Posted in Food For Soul

Retail Therapy

Must have returned from the US emptyhanded (without shopping that is) but the kids drove me the last moment to a mall making sure I shopped at least a little that they thought was necessary to make our trip complete.

Otherwise the last time i shopped for clothes was in Coimbatore in mid April. A good six months back almost, a record for me. A token sweater from Mango sale here in Doha as winter approaches is the only exception apart from personal care products from Body Shop. I missed the pre-US tour shopping deliberately and did not go for a facial in a salon that I normally do before a foreign trip. Was about to complete the tour without a serious buy but then ended up spending up around 100$ – not bad still. Even then the urge to shop was absent. A severe aversion has set in, but then the kids prevailed. More than them my hubby wanted to ensure that I got something otherwise he said I would be taunting him for a 100 years that he did not allow me to shop in the US!

The point is, the first time I went to the US (in 2017-18), every other day we went shopping. I got myself lots of clothes and bags i hardly needed. From 2015 I guess i have been on a splurge – a spending spree, literally a freefall. That was when my only son left for abroad for higher studies. As I alternated between India and Doha, my guess is that psychologically I was filling a vacuum with more clothes, bags, shoes and jewelry : material possessions as substitutes for physical presence of my beloved that I presumed could make me happy.

I opted for a designer for my clothes, went for branded bags like i never did in the past. I do go for brands now for personal care products. For clothes too these days I have come to look for brands. All this development has been there only since 2015. With despair I thought I was getting into a pattern I normally detested. My shopping sprees meanwhile were also going online at the same time.

The shopping peaked surprisingly in the pandemic time for me as a friend mocked that I was the only one shopping left and right even in critical times. I laughed it off but realized that it was very easy for me to take the bait if someone interested me in shopping for clothes. I fell without resistance over half a dozen times spending too much than the occasion warranted. A celebration at home and festive season gave me more reasons to shop than necessary. Afterwards, I would be plagued by the familiar guilty feeling ending up hating myself for succumbing to temptations and spending lavishly the hardearned money of my hubby that I did not earn for myself. Of course I was still spending within limits, but I was shopping nonstop for more and more clothes and accessories that my wardrobes seemed to be splitting at seams. I had to in fact make new ones to store more clothes and bags for this reason last year. I seemed to want every new blockprint on the forefront of fashion, i wanted the matching bag. I wanted the right jean and I wanted the perfect jewelry. What was I trying to prove to the world?

All this changed with a simple little bundle of joy that arrived in our family in June. With the arrival of my granddaughter, I have totally lost my interest for shopping anything for myself as a feeling of completeness swells within me that I cannot put into words. Precisely about this time, I started reading on decluttering and minimalism. Although I was initially angered by the preaching, I decided that I needed the daily dose of reminder. I don’t think anyone needs sermons on anything in life, but reading repeatedly on the importance of decluttering and minimalism is having a gradual effect in my psyche. I can’t say that i am immune to these articles anymore that over a period can have a life changing effect in us. The combined effect of the sense of fulfillment in life along with well timed reading on decluttering and minimalism may be reason for the way I am changing, probably for the better.

The few months my son and my daughter-in-law spent in Chennai along with me also could be a reason for my changed heart. They lived in a leased apartment where they used my saved crockeries, cutleries etc., breaking some (!) that gave me an indescribable satisfaction that things were finally used and not merely were stashed for guests. That utility value of things somehow had a catalytic effect on me as I realized, things rusting without usage are of no use collecting or saving (for a future date).

Now I am more into using the things I have accumulated over years. Even in Doha, the clothes in my supposed secondary wardrobe (primary being the one in Chennai) can last me easily over five years to say the least. My fridge too is overflowing. I still ended up going for three tee shirts and a bag in the US but it is ok. Nobody in my family seems to be happy if I don’t get anything for myself. So got them mostly to make my folks happy. They can’t believe the new me 😀

Meanwhile, I shall keep using the clothes and things i have saved here (the list of what I have given up both in Doha and Chennai itself can be very impressive) (periodically also gave up so, many, many clothes and accessories to charities in good condition only). I think i don’t need all this stuff now: just my darling granddaughter will do. She has replaced everything else in my life i thought was valuable and worth collecting. How such a little life thousands of miles away from me across the oceans can have this effect on me is surprising.

For the family i got coffee-mates as we are great coffee lovers, and I thought we could do with nondairy creamer that is not good quality in dairy-fixated India. For friends some fridge magnets. For colleagues, my hubby got chocolates. Surprisingly even my hubby didn’t shop, I think he is going through the same emotions as me. He is very brand conscious. Last visit, he bet me or probably matched me in shopping! This year he has not shopped at all for himself but did for his darling granddaughter. Now getting that rattles and baby clothes seem more precious and important to both of us. Gone is the craze for branded stuff. We both were basically like this, but the intermittent years somehow changed us from our natural ways.

I now have this to say about Retail Therapy: most of us seek this as kind of fulfillment for something that we may be lacking. The temporary spike in our adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine thanks to shopping enthuses us that we feel revitalized and a sense of purpose. I can’t see any other reason for normal men and women to shop (within limits) more than necessary. Any excesses over limits must have a far damaging reason psychological mostly that may have to be clinically treated.

Finally over the peak, that is how I see myself. At the same time, i would not want to deny myself anything good. Abstinence by itself can sometimes trigger a craving. In future I will shop but my shopping shall be entirely need-based. I would not want to forego best things in life. I will first utilize optimally whatever I own already. Such a usage is self-satisfying seeing that you are putting to good use the money you invested in something.

I guess we all will have to reach this point of satiation by ourselves. There is no particular defining moment. Each much peak as per his/her own sense of fulfillment. Retail Therapy can be harmless if we are bound by limits. But I have known how addictive this can get and how guilty we can feel after every shopping bout.

With pleasure I have to record here that all my clothes that I used in my tour recently are old and used already, nothing being new. Feeling complete in every way. Not grooming specially for the trip is another new for me that I intend to follow up with.

How I managed this six month period of de-addiction from shopping:

  • i unfollowed business pages mostly especially those of clothing, jewelry, bag etc. their updates and posts are most tempting
  • hardly one or two art/business pages i follow these days online that do not require me to shop for anything
  • online shopping thus finally almost came to an end for me. there were years when i would book stuff online from Qatar and get them delivered to my sister’s place in India for collection later!
  • i do have a credit card here in Doha but i hardly use it.
  • i don’t save anymore my clothes for occasions. here for even grocery shopping in Doha nowadays, i go in my best. i decided to live it up.
  • i am also now not in company of friends who will worsen my condition 😀 some of my friends happen to be worst shopping addicts than me and that used to compound my shopping problem 😀 we spoilt each other lol
  • i have a friend now who continuously discourages me from shopping, like she says when i try to pick up a tee shirt, ‘no dear, it looks lousy on you!!!’ and that’s all i need to hear! i love going out with this friend now because she is like a party pooper, neither will she shop nor will she let me spend!!!
  • i guess i have the responsibility to set an example to the kids. by restraining, i can show them that it is important to live with what we have and find satisfaction from that.
  • my husband and I constantly discourage each other from shopping these days. i can say, now frugal spending is one of our couple-goals!
  • its not about saving pennies really. its more about living with a principle.
  • the joy of giving is not unknown to me. basically i derive more happiness from giving. even through my spending sprees i haven’t forgotten that.
  • i took cue from a few friends who are doing great but who tend to live it down, not leading flashy lives. their hugely successful yet down-to-earth stories opened my eyes as to what is really important in life. i can still hire an auto and live in a small two or three bedroom flat and that will just NOT define me in any way. take me the way i am or leave it.

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