Shopping that Sparks Joy
Three years ago, Marie Kondo changed my life. I know that sounds like an exaggeration, and it’s a little embarrassing to even share in writing. But I can say with confidence that her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has the chops to back up its bold title.
For me, the biggest transformation happened within my closet. I went from a cluttered mess of low-quality clothes to a curated wardrobe of selected pieces that work for me. If you want to read more about this transformation, you can check out this other post I wrote. But today, I want to focus on what came next.
I realized that while a decluttered closet was a great start, the REAL challenge was going to be how to keep it that way. How was I going to prevent the clutter from creeping back in? How was I going to keep myself from going back to my old shopping ways?
Shopping is not the enemy. Shopping without purpose is.
In my case, my “Kondo-ing” had revealed that not only did I have too many of the wrong clothes, but I didn’t have enough of the right clothes. So, I was still left with the challenge of figuring out how to build a real wardrobe of clothes that worked for me and my lifestyle, and this would involve shopping. But before I headed out to the mall, I thought through some of my favorite Marie Kondo principles, and I figured out how they could help me while shopping.
Principles for Shopping that Sparks Joy
Before you Buy…Know What Purpose an Item is Intended to Serve.
Marie Kondo makes a big deal about thanking an item for doing its job, or serving its purpose, before you let it go. This is a great way to relieve guilt (for say, disposing of a birthday gift your aunt gave you). But what does it mean when it comes to shopping? For me it means, that instead of imagining an item that you want, start by imagining a purpose that you want to fulfill, and then look for an item that fulfills it.
For example, instead of saying to yourself — “I want a cute pair of boots for my trip” — what if you said — “I am heading to New York next week for work, and I’m going to be doing a LOT of walking. I need some kind of footwear that is highly walkable, weather-proof, looks great with my work outfits, and will still work for my daily wardrobe when I get back to Austin.” NOW, when you walk in the store to look at shoes, the possibilities for what will “spark joy” are very different, and more likely to lead to longer-term joy rather than the temporary excitement of acquiring cute boots.
Before you Buy…Notice and Appreciate the Details.
I love how Marie Kondo has such a connection with items as she assesses them. She enjoys the details, the feel, the qualities of the item. That’s how she determines if the item sparks joy!
So I thought about this in terms of my shopping habits. And now, when I shop, I spend a lot more time touching the item, looking at the details, feeling the fabric, noticing the qualities of the item (like the buttons, the pockets, even how the tag is sewn on).
This approach might make me look a little ridiculous in the store, but it has two major benefits — 1) I’m deciding if an item sparks joy before I even consider buying it. 2) By paying attention to the details, I automatically find myself drawn to higher-quality well-made items that are likely to last longer!
Before you Buy…Consider the Space Required for this Item.
Not just physical space, but brain space. When I first read Marie Kondo’s book, I was blown away when she said that you should know everything in your home without looking. The idea of that level of awareness seemed incredible to me. I love the idea that I could open any drawer in my house and not be surprised by what’s there because I already know what is there. And while I’m a long way off from reaching this level of competency across my whole house, I can at least start by accomplishing this with my wardrobe.
This is why, when shopping, I have adopted a strict one-in-one-out policy. My wardrobe is currently the “right” size. I feel like I have enough items for all the occasions I need clothes for. My closet is not overly stuffed. AND I can remember every item I own. The balance is perfect for me. So whenever I consider buying a new item, BEFORE I buy it, I ask myself, what item will this new item replace? This ensures that I have the space, both mentally and physically, for this item in my closet.
Shopping Serves a Whole New Role in my Life
In my previous life, “Before-Kondo,” shopping was an emotional outlet, a fun thing to do with friends, a form of entertainment on a Saturday afternoon. Now shopping is much more meaningful to me. It is an important practice, in which I seek out and obtain important tools for my life. It’s still fun, and I still get enjoyment out of it, but it isn’t a short-term emotional high, rather a longer-term sense of fulfillment. There is nothing more gratifying than practicing patience to then find the perfect item that you’ve been looking for.
So thank you, Marie Kondo, for your guidance, not just in my home, but at the mall. P.S. Please let me know if you ever want to go shopping with me.