Your Shopping Context

Posted by Jill Chivers in Shopping Strategies, Shopping, Clothes and Emotions

What does your shopping 'fishtank' look like?

What does your shopping ‘fishtank’ look like?

Today I want to ask you about your shopping context.

Why this question is important is because the environments we find ourselves in affect us.

It’s like the fishtank the fish swims in — if it’s clean and aerated (and full of fascinating plastic treasure chests), the fish are likely to be healthier. If the tank is allowed to become dirty and the water dank, the fish are unlikely to thrive, they may even die.

Your shopping context is like the fish tank – it’s the environment that surrounds you when you shop.  Being aware of your shopping context is an important part of developing a healthier relationship to shopping.  Why?  Because you have the power to influence the situations, places and people you surround yourself in – your shopping fish tank, if you like.  Unlike the fish.

You want to do all you can to make sure that your context supports you to be the conscious shopper you want to be.

It’s absolutely no good “working on yourself” without taking into consideration your shopping context.  That’s like taking the fish out of the dirty tank and putting them in clean water for a period of time… then putting them back into that same dirty fishtank.  You gotta fix the tank, too!

So what is your shopping context?

Ponder these questions:

When do you shop most?

What day?  What time of day?  Is it always during your lunchbreak, because you work in or near the mall?  Is it always on Saturday mornings because that’s your weekend routine?  Do you need to change anything about when you place yourself in a ‘shopping situation’, to become the conscious shopper you want to be?

How often do you shop? 

Daily?  Weekly?  Many times a day?  We’ve met some overshoppers who shop twice a day in stores, then do online shopping at home in the evenings, bringing their tally up to  3 – 4 shopping ‘expeditions’ per day.  That’s extreme.  But even daily shopping is an immediate red flag, because the frequency of it suggests that shopping is a default activity, possibly something that you are doing on automatic pilot (and something Neradine Tisaj warned about).  The frequency of your shopping is part of your shopping context — do you need to change how often you shop to become the mindful shopper you want to be?

How much do you buy? 

Shopping frequency doesn’t tell us the entire picture.  You may only shop once a month, but boy oh boy, is it a bender of a shopping trip!  Your shopping context includes the volume of items you purchase in any one shopping expedition (online or in stores), and how much you spend.  What do you need to change about the volume of your shopping, so it is more aligned with the conscious shopper you need to be?

Who do you shop with?

Do you shop alone, or with someone else?  How is shopping with that person (or if you shop alone, how is shopping alone) a part of your shopping habits?  Sometimes we have ‘partners in crime’ without even knowing it, by our choice of shopping partner.  Sometimes shopping alone is the problem – we have no-one to act as a sounding board (or sanity check) when we shop.  Is shopping with this person (or alone) helping you to be the conscious shopper you want to be?

Why do you shop?

This is the $64,000 question (and something that the Shop Your Wardrobe program explores in the 12 themes over 12 months).  What place does shopping have in your daily routine and your life? How conscious are you of what drives your shopping, beyond the “I just like shopping” or “shopping makes me feel good” responses?

To become a truly mindful shopper, you need to know the answer to those questions.  You need to be aware of and tuned into your surroundings.

You need to not only know and understand your shopping context – you need to influence it.  You need to be conscious about the situations you place yourself in and the people you surround yourself with — and the impact that they are having on you.

When I did my own year without clothes shopping, understanding and influencing my shopping context was one of the most important aspects of succeeding. I needed to be sure I wasn’t constantly placing myself in situations where the temptation to shop would be overwhelming.

I stayed out of the shops. 

I did this as part of my daily and weekly routine, and I also did it for two long overseas trips (overseas trips were my weakness – I had noticed a pattern where I did a lot of shopping when travelling).  I set myself up to succeed by waking up and tuning in to my surroundings.

I can’t tell you what a monumental difference that tuning into my shopping surroundings made on my journey back to conscious consumption.  I would probably still be shopping like a whirling dervish if I hadn’t taken that time to consider my shopping context, and to actively change it so that it supported, not hindered, me in my journey.

So that’s me.  What about you?

What is your shopping context?

Take some time now to consider your answers to the questions above about your personal shopping context.  Take some time with a cup of fragrant tea or a long cool drink and your journal and write down your answers.  You may be surprised at what you discover when you spend some time with these questions and answer honestly.  There’s no need to judge, just reflect and observe.

What is your shopping context?  How is that context impacting the shopping you are doing right now?  And how happy are you with the shopping you are doing?  What needs to stay the same, and what needs to change?

And if you’re not sure of the answers to the above questions and it’s a priority for you to become a more conscious consumer, then consider joining one of our paid programs here at Shop Your Wardrobe (here’s the link to the year-long program) – we’d love to have you join us.


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    7 Responses to “Your Shopping Context”

    1. Stacey says:

      Hi Jill!

      I love the metaphor of the fishtank to illustrate the point that our environment makes a big difference in our shopping habits. It’s so true that if it’s clean and aerated (and full of fascinating plastic treasure chests), the fish are likely to be happier and healthier.

      When my closet is clean and aerated I’m much more likely to be happy with it – so thank you for reminding me to create a nicer setting for all the beautiful treasures I already have so I’m less likely to go out to plunder more!

      Thanks, as always, for a thoughtful and thought-provoking post!

    2. Jill says:

      hi Stacey – it’s amazing how little thought we can give to something so powerful as our environment, isn’t it? Thanks for your comment and glad you found it interesting!

    3. As part of my shopping fast this month, I’ve done what you did above; removed myself from exposure to items I might want to purchase – i.e. no more catalogs, ad blockers installed for my internet browsers, “un-liked” retail facebook pages, and I certainly won’t be stepping foot in any stores aside from the grocery store. (Buh-bye Anthropologie).

      If I remove the exposure, it helps to quell my desires, and gives me some room in my mind to process WHY I want so much in the first place. What hole am I trying to fill? Why am I so hungry when I have plenty?

    4. Jill says:

      ah, you’ve hit on the critical essence Emelie — what is shopping ABOUT for you? Shopping in itself is not bad, and stores are not the enemy. It is the individuals responsibility to shop mindfully (and responsibly)… and part of that is the awareness that you are exploring right now. Thanks for your comment here!

    5. Jill says:

      Tammy, thanks for stopping by and for your comment. You’ve hit on something important – we all have SOMETHING that “triggers” us… for some it’s clothes, shoes, accessories and so forth. For others, it’s art supplies and books. I know of a woman who is having a “no books” year — and that includes asking friends and family not to BUY her any books as gifts, or to loan her any books – the reason being that she has so many unread books, and she wants to actually read them!

      So bravo to you for your art supply and book amistice this month… Check in with us in a few weeks time and let us know how you get on — I love the gauntlet of “just to see if I can”!

    6. It is amazing how becoming more mindful of your shopping habits and environment can change your approach. For me it was quite powerful and when I combined it with knowledge and tools of knowing my colour palette, personality style and how to dress to enhance my body shape I haven’t looked back. Wardrobe works for me everyday. What a feeling! Thanks for your powerful insights.

      • Jill Chivers says:

        hi Kim, yes the first step is always awareness, but it doesn’t have to hurt! The gentle light of awareness can shine a gentle beam of light onto a situation that previously was in darkness, and from there change is possible. I agree with you about colour, body shape and style and personality (and in other articles, I discuss those as key ingredients to creating and curating a working wardrobe). So glad you enjoyed this piece!

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