This past February I found myself in a T.J. Maxx in the thick of a particularly hateful Boston winter looking for throw pillows. I know. This all seems very innocent. Wait for it….

I looked down and noticed I was pushing a shopping cart full of clothes in brightly colored tribal patterns and loose, flowy, boho cuts. Before I had time to strategize how I was going to nonchalantly switch out the carts, I saw the exact workout pants I just threw into my cart in an attempt to placate my conscience for my lack of winter gym attendance. That’s when it became clear I was deep into some stress shopping.

No. I didn’t immediately realize that I was never going to wear those tribal printed culottes. I was headed to Austin in a few weeks. Surely these were a necessary purchase. (Because nothing says Austin like culottes and tribal print. I think we can all agree on that.)

Despite the amount of time I spend shopping with and for other people, I’m just as prone to stress shopping as anyone else. The only difference is that now I know every trick in the book for rationalizing purchases that are most likely never going to see the light of day.

Here’s exactly what I did to help ease myself out of my shopping coma and here’s how you can do it too:

Know yourself. Know Your Closet.

What was in my shopping cart may have been wardrobe staples…for someone else. For a woman with a different personality, and perhaps fond childhood memories of culottes, this might have been exactly the right mix of items to fill in the gaps in her wardrobe and make getting dressed fun and easy in the morning. If she was also chill and laid back in nature, a shopping cart full of boho finds might have been perfect for her. But anyone who knows me, met me once, or even sat silently next to me on a train, knows there is nothing laid back about me or my style. I type fast, talk fast, and think fast. I’m just not flowy or laid back (despite years of effort trying to change that).

The better acquainted you are with your closet and your style, the faster you’ll be able to notice when you’re shopping unconsciously to relieve stress.

Tip: I highly recommend keeping photos on your phone of items you wear a lot along with items you want to wear more often. When you do have the urge to shop, having these photos available will give you some peace of mind that you’re likely to wear what you’re buying with what you already own.

Text A Friend

When it comes to reaching out mid binge-shop, pick someone who knows you, how you typically dress, and your lifestyle. Try something like: “So, I’m about to buy a magenta cone bra and I’m trying to decide if I might regret that later. Thoughts?”

Sometimes all you need to do is say or write what you’re about to do before you realize the hilarity of the situation and stop. In this case I texted a friend who is also a personal stylist. She knows me pretty well and her reply was perfect: “Whoah. What’s going on? Are you planning your Austin trip?” Yup, she knew right away that upcoming Austin trip or not, the sartorial situation in my cart was not a good match for me. I put every stitch of clothing back without regret.

Sidenote: If you are about to buy a regular magenta bra, I wholeheartedly support that. Most women do not have enough fun with their underwear. I have years of research to support this fact. 

Keep the Tags On

Even if you don’t catch yourself in the act of binge shopping, there’s a way to recover. It’s always a good idea to try on everything you bought at home after your shopping trip even if it didn’t feel like a binge. With better lighting and all of your other clothes nearby, you’ll feel more confident about whether you’ll wear what you bought or not. If you realize you won’t wear what you just bought, don’t make it a big deal. Simply put it back in the bag and bring it back to the store. Either way, you’ll be better equipped with the knowledge of what does and doesn’t work with your existing wardrobe for the next time you shop.

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