Tracey Jackson

Jun 13 2017 | Comments



I am one month into my one year of not shopping pledge.

Let me tell you something about a year, it’s very long in some ways and very short in others.  Like when I think of Lucy leaving for college in a year it feels like about four hours.  When I think of not buying a t-shirt for a year it feels like forty years.

I would love to say I have found some nirvana and peace in the non-consumer space.   I have not. I have found positive things.   And there are days I am very happy and days I’m cranky. But that is me in life. That is everyone in life. Isn’t it?

When I am cranky I used to be able to momentarily un-crank by buying something. Now sometimes the non-shopping makes me depressed and other times it makes me feel in control.  I need to find the middle distance.
By observing when I want to make certain purchases and refraining I have learned how and why I have made too many purchases at times and bought things I never really wanted and never really liked.

All of them having been given away, sold or in the process of being sold. Want to see how your guilty consumer muscles flex start going through your stuff and chucking what you don’t like or use. It’s a great insight into how your emotions can run amok in the purchase space of life.

I have slipped up twice.  I told you I would.  I bought a pair of sweat pants the night of the Manchester bombing. I knew of no other way to assuage my anxiety.  I have been calming myself for five decades this way and it works for certain things.   I’m beginning to think as long as I understand that it may not be the worst habit known to man. I don’t go open a bottle of vodka and finish it off. I buy a pair of sweatpants.  OK, usually I buy more. Progress not perfection.

I slipped up last Friday the day after I heard Ed Victor died.  I was in Sag Harbor; I was parked in front of the American Hotel, the American Hotel being a spot where I had had drinks or a meal with either Ed or Ed and Carol.  I thought of the last time Ed and I had had a meeting, it was there.

I went across the street and bought the sweater I had been able to pass up two weeks before. Now, I knew why I was doing it. And it was not a random purchase. That is not an excuse, but I understood my behavior and I was able to make a very conscious choice. Ed is dead, I am sad.  I am going to buy a sweater.  And I didn’t buy two or say well, since I’ve fallen off the wagon, might as well go for broke. I bought the one sweater.  And damn it, it did for make me feel better, for awhile.

They call it retail therapy for a reason. You don’t hear gambling therapy. You don’t hear sex therapy.  You never hear alcohol therapy.  It’s maybe the only thing that gets categorized under an addiction that has the word therapy attached to it.

So is it an addiction or an aid? Or is it two mints in one?

It might be both because unless you steal your merch there is no illegality involved in shopping. There is not number of how many items you can buy and drive home with before you get pulled over. There are no illegal shopping malls.  You are not breaking your marital vows by going to Nordstrom’s and buying one too many pair of shoes.  You might get a reprimand, but you won’t end up packing your bags and going to stay in a motel by yourself.

The definition of therapy is

“ treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder”


Now, I’m not looking for an out here. Though my shrink disagrees.    I voluntarily put myself into this slightly Draconian position and I can remove myself at any point.  I suffer from anxiety and panic disorder. Diagnosed. Life-long condition. Shopping is proven to give you dopamine.  Dopamine quells anxiety and makes you happy.  It’s not too hard to figure out.  We don’t get addicted to the shopping per se, it’s the dopamine the shopping provides.  We all just get our dopamine in different places.

I also like things and like to shop, most people do. I think what I’m trying to say in this round about way that sounds like a big fat excuse is I think there is a happy medium. For instance I want to retrain myself to shop the way I drink. The way I eat sugar. The way I do other things that send many people around the bend.

I have a glass of white wine in the evening or sometimes a glass of champagne.  Big night – two glasses, end of story. Now if I drank when I got anxious I would imagine those numbers would be higher, if there was alcoholism in my family, they would be way higher. But there isn’t. There is shopping in my family. Both of my parents are big time shoppers.  Always have been. It’s what I grew up watching.  So when I go back to my early journals at 14 there is an entry, “feeling sad going to buy that skirt I saw.”  The apple, the tree and all that shopping.

To be honest I don’t want to not shop for one year. I JUST DON’T.  It feels like torture. And I don’t’ think I will be a better person.  I will just be a miserable, cranky person in last year’s jeans.

I want to continue to make not shopping my goal until I understand much more about it and learn to delay gratification in more consistent way.

Though I have made inroads.  To be honest I have gone four weeks and bought two things. That is the least I have ever bought that period of time in my life. No, that is not true, I went four months once out of necessity. Will save that for another day. But suffice to say for me it’s a personal best.

In the last month I have been able to go into a drug store for eye drops and walk out with only eye drops.  I went into Blue Mercury the other day to buy some under eye concealer and I walked out with one under eye concealer. I normally would have picked up about four other random things I didn’t need but wanted, for no other reason than they were bright shiny objects and those are the kind of bright shiny objects that get my attention and often end up in my possession.  They make me smile

By nature I am a very disciplined person. I never miss a deadline, in fact I usually turn things in ahead of schedule.  I have worked out consistently for forty years. I think I am a super responsible parent.  The only place I really tip is in this one area.

So, what’s happened is I have been walking around feeling kind of deprived instead of disciplined. Like I’m a good person, I do the things I’m supposed to, why am I punishing myself?    Then I feel pissed off or sad.  And I don’t think that is the goal.

The goal is moderation. The goal is not to order twelve things from Net A Porter because I’m bored or upset about work and then send eleven of them back. The goal is to take shopping and consumption to a controlled, happy place that does not get filed under manic in my personality files.  And does not get set off because of all the life style porn with the “buy this now” links attached on Instagram.

So, for the next month I am still under the no shopping mandate. They say to really amend a behavior it takes thirty days. But it really takes a lot longer than that. That is how long it takes to sort of, kind of rewire your brain. My brain is in the process of rewiring as I write this.

Much like in AA, I’m taking this a month at a time. If I do that I don’t think I will freak out.  Well, they do it a day at a time.

A month at a time is doable and we will see where I end up..

A year might just take me into the realm of losing my mind, or reaching for that bottle of vodka.  Neither one a good option. I will take the sweatpants over either of those any day.











  • ClayRivers

    Hang in there, Tracey. You can do this. Wanting to is half the work, and you’ve got that part down. ❤️

  • Tanis

    Don’t quit before the miracle! And it will come 🙂

  • I want to and will – not sure in choosing a year is not more than I can or care to chew.

  • I just want a readjustment in my habits. Not sure that constitutes a miracle. Not sure if I put more on this project than it can handle or deliver on.

  • karrie_Pgh

    Ok, I’ve been where you are. Hello, my name is karrie and I’m a former compulsive shopper.
    For me, you nailed it right here: “So, what’s happened is I have been walking around feeling kind of deprived instead of disciplined.”
    I had to figure out why I needed the relief it brought. It was my anger turned inward, my depression, and being raised in the era of women not being allowed to have as many boundaries as today. It got easier for me to say ‘no’ to the buying, once I figured out how to say ‘no’ in other areas of my life, and not feel guilty about it. I still have one vice or two, but they are rare now. The feeling of control over ‘want’ versus ‘need’ idea, life is better. Far from perfect, but a lot better.
    For you it may be something different. And it’s not easy or pleasant to go through figuring it out either, because it could mean reliving something. As to why you feel deprived… I’m just asking, is that the thing that needs examined?
    I finally figured out how to sort of reframe that feeling, if I have to use the word deprive, ‘I’m depriving myself of this thing, BUT GAINING the ability to do *fill in the blank*’. It didn’t feel like I was gaining anything at first, because I was too dependent on others’ opinions of what had value to me, and their opinions should never have mattered. It takes time to see things through those new glasses.
    Again, could be very different for you. Just know, you aren’t and weren’t alone. And I’m pulling for you!

  • nancy clausen

    I am not a shopper, but a buyer–is there a difference Tracey? I get a high from buying exactly what I want! May be a year without shopping is just taking on too much?

  • karrie_Pgh

    Nancy, do you need the high to numb something you don’t want to or can’t face? That’s what I was doing. Shopping helped me stay in denial, and push down the discomforts I was having. I have three areas I will allow myself to splurge once in awhile. But I wait and see, after I’ve first seen them, if they continue to ‘call’ to me. If they do, I go back. Most of the time now, they don’t. And if I do go back and it’s not there, it’s not crushing, which is what it used to be because I had the feeling of relief attached to it. I have a ‘creative’ side so that’s why the three areas of splurge. But with my set of ‘rules’ now, I actually have money in an actual bank. And in a drawer too, for emergencies. And they’ve both been there awhile. It took me a long time to realize an emotion wasn’t an emergency. It was hard and uncomfortable work, but so worth it.

  • Thank you for writing in. I understand all of the things that I am quenching when I shop. Sometimes like Nancy says, I just like to. There is something my friend and witting partner of Gratitude and Trust, Paul Williams says when something goes, from use, to abuse, to addiction. Sometimes I need to shop as I need things. And sometimes I do it to relieve anxiety and that would be abuse perhaps or perhaps not depending on how much I buy. And then there is the knee jerk shopping for the sake of shopping and the dopamine that comes mostly from shopping online. I m pretty self aware. I wrote a book about addiction. And I’m not sure I’m addicted or in habit. I know exactly what I am deprived of and that is not in any danger of ever changing. So that is something I am used to at this stage. I like you do the walk away for 24 or 48 hours most times. And if it’s not there when I return it’s not meant to be mine. Sometimes I grab impulsively and sometimes I just grab and return stuff.
    The truth is we all have discomforts, that is the natural state of life. We all have ups and downs and things we cannot control and things we need to let go of and things we can fix by fixing ourselves first. But it’s a balance I’m out for. A certain type of balance. I think one could call it being the conscious consumer. And I agree with Nancy that a year was way too long a time to set for myself. That is my only regret – but that can be changed by me when I want as this is self- generated. I appreciate your insights and your routing for me!

  • I like what you say here and thank you for sharing your experiences. I always like to hear from you.
    I have mixed feelings. I’m keeping my mandate for the time being. But I just know me and I don’t want to do this for a year. I am just reneging on that. I also know that for my entire life, while I have uses shopping in many ways, a pastime like many Americans in whatever way they can, to sometimes calm down, to sometimes make me happy, and sometimes to celebrate. But in the many years that I have shopped – I have also done a lot of other things at the same time, raised a family, had a career, run a self-help site and written books, lectured, blogged, done films, books, movies, TV, charity work. So, I don’t reasllysee myself as someone who only shops and lives in a bubble of oh, sad Tracey shops. When I get sad I sometimes shop. When I am happy I sometimes shop and again like all of us I just sometimes shop. I also, not in my defense live and work in the center of shopping. And now thanks to the internet shopping is a 24 hour activity if you want it to be. I like this comment as it leads me to a blog.
    I’m not sure I’m as displeased with me as I was when I started this. It’s a month in, I see where I can reign it in. I need to work on that. That is the lesson here for those who need a lesson, “I need to be more aware.” Many people have said to me this week “thanks to this I am paying more attention. I’m purging. I’m not buying for the sake of buying.” And I think that is the goal. I don’t think a year of not buying anything was actually the right goal to set. I think I should have maybe thought it out more before I announced it and set off. But perhaps not. Everything is a learning experience. And I will continue to reign it in. How that turns out I will share and and lots of other ideas I have. As always thank you for your comments. Love the way you express yourself Love that Irwin outshops you!