to poor choices and impulse buys. That’s why Lauren suggests shopping only when you have peace of mind. And when that’s not possible? Exercise a short pause before locking up your car and heading inside. “Take about 10 minutes of solitude to think about the trip ahead, how long you plan to be there, and the list of what you need,” she says. (Same goes for online shopping.) This will lower your heart rate and clear your mind of chaos.
Give it your full attention
“When you are shopping, make it your business to be present in the moment and give the task your full attention, rather than thinking about what else you have to do,” Lauren explains. Otherwise, you’ll rush through the decision-making process and will be more likely to forget your intention and/or give into distractions.
Consider if you would pay full-price for an item
While saving money is never a bad thing, Williams says too many people are tempted by a sale without considering if they have use for the item. “If the only reason you're buying something is because it's a bargain, that ends up costing you in the long run,” she explains. When you're allured by a deal, Williams suggests asking yourself if you would pay full price for whatever has your attention. If not, think twice.