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  • Writer's pictureLauren Hass

Are you an Overshopper?

Dig into the "why" and learn healthier ways to fill your emotional needs

Do you find yourself turning to shopping (in person or online) to fill a void, bring yourself joy, or relieve stress or anxiety…and that this habit may be turning into a problem?

Taken to the extreme, “Compulsive buying behavior (CBB), otherwise known as shopping addiction, pathological buying or compulsive buying disorder, is a mental health condition characterized by the persistent, excessive, impulsive, and uncontrollable purchase of products in spite of severe psychological, social, occupational, financial consequences.” (Frontiers in Psychology, 6/5/16)

But between CBB and the occasional harmless ‘retail therapy' is a range of overshopping behaviors. If you feel shopping is getting in the way of your relationships, causing too much clutter in your home, or leading to financial hardship, you may want to dig deeper into the “why.”

I recently had the privilege of bringing Carrie Rattle, Financial Coach/Therapist, to speak to NAPO-CT (Connecticut chapter of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals) to learn more about this important topic. Here I share a few of her insights, some additional thoughts of my own, and how I’ve seen overshopping manifest itself in a few of my clients’ homes.

I was surprised to learn from Carrie that even though most people had nowhere to go during COVID, shopping increased significantly. Due to a lack of control over much of anything, and lack of much activity, shopping provided a way to control things and a way to keep busy. Can you relate?

According to U.S. Department of Commerce figures, online sales in 2020 were up 32.4% from the prior year, for a total of $791.70 billion. And this was less than 20% of all retail sales for the year, which means Americans did a lot of shopping!

As Carrie explained, overshopping is triggered by a desire to fulfill psychologist Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: For love and affection, Belonging, Self-esteem, The esteem of others, and Self-actualization. In my organizing work, I’ve seen this played out with a myriad of examples of over-shopping, leading to clutter, which can range from light to very significant.

> A widow who fills her sleepless nights with online and television channel shopping to the point of her entranceway being overtaken by dozens of boxes, most of which remained unopened for extended periods of time.

> A new divorcee filling her closet with several new articles of clothing, even as she is working toward downsizing.

> Someone with hoarding tendencies who spends her time buying multiple items, including food items, for a home that is already over capacity.

If you can relate to any of these scenarios, consider which need you are trying to fill and how else you might be able to fulfill it. If you are lonely, perhaps reach out to friends or show appreciation to others. If you are bored, think of more productive and less harmful ways to fill your time, such as volunteering or taking a course. And if you feel alone with this challenge, consider joining an online support group, such as the Shopping Addiction Support Group on Facebook.

I have seen the manifestation of over-shopping in too many homes to ignore the deeper issues behind the clutter. While I can help with the items once they’re in your home, if you are interested in getting help with the root of your over-shopping and making a change, I urge you to reach out to Carrie Rattle, Founder of Behavioral Cents. She provides all levels of coaching and a myriad of resources to meet your needs.

Thank you to Carrie Rattle for educating me on this important topic and for a great deal of the insights, statistics, and suggestions shared here.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

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