Recovering Shopaholic Says 'Less Is More'

By Free Spirit • August 17, 2015

I'm a recovering shopaholic and this is my story:

When I was growing up, we didn't have much. We lived in a house, but we were always money poor. Sometimes I would sell things in order to have money to go out with friends. My friends never knew. I went to university and took on student loans. It was the first time I had money and it felt good. At university campuses, we were given free gifts if we signed up for credit cards. I liked the feeling of being rewarded for spending money. When I graduated, I was $30,000 in debt with no job prospects. I thought life was hopeless. Thoughts of suicide occasionally entered my mind. I did odd end jobs here and there to help pay the bills. I knew I was in trouble and didn't know what else to do but pray. Some time passed, but I finally landed a decent paying job. By some miracle, I paid off my debts and for the first time in my life I had money to call my own. It was then that it started.

Having lived a life not having 'enough', I started spending $ to make up for the feeling of 'lack'. I compared myself to the people I worked with and my self esteem plummeted. Shopping became an anaesthetic. On bad days, shopping was therapy. On good days, shopping was a reward. Advertising and commercials about the latest product became fuel for new desires. Suddenly I had more new interests and hobbies I could ever imagine. My room at home became so cluttered, I could no longer see the surface of anything. I felt ashamed and guilty by how much money I had spent. To get rid of the negative feelings, I would go out and shop even more. Feeling my life was getting out of control, I would go out and spend. Not a day went by when I did not purchase something. Not a day went by when I did not think about purchasing something. I would hide the things I bought from my family or lie about how much I spent. I would justify my purchases by coming up with an excuse, e.g. it was a gift or something I 'needed'. But no matter how much I bought it was never enough.

One day I read a book called, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up". As I read the book I realized how cluttered my life had become. Enough was enough. I decided that I needed to clean up my act. I began to go through the items I owned and donate away those items that no longer brought me joy. It was a painful process to go through. I held each item I owned and asked myself if this was something that sparked joy in my life. If the answer was no, I would toss it in a bin for donation or a bin for garbage. After four days of going through everything I owned, I was able to clear through 12 bags of garbage, and donated 7 bags of items to a local charity. The simple act of tidying had a transformative effect on me - for the first time, I could see the surface of things, I could appreciate the things in my life that did bring me joy, and I no longer felt the compulsion to acquire new things - because I realized I already had so much. Instead of wasting time going to the mall or hunting for new things, I'm spending my time enjoying more of nature, going on walks, going to the gym or reading/learning new things.

As a recovering shopaholic I want to tell other shopaholics out there that there is hope. It starts with clearing up the clutter, then and only then will you realize that "less is more" I realize that my objective in life is to be happy and it's time to let go of self-defeating behaviours that cause feelings of stress, anxiety, shame and guilt.

For the first time in my life I feel really good. I feel good not because I have stuff in my life, but because I realize I don't need the stuff to be happy.

It's okay to have things around that bring you joy, but when that stuff becomes oppressive, it's time to let it go.

I hope you too find the freedom and serenity of mind that you seek.

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