Organizing Services for Boomers, Seniors & Heirs

Call Mary Lynne Now


Out-of-control spending may be at root of clutter

Home > Articles Archive > Out-of-control spending may be at root of clutter

THE FOURTH Thursday in November is Thanksgiving, and the day after that signals a shopping frenzy that won’t stop until the post-Christmas sales. Now, I don’t want to be known as the Organizer Who Stole Christmas, but it’s time to consider our consumer habits.

Maybe you recently completed a clutter campaign at your house, yet the UPS truck still makes regular stops at your address. Or maybe you’re thinking about getting started decluttering — after you purchase a gizmo on eBay. The best way to beat clutter is to prevent it, so here are some suggestions to fight the shopping bug.

Think before you buy
Take a breath and ask yourself, will I use this anytime soon? Do I have a place to keep this? If the answer is no, walk away and save the money and space. If you still think you need it next week, go back and buy it then. Most likely, you will forget about it.

Credit cards
I know credit cards are a way of life. True, credit cards offer convenience, and even airline miles. But, for safety and self-discipline, it’s better not to carry a wallet-full of plastic. If you find you spend more than you can pay when the monthly bill arrives, it’s time to cut up all but one card for emergencies. Shopping with a buddy is also a good idea, as it may curb impulse purchases. Don’t carry a checkbook, and carry only limited cash.

Each of us needs to be conscious of the advertising we see and hear that may encourage spending. We can train ourselves to tune out TV commercials. When reading magazines and newspapers, we can ignore the ads.

The sale trap
The rationale that something is on sale can trick you into purchases you would not have considered, pre-sale. You’ll save even more if you don’t buy it, and probably will never miss it. Be wary of “today only” offers, designed to lure you to purchase now.
If you go on the Internet to buy a robe for your mother, buy the robe and put on the brakes.
Forget the special offers to buy extra things. Tell yourself, “This is my plan and I’m sticking to it.”

Early gift-buying
Some people like to shop year-round to spread the cost and avoid crowds. Keep your gift inventory to a minimum. Despite good intentions, the gifts are often misplaced and forgotten, getting tattered or out of date before you find them. If you must shop ahead, keep gifts in one consistent spot.

A brand-new bag
Shopping has become a form of entertainment, a pastime. From neighborhood shopping to major malls, the Internet and the Home Shopping Network, the temptation to shop is readily available. It pays to recognize why you shop, and know that buying is only a Band-Aid. You’ll need to find different activities that fulfill you, and that will encourage financial and mental health.

A shopaholic?
How do you know if you are an oniomaniac — a compulsive shopper — and not just an occasional power shopper? In their book “Consuming Passions: Help for Compulsive Shoppers,” authors Nina Sonenberg and Ellen Mohr Catalano cite the danger signals:

• A lack of control over your spending.
• Feeling guilty about shopping.
• Tendency to hide purchases from loved ones.
• Caring more about the action of buying than what is actually bought.
• A house stuffed with unused things.
• Buying things you can’t afford.
• Buying things to feel better (relieve boredom, anxiety, or loneliness).

Finding help
Think you’re a compulsive shopper? Then ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist. Even without insurance or co-payments, it will be cheaper than a river of spending. Also contact at 415-522-9099. Help can also be found under Credit and Debt Counseling in the Yellow Pages.

What about window shopping? For a compulsive shopper, the experts say that’s like a recovering alcoholic going to a bar “just to look.”

The day after Thanksgiving, typically the biggest shopping day of the year, has been tagged “Buy Nothing Day.” I did not make this up; it comes from a Canadian organization called Adbusters. Perhaps some of you are ready for this idea. Who knows where it will lead — perhaps to a less-cluttered life?