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How to Dress Better and Improve Your Life

Lesson 14 of 25

When You Buy More Than You Need

Jennifer Baumgartner

How to Dress Better and Improve Your Life

Jennifer Baumgartner

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Lesson Info

14. When You Buy More Than You Need

Lesson Info

When You Buy More Than You Need

So the first difficulty I look at is I call it shop till you drop, when you buy more than you need. How many of you have purchased more than you need? (laughs) We all have, right? None of us just have what we need, we all have had things that we want. And we often say that what we want all of a sudden becomes what we need. We don't need a dishwasher, right? Technically, no. We really don't need jewelry, we don't need any kind of fancy things, we want them. But we over time as cultures have changed, as technology has changed, we've turned the needs into wants and that's okay, that's kind of part of where we are now. So we're gonna be examining why we do buy more than we need. All right, so why do we buy more than we need? There are lots of different reasons, one is boredom. We buy things because it entertains us. Let's face it, shopping can be really fun. We can use it as entertainment. When we look at kind of society in the whole, when we're looking at Western culture, shopping is kind...

of a pastime, it's something we do when we socialize, why else would we have stores, candy stores, coffee stores, and restaurants in malls, if we're not using it in some way as a form of entertainment? So the reason why we shop is boredom. The other reason why I find a lot of people shop is that they have negative emotions that they're trying to either avoid, they're trying to numb, or they're trying to make feel better. So you've had a bad day at work, you come home, hey, you've made your money, you've earned it, you say I'm gonna go out and I'm gonna buy myself something nice and often it can be clothing. There's also positive emotions. So why not enhance, why not add on to what you already feel? So if you're feeling good, you're feeling excited, you've had a major accomplishment, what do you usually do? Either somebody gives you a gift to celebrate that accomplishment or that kind of achievement in your life or that milestone, or you go out and you buy yourself a gift because you wanna celebrate all that you've done. Another reason why people shop, believe it or not it kinda sounds paradoxical, but they have financial stress, so they're already in debt and then they go shopping. Why would you go shopping when you're in debt? One, to try to make yourself feel better, but there's kind of another thing underneath it, it's almost a fatalism. It's I'm already in debt, why not get in debt a little more? It's also a way to say well, it's not that bad, because at least I can still go out and buy a pair of shoes. It can't be that bad. So that's kind of the major reasons why people shop with financial issues. Another big one internally are inadequacies. So either fitting in, keeping up with somebody, trend chasing, so people might buy for the purpose of making themselves feel better because they feel like they lack something. So I use a checklist when I'm assessing this piece. You may or may not fit into this, but just listen and see if any of it speaks to you. And if you find the majority of the questions you answer yes to or they're bothering you, then we'll explore a little further what we can do with that. Here we go, here's the checklist. Do you think about buying things most days, all days? Do you spend time preparing to buy or buying clothes and accessories? Do you fid yourself putting aside sleep, friends, work, or other accessories to shop in store or online? And this is where we're really accessing the severity of how much your shopping behaviors are impacting your functioning, like your sleep, attending to others. Have your friends and family commented on your shopping behaviors, so are you concerning others? Do you spend more than you have to buy things? So now you're going into debt. Do you buy out of want or need? And remember, defining need and want is hard to do sometimes, so really it's what you need to survive versus what you don't. Do you shop to celebrate? Do you shop to reward? Do you shop to cope? Do you shop because you are bored? Do you shop to reward for an accomplishment? Do you shop to treat yourself or pamper yourself? Do you shop before your debt becomes too large believing that you might as well get it now? Kind of a fatalistic approach. Do you find you experience anxiety before you shop? Do you experience relief of this anxiety after you shop? Do you ever feel guilty about your purchase? So after the fact, you're kind of caught up in the moment, it feels good, you're triggered to do it, you do it, you feel the excitement, the adrenaline kicks in, and then the crash. You do the behavior, you come home, you look at the bags and you think what have I done? Why did I do this? Do you have multiples of a single item in your closet? Yes, I do. (laughs) Do you find that you still have tags on your clothes and accessories? Do you find that your closet does not have capacity for all your stuff? I'm looking at you, kid, I know you said that that's happening. Do you hide your purchases from others? I will say to my husband oh this is just a box, (chuckles) I don't know what's in it, let me just go hide it in my closet. (laughs) Do you find that you cannot afford your bills? Do you shift funds in order to pay for your purchases? Do you spend more or buy more items than you had intended? Do you have others buy for you or have them loan you money? So obviously these are the questions assessing your finances and how your finances have been impacted by your shopping behavior. Have you told yourself that you will never buy again? Even after attempts to stop do you still buy? Do you buy things normally that you would not because they are on sale? Does a sales associate know you on a first name basis? (laughs) Are you receiving regular email alerts for sales, promotions, or in store events? Do you save accounts for TV and online stores and do you have a shopping wish list? And after you buy an item, does the excitement quickly wear off? I know these are a lot of questions, but are any triggering anything in you right now? Just staying till 12 o'clock to order online when the new Apple product comes on or one click shopping through Amazon or Audible or what have you, they made it so simple. And again-- You don't even have to punch in the code. Yeah, it's made easy for you. Now, are these really issues? No, if you can afford it, if you enjoy it, it's not taking you away from things you wanna do, If you're noticing that there is some relaxation in kind of the mind-numbing experience of shopping. I think it really becomes a problem when it's creating issues that you can measure, like debt, lack of sleep all the time, where it's taking you away from friends and family and things that you used to love, and you're feeling bad about it, that there's this issue. Like this isn't right, I didn't really wanna do this, why did I do this? And it didn't do what it was supposed to do, didn't help me feel better. Once you buy a wish list item, do you immediately focus on another? Do you wish that you had items that your friends and family have? Do you feel inadequate when someone has something that you don't have? Do you feel that you should never wear the same outfit twice? So that's really when we're looking at kind of the social ramifications of our shopping, we are influenced by our social circle. And it's interesting, our social circle has expanded. So our social circle was limited once to like a five mile, 10 mile radius, whatever we can get to on a horse, right? And then we had the car and our social circle kind of expanded. And now we have the internet, so we can see everybody all the time and we can compare ourselves to them and through time, think that what was not normal for most people, is, because we've seen it so much, which is called habituation. Do you find that your necessary expenses, such as food and housing, become secondary to shopping? I think there was a line in Sex and the City where Sarah Jessica Parker, Carrie, her character, talks about she'd rather have her shoes than her food. (chuckles) So it's kind of like it's a joke, but if it's really happening and it does for some people, are you giving yourself basic things that you really do need which is for survival, are you taking them away in order to get stuff? Is the majority of your income focused on acquiring items for your closet? Do you have anxiety about consumer debt? Do you find you engage in avoidance behaviors surrounding your debt, like not paying your bills, not opening up your mail, having debt collectors call you and not answering the phone? Is your shopping causing short term relief, but long term problems? So that's kind of a checklist I use with people. Now, just to let you know, if I have a client coming in and I find that there's really something that's within a diagnostic range, and that's for me anything that fits within the DSM, that's the book we use to diagnose, although I'm a psychologist, I will not work with them as a psychologist, I will refer them out to a psychologist. So in this way I'm only working with clothing that is not really severe issues. But yes, many people have issues that they can answer yes to, it doesn't mean they have a diagnosis that they need to seek clinical treatment for, but I do make that distinction. So if you've answered yes to most of these questions, your shopping habits are unmanageable to you. When your behaviors cause great distress or they're born out of unhealthy internal motivations, it's obvious that you have to make a change, that something needs to be altered. So does anyone here self-identify? What questions did you answer yes to and what problems may have these behaviors caused? Anybody feel comfortable sharing? If you don't, it's okay. I know it's kind of heavy stuff, but even if you answered yes to some of these questions that you're like yeah, I totally do that. Or the former you, maybe the younger you, you said oh yeah, I used to be pretty bad or I used to do this and it's kind of shifted. I definitely go shopping when I'm bored, for sure. And also I find that when I'm going through like recently I was in a toxic work environment, I found myself shopping far more than any other time in my life. I don't know why that was, but now that you kind of like mention it, I think yeah, I actually didn't need that many shoes, but pretty much like every week there would be a box of shoes delivered to my house because I just found myself shopping and I dunno-- It's a soothing, so when you're in a-- Retail therapy. Yeah, it's when you're in a toxic work environment and you feel like you may not have control over it or you just have to kind of grin and bear it, you are able to reward yourself and you're able to make yourself feel better by buying these items because you deserved a break. And you're working so hard, you might as well. In a place where it wasn't healthy for you, well, at least you can get something from it. And that's totally normal, we all do that. When we're in difficult situations, we can turn to shopping and it does have an initial feel good feeling. And there's nothing wrong with shopping until it does cause you issues that are measurable. So that's where I come in and make the shift. I used to be a big time shopper, I love shopping, I like to buy especially clothing and shoes, and then I got very sick with an inner ear disease. And the inner ear disease is called Meniere's disease and I wasn't able to walk or function or do things for myself and I had just had my daughter and physically I wasn't able to leave my bed. I had a surgery to cut the vestibular nerve of my brain, I was not a functional person, I could not do anything for myself for quite some time. And once I could not physically shop, I knew why I was before. And a lot of it was just the feeling of reward, the feeling of well I'm a grownup and grownups are supposed to shop, right? And just looking for that kind of feel good experience that I wasn't getting in other areas of my life. But once I lost the ability to do basic things and I came back to normalcy, I came back to normal functioning, I was able to reexamine those behaviors and realize that those were not the things that would make me happy when I was lying in my bed unable to see straight 'cause the world was spinning around. And it changed the way I looked at my shopping and it changed the way I looked at my clothing. And simplifying my life was a way to heal when I was really sick, but then I was able to carry that on after. And I was actually happier because I did that. But that doesn't necessarily work for everybody, everybody's different. So you have to look at what works and doesn't work for you. There is no set way to assess this. We had talked earlier about the case X, right, Mrs. X, and the concern was there was not enough information to really answer the questions that I asked of you. But I wanna let you know you know that the way you answered it was fine, because there really was no right or wrong answer, it's what might you do, how would you put yourself in another person's shoes, and what could you come up with? 'cause all of those things are correct. So when you're looking at these different steps, it's really important to look at how you answer them and how they work or don't work for your life. So. Treatments, how do we deal with this stuff? Well, if you have real compulsive and impulsive shopping and it's diagnosable, you should be going to seek treatment if that's something that you choose. But if you're just kind of shopping like I was or maybe like you were where it wasn't a diagnosable thing, but it was maybe covering up other issues, the number one thing that we do and I don't just do this with my wardrobe clients, I will do this with my patients that are experiencing anxieties and also OCD behaviors, we look at the behaviors that are causing problems and the triggers for them. We don't change them, we just observe them, we become mindful of them. So you're mindful of your behaviors, don't do anything with them, don't try to change them, just look at them. And then we come up with replacement behaviors. So if your work environment is toxic and you're buying because of that, obviously buying shoes is not gonna alter your toxic environment, right? And so maybe it's talking to a friend about it, maybe it's going for a walk, so something else that's more healthy for you that actually can change things. Or maybe having a really positive and healthy social environment that you create to balance out this toxic social environment at work. Also, inserting thought in between desire and action. So we have the impulse, the emotion, I must have that leopard coat. And then we usually go to the immediate action, I'm gonna go buy the leopard coat. Well, I say all right, let's separate, let's say we have the thought leopard coat, we insert the desire, I'm sorry, the desire for the leopard coat, the emotion, we insert the thought, do I really need the leopard coat? What do I want with the leopard coat? Why do I want the leopard coat? And then if we assess and think, then we can buy. But it's inserting a space between the initial desire and the action, that's how you're gonna slow down your shopping. Those are the main ones, delaying, and really thinking about what is actually going on. And as with anxiety treatment, I teach people to be comfortable with the discomfort. There's a discomfort in not going shopping when you want something, there's a discomfort in wanting to buy something when you can't. I recently got a house. I have lived in an apartment my entire life after moving out of my parents' house and I have very little, but I would like to have things in my home and I cannot buy those things in my home right now, I cannot afford them. And I look at them and I see them online and I can very easily get into debt buying all these beautiful things, but I can't. So I have to sit with the discomfort of not being able to buy it. In the beginning I'm like (shouts playfully), but as time goes on, I'm like okay, you know what? It's gonna be there, I can just chill out about it, there are other important things. So that's what you can do in any type of shop situation. There are also quick tips that I come up with. And this I talk about again more in the book, but shopping without. So you look at something, you walk around the mall, you can look at it like an art gallery, but you don't buy it. I call it the Texas hold 'em. You can hold your items for a couple of days, the sales associates might not like it, I was a sales associate, it's kind of like oh, come on, just buy the thing. But for you, the customer, it's okay to put it on hold and give some time to allow thought come into that process. There's a time limit. You have the item, you think about it for a month, and then if you still want it, you can go get it. Owning it. So you take a picture of it, maybe you have it and you know you can return it, but at least you own it. You don't have to wear it, because you shouldn't wear what you buy and then return it, technically. But if you just feel like you own it, you may not want it. Or you borrow it. So I was working in retail, I would buy everything. Once I started working there, all of a sudden my shopping habits went down because I felt like it was already mine kind of, because I was with it every day. So that initial desire to have it wasn't there. Call it registration frustration, don't register for these online accounts that make it too easy for you to buy if you buy all the time. Do not do that. I always sign up as a guest shopper because I know that if I could just click a button, I will buy it much more easily than if I have to register for it each time I buy. Mindful purchasing. Mindfulness is simply observing something without judgment and without action, just seeing what it is. And so observing your shopping without doing anything with it. Now, there are obviously real diagnostic issues revolving around shopping. A compulsive shopping disorder is called oniomania and it happens with about less than 10% of the population, it's primarily female, it usually occurs, as with most clinical issues, in the teens and twenties it comes out. It was recognized in the early 20th century, it was unknown and undiagnosed prior to that. So as we had the capacity to shop, surprise, surprise, there's a compulsion that is now related to shopping as shopping has gotten more interesting. And it also happens in countries there were not compulsive buying behaviors, then they were having manufactured products en masse, and then you would see the incidence of compulsive shopping behaviors increase as there was access to it. Usually there's this tension and anxiety, there's the relief with the action, the shopping, and then there's the guilt afterwards. It has a genetic component. We do treat it primarily with CBT and psycho medication, psychotropic medications, usually antidepressants. You can also do groups and things like that when you're working with people who are dealing with compulsive buying disorder. So there is a true diagnostic issue when you're looking at these behaviors that I don't do when I'm working in my wardrobe practice. I will work on this when I'm working with patients in practice.

Class Description

Every time we buy a piece of clothing and choose an outfit to wear, we’re saying something about who we are. Our dressing behaviors are like windows into our psyches, exposing our deepest feelings, desires, conflicts, and problems.

Author and clinical psychologist Dr. Jen Baumgartner will begin by looking at the general principles of psychology of dress and fashion, then dive into the nine most common dressing difficulties—from buying more than we need to being bored with our look to avoiding mirrors.

In this fascinating course, Dr. Baumgartner will not only help you examine your wardrobe and how it reflects your emotions, but will teach you how to modify your choices so you can make real improvements to your life—both inside and out.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Understand the principles of acquiring, assembling, storing, organizing, and removing.
  • Identify which of the nine dress difficulties applies to you.
  • Stop buying items that you don’t really need or want.
  • Avoid always being in work clothes or mom jeans.
  • Formulate a strategy for changing your behaviors and revamping your wardrobe.


Yolanda Azpiazu

Loved it! Incredible class, so interesting and filled with new concepts, I am a big fan of the author and I admire her for the way she suggests us to analyse things with curiosity and looking "bellow the water", rather than judgement. Thank you so much for this wonderful class Dr. Baumgartner.

a Creativelive Student

It's about how you dress, but really, it's about how to use the way you dress as a lens to better understand yourself. Packed with useful information and tips, highly recommend! Thanks Jenny!