This is very much like a similar syndrome regarding food. You know, the one where you eat an entire bag of Oreos? Why? Because you’re hungry?
In the same way, just walking into a store can make you feel elated, at one with yourself, on the verge of becoming someone completely different. (Ever read anything by Walker Percy? He describes this state with great wit and insight. I highly recommend Lost in the Cosmos.)
The solution is to face squarely exactly how you feel during and after you shop (and during and after you eat a bunch of cookies). It’s like really smelling your house when you first walk in. It’s not what you think it is.
2. Stop treating shopping as entertainment.
A little like #1, but different. When you shop for entertainment, you aren’t getting your thrill from actually spending money, but rather from going out somewhere that seems bright, new, and fun. However, spend money you will.
The solution is simple — find other forms of entertainment!
Have you ever spent real time in the library? Gone to a museum (the library has passes, you know), gone for a hike?
Better yet, stop looking to be entertained and start creating! Use your imagination and stop shopping!
3. Stop reading low-brow decorating magazines. Stop looking at low-brow decorating blogs. Stop getting your ideas from perfectionists like Martha Stewart, who has taste, I admit, but also knows how to ratchet up the anxiety level.
(Read Country Living* instead, which isn’t super high brow but does have a lot of articles about people using their thrifty finds rather than buying stuff at department stores on credit).
The problem is that certain magazines work hand in hand with certain stores to create, and then “satisfy” desires. You see a conventional, coordinating room in a magazine and then you go to the store to get it — for a hefty price. Everything in these magazines is new, everything is slick, everything makes what you have look…shabby. What is unspoken is that none of that stuff lasts or is truly aesthetic.
Solution: Get your ideas from truly high-end magazines and books. They will feature one of two kinds of homes: ridiculously over-the-top professionally decorated environments (they are creating and meeting their own kinds of desires too, of course) that will hone your taste and help you recognize quality when you see it at the yard sale…and truly tasteful examples of people using objects and living in homes that show history, that reflect culture, and that are anchored in real living.
I’m always amazed at how the truly rich don’t care if their leather sofas are cracking or their books are piled up and dusty. Their art is often something they invest their money in, but occasionally something that reflects just what they like — and we non-rich can do that too!
The more you immerse yourself in this aesthetic the happier you will be with your own personal history that’s all around you — and you will feel rich!
Having grown up poking around in junk shops, I guess it never occurred to me that some people are uncomfortable with this form of acquiring stuff.
But once hooked, you will never look back. Once you realize that you can find a dresser for $10, a bread maker for $5, or beekeeping equipment for free, you will kick yourself for paying retail for everything.
Solution: Make an experienced friend take you, or challenge another newbie to go with you. Don’t be overwhelmed by a place like Goodwill. Start slow — look only at the handbags or dishes at first. Go back another time to check out the skirts.
5. Stay home and make home beautiful.
See #s 1 and 2 above.
Solution: Clean everything. You will like it all better when it’s really clean. (I have much more to say about this, but we’re talking beginners. I don’t want to scare you!)
Make neat piles of your messes, then go back and get rid of what you don’t like. Clean again. Enjoy what you have and be grateful. Stop comparing yourself to others!
If you must go shopping — and this is going to seem wacky to you, I bet — pray!
Ask God to guide you to be a good steward, and ask the angels to lead you to the things you need quickly so you can get them and get out of there before you spend what you shouldn’t!
*Edited to say that when I wrote this, I had in mind the Country Living of the early 2000s which was really creative. Nowadays it’s quite otherwise and not worth the money. But do seek out old issues c. 2002. They are great.