January 19, 2015

Listen, this is one of the hardest things I've done. No joke! Shedding excess possessions became easy once I got going. The momentum helped me see the task through, and even though it's still a work in progress, I feel that I've had a giant weight lifted off my shoulders. Job well done, Lauren.

I would venture to say we - you and I - are big online shoppers. I really know very few people that don't shop online at all (though my husband falls into that category) and most people I know regularly buy clothes, things for their homes, even groceries online.

To keep it real, I never thought this was problematic. Honestly. The parade of boxes to our home each week was rationalized to myself as "well I buy a lot, but I return 90% of it." And that was true. Online sales are irresistible, but if I buy several things and only keep what I need, that's not bad. Or at least that's what I told myself.

Then, as I was letting go of lots of items out of my closet, I noticed a pattern.

Nearly 90% of what I was letting go of was bought online, and the majority of what I was keeping was bought in store.


It turns out, my rationalization was really a lie to myself. Turns out that 10% of items I kept after all those returns added up to boxes upon boxes of goods that were donated. I never needed them in the first place. Or, they didn't really fit that great but I kept them because they were a good deal. Maybe they were bought on impulse, and I was convinced they would be that ONE item that changes my style. Worse, maybe it should have been returned, but I was too lazy to take it back to the store.

Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty.

It was a punch in the gut, really. But one of the chapters in this book talks about not attaching guilt to items, including the ones that were mistakes. Because the object has served its purpose - it's taught you that even though it was a mistake, its given you awareness to make a better decision before purchasing the next time.

I knew I needed to "stop the leak" before I could really have both the closet and the life I want, and that leak was the box parade. With that knowledge, I decided to stop shopping online completely.

I started my shopping fast at Thanksgiving. I knew that Black Friday deals online tempted me in the past, and I felt a strong conviction to put a stop to that habit immediately. If I could resist the lure of the day of sales, I would be off to a great start. Besides, I knew everything I bought last year on that day ended up in the donation box.

It was a success! I spent the day with my family in Seattle and while I did purchase one great deal, I did so in person, and it was a jacket I've worn at least twice a week since the day I bought it. At 80% off, I got a jacket lined in shearling that's keeping me cozy this winter.

My next step was telling myself I would not give in to all of the "countdown to Christmas" sales. I allowed myself to purchase Christmas gifts online from two companies that are online only, for friends and family. That was it. No shopping for Lauren. And wouldn't you know - I had more funds to give thoughtful gifts that I knew they would love.

Now, I only buy something online when it's truly a need, and if it's a better deal online than it is in person. For example, I've been working on projects around our house and I can get a better price on things like paint rollers, hardware, and cleaning supplies online. Those are the only things I've allowed myself to buy.

This is not an easy habit to maintain. Honestly, I had no idea the amount of online shopping I was doing until I stopped. Suddenly, I have a lot more free time. Without realizing it, I was devoting a good bit of time to browsing the web, looking for the greatest deals.


Time - Part One. Shopping online is a great time waster. And if you're not careful, it is way too easy to get stuck in the trap of clicking from site to site, looking for the best deal. For one day, keep a log of how often you notice yourself opening a new tab to browse, or reading sale emails.

Fit. If you truly care about getting the best fit, it is impossible to do that online unless you are purchasing an item that you've already purchased before, in the same size. I've found that even in brands I am familiar with, I can find the garment that fits me better by trying it on in store so I can try on three sizes - the one I think I wear, one bigger, one smaller. Sometimes, the shirt I have my eye on looks better if I go up a size so that I can get a slouchy fit. Or, my normal size is too boxy and the size smaller plays up my shape better.

Expectation vs. Reality. This is a biggie. Companies make sure that garment looks irresistible online. They pin it behind the model so that it fits just so, shave her arm down in Photoshop to make the sleeves look more trim, and never let you zoom close enough to see the tiniest details. You expect to receive what you see, but the reality is often very different. Maybe the stitching is lopsided, or the fabric texture is not great. You can only judge this in person.

Time - Part Two. Let's say you do cave and buy a few items. But one of them works, three of them don't. Now what do you do? Most companies allow you to send returns back directly, but often at your expense - via a $8 deduction from your credit for that SmartLabel. If you're like me, you usually head to the brick and mortar store instead, to return it in person. Y'all. I wish I could have back all of the hours I spent doing this. I now realize what a giant time suck this was in my life. I'm not proud to say I had weekly runs to make these returns and it kept me from choosing what I wanted to do by forcing me to do what I had to do to get my money back.

What about you? Have you ever tried to stop online shopping? Or do you feel like it's the smartest way for you to shop? Sound off - I want to hear your thoughts. When I discussed this with one friend, she said she shops exclusively online because she's able to see a cart total and get a better understanding of the investment she's making. But she also keeps the majority of what she buys. I'm interested to hear how the online shopping process works for you.

But, if you're in the same boat as me, I'll share tomorrow some of the ways I'm kicking the habit.


  1. Ugh, this is intense. Haha. I purchase almost all of my clothes online and can't imagine doing it differently. Honestly. I don't drive, so shopping in person is sometimes a hassle. Also, I find it so much easier to find sizes online. I do admit I often keep items that I would have returned if I had purchased in store out of laziness. Getting to the post office is as hard as getting to the mall. Haha. My biggest weakness is feeling like if I bought it online it makes it 'exclusive', no one else will have it and it will somehow make me look or feel better. Haha. Ya, gonna experiment with this as I'm on a budget now.

  2. First, let me just say I LOVE what you're focusing the blog on. Second, this post is spot on. It resonates with me on so many levels - the time I spend finding things online (and not being present), the amount I end up returning (causing further hunting online), the time spent driving packages back to stores. I've been thinking lately It. Must. Stop. And this post is inspiring me to really hold myself accountable to that. Looking forward to tomorrow's post!

  3. I agree, I am a chronic online shopper. I think the worst part of it is that it's SO easy just to put it in my cart, and checkout. Unlike at the store, the act of handing over a credit card makes me think about if it's REALLY something I want/need.

  4. I've just indulged in my first ever online shopping spree, with the
    excuse that I need more really lightweight clothes for a 5-week hand
    luggage only trip in June/July. I shouldn't have felt I needed to,
    because it's summer here in Australia and I'm fairly close to the
    central business district where the department stores are. I haven't
    bought clothes other than in op (thrift) shops for a long time, and I
    have no idea where to find small shops that I can get to (I don't
    drive), that have attractive clothes for my size (5ft 1") and age (74).
    Pursuing various blogs led me to both styles and sizes that seem right:
    now I await the parcels. The big downside is that it will be impossibly
    expensive to return anything, as our parcel postage rates are
    horrendous, and 'free returns' doesn't apply outside the USA.

  5. This is such an interesting post. It's fascinating to learn what works for different people as we all try to make wise choices about how we spend what we have (time, money, and other things!).

    I came to almost the opposite conclusion, but for pretty much the same reasons. I work long hours at my day job, my area doesn't have a lot of interesting or high-quality storefront options (it has a huge number of stores, but they're all the ubiquitous clothing chains you find at every mall in the US), traffic tends to be very bad so getting to the stores is a hassle, and I find trying on clothing in stores to be stressful and tiring so I tend to make more impulse purchases if I'm in a store. I also want to prioritize spending time with loved ones over time shopping. For me, that means I shop almost exclusively online, mostly from places that offer free shipping & returns (or I wait until there's a promotion with free shipping).

    It works for me because I have a pretty clear idea of what I'm looking for (washable, neutral colors, must fit in my capsule wardrobe, etc.), and because I have the luxury of being able to order several sizes, see what fits, and return the rest. I realize that's not an option for everyone and I feel lucky that I can do it that way. I also have to try to respect the limits I've put in place for myself (for instance I try really hard not to buy dry-clean-only clothes for budget reasons), and that can be hard!

    But I think at root this is the same idea: simplify by knowing what our own triggers are for stress, overspending, etc., and cutting them if we can. I just find it so fascinating to learn what works for different people!

  6. That first link doesnt work.. where was it meant to lead

  7. Here you go - sorry about that! http://seventeenthandirving.blogspot.com/2015/01/change.html

  8. I've recently curbed online shopping as well, mainly because I don't need anything, but a big part of it was the time factor. I was spending crazy amounts of time on trying on the things that arrived, deciding if I liked them, having them sit around while I decided, then boxing up the rejects, sometimes needing to print a return label which is impossible because I don't have a printer, then taking them to the post office...just all such a pain, such a time suck, and so pointless. And then the biggest annoyance was having all of those boxes sitting around in my hallway taking up space! It felt constant (my apartment is really tiny, so every little bit of clutter gets on my nerves). I'm so glad I've stopped all of it and hopefully can continue to whittle down my closet to what I only really love.

  9. I do the majority of my shopping online. Or in person on two trips home (one during the summer, and the other during Christmas). I do return a decent amount, but most of the stores I shop online are not within many miles of where I live (even target I have to pay $20 to get to, so I can cross a lake on a ferry). I don't spend tons of time looking, though. I mainly buy what a blogger is wearing (I don't use their link; I use ebates, so I get the $) or look for a specific item. I also very rarely pay for shipping. Another reason I shop online; I am petite, and there are generally more petite options online. Gotta find what works for you!

  10. SO interesting, thank you for sharing! I am worked hard to become a lot more mindful about my shopping in the past few months. I just finished a month-long shopping fast, and couldn't believe often I felt that impulse to just start adding things to my cart when I was browsing online. Bad habit! I have noticed that I am more likely to buy online when it comes to clearance stuff -- online it still looks fresh and appealing, but in store I have definitely been turned off by seeing a once coveted item jammed into an overfull clearance rack.

    I don't know that I want to cut myself off for good, but I will try to monitor my online shopping behavior in the coming months and think about making some changes!

  11. I've also come the opposite conclusion for the most part, though I think both ways have their advantage, and I wouldn't want to do either all one or the other. I mostly shop online because I find trying things on in the store tiring also, and frustrating when you have to keep getting dressed to go find other sizes (I don't like using salespeople and having people hovering around me). There aren't a lot of great clothing stores in my city (no JCrew or Anthro!). The main thing is often there's not anything i'm in love with at the store when I'm there in person, but I feel like I have to buy something because I went to all the trouble of driving there, parking, and taking the time out of my day. So I buy something I never wear or doesn't go with anything. I've found sometimes things feel like they fit when I try them on in the store, but then they're really not that comfortable. With online shopping I can be much more careful, and know exactly what I'm looking for. If possible I let things sit in my cart for awhile before buying to make absolutely sure I'm excited about it and have a lot of options for what to wear with it, and in case it goes on sale. The one exception for me is pants...it's helpful to try them on in person. i also try to only buy from places that offer free return shipping. I really enjoy online shopping, and I think I maintain pretty good control, (I'm pretty thrifty in general) though I do have to resist the temptation to waste time or money.

  12. I definitely see your point, though after reading Kondo's book and putting some thought into my priorities, I decided that shopping online will probably remain a big part of my life. Although I'm a NYC resident with easy access to public transportation and a wide range of stores, I live in a less convenient neighborhood, which makes it fairly difficult to shop in person. (I usually do returns in person as a quick add-on errand to other things I have to do.)

    I have, however, taken steps to cut down on the amount of online shopping that I do (no more Sephora, for instance). You're definitely right that return shipping costs (and initial shipping costs for stores that don't offer free shipping) are killer, but I get around it by online-shopping at places with in-store or free returns. Another problem with online shopping is the temptation to add extra items to meet a free-shipping minimum, which made for a ridiculous amount spent at Sephora.com last year.

  13. Great post. Thanks! I didn't think about the time I waste doing returns (I return A LOT)...I guess I justified it by not having to drive to store in the first place to buy...but all that time online adds up!
    I have been anti-Amazon because I worry about local businesses. People think they are getting a better deal, but it is so much better to support local places (even if they are chains, like Best Buy)...because its nice to see things "in person". Plus, it is easier to return at a store, than Amazon (packaging everything up, going to post office, etc.)

  14. This is an excellent post! I did the same a few months ago and I haven't looked back - the one exception I made was on Black Friday, when I knew that a specific pair of pants I already own was going to be 60% off online, and I wanted a second identical pair. The big thing I began with was unsubscribing from all store and Gilt/Ideeli/etc emails - that was how I initially ended up with totally impractical boots, dresses, etc that can only be worn with one or two things, but they were ____ brand and "80% off!!!!" (yet still expensive, and absolutely not worth the money). I no longer wake up to 564 daily sale emails, so that's another plus, and since I'm no longer tempted by these emails to look to see just what other totally unnecessary crap is 50% off "today only!!!!", I accumulate far less of it. Win-win!

    P.S. I love that everyone is reading the Marie Kondo book - I started doing the konmari folding thing today, which is amazing, and I just can't wait to get rid of the rest of this STUFF.

  15. This put into words everything I've been feeling lately. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Please continue to keep writing on this topic. I'll be so interested to hear more. This issue resonates with me so much, and I'm surprised that no one else is really talking about online.

    (There's lots about minimalism, capsules, etc. but not a lot about to crazy online buying/returns cycle -- probably bc so many bloggers are making $$ off referrals, and don't want to discourage shopping.)

    Thank you for being brave enough to step outside this cycle. You're an inspiration.

  16. Hi Tracy - resources are linked in the article here: http://houseandhome.com/design/photo-gallery-suzanne-dimmas-houses?page=9

  17. Sara - resources are linked in House & Home's article here: http://houseandhome.com/design/photo-gallery-suzanne-dimmas-houses?page=9

  18. Hi Aleksandra - there was no source for it in the article, sorry!

  19. I could not find the image of the rocking chair in the House & Home slideshow. Is there a source for the print on the wall? Thanks!

  20. I tend to shop more online. Whether it's because what I want isn't accessible to me in person, or it's more convenient for me. But for brands that are readable accessible or have inconsistent sizing/quality/strict return policies, I won't buy online.

  21. Excellent post and you are not alone. I no l longer shop online for clothes no matter what. Yes it's a lot of effort to go to a store and try on eleven pairs of jeans - but it's the only way to get decent fit.

  22. Oh man, I totally felt like this post was meant for me! I've been going a little overboard with the online shopping the past few weeks. I've had to do SO many returns too. :(


Pin It button on image hover