Addicted to Shopping is a book that I found uplifting in the end, but it had a few bumpy parts as I was reading it. The author, Karen O’Connor, is an experienced writer – over 40 publications. She is also a Christian and that theme is woven through her book on nearly every page. If you are ok with (or at leasts have a a tolerance for) continual references to the grace of God and the necessity of his (her?) presence in your life to overcome your shopping problems, you won’t have a problem with that aspect of this book.
The book is really about women with truly terrible money problems. What I’ve learned is that shopping problems and money problems are often related, but they are not the same thing.
You can have a shopping problem and not have a money problem. And many of you may be in this same boat. I was – I shopped way too much and accumulated way too much stuff, but I was fortunate enough not to find myself in personal debt purgatory.
Ms O’Connor tells many stories of women who struggled, and at the time of writing were still struggling, with these terrible money problems. These stories, one after another after another, got me down after a while. Although I appreciated the enormous power of the stories and how they were there to illustrate each section of the book. The stories reminded me a little of Biblical parables, something my childhood was littered with.
What I appreciated in this book:
- Ms O’Connor suggests a continuum of women with shopping problems… from shopaholics to compuslive shoppers to credit card abusers. I liked this way of thinking about shopping problems as having some ‘light and shade’ to it – not everyone who overshops does it for the same reasons, in the same way, or to the same extent. This was helpful to me.
- She’s very down on credit card and personal debt, and takes a very clear sighted look at it. She hits us over the head with some alarming statistics about debt and has a “take no prisoners” approach to getting into it. Normally I like a little “grey” in my advice, we are all different after all and a “one size fits all” approach usually equates to “one size fits nobody much, except the extreme outliers”. But for consumer debt, her clear and unrelenting position on it was something I liked. She shares what Chris says about learning to live without debt: “It never occured to me that one could actually live one’s life without debt. That was a totally novel idea when I first heard it“. Makes you wonder what other novel ideas are out there – just waiting to be discovered – about how to live one’s life without an albatross around one’s neck, doesn’ t it?
- I highlighted some of the things told in her stories that struck me. Here’s something from Maria, under the title “A Serious Problem” – “It’s the shopping itself that I like. It doesn’t matter what I buy. In fact, the things I buy usually look great in the store, not so good the next day, and a week later they look awful“. That comment made me wonder how many other women have that same experience. I know of one woman who does – I have purchased (way way back in time, of course) a number of her “pre loved” items at my favourite local consignment store – unworn with tags still on them. The lady who runs the store told me that this woman shops nearly every week but is too embarrased to return the items – she takes them to her consignment store instead. Makes you wonder how that woman’s life would drastically improve if she ended the madness, doesn’t it?
- On page 173, the tone of the book turns from these truly terrible money stories to the uplifting bit. Part 3 of the book is about Ending the Madness, which is a nifty title for what happens when someone wakes up from the deep sleep they’ve been in, looks around at whatever mess they have created, and decides to move forward. First up, there’s some stuff about telling the truth (yikes, you better be ready for that as there’s no place to hide) and then Ms O’Connor talks about asking for help. She finishes up by giving us seven (yep, 7) disciplines to work on, under the general title of “It’s not about the money after all”. Confirming my belief as I was reading the book that it’s mostly about the money, and less about the shopping, this book.
- In Part 4 of the book (“Discovering Joy”), Ms O’Connor suggests starting a journal. This was one of my favourite suggestions because it happens to line up with my own experience about the power of journalling. Journalling saved my sanity a few years back (during a particularly horrendous period in my life) and I still do it now. Ms O’Connor says “the thing I like most about writing in a journal is that there is no one way to do it”. Touche!
I’m glad I read Addicted to Shopping. It certainly made me feel better about myself in many respects. And it opened up an entire box of compassion for women who have gotten themselves into truly terrible situations. Holes the size of the Grand Canyon.
And just like the Grand Canyon, getting out of these holes is indeed possible – but you guessed it: there is no magic bullet (or elevator) in sight. It’s step by unrelenting step. But eventually, you get there.