Conscious Consumption

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Recently I’ve been thinking about my shopping patterns. I would never have said I was a big shopper. In actuality, I shop more than I need to and am learning more about how shopping operates in my life. I hope to reach a healthy state of balanced shopping at some point.

During mat leave, I shopped a lot, but almost exclusively for groceries. Somehow, everything associated with eating – menu planning, cooking with recipes, keeping the house stocked with dried and fresh foods – assumed great importance. I went grocery shopping usually a few times a week, at several locations, to track down all the essential items for our meals. We did eat some good meals, and I also spent a lot of money on food (up to $700 or so a couple of months when I went heavy into stockpiling dried foods). Other months were more moderate, in the $400+ range, but it was still a lot of money and, more importantly, a lot of time spent shopping with my daughter when we could have been doing other things: walks in parks, play dates, reading books, on and on. Plus, budget wise, if you shop less you spend less but you quite possibly will eat just as well. These days I”m shopping a lot less frequently, enjoying having a more manageable pantry, and appreciating the lower bills. Not every item needs to be replaced once it’s used up; not every needed item must be purchased right away.

Aside from groceries, for years my other weakness has been second hand shopping. I have rarely bought new items (aside from basics like underwear, and yes, shoes) for years. Scouring the shelves second hand became a hobby; the beautifully coloured if occasionally damaged items I brought home, my reward. Since going on this latest decluttering streak, however, I’m being a lot more careful with my time in second hand stores. I would say I generally avoid them now unless there are specific items I’m looking for. I know how easy it is to add unneeded and cheap goods to the home, and since those are the ones we are trying to eliminate, better to not go there. I can think of quite a few items I still own that are not useful, may even be still stored in boxes, purchased on a whim for a dollar or so, and still carted around with my just because they’re beautiful. Okay to a certain extent, maybe (1 or 2 beautiful items, sure) but not what I really want for my time, space and money. And again, time: I don’t want to train my daughter to have stores as her second most familiar environment.

The last month or two I’ve been shopping in new stores (what word am I looking for here?? I don’t really know what to call these. At the mall? Department/other stores?) as I take seriously my inner need to own a wardrobe that feels professional and attractive for work, and feels good on weekends too. I have definitely noticed list-creep as my initially small list of items I wanted to buy new has grown. It’s one of the dangers of shopping: you are bound to want to do more of it.

I also am extremely conflicted about the experience of going shopping with my daughter (or today, as we did, my daughter and husband). My husband, in proof that he’s a better person than me, suggested we all go to the mall together and that he would look after baby while I shopped. And that I needed to shop and he supported me in doing this. Why this felt right: I still lack some items of clothing that would make my wardrobe work (as in, the pieces mix and match, I don’t run out of tops or bottoms, by the end of the week, I have the undergarments and accessories that fill out the look, I can layer as needed). Shopping with baby on my own: tooooo hard. Also, we have a social event coming up that requires a good outfit, which I lack.

Why this felt wrong, once we were doing it: weekend hours spent spending instead of bonding. Attention distracted while in daughter’s presence  because I was scanning stores for products. Husband doing all this work in support of his wife (I know, that sounds wrong and awful, but really, it didn’t feel good to be constantly running into and out of stores and change rooms while he took care of our girl. Even though he loooves taking care of her and was more than willing to participate).

And back to the flip side: baby had fun. LOTS of fun! She got to run around in a biiiig open space with lots of new things to see. She met lots of kids (including one mean boy 😦 – oh well) and adults, and loved being friendly with them. She played – on the rides at the mall, with the glass & mirrors, with things in the stores. She had lots of attention from mom and dad. It was actually kind of great, especially on a winter day when I’m a wimp about going outside.

And, I found lots of what I was looking for. And then looked after baby when we were home so hubby could rest.

There is still shopping and returning to be done. By the way, moms out there, I now understand the return phenomenon: so much easier to buy and really evaluate an item at home; returning takes only a little time, but trying to track down an item once tried on might be futile. But I do hope/dream/plan that it will only be a couple more trips, then I can step away from the spending for a while. Quite a while, even. And really work hard on finding other, better, more fun activities to do with my daughter while wearing my new wardrobe.

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