Shopping on autopilot doesn’t make for meaningful purchases.
Have you ever found yourself in the shopping centre car park- shopping in hand- only to wonder how the heck you got there? We are busy people and it’s pretty easy to shop on autopilot. We can find ourselves in situations where we can’t find our keys, can’t remember what happened on the weekend, or fail to remember that we bought new gym wear until it arrives on our doorstep a week later. Being bombarded with messages about what we need and don’t need, and provided with convenient solutions to our to-much-to-do and lack-of-time problems often results in mindless purchases and sometimes, a mindless lifestyle. As this month is Mindful in May (a mindfulness charity challenge you can donate to here) we will have a look at how mindfulness can be incoperated into our fashion shipping adventures.
What’s wrong with brain-free shopping?
When we shop with our brains on cruise control we check out of making conscious decisions. Sometimes this can work in our favour (like when we accidentally buy ourselves something we wouldn’t normally wear but totally love) but more often than not it results in buying things that just aren’t right, or worse still- items we don’t even need. Not only is this a waste of money, it also means our houses get cluttered with items that aren’t useful. In fact we are so good at bringing items into our lives that here in Australia we introduce around 5.1 billion dollars worth of clothing and footwear into our closets each year. Which equates to around $44 spent per person, per week.
How you spend your $44 a week will determine the mindfulness of your shopping experience. Let’s quickly unpack this using the diagram I made for you guys above. For the purpose of the exercise we can choose to use our $44 in two ways.
If we choose to spend we can spend this money mindfully or on impulse. If we choose to spend on mindful purchases the options are limited by our budget. This amount of money won’t go far on new ethical or eco pieces because it’s not quite enough to pay the full cost of production. It might score you some new underwear or socks. Perhaps a basic tee or tank if the design is simple. It could rent a nice bag for a week or get a huge pile of clothes from a swap or charity shop.
However it’s best to pay attention when thrifting because it can be easy to shop on impulse for second-hand goodies.
Impulse spending is easy to do. We are encouraged to do it by the media and the way that stores are designed. Mindless spending usually results in items that aren’t quite right due to poor fit, quality, or the fact they aren’t our style. A budget of $44 AUD will buy a bag load of fast-fashion items. An exciting day out, but this purchase costs people and planet in damages and exploitation.
Saving our $44 gives us more flexibility in the items we can buy. We can spend greater amounts of time researching our personal style and the right item for us. If you are eco and/or ethical minded you might choose to research an item that fits your values. Spending your saved budget on conscious investment will likely lead to a long-term relationship with that item. Savings don’t always mean wise spending! It’s just as easy to save for a year and go on a $2000+ spending spree at fast-fashion retailers.
You can also fall into a trap of shopping for high end items just because they are high end, not because they are ‘you’.
Spending time on assessing your personal style is critical in getting your fashion purchases (luxe and high-end or second-hand and thrifty) just right!
While considering the use of your item seems like a natural part of the shopping process, its death isn’t always something we give thought to. Spend or save- the end place of your fashion should be a serious point of contemplation.
Many of us have been trained to think that donating to charity is the end of our fashion. This is just a pit stop on the way to landfill.
Even if you plan to give your unwanted fashion to charity at some point you should consider if it’s biodegradable. This biodegradability is critical to those end countries that receive our fashion in the global second-hand textile market. If you can, try to shop from retailers that take back your unwanted items and turn them into new ones. This ‘circular’ production method is the one truly sustainable way of approaching fashion production.